‘The solution to dealing with loneliness as a nomad traveller’

Mar 08, 2020
Gillian has discovered lot of ways to meet new people and make friends as she's travelled. Source: Getty Images

Before I started my nomad lifestyle, I’d sit at home and dream about it. Yet one of my biggest fears was becoming lonely if I took the plunge on my own. I wondered what friends I would meet, and where! When I decided I wanted to travel, those were just two of the questions that ran through my head. I worried that because I would be on the move so often as a nomad, I’d find it difficult to meet new people and make friends. I was wrong!

What I’ve learned is that there are many ways of meeting people when you’re in a caravan. There are also a number of groups you can join, if that’s your thing.

As an example, you’ll have no trouble finding caravan groups for people with the same make of van as you have (e.g. Jayco, Kokoda, Newlands etc.), or groups for four-wheel drive owners towing caravans, there are even generic caravanning groups. I found that some will meet at the weekend and have dinner together at a specific van park, while others will meet-up at a location and head to the nearest pub for a meal.

There are also those groups that have regular meetings, dinners, competitions, games and music. It can make for interesting company and you’ll probably find yourself heading along to another weekend meet-up at a different location with those in the group who are interested.

I’ve also found another way of meeting people is through apps and websites. These can be accessed on your smartphone or tablet. I’ve found apps for cheap camping, for travellers going in a particular direction, apps that show you what showgrounds offer cheap or free camping. I’ve even engaged in Starts at 60‘s monthly meet-ups through the website.

The benefit of such things is the opportunity to engage with others and ask questions. On the more travel-related sites, I’ve found people asking for help with finding a cheap caravan site and someone has offered their address as the stop. From these encounters, I’ve heard of people becoming firm friends.

When I’ve stayed in caravan parks or campgrounds I’ve often met people by getting to know the manager or the person showing me how to back my caravan into a difficult spot. Some people sit outside their caravans and say a friendly ‘hello’ as I’ve walked past. Others have come over and introduced themselves.

In the afternoons there is often a place where the nomads meet and have a drink together. I’ve been found in the ‘beer and BS’ corner in the caravan park or by the open fire where everyone gathers having a chat with my fellow campers.

At caravan parks that sit next to a river, you will often find the locals and visitors sitting out having a beer or wine and fishing at 4pm. Many places have a happy hour at 4pm and I’d encourage anyone camping or caravanning to go along and meet some new faces.

Getting to know others has also been helpful during events of nature, like storms, hail, bad winds etc. After an event people will come out of their caravan and help clean up while ‘admiring’ the damage. Where there has been a particularly bad story, I’ve heard people talk about it for days. It’s a great opportunity to meet up with the locals and hear what they have to say about such weather events too.

All of this conversation has led to making contacts and sometimes friends, and there is never a dull moment. Also in most parks, I’ve found older residents that have been living there for quite some time. Some are friendly and looking for a chat, while others will hide inside. Often these sort of people will have some interesting stories to tell if you can find the time to chat.

Many nomads have a lot of really good knowledge and when I’ve asked how to do something I’ve found I often have quite a large group of people around giving assistance. I recall one caravan meeting we went to where a man offered to weigh our tow ball when we found it was overweight. That led to us getting help with our awning, which was not straight and then we got a lesson on our anode for the hot water. By the end of things, there were eight of us chatting and helping out. We made some great friends that day!

Not everything is an afternoon or evening gathering involving a brew. I’ve been to caravan parks that host morning teas at 10am where visitors and guests are welcome to attend. It’s been great attending these meet-ups because I’ve found friends with similar interests to me, or people travelling in the same direction as I’m going.

Of course, you don’t even need a special event to find a new friend. I’ve had people walk past the caravan and ask how I’m going or where I’m going. Some will stop to pat the dog that travels with me.

Not everyone is a nomad either! I’ve met lots of families with children, soldiers, young couples and even just travellers on the road.

I enjoy this nomad lifestyle. I can shut myself away when I don’t feel like being social and I’ve stepped outside when I do. I’ve driven into caravan parks and showgrounds and not liked what I’ve seen so kept driving until I found something that was more to my needs. I love being able to return to places that I’ve enjoyed in the past and indulge in them all over again. It’s so good being out in the fresh air!

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