Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Marloes is a solo dutch female traveler, she’s traveling Europe with her Volkswagen T4 TDI California Coach since May 5th, 2019. She has been using StayFree since the very beginning - she discovered almost 90 spots in the app in the countries like Norway, Portugal, France, Denmark, Italy, and the Czech Republic and shared them with the vanlife app community! Meet Marloes and if you are a solo women traveller or you know someone who is - get inspired by the real story!
SF: Marloes, why did you chose the 5th 2019 for the date of start your vanlife journey?
Marloes: On that day we celebrate Liberation Day in The Netherlands (where I’m from) and we celebrate our freedom after being liberated in 1945. In a way, I wanted to honor that freedom and celebrate it so that’s why I chose that day.
SF: What happened back then? How did you get into vanlife?
Marloes: I had a lot of things I thought would make me happy: an apartment in Amsterdam, a well-paid job in the music industry, an awesome group of friends, and my favorite restaurant delivered at my door. But I wasn’t happy and feeling burnt out – again. I knew something had to change drastically so I decided to follow my dream, to travel for a longer period of time. Within a few months, I sold my apartment, quit my job, and bought a van.
SF: That’s sounds pretty brave! How your friends and relatives reacted to your idea?
Marloes: When I decided I was going to travel alone, I had lots of people expressing their feelings - both positive and negative. I heard things like ‘it isn’t safe’, ‘don’t trust people’, ‘don’t park and sleep alone’, ‘you are crazy’ and ‘I could never do that'. I’m still hearing some of these things today, even after spending nearly 2 years safe and solo in a van in Europe. The negative opinions disturbed me a bit when I first started, I was feeling scared too. I even thought of cancelling the whole thing, because ‘what was I thinking?! But I knew that if I cancelled, it was because I was afraid of what could go wrong. So I started to think of everything that could go right and that was a lot! I was only worried because I let the negative comments of people without any camping or travel experience get to me. I listened to people who were adamant that they would never do such a thing and their opinions mattered to me when they shouldn’t. From today's perspective, I know it was not good for me.
SF: And how it is to be alone in the van on the wild camping spot during the night? Do you have any tips for someone who starts a wild camp journey on what to do to feel safe during the night?
Marloes: It was challenging at times, being alone and dealing with both good and bad days. When you feel like crap and you’re having a bad day, it can be hard to go back to a positive mindset. It sure helps to stay in touch with the people at home or with other vanlifers who know what it’s like. Regarding the safety - my number one rule is to arrive at the location I plan on sleeping at daylight. I want to know if it’s busy and I want to see who’s there - I’m trying to get the vibe of the area and I usually take a little stroll in the surroundings as well. I wave or say hi to the people that are there, it’s my way of showing them that I’m there too, that I want to spend the night, and that I mean no harm. It goes both ways! If the location feels good/safe, I’ll stay. If it doesn’t, I’ll go to another location. This doesn’t mean I’ve never felt unsafe or have never driven in the dark. Because I have. I also always make sure that my drivers’ seat is empty and I’m parked with my nose towards the entrance/exit. This way if something happens, I can easily hop in the seat and hit the gas to take the easiest way out without having to maneuver in the dark. It’s something I read and thought was a really smart thing to do! What I try to do as well as to lock the doors once it gets dark, except for the sliding door because that’s where I’ll be sitting most of the time. In case of emergency, I have some items in various locations to protect myself physically, for example, I have a small alarm that will pop your ears once I push the button - it’s soooo loud! I’ve never needed any of these and I hope I never will, but I think it’s smart to have them with you anyway.
SF: What would you say to someone who just discovered vanlife and is struggling if she should do that?
Marloes: The best advice I can give is to let go of the #vanlife image that has been created on Instagram. You will not always sleep in a beautiful location, you will definitely sleep in parking lots too. You will not always have enough vegetables to make a decent meal, you will eat crap too. You will not wash your hair on a regular basis, you will love your dry shampoo or wear a cap or hat all the time. It’s the freedom in going wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do. It’s the adventure of not knowing where I will sleep tonight or in which town I’ll have lunch. It’s curiosity in meeting other vanlifers or locals who speak languages I don’t understand. It’s having respect for nature, to leave no trace, and pick up someone else garbage when they don’t. It’s happiness and enjoying the little things; a hot cuppa tea on a rainy day or a beautiful sunset or sunrise. It’s about mindset, how I pick myself up after a difficult moment, or how I enjoy spending time alone. Vanlife is the biggest life lesson I learned and to me, that might be what’s most important about it.
SF: That’s sounds very true! And what did you decide to discover vanlife spots in StayFree?
Marloes: I started using the app because it looked clean and easy to use. I also saw that there weren’t too many spots added compared to other apps where I sometimes struggled to find a nice location. I spend a few nights in locations mentioned solely on StayFree and they were real gems! I then started adding spots too with other women in mind because I think it helps to know another woman has spent time/slept alone in a location where she felt safe.
SF: Well, thank you very much for your input! We wish you many beautiful spots and vanlife travels! We’re also very excited to see them in our app :)
Marloes: Thanks, guys, see you on the road!