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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: VANLIFE as a SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER

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My name's Alex and this is my van, Penny. This is my pup Talkeena.

After college I took a year off to go do some unpaid internships, to explore the

world, and discover myself. I ended up moving to New Zealand for a year. While I

was there I was living out of a tent and I saw all these super cool van conversions. I

just got really inspired by what people were doing with such little material in

such little space. After the year was up I came back to Washington and I moved

to Seattle and I got the big kid job. I got the nine-to-five, the office, big

apartment, the whole thing. I was home for Christmas and one day we

were driving through this lot, because my mom was think about getting a new car at

the time, and on the way out of the lot I shouted, "Stop the car!". We jumped out of

the car and I saw this van parked like way in the back. My mom encouraged me

actually to call the dealer and see if it was for sale and

I was just like, "Mom, you don't know what you're talking about, like that's not how

this works", and so she called...thanks mom. The dealer

said, "It's not for sale, it's just in for service, but we'll let the owner know

that there's an interested buyer". So then about a week later my mom calls me and she

says, "Okay, the owners are willing to sell that van that you saw. Here's the number".

It ended up being this older couple they went on one road trip to Glacier

National Park and his wife hated it. She hated van life, she basically said, "I'll

never get back in this thing again". He loved the van so he just kept it nice

and putzed with it himself. So I bought it and then I went home the

next weekend and looked at it. It had 4,000 miles on it, the plastic was still

on the floors, and the fridge had never been used. I mean it was just completely

the find of a lifetime and I wasn't even really actively looking, but when Penny

fell into my lap I just knew that it was van destiny. I think it's really

funny how van people really talk about their vans like they're people.

So this is Penny. She's my 2000 Eurovan and she's my 17 feet of home and I love

her, but I love you more. Most days.

I bought the van with this all installed. So I get that question sometimes where people will be like, "Did

you make this modification?". And, I didn't. I worked for REI before I was in the van

so all my stuff is like camp oriented. So I have all these kinda like folding

utensils. This is my pantry, got my cutting board, clap shelf, dishes, folding pans,

Aeropress, which is crucial. I don't actually know what's in this fridge so

we'll see. It's a pretty good fridge right now. Salsa, a beer, some eggs. I have

a freezer though so that's cool with one salmon burger in it and a GoGurt. That's

van life. This is my cooking area. I installed this with my dad.

My dad helped me out with a lot of modifications in the van. This is my spice rack.

And then when I'm ready to cook I just pop this open and voila. This is sick, this thing

here, cuz it's really easy just like to season things as you're cooking.

This is my table. My dad made this for me, which I like. I just click this in.

Dinnertime. Or cocktail hour. When I first got the van everything was gray. And the

first trip I ever took it on, I got sick. I was in Yosemite and it was raining

and I had to stay in the van and just be sick and watch a lot of Grey's Anatomy and

I got really depressed because it was so gray. And so one of the big things when I

decided to move into the van full-time was to put as much color into it as I

could. I reupholstered my seats. I choose to sleep

down here because a lot of times I'm camped in urban areas and you're never gonna

get away with pretending no one's in here if you have a pop-top. I always make

sure that my driver seats clear. So, I have the keys, whenever I sleep, I have

the keys right here with my knife. And I keep this pretty

much ready so that if something happened or there was a really sketchy situation

that I could literally just like hop up here and go, you know. So I think that

that's something that I do for safety. Oh I have something else I want to show you

guys that's really cool. I made this. This is my urban camping modesty sheet.

It's black in the front and then I got this cool little Mountain tapestry and

sewed that on the other side. I just Velcro this right up here that it like just

blacks out everything and then you're looking at a pretty mountain. So come

back to the van. This means, "The Mountains Call" in German. People ask me all the

time. Both my parents are German. That's why I rock the Germany sticker so

strong. So my solar setup. It is a 120 watt semi-flexible solar panel that I

bought on Amazon. It weighs four pounds and it arcs 30 degrees in either

direction. And it's sick. And so when I first was thinking about doing solar I

knew I had to do it because I knew I wanted to be kind of off the grid and

not reliant on power a lot and I have a gigantic Thule box that wouldn't allow

me to put the panel on the top. It's not really attached to anything so I can

move it wherever the sun is. I have attached it to the back in this very

not professional or German way. I just literally bungee cord this thing to the

back. I can just open, open it. I have 15 feet of cable for my solar

panel and then when I'm not using it I just kind of tuck it in here. I have my

charge controller and my inverter. Then I got my batteries, a battery bank, back

there. When I lower the top on the on the pop the canvas will stick out and I had

to replace it because it molded out and then ripped and I spent a lot of money on it

so now I'm really paranoid about it. So I'm always like tucking this in. This is

what I'm talking about. See this. Don't want that cause it'll mold and

then you'll pay $800. You can just stick this in here. You know, sometimes it's easier than others.

So I travel full time in the van by myself as a girl and the reason why I

did this trip by myself was I saw all my friends getting partners or kind of

staying in jobs that they didn't love. I didn't really want to sit and wait

around for my job to get better or for me to find the right person in order to

start living the life I wanted. I think that the biggest misconception about van

life for women is that it's super, super scary and you always have to be on your

guard. And while I would say that you definitely do have to be more careful, I

think that you see couples out there, you see guys out there, and it seems like

it's gonna be this big scary world. It's safer than you think it is and people

will surprise you.

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The loneliness of life on the road I think it's something people don't talk

about and when you think about the happiest times in your life, at least I

think about, feeling connected and appreciated and valued. And when you're

alone in your car all the time it can be really easy to kind of fall into these

patterns of not wanting to communicate with people or just isolating yourself. I

think that in our world, at least when I was living in Seattle, I was always

inadvertently numbing myself. You know, I always had something else to do. I

always had another meeting or I had another happy hour and all these things that I

think people in their 20s do and you don't really realize that you're kind of

numbing yourself to the experience of your life. To really be alone and to

allow myself that feeling was a huge turning point. Not only in this trip, but

also kind of within my own life. To know that it's okay to be sad. I think finding

home in solitude is a really special thing and I think that this kind of life

forces you to do that. That's just a gift of the road.