How personal tragedies launched me on the solo journey

Single traveler instant

Tracey charters a plane on her travels

Tracey charters a plane on her travels

Photo credit: Tracey Tischler

  • Name: Tracey T.
  • Age: 58
  • Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Material condition: Divorced
  • Favorite solo trip: Sedona, Arizona

Simple, encouraging words from a co-worker and life circumstances led Tracey to take the first step into solo travel and she hasn’t looked back. She spends her time traveling to her favorite places in a van she made herself. She learned a few tricks along the way and discovered what is truly important in life.

Inspiration for solo travelers

TravelAwaits: What inspired you to travel alone?

Tracey: When I was 28, my sister Chris died of cervical cancer, and she was only 42 (she left behind a husband and two children, 12 and 9). When she was in hospice and I was the only one in her room at the time, I wondered what she wished she had done while she was alive. Ten years later, her husband, Frank, died at age 52 of a brain tumor. The day I buried Frank, I found out my dad had a massive stroke and was in the hospital. He was not expected to live, but lived another 3 years and finally died in hospice of congenital heart failure at age 72.

My sister Pam had multiple strokes of her own when she was 62. He is now 68 and in an assisted living home. I take her out when I can to go to dinner and help her take care of my mother who will be 93 years old. My brother Al was diagnosed with colon cancer when he was 56 and died 3 years ago – 2 days after his 63rd birthday. These traumatic losses affected the course of what I would do next.

I am divorced and have been a single mother to my daughter, Jessie, since she was 1 year old. After high school, he moved to Seattle to attend college. In 2019, I decided to finally take some “me” time and fulfill my dream of buying a van and traveling across the country. I bought a 2001 Roadtrek Versatile 190 and refurbished it myself. In September and October 2021, I sold everything I couldn’t fit in the van and gave up on my house. On November 7, 2021, I took off from the driveway and began traveling across the country for the winter. I returned in April 2022 and plan to leave again this week for the winter.

Material things are not of much value to me. I realized that I prefer to spend my time and money on experiences instead of “things”.

First solo trip

TravelAwaits: What was your first solo trip?

Tracey: My first place I traveled was to Phoenix to do NASCAR! I knew nothing when I left the alley. I didn’t even know much about my van or where I was going to stay. But I had a map and I knew I could figure it out and I did! I wasn’t afraid. I think I felt more focused on the process: getting from point A to point B, driving myself, and where I was going to sleep that night. That’s one thing I love about living with a van: it really keeps you in the moment of what you need to do or how you’re going to get to where you want to be.

Favorite aspect of solo travel

TravelAwaits: What is your favorite part of solo travel?

Tracey: I love meeting new people all the time and traveling alone in my spare time. In addition, I am very sociable, but I also like to be alone.

Favorite solo trip

TravelAwaits: What is your favorite solo trip so far and why?

Tracey: I would probably say visit a clothing optional resort in Georgia! I never thought I’d go to one, but it was something I wanted to try. I thought I would only stay two nights in my van. It was not at all what I expected and the property was beautiful; 84 acres of trails and beauty. There weren’t many people there and I became very good friends with two of the guys there who are retired and stayed for the winter. I’m actually meeting them early next year and staying there for a few months. I look forward to our adventures!

Biggest solo travel concern

TravelAwaits: What was your biggest concern before your first solo trip and how did you overcome it?

Tracey: I think my biggest concern was trying to figure out how long it would take to get to Phoenix for my adventure. I had a week to get there and I needed to make sure I stayed on track to get there on time. I took a longer route because I didn’t want to go over mountains or run into snow. Everything went well and I made it on time. Another big concern is other drivers. Even if they go the speed limit in the “slow” lane, there are people and big rigs who want to go over the speed limit and are not very kind to regular drivers.

Favorite travel product

TravelAwaits: What’s one product you can’t live without on your travels?

Tracey: My phone. I use apps like iOverlander which has helped me so much in finding a place to sleep for the night. Most of my journey is doubt and I don’t pay to park somewhere.

Best advice for solo travelers

TravelAwaits: What advice would you give to someone thinking of traveling alone?

Tracey: It’s in you. If you feel compelled, do it! It takes planning and it’s not something you just jump into. I researched for 5 years and then found exactly what I wanted, a Roadtrek. I also have zero debt and saved up for my first winter trip and it ended up costing twice as much per month as I thought. You can do it, but make sure you have a plan!

I know I thought about it and researched it for years. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought they would think I was crazy. I finally told a friend on a walk during our break at the law firm I was working at and to my surprise he was so supportive. He said, “Tracey, I see you doing this and I’m jealous!” Then I told another co-worker and she started sending me buses for sale! Just that encouragement made a big difference in me believing that I could do it. Even if you have no one to support you, you know that you are strong enough and capable enough to figure it out and do it if you really want to. Never give up on your dreams!

Feel free to follow Tracey’s van adventures at Ad-van-tures Over 50 on YouTube! Also, be sure to check out her website and follow her on TikTok and Instagram @advanturesover50.

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