“Travel is an investment in yourself.” – Source Unknown.
I set off on my first solo-trip aged 19, I flew to New Zealand on my own, and spent the first month of my 7 month trip finding my feet on the other side of the world, exploring when I wasn’t working on the dairy farm I now called home. Yes, I lived with other working-travellers at the time, but the experience of upping sticks solo and flying to the other side of the world, for a new chapter is liberating. My then partner joined me a month later not too far away, but I’ll never forget how empowering, freeing and exciting the experience was. I didn’t at one moment feel afraid.
I’ll never forget my new ‘boss’ picking me up from the airport with her horse trailer attached to her rugged looking silver Prado, I remember thinking, ‘yep this is my kinda place!’ We loaded up the boot with my bags and headed off, she explained shortly after I hopped in that we were actually going XC schooling on the way home!
I decided to go to New Zealand pretty quickly, I had no career prospects in sight, no money behind me and little in the way of commitments here. I think I had maybe £200 max in my bank account, and my one-way ticket was bought using birthday money.
Since New Zealand, I’ve equally had little in the form of money behind me, sacrificing savings for trying to build a business and grow a print magazine. A friend and I worked out just the other day, that I haven’t been on holiday abroad in almost 5 years now!! Through running the magazine, and now the stable yard, trips abroad just haven’t really been possible both due to time and financial limitations.
However, those of you who follow me on Instagram will know I’ve loaded up my truck and head off to Wales a few times now in the past couple of years, most recently over New Year for my birthday with my little Fox Red Labrador puppy, Nellie. I receive dozens of messages each time I go, about; how amazing and brave I am to go alone, asking for tips and my experiences.
So, when I was Sophie Callahan’s #2023JanChallenge was to ‘tell us about somewhere you love to visit regularly’, I felt inspired to write this blog alongside today’s post.
What is it I love about Wales?
I love driving down to Wales to escape for a long weekend. Why? Firstly, it’s beautiful. The North and South differ wildly, much like New Zealand, and so far, much like NZ, I am more entranced by mid and South Wales. But it is also fairly close at around 3-4 hours drive. For me, from West Sussex that’s not too bad for a few days adventuring. I’d love to explore more of the Lake District, Cornwall and Scotland, but they’re longer trips and need more time off to do – something I just don’t currently have and I have fallen in love with the landscape in Wales.
Though the North Coast 500 in Scotland did boast some incredible views, for some inspiration, here’s a video from the trip we did in the new Land Rover Defender, putting her to the test!
I’d clung to New Zealand for so long, it’s unrivalled beauty and truly believed there is no place like it, and though in part that is true… it’s beauty is rivalled constantly in my eyes, when I am amongst the absolute beauty and rawness of nature, wherever I go.
My favourite spot to camp in currently is near to the Usk Reservoir at the foot of the Black Mountain and surrounded by the enchanting Glasfynnedd Forest, and off of an incredible road to drive, in the western end of the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. There is zero signal and the most breathtaking views, if you’re lucky too, you might spot a few wild ponies! It’s also a Dark Sky Site so perfect for some stargazing, the sunsets really are unforgettable.
Now though you aren’t technically allowed to wild camp in Wales, without the landowner’s permission, people do. I have and will continue to do so, the way I do. Now, with that I should mention – I am respectful of where I park up, it is considered. I do not leave ANYTHING behind when I leave and I don’t blare music until 3 am or smoke and light fires. I am discreet, quiet and respectful. I do not draw attention to myself.
- Three Cliffs Bay, Wales.
Being brave enough to go for it is definitely an element you’ll need. I try not to worry about the what ifs! You’ll never experience the beauty of life if you let the what ifs hold you back! But, there is a fine line between naivety and being brave in this instance. If like me, you’re a single female travelling alone… take precautions. Lock your doors at night, switch off any lights as to not draw attention to your vehicle. Don’t leave anything outside that may elude to the fact you’re a female e.g – underwear, clothes, shoes, bags etc. I take a small pocket knife (legal size) with me for two reasons; first in case I need to cut anything, but two… in the terrifying situation that I needed to protect/defend myself. Just be savvy to the risks.
Until Nellie, I had no one else but me inside the truck… now having her I feel safer. She gets quite protective inside the truck at night if she sees people outside, which is generally quite rare when we are camped in more remote locations, but it is nice to know she is alert, and keeping watch. She’d be up in a flash if she heard something I feel. So if you have a dog, bring them with you! They’ll have the best time as well as providing you with a bit of extra security!
My top tips for wild camping in the UK:
- Bring rubbish bags. Make sure any rubbish is collected and put straight into the bags, take the with you when you move on unless there are bins nearby.
- Fill up water bottles. For various reasons, one incase you break down and are stuck, but I bring a camp stove and kettle with me so pre-filling numerous water bottles means I have water to hand for the kettle (can’t start the day without a cuppa!) and for Nellie and myself as we do lots of walking.
- Bring more duvets and cushions than you think you need. Even this one, I still haven’t mastered. I need at least two more layers underneath me I think!
- Give your vehicle a once over before you head off! Pack some jump leads in case! I always carry jump leads in my truck, to help me out in case of emergencies but also to help others if I can. There’s nothing that will put a dampener on your trip more than breaking down. So, check your oil, water, tyres etc! If you’re not sure, run it to a garage before you leave and ask them to check it over.
- Pack lots of snacks. For me, takeaways in the truck aren’t an option, it’s just not the same experience. Packing snacks to nibble on throughout the day and evening is the way forward! I pack my favourite snacks and sweet treats to enjoy. I also bring ITSU Noodle pots with me, as they’re quick/easy to do kettle dinners.
- Embrace the quiet. Firstly, don’t play the radio on with your engine off as you’ll drain your battery, and two, don’t leave your engine running when you’re parked up – it sends unwanted fumes out into the unspoilt countryside and no one wants that. Embrace the quiet, take a book, maybe your laptop with a couple of films ready to watch! If you park up where there’s signal you can hotspot from your phone and like magic you have access to Netflix, Now TV, Disney+ etc!
- Fairy lights! I use fairy lights to light up my truck. Leaving on the interior lights would ultimately drain my battery, yet in the dark of the evening, when I’m chilling in the back I want to be able to see what I am reading or tucking into, so I’ve bought multiple packs of battery powered Warm Fairy Lights from the Range and have hung these around the back of my Pathfinder.
- Keep a day bag packed and ready: this is a quick hack I’ve picked up through practice! Keeping a rucksack packed with a drink and few snacks for me, suncream in the summer, dog treats for Nellie and poo bags etc just makes the morning’s quicker and keeps the back of the truck more organised as space isn’t plentiful!
- Don’t plan too much and remove any pressure! I am a very off-the-cuff kinda gal and so this one isn’t tricky for me when I’m away. I rarely know where I intend to stay that night, or where I want to visit in the day until that morning, I love it, I completely make up my days and my routes, there’s no set timings, though I like to be up around 7am to watch the sunrise and take in the morning views and sounds outside when I’m camping. For some people though, this won’t come so naturally.
Rural and coastal Wales is beautiful, everywhere you look and almost every road you drive holds something special to see. You might see something that speaks to you so much that you want to stop and explore… leave time for that. Don’t create a strict schedule to stick too, or put pressure on yourself to visit certain places by certain times, there’ll be no room for those unintentional discoveries, and from experience – they’re often the most memorable.
- Be bold! Enjoy it. I’m quickly discovering that my solo-trips are invaluable to me. Sure, I’d love to share the experience with someone, and maybe that day will come but for now, the time I spend alone (and with Nellie) road tripping in my truck and exploring nature are some of the most precious moments I’ve shared with myself. I’ve learned a lot about who I am, who I want to be and what I enjoy from these trips.
Solo-travel really is a journey of self-discovery and I can’t recommend it enough, but you have to be open minded, brave and spontaneous to fully embrace the experience. I’d LOVE nothing more than to pack up and travel the world with Nellie but, it’s not possible right now, so for me, these trips are my time to just be myself, to heal, to explore, to discover and to breathe.
“You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness.” – Diane von Furstenberg
Where will you go?
Until next time…
Lots of love,