Before all this, I was a hiker. I hiked and camped in national parks, and I travelled light. Not crazy ultra stupid light, but UL nonetheless. My base pack weight for a weekend of solo wild camping was around 9kg. That’s pretty light. Most recently I hammock camped, but before that I dabbled in a Tarptent and then a Hexamid UL tarp.
And yep, solo.
I am, or rather I WAS, a middle aged woman who hiked and camped alone. Mainly this practical: I’m not partnered, and so it’s hard to find the right friend who travels in precisely the same way and who wants to go on the exact same weekend. Sometimes the stars aligned and this friend or that would come with, and mostly it was a good experience. But part of why I go is to get away from the yip and natter of humans (I have a very face-fronted job, ugh, and while I’m extrovert enough, I need a break goddammit). So the camping/hiking alone thing worked for me. I was quite, let’s say, INTREPID. But also with a healthy dose of caution. I carried a PLB. I made trip plans and left them with my RF – responsible friend. I made sure I knew what was up with weather forecasts and what to do around snakes and stuff. I was fine.
But, then… in early 2017, I started to get a bit of nagging heel pain. Just a hiker hobble when I first stood up in the mornings that I put down to all-purpose hiking footsore, nothing to worry about. Between 2010 and 2016 I’d done a bunch of longish trails: Thorsborne Trail, Overland Track, Six Foot Track, Larapinta Trail, Flinders Ranges/St Mary’s Peak, Kozsciusko circuit, bits of the Great North Walk, as well as a ton of weekends in national parks near the city. So I just thought, ‘mmm, pop a vitamin i (ibuprofen) and get on with it’. But it got steadily worse.
And then in September 2017 I set out to walk a month-long hike thru Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mazama to the Bridge of the Gods (via the total solar eclipse in the forest east of Bend, which was MAGNIFICENT). And, well, I got a week into the walk and, my god. My feet were a wreck. I could barely walk more than a few hours without my heels hurting. I could barely stand in the mornings after hiking even a conservative number of miles the day before. Cue much angst, much agony, much agonising, and eventually canning the trip after nine days. I was NOT a happy camper.
(There was also a ton of smoke on the Oregon PCT this year from a bunch of bushfires all around, and heaps of trail closures, and it was a headachy, hassly nightmare in general. But mainly I bailed because of my feet. I was also, I confess, a bit bored walking alone all the time because so many others had skipped Oregon because of the fires. I did meet some good humans, but mostly I walked alone in my own ouchy, whiny head. It was uncool.)
And so, getting back to Sydney, I was like, ‘DAMN’. What ever the fuck now? I need me a dose of Mother Nature if I’m to cope with this madness that is city life. I need a regular escape — and Sydney being Sydney, and me being normal and not insanely rich, I obviously cannot afford a weekender out of town. And so I looked around and went, ‘simples. I need a campervan’.
I’d looked into vanning before, in Mexico in 1999, and almost done it then but ended up shoestringing into Central America on buses instead. I’d also quite seriously looked into living on a narrowboat in Oxford a few years later and knew a bunch of people who lived afloat. And my ex lived on a yacht. So I knew a bit about small-space, mobile-tiny-home, clever-interior-design living. So yeah, a campervan seemed like a no brainer.