I had just picked up my campervan rental in Las Vegas and was gearing up to traverse around Arizona. (You can also pick up a campervan at our Phoenix location.). This was going to be my first solo campervan trip, and uncertainty and anxiety came with that. What happens if something goes wrong? Or if I am in an uncomfortable situation? I pushed those thoughts aside, buckled my seatbelt, and headed out for a 6-night adventure. As soon as I put the van in drive, I realized the possibilities that lie ahead. I had complete and utter freedom to go wherever I wanted, to do anything I wished. Soon that anxiety was replaced with excitement and a strong sense of wanderlust. It was day 1, and I had nothing but an open road to explore.
Day 1 – The Trek to Grand Canyon National Park
The first day was about preparation. I stopped to pick up all the snacks I would need for the week and a nice coffee. With a latte in hand, I pulled up Google Maps and headed for the canyon. As I was driving, I noticed a sign for the Hoover Dam, and without thinking twice, I pulled off the highway to make my first pit stop. As I hopped out of the van and approached the iconic landmark, the sense of liberty hit. I didn’t need to worry about another person or any plans. I could change my mind however I please and make things up as I go. That is a level of freedom you don’t always get with travel. Often you are confined to the area around your hotel room or a predetermined itinerary that you may or may not have had a hand in planning. After a few moments of taking in the magnitude of the Hoover Dam, I jumped back in the van and headed to my first campsite. I camped on BLM land for the entirety of my trip to save money and get a little closer to nature. Sleeping alone in the middle of the woods was the only thing that gave me anxiety, but having the safety of a locked van made sleeping easy.
Day 2 – The Grandest of Canyons
One of my only goals for visiting this national park was to take the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. It seemed like the perfect spot for a sunrise hike. So I promptly woke up a 3 am and drove to the park entrance. The Grand Canyon is open 24/7, so the gates are open for you to drive through. Just make sure you pay the fee for the park (unless you have a national park pass, then you can just drive right through). I was surprised to know that when approaching the canyon, you don’t see much but trees. I expected to be awed when driving in, but that didn’t happen until I got to the parking lot. As I made my descent to the trail, that’s when I saw it. The expansive, yet soft, landscape of the grand canyon. Taking in the cold crisp air while witnessing the sun illuminate the canyon was magnificent. Though the hike was fairly busy at 4 in the morning and got increasingly busier as the day went on, the views made up for it. After spending the morning exploring inside the park, I returned to the BLM land, not before stopping for some chocolate at the Grand Canyon Chocolate Factory, where I had the best chocolate-covered honeycomb. It was like a Whopper met a Butter Finger made of honey, and it was the best thing I ate on the whole trip.
Day 3 – The Best Day
Sedona, was the place I was looking forward to the most on my solo campervan trip. A land of history, vortexes, and beauty. I wanted to spend as much time as possible in Sedona, so I started the engine early. The drive from the Grand Canyon to Sedona was the most beautiful drive. I passed through Flagstaff and learned they have a ski hill. Next, I drove through a valley of pine trees and sycomores. I saw people pulling up to campsites and walking with fishing poles. I could smell the river and the fresh air, but nothing would beat seeing the red cliffs of Sedona as I exited the green valley. Naturally, the first thing I wanted was some local coffee. I visited a shop called Cuptown, where I got a house special rose chai. After that was ventured through the town of Sedona, walking through shops and enjoying the surrounding views. I came across a barefoot man in a robe standing in the center of town with a bunch of snakes. I walked up, and he handed me a snake as we talked about his mission to rescue reptiles of all kinds. After a while, I thanked him for his time and continued on. There were several galleries scattered around town and one in particular, piqued my interest: Bearcloud Gallery. When I entered, I was blown away by the masterpieces that lay in front of me. I spoke with Tina, who ran the gallery, for half an hour. We discussed the art, and she gave me recommendations for places to eat and hike in town. I was then introduced to Bearcloud himself. He was a kind man who shared his experiences and the meaning of his work. After a nice conversation, I bid the two goodbye and got ready to explore the natural oasis of Sedona.
Enjoying the Scenery
I made my way toward Bell Rock to immerse myself in the land. Many trails around Bell Rock are all interconnected, giving you the freedom to wonder. Feeling inspired by Bearcloud and the beautiful landscape before me, I sat down on the rocks and began to watercolor. I sat there for an hour, letting the world around me fade away as I connected with the rocks and plants. I took several moments to meditate before I continued on with my journey. After a long day of exploring, I knew it was time for dinner and relaxation. I grabbed a meal and headed towards another BLM campsite, where I curled up for the night. Day 3 was the best day of the entire trip and one that I will remember forever. The people and the landscape of Sedona are unmatched. As I closed my eyes for the night, I was overcome with gratitude.
Day 4 – A Simple Day
Another day in Sedona meant another beautiful hike. I spent most of this day immersed in nature. I hiked near Cathedral Rock and took time to appreciate the colors. Sedona had vibrant colors and unique greenery. While observing, I discovered my new favorite plant, the Fouquieria plant. It’s a large coral-like bush that makes itself known. Post-hike, I returned to the campsite and spent the rest of the day reading in the sun. I also saw a herd of cows walking less than 100 feet from the van. It was the perfect way to end my time in Sedona and wrap up my solo campervan trip.
Day 5 and 6 – Time with Friends
The last two days of my journey were spent in Gilbert, Arizona, where I spent time with my childhood friend. We went out and explored the cute town of Gilbert, visiting great restaurants and trying delicious food. I got some nice relaxation in, showering and going for a swim in the pool. I spent less time in the van these last few days and more time in civilization. It was a big contrast from the middle of nowhere. Though my time in Gilbert was filled with excitement, it showed me how valuable that time in nature was. I loved having the time to escape by myself to explore.
Day 7 – Heading Home
The final day consisted of a 5-hour drive back to Vegas, a flight, a train ride, and an Uber. It was a long journey home but a perfect time to reminisce on my trip.
Overall, this solo campervan trip experience taught me the value of time alone and connecting with nature. Having no plans and no expectations opens the door to so many opportunities. If you’re planning a vanlife adventure, allow yourself the time to think, connect, and dive into the nomad lifestyle. A campervan is truly the best way to explore. Whether you want to travel alone, with a furry friend, or with family and friends, you will create unforgettable memories. All I can say is – give vanlife a try. You won’t regret it.