How to travel solo as a female

Travelling alone is a daunting task for anyone, but even more so for a woman. How do you stop fear holding you back? Morgan Trimble’s solo trip to Namibia proves that with research and proper planning, anything is possible.

Two thousand kilometres separate Cape Town from my destination: Namibia’s Onguma Game Reserve east of Etosha National Park. I was scheduled to teach photography there for a month at a new underground photographic hide. The map showed just two turns: follow the N2 for 1km out of Cape Town before turning onto the N7, which becomes the B1 at the Namibian border. The second turn was 1,990km after the first, shortly before my destination.

Despite the simple route, this long stretch of highway had the potential for an epic road trip. But I was as nervous as I was excited. I’d be travelling as a solo female. What if I got tired of driving? What if I got a flat? What if I became stranded or lost? What if I starved to death alone in the Namibian desert?!?

Travelling alone is often as scary as it is exhilarating, especially if you’re on the open road. That’s why it’s essential for you to be well-informed and properly equipped before starting your journey. Pictures by Morgan Trimble

Also read: General safety trips for overland travel

In the weeks leading up to my trip, I decided to be proactive about my fears – it’s always best to be prepared. Here’s how I appeased the anxiety of travelling alone:

Plan the route

With no one to share driving duty, I needed to keep daily travel distance reasonable, and I didn’t want to drive at night and risk hitting an animal. I pre-planned several overnight stops along the way.

I spent the first night in Kamieskroon with enough daylight to spare to check out the flower display in Namaqua National Park. The second night I camped just 500km away in Keetmanshoop, allowing plenty of time for the border crossing and to explore the quiver tree forest. A dinner of eisbein and spaetzle awaited in Windhoek at the famous Joe’s Beerhouse. Next up: a two-day visit to Erindi Game Reserve and Okonjima Nature Reserve. From there, it was a short push to my destination at Onguma Game Reserve.

Come springtime, Namaqualand transforms into a sea of flowers. Each year, the stunning display attracts visitors from all around the world.

Planning on the fly is exciting, but when you’re on your own, it’s more comfortable to plan ahead. With no co-pilot, it’s tough to look at maps, calculate distances and call for reservations all while making good time on the road.

T4A tip: Use the travel times provided in our navigational tools to accurately plan how much distance you can cover in a day. Road conditions vary dramatically across the continent and 100km could take between an hour and four hours depending on where you find yourself. The distances and travel times shown on T4A maps are based on GPS information provided by travellers who have crossed the terrain themselves.

Also read: Inside the new self-drive guidebook for Namibia

Tyre maintenance

Having suffered a few flat tyres at the bite of rough Namibian gravel before, tyre troubles were one of my biggest concerns for the solo trip.

Running into tyre trouble is something you most definitely want to avoid on a solo trip. Practise changing a tyre once or twice at home so that you’re prepared for the worst case scenario.

Of course, I knew how to change a tyre in theory, but could I do it on my own? My Jeep Wrangler’s tyres are huge and heavy, and in the past, I’d always had help to muscle the spare wheel off the carrier and swap it for the damaged tyre. I decided to test out my skills (and strength) in a low-pressure setting: outside my garage at home. The trickiest part was lifting the spare wheel into position on the axel in line with the bolts. By testing ahead of time, I discovered that if I sat on my butt, I could use my feet as leverage to help push the tire up and into position.

Practising at home gave me confidence and confirmed that I had all the right tools including the essential lug nut key.

I also bought a fresh set of tyre repair plugs and a portable compressor to fix a flat in the field. The compressor would also be necessary to re-inflate the tyres if I let them down to cross thick sand.

Well supplied and in communication

In a sparsely populated country like Namibia, you can go a long time without seeing another vehicle. In the event of a breakdown or accident, I wanted to be comfortable in surviving the elements for up to a few days if I needed to wait for help. I was already carrying camping equipment, but I added several extra 5L bottles of water and brought along a fridge packed with essentials (okay, a few treats, too).

The Quiver Tree Forest is a popular tourist attraction near Keetmanshoop, Namibia where hundreds of endangered quiver trees, also known as Aloidendron dichotoma, grow in a small rocky area.

I knew my phone plan wouldn’t work in Namibia, so I researched ahead of time where to buy a local SIM card to get access to communication and, hopefully, the internet. For backup, I downloaded the Namibia Guide on the Tracks4Africa Guide App to my phone. With the app, I could use my phone’s GPS to see where I was on the map and find points of interest like attractions, petrol stations and campsites, even without mobile reception.

Also read: Not-to-be-missed activities in Namibia

In the end, my trip was a huge success. Namibia is one of the best cross-border destinations to tackle on a solo road trip. The roads were in great condition, and I had no problems with flats, getting lost, breakdowns, or strandings. I was glad to be prepared for the worst, though, and happy for the experience. While tackling travel challenges on the road may be less stressful with a partner to commiserate, there’s no reason to let going solo hold you back from a dream trip.

Onguma Game Reserve is a private reserve on the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park which offers stunning arid landscapes and excellent wildlife viewing.

With the T4A Guide App, you’ll always have a guidebook in your back pocket. Download now to access high-quality maps and detailed information about your next destination. Available on IOS and Android.

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