Solo RV-ing and Loving’ It—Interview with Meagan Butler
Meagan Butler’s love for the RV lifestyle began in 2009 during a family vacation to celebrate her father’s recovery from neck cancer. To mark the event, he planned a trip from Anchorage through most of the Kenai Peninsula, with 11 family members—adults and children—divided between three Class C motorhomes.
“We would caravan to different places and sightsee, and then just decide where we wanted to go next, and we’d just point our RV in that direction and drive there,” Meagan remembered. “But even though it was a bit crowded in our rig with four adults and my five-year-old niece, I loved every minute of it! After that experience, I knew that I wanted to RV more often.”
It wasn’t until 2013 when Meagan and her husband Pat bought their first trailer—a “toy hauler”—that she had the opportunity came to purse her dream. But even though the couple took several trips, first in the small camper and later in a rented class C motorhome and ultimately in their own 5th-wheeler, Meagan also wanted her own solo RV adventure, “even though I’d not traveled alone before. Ever,” she said.
In this interview, she shared some of her experiences and her goals for her future as a solo-RV-er.
It sounds like you and your husband enjoy your time together on the road. What was it that drew you to also experience the RV lifestyle on your own?
I had a strong desire to do something adventurous. Plenty of women travel by themselves, but I hadn’t heard of any solo RV-ing women at the time, so I wanted to do something uncharacteristic for female travelers. I wanted to see the United States in a unique way, and I wanted to prove to women that we are capable of any type of travel. If we wanted to RV alone, why not do it?
You bought your own RV just for this adventure. How did you decide which type to buy?
A: Before my husband and I went to the 2017 January Colorado RV show, I had narrowed my choices down to a few RVs so I could be informed and well-versed before we arrived. I quickly decided that the TAB Outback was the best RV choice for my adventure. Even though I wanted a 400, no one had any in stock yet, and I was doing well enough even to find a TAB in the state of Colorado. In April 2017, we went to the dealer and bought my TAB.
I ultimately chose the TAB because I knew it was compact and easy to tow behind most smaller SUVs. Aside from the small size and weight, the TAB has a lot of features that make for comfortable living both on and off the grid, and my Outback model would allow me the opportunity to boondock and go off-road. I love things that are aesthetically pleasing, and the TAB is both adorable and functional.
How did you plan for your first solo trip?
I’m a hands-on learner, and I learn best when I can try things on my own. My husband would show me how to connect my TAB to my SUV, or show me how to attach my sewer hoses, but unless I tried to do these things myself, I’d never learn properly.
I knew if I didn’t plan a time to go out on my own that I might never get up the courage to go, so I reserved a pull-though space at the Strasburg, Colorado KOA. It’s only an hour from my house, so if I got into any trouble, my husband was close enough to come and help me. Plus, the KOAs that I had stayed at in the past with my husband were always clean and safe, and I knew I could ask the campground hosts for help if I needed it.
Where there aspects of your first solo trip that you found challenging or hard to get used to?
The experience getting to my spot for the night was terrifying. I’d never towed anything more than a few miles, so I was hyper aware of my TAB’s existence behind my Jeep. I was scared to go fast, so I took a route that avoided the interstate. That was a HUGE mistake.
About five miles down a county road, the pavement changed to dirt. For nine miles, my TAB jumped behind my vehicle. The road wasn’t just unpaved—it was potholed and almost undriveable. Colorado had a crazy wet and snowy spring, so the road was covered with deep-tire depressions, holes and thick, dried mud truck tracks, so I spent the first part of my trip white-knuckled, scared, and basically off-roading with my camper. Needless to say, I decided I needed get over my fear of speed and take the interstate home.
Once I got to the KOA, everything fell into place. It took me three times as long to accomplish anything, but I took my time and didn’t worry about rushing the process. I also learned on that trip that it is always a good idea to save your camper manuals to a device that you can access without cell service or Wi-fi.
I downloaded most of my manuals to my tablet, and every time I questioned how to work anything, I used my manuals. I didn’t have great cell phone service, so my downloaded manuals were my saving grace.
Any “learning experiences” you’d like to share?
My first long-distance solo RV trip (3,000 miles round trip) across the country was WILD. As I drove along the interstate, my camper first started wobbling and then started jumping around behind my vehicle and I knew that wasn’t normal! I had no control of my RV.
Once I reached my destination (two hours later), I pulled out my computer to research why the extreme-almost-jackknifing was happening to me. After about a half an hour on the TAB forum boards, I realized that the drop in my hitch wasn’t sufficient. In fact, incorrect drops impact towing all of the time. I just assumed when I bought my camper and took it home from the dealer that I’d be good to go on the road, but that wasn’t the case.
I knew that this mistake was an easy mistake to fix and the next morning I went to the closest Camping World where I explained my dilemma to the people at the parts department. Within a few hours, I was back on the road, and sway-free.
Since that first one, where have you traveled on your solo trips?
Since then, I’ve spent my summers on solo adventures. I’ve been as far as Michigan with my TAB, but I mostly camp in Colorado, Wyoming, and Arizona when I am alone.
What do you like best about your solo RV adventures?
Although my husband and I still take trips together, I mostly go RV-ing alone. I love the way I feel when I’m in my camper with my dogs. I feel refreshed and independent. I have a camper friend who sometimes meets up with me, but usually, I take trips alone, and I make friends with the people who end up camping around me.
I’ve learned that the RV community is friendly and helpful. Wherever I travel, there are people who want to talk about my TAB or just chat about RV-ing in general. When people find out that I am traveling alone, I get all kinds of questions, because even though the female RV community is growing, I’m usually one of the few solo female campers that park owners and RV-ers encounter. I’ve had numerous dinners, campfire, drinks, and other camping activity invites, and it seems like the RV community takes in female travelers with open arms.
What are your plans for the future?
Since getting my TAB, I left my job as a full-time English teacher, earned an editing degree, and I’ve started to build my freelance editing and writing career along with writing about my experiences on the road for my RV travel blog. The RV lifestyle is perfect for someone who works remotely. As long as I have an internet connection, I can get my work done.
As for my husband, I am fortunate that he supports me in my wild ideas. As long as I am safe, he is happy for me. In 2019, I will become a digital nomad of sorts, and write and edit from my RV whenever possible, making trips home to spend with my husband, and hopefully convincing him to take a few trips with me in my TAB!
I’ve found my passion in something I’d never have expected. My life is RV-ing. I think about RVing almost every day, and I am part of many online communities that support female RV-ing or the TAB and teardrop lifestyle.
When I’m traveling, my TAB gets a lot of attention. Many women approach me and ask me about my RV. When these women find out I’m traveling solo, I usually end up sharing stories of travel and anecdotes of encouragement. There isn’t any way to describe the looks of determination on these women’s faces when they walk away from me, because I know I’ve sparked the interest of solo RV-ing.
Solo female RV-ing isn’t a fearful lifestyle; it’s a fearless lifestyle!