This is, where it all started. My career as a solo-traveller.
I wanted to leave Germany for a while and decided to do a sabbatical in Vancouver. But before settling for a bit, the idea of a roadtrip came into my mind.
I've been to Canada when I was 14 and I loved being on the road and seeing different things every day.
Without even thinking about it, I rented a huge camper van for 5 weeks and started "planning" the trip. (Well I didn't plan that much acually)
I realized that it was kind of a crazy idea, when I saw peoples reactions whenever I told anyone about it.
I must admit, I didn't think it through. I just really really wanted to go. Being naive from time to time is actually not that bad.
I've never travelled all by myself. I was never alone and always surrounded by people. I can't even enjoy a day on my couch without doing anything or seeing anyone. I loved my comfort zone, my hometown and I knew that I would miss my family and friends. But I needed to go as I love to challenge myself.
What to pack in my suitcase. What to bring?
It somehow felt weird to me, that I would be bringing a book about "Being safe in bear areas". At the same time it increased my excitement.
Isn't that ironic? I've always wanted the adventure, but at the same time I was scared of it.
Shoes, Hat and backpack by globetrotter.de
PEEING MY PANTS.
Let's get started. I was finally peeing my pants. As this 5 week-camper-roadtrip was a very spontanous decisicon, I got the cheapest camper I could get (depending on availability) – I do need space, yes. But I really don't need a camper made for 6 people.
As I said: I didn't think this through. I've rented a Camper once in Iceland, but first of all: that one was way smaller and second: I had a very handy man on board, who would take care of everything.
This time I was in charge.
Although many people offered their help, when they recognized, that it's just me, who was living in this camper.
The first night I didn't even know how to set up the Camper. The guys at the rental station explained "everything" in 5 minutes. Luckily the man in charge of the campground came to help me after his wife told him, that there is a girl all alone in a 24ft. (7,3m) camper.
The first night was great. I camped in a nice little town on a busy campground with WIFI.
I didn't plan my route in detail. I just planned to drive all the way up to Banff and Jasper and then turn around and drive to Vancouver Island.
I wanted to be 100% flexible, so I decided to plan my trip while driving. I would always sit down while having dinner, read about a few things close by and set my goal for the next day.
I read in GEO Special about the EC Manning Provincial Park. "That is Canada" was the title of this spot. So I drove about 4hrs to get to the park. And I soon recognized, that Canada isn't always covered by cellphone service. #toughtimes
At the park entrance I met an Austrian couple, so I decided to park close to them for the night.
GEO was right: This is Canada.
I parked in the National Park right in the woods. And a beautiful and chrystal clear lake was close to it.
A huge "bear in area" sign welcomed me in, so before I would start my first hike I sat down in my camper and did my homework. I read my "Safe in bear areas" book my friend Finn gave to me. As this book made me feel more scared than confident, I clipped the bear spray and bear bell on my belt and started hiking.
Although the path was quite crowded, I was scared to have my first tête-à-tête with a bear. But I didnt.
Back at the camper the Austrians invited me to come over and have a campfire. They served Lindt Chocolate and gave me advices on where to go and what to see. As this was the last night for them, they gave all their leftovers to me: Spices, toilet-paper, potatoes and a bar of chocolate. What a great start – I thought.
The night was horrible: I was freezing, my phone was running out of battery (I didn't have a car-charger at that point) and I didn't have service with my phone. My first night out in the wild and I was done with it.
That morning started really bad, I didn't sleep well, my phone was running out of power and I was nervous about the next "challenges" awaiting me.
As this is a blog about my experience as a single-traveller, I will be honest with you; I was lonely, I hated hiking by myself, I was scared at night, the camper wasn't easy to handle (too much technique for me) and I couldn't think about travelling in this camper for 5 more weeks. I was about to give up. AFTER ONLY 2 DAYS!
I knew, that I didn't have to prove anything to anyone. But I didn't like the idea of giving up. I had been waiting 2 years for this trip and now it felt so wrong. Why should I travel alone when I actually love being surrounded by people? What a dumb idea.
I tried to find wifi, a socket to charge my phone and to sort my thoughts.
I stopped in Princeton, a cute, small town a 1.5 hr drive from the E.C Manning National Park where deers chill in your front yard.
First things first: Car charger and a french press for coffee. These were the best 25$ spent during my trip.
Sometimes it's the little things, that makes you feel more comfortable.
I found a cute little granny café with a socket, free wifi and coffee. I talked to my mum and also to my best friend Anna. She sent me a very emotional (we are both super emotional all the time) text while I just got coffee and I couldnt' help myself: I started crying badly.
The owner of this café, an older lady, who served the coffee saw me crying. She asked what happened, so I told her my story. She was quite surprised, when I told her, that I was travelling all by myself through Canada in a huge camper. She actually told me the same as my friend Anna told me: "It just takes some time to adjust. But in the end you will love it."
At the end she gave me a long and warm hug, only mothers and friends can give.
Being hugged by a stranger in the middle of nowhere in Canada gave me enough power to keep on going.
I didn't want to give up until I would reach Banff.
GO WITH THE FLOW.
The year 2016 taught me: After every dicline there is a rise. You just have to crawl out of the hole, go with the flow and use the energy for the positive things in life. This might somehow sound esoteric to you, but its my simple mantra.
And it was right again: I kept going, drove through the warm sun, listening to "Hotel California" and my mood changed.
I started feeling more comfortable again and tried not to get nervous, while finding a campground for the night.
The first night after the last horrible night, I found a horse ranch up in the mountains in the Okanagan Valley. I parked next to the stables, read my book while sitting in the sun and petting the dogs.
The next morning I went on a horse ride through the prairie, always on the look-out for bears.
I was back in the game. This place gave me so much energy, so I was ready to move on.
STRANGERS BECOME YOUR FRIENDS.
As soon as my Vancouver idea became reality I started looking for jobs and people to catch up with in Vancouver. So I started a facebook post – I love social media for that: Friends always know someone who knows someone. So my friend Falk sent me a message, saying "Write Eryn, she is cool."
My advice: Reach out to your friends in order to find out, if they know anyone where you're traveling to. So I did and before even knowing her, I liked how open and positive she was.
The world is a small place. And in the end, there are no strangers.
So I messaged Eryn. We checked our plans for the upcoming weeks and what a coincidence: Eryn was having a birthday party in Vernon (Okanagan Valley) which was on my route anyways.
I met a total stranger and her family in the middle of British Columbia, to stay with her and to celebrate her birthday. Today Eryn is still my friend and one day we will see each other again.
I made it to Banff. Although that was the destination I wanted to reach, I enjoyed every day and every place along the way.
• I was invited by a couple, that I got to know at Eryn's birthday party. We had a campfire and they showed me how to do s'mores.
• I met a stranger, who gave the album "Death Cab of Cutie" to me as a present.
• 4 elderly people invited me to hike with them along the Lake Louise, as soon as they found out, that I am scared of bears.
I loved Banff a lot and also Jasper. Unfortunately I had to leave Alberta quite soon as winter was coming and my camper wasn't ready for that.
I heard rumors, that one of the most important roads might be closed due to snow fall. But luckily I made it and I didn't have to do a 400km detour.
WHEN MISFORTUNE TURNS INTO FORTUNE.
All of a sudden my heater didn't work anymore. As it started being freakin' cold during the night, I had to find a workshop to get it checked. Which meant a detour of 200km back to Kamloops.
Turned out I was just too impatient with the heater and just needed to wait one more minute, so the little flame could appear.
That night I didn't go all the way back on my actual route. I stopped in between on a campground and planned on having a campfire again to have a bbq.
I was setting everything up and was trying to get the fire going, but unfortunately my wood was wet and I was running out of paper.
BUT: Fortune was with me. 3 swiss guys were camping right next to me and were kinda inspecting, what I was trying to do. When they found out, that I tried to have a camp fire, they started being active: One was getting new wood, the other one was getting paper and barbecue lighter and the other one was getting their sausages and burger buns. They even bought expired beer from the campground owner.
After 20 minutes we were all having a campfire, drank beers and got to know each other.
We had the same route for the next days, so we decided to travel together.
And again: Strangers became friends.
We had an amazing time together. We camped at a closed campground, met a ranger, who took us out on his boat to go fishing and had pancakes in the morning.
We even went on a bear "hunt", as this area was known for bears. Without them, I would never have done this and I am so grateful for them being there.
Thanks to them I was able to spot a bear.
In the end destiny brought us together. Or better to say: my "not so broken heater".
NOT SO SOLO.
A friend messaged me the contact details of an old friend from Germany: "Just in case. When you feel lonely and you'd like to connect with someone from home."
His place was on my way, so we met for dinner. Another stranger, who I'd just meet during my travels, because friends connected me.
It was really nice seeing someone from my hometown and just having a dinner with another person. We even went to a wine tasting and would reconnect after 2 months in Vancouver to go a Cannucks game. Thank you!
Next stop: Vancouver Island.
Again I was connected with a friend of friends. That's how I met Patrick.
He was actually traveling the same route as me, but he was taking public transport, that's why I picked him up and invited him to stay in the camper with me for a few days.
It's nice to have a hiking companion and someone to exchange stories with. We decided to do some cave climbing (another thing, that I wouldn't have done by myself) – at the registry counter we met two other guys, which turned out to be Germans aswell. And – what a coincidence - they were even from my hometown Hamburg.
We went on the cave tour all together and ended up having too much fun. I think that day was the day with the most laughters during my trip.
After having such a great time together and having the same route, we decided to find a place to stay for the night and to spend some more time together.
In the end we travelled together for 3 days: We had to escape from a campground due to bad storms, we did a campfire almost every night, we played games, tried to find out who was the best DJ (obviously me), did beach walks and went to an aquarium together. We had pancakes in the morning and exchanged hilarious stories.
Since then Maik is one of my closest friends. He even welcomed me at the airport, when I arrived back home after more than 2 months.
The boys left and I spent some more time in Ucluelet. I booked a surf instructor, as I really wanted to go surfing in Tofino and met some guys at the surf shop, who invited me to a sports bar to play pool that night.
I sucked at pool, but still got an invite for the next day to one of the guys birthday party, who was the manager of a hostel. Although I was nervous to go all alone to this party, I still went. Again I left my comfort zone and it turned out to be a good decision. As always.
The next day I kept on traveling alone.
When I was bored, I filmed myself in the camper van to show my friends my daily business. One day I even filmed, how to empty the chemical toilet.
It was pretty disgusting, but part of my story. So my friends had to go through it. #notsorry
I still became nervous, when I was driving through a lonesome area. No people. No network.
I mean, if you drive for hours and not even one cars passes by, what would you do? (Singing helped me a lot. Luckily no one was around)
I still stopped everywhere on my way, when it seemed interesting, I still tried to go hiking although big signs warned me from doing so.
One day I stopped at a river, where salmons are wandering up the river during their run season to spawn in upper river beds.
An other guy was walking around the river at the same time as I was. We started a conversation and he asked me if I wanted to hike up to the old trestle with him.
His name was Duncan and he was visiting some friends in Victoria. We hiked up to the Goldstream Trestle, which turned out to be an old wooden trestle with a height 170m.
Oh hello fear of height – there you are. With getting older, I somehow developed a fear of height. Duncan went straigh on, with the plan to pass this bridge. The trestle was made of wooden beams, which are placed with a short distance from each other. But the distance inbetween those beams was big enough to be able to look through and see the ground 170m far away.
My body started shaking and my knees became pudding. Duncan did a great job, guiding me over this monster bridge (and even back). My heart was beating fast and I started sweating. I can't help myself – I know, that I was safe and I wouldn't fall through the 30cm space between the beams, but still my body would react to that.
The following photo shows me, walking over the bridge proud and a little less anxious.
And this is Duncan! Thanks for the hike.
But you know what I found even more impressive? Duncan found some trash next to the trestle.
2 glass bottles and some plastic. He picked it up and carried it all the way down with him to put it in the trash bin.
(Duncan, I still tell everyone this story. It's one of the most remarkable ones, I have to tell)
Oh those Canadians.
VICTORIA - OH CITY LIFE.
After a few days in the woods I arrived in Victoria, the Capital of Vancouver Island. Time to reconnect with people I already met on my way: A couple who's been living in a Camper in Victoria.
Toni & Pauline.
I tried oysters for the first time with Toni at the bay in Victoria. We ordered 20 oysters and I loved them. So we ordered 20 more. Served with different sauces and beer for only 1$ per oyster.
I stayed in Victoria for a while. In the beginning it was hard to find a campground as the only campground downtown Victoria was fully booked. I already saw myself driving back to the suburbs, when I talked a nice restaurant lady next to the campground and she offered me, that I could stay on their parking spot for the night. For free.
I mean how friendly are the Canadians? How generous? How helpful?
This is way beyond expectations.
I booked a whale watching tour and we were able to spot 8 humpback whales within 2hrs.
During my trip I also stopped at an oyster farm as I heard, they were doing tours. So I walked in and tried to find the manager in order to book a tour.
He was quite surprised to hear, that I wanted to book a tour with them, as they've never done tours before.
I was about to leave, when he decided to give me a personal tour around their buildings. He took his time and explained everything from how they plant small oysters to how they harvest them, when the've grown enough.
Afterwards I asked, how much I owe him, but he didn't want any money. He didn't even want a donation for the kitty. Oh those Canadians.
Whenever you've the chance to buy Fanny Bay Oysters. Go for them. Quality- and sustainablewise they're great!
I took the ferry from Nanaimo back to the mainland where I drove up to Squamish to spend one of the last nights of my 5 weeks roadtrip there.
The campgrounds were kinda expensive, but I managed to find a cheap one, a bit more far outside of Squamish.
Again I drove into the woods. I arrived at a shady looking campground, but was happy to find the spot at least.
The guy at the entrance asked me: "How many?" Me: "Just me" (brain: "Dumb idea, Annika")
I payed 20$ and were told to drive all the way through the forest till the little river. "Pick any spot you want. There is no one else."
Ehm ok. I drove through the area, which seemed to be a junkyard. With old instruction work objects, rusty cars and different types of sand and wood.
The camp spot was inside the forest, and it was basically just a tramped down forest ground.
I set up my camper, it slowly started getting dark. There was a weird feeling inside my stomach, but I tried to ignore it.
No network service. And I told the campground guy, that I am ALL.BY.MYSELF. Clever idea. And no one else was camping.
I started having my cheese fondue (extremely expensive, but it became my soul food) and the weird feeling within was growing. My inner cinema started.
After dinner I decided to leave. I don't know exactly why, but I felt extremely insecure and restless. I couldn't even talk to anyone, as my phone didn't work.
I packed everything up, stopped at the exit to get my money back, but no one was there. I didn't care and just left.
Better trust your gut feelings, when it comes to safety.
In the end I payed 50$ for the other campground (plus the 20$ for the shady one) – so instead of saving money I spend way more, just to feel save. And I never regret it.
Maybe I was save at the other campground and it was just my mind playing with me. Maybe not. I will luckily never know.
HELLO VANCOUVER. LET'S RECONCILE WITH EACH OTHER.
After 5 weeks of traveling around Canada in a camper all by myself, I was ready to settle in Vancouver. Ready to exchange my camper life with an apartment in Kitsilano. I was lucky again: During my travels I was already looking for rooms on craigslist for the time after my roadtrip. I had a skype-call in the woods with Luke who became my roomie for 2.5 months.
Before I started my roadtrip I stayed in Vancouver for 2 nights. And I hated it. I was crying as I didn't like Vancouver at all. It was rainy, cold and not such a beautiful as I expected to see.
But I was ready to get to know Vancouver. Althoug that's another story I can tell you the happy end already: We fell in love.
This trip basically changed my life.
Such sentence always sounds a bit dramatic. But it did. I increased my comfort zone and I wrote so many adventure stories. I learned being alone and being comfortable with it. I increased my confidence. And I learned how to handle stressful situations, when no one is around.
After this trip I knew that I was capable of so much more that I've known before.
Oh Canada. Oh Canada.