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Learning to Camp Alone After the Death of a Spouse

| Updated Jul 5, 2022

It may seem like it would be too difficult or lonely, but learning to camp alone after the death of a spouse can help you heal. It takes time and vulnerability, but you can do it…

Jennifer and I have been RVing together for more than 10 years and have been married for even longer (much longer). We spent countless weeks camping with our kids as they grew up and now spend the majority of our year RVing.

I don’t even want to think about what our RV lifestyle would be like if one of us lost the other, but it’s something many of our fellow RVers have to face. I suppose it’s something we all have to face one day. (That’s why we should all be aware of The Biggest Pitfall of Splitting RV Duties Down the Middle)

A young woman named Vanessa in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group is in the midst of such a loss. She took a big step recently and took her camper to a spot she and her husband once vacationed. She shared that it’s so sad camping alone. 

Her fellow RVers reached out to her, offering condolences and letting her know she’s not alone. Fellow widows and widowers shared advice and offered encouragement on learning to camp alone. And how to find joy in it once again.

Learning to Camp Alone
Learning to Camp Alone

Learning to Camp Alone After the Loss of a Travel Companion

I’m going to share some of the advice that was given to Vanessa and more for any of those who have lost a spouse. 

In truth, the advice works for those who have lost a spouse, friend, child, pet, or any other travel companion. Even empty nesters can relate to feeling alone when their children no longer camp with them.

Take Your First Trip When It Feels (Almost) Right

It’s never going to feel right leaving for your first camping trip without your loved one. There’s going to be plenty of hesitation, lots of tears, and more than enough excuses not to go. But, at some point, you just have to do it. 

When that point is will be different for everyone. Some people may need to ease into it while others may need to rip the bandaid off. 

My advice, based on what I’ve heard from others who have gone through it, is to listen to the little longing in your heart. 

At some point, the road will call to you again. At some point, happy memories of camping with your spouse will start to make you smile again, instead of cry. At some point, the question will keep popping into your mind, “Should I go camping again?”

At those points, try to push aside all of your fears and just do it. Make it happen. Book a campground… whether it’s the next weekend or 3 months from now. Book it. Even if you don’t end up going, book it. 

Committing to taking the trip is a great first step.

Prepare for an Emotional Journey

Learning to camp alone without your spouse is going to be an emotional journey. And like they say, the first steps are always the hardest. 

Embrace the journey. Embrace the tears, embrace the small joys, embrace the memories and the new experiences. 

Go into this knowing and accepting that it is not going to be the same as it was before. And that’s okay. 

Learning to Camp Alone
You've done this before

Remember, You’ve Done This Before

Remember that this isn’t the first time you’ve had to adjust to a completely new stage in life.

You adjusted when you left home as a young adult. You adjusted when you got married. You adjusted when you got a job. You adjusted when you had children. You adjusted when you became an empty nester. You adjusted when you retired.

You’ve adjusted to big life challenges in the past, and you can do it again. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it, because you can! With time, you can.  

Yes, many of those stages were with your spouse by your side, but, as others will tell you, your spouse is still by your side. You’ll still hear their encouragement and know what they would say or do. It’s just up to you to do it.

Mike and Jennifer's Summer T-Shirts for your next adventure

Learning to Camp Alone After the Death of a Spouse 1
Your Adventure Awaits! New colors and designs are waiting for you.

Go Somewhere New

Going to a place filled with memories of camping with your spouse may be too much to handle at first. You may want to ease into it by camping somewhere new. 

Perhaps choose a place that you and your spouse never even considered before. Because even memories of planning to go somewhere together can be hard. 

Think of it as a new adventure in this next chapter, but that it is still a part of the book you and your spouse have written. Wherever you go, they’ll still be with you, so going somewhere new can give you a healthy emotional balance you can handle. 

Or, Let It All Out At Someplace Old

Some people need to slowly release the sadness inside them, while others need to let it burst out. Only you can know what kind of relief you need. If you need to take baby steps, then perhaps take the previous advice to camp somewhere new.

But if you feel like you’re going to burst, then maybe it’s best to just let it all out at once. Go to somewhere that holds lots of memories and just let go. Let the waves of emotions crash over you… eventually, they’ll push you to shore and you’ll feel like you can breathe again.

In many cases, you might need to do both. You might need to start off camping somewhere new but then return to a meaningful place as you learn to camp alone. Listen to yourself.

Learning to Camp Alone

Don’t Camp Alone (All the Time)

You may have lost your spouse, but that doesn’t mean you have to camp alone. Camping alone certainly gives you the freedom you once enjoyed with your spouse, where you don’t have to consult anyone about your travel plans. But you don’t have to do it all the time. 

You can take family and friends with you whenever you feel lonely or until you build the confidence to camp on your own. You can also join social groups and RV clubs, many of which are specifically for solo RVers. 

Here are some RV clubs for solo campers that our RV Lifestyle community members recommended:

Get a Pet

Learning to Camp Alone
Maybe get a pet?

Pets make the best therapists. They give us purpose, bring us comfort, and make us smile without even trying. And they make excellent travel companions. 

It doesn’t even have to be a dog. Studies have shown that owning any kind of pet is therapeutic, whether it’s a dog or cat, lizard or snake, or even a fish. 

Get whatever pet appeals to you (or your allergies) and take them on the road with you. I personally recommend one you can put on a leash and walk around with, but that actually doesn’t limit your options very much. Just the other day, I saw a woman walking a goose on a leash. 

But whether the pet goes on hikes with you or sits beside you in the camper, they can help fill the void of the travel companion you lost. More than you even know possible. It truly is incredible how much a pet can help you heal and find the joy you thought was lost forever.

Join Online RV Communities

This article was inspired by the members of an online RV community. They reached out to Vanessa, offering condolences, prayers, support, and encouragement. Having a community is a gift we too often take for granted. 

When you’re learning to camp alone, you don’t have to do it alone. Join an RVing community. If you haven’t already, we’d love for you to join our RV Lifestyle Facebook group. You’ll find so much support, you won’t know what to do with it all!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2022-07-03

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “Learning to Camp Alone After the Death of a Spouse”

July 07, 2022at7:09 am, tina henry said:

Very good thoughts about a difficult situation. something that needs to be talked about. Thank you.


July 06, 2022at8:02 am, Kathy Reilly said:

My husband & I had a 32” RV. He sold it wanting to get a larger e the next year. Unfortunately he died unexpectedly from a pulmonary thrombosis at the young age of 61.
I have been camping my entire life. My happy place is in the forest. I recently took my adult children camping in a rented 27”RV, drove it myself. It was to honor my husband on his 3 rd Angel Anniversary. I had some moments of sadness but I had my kids around me and I knew that part of Terry was with us through them.
I plan on buying a small RV and taking my dog Murphy on the road. My fear is breaking down on the deserted road and feeling vulnerable. I think my first adventure solo will be with one of the solo groups you have recommended. Thank you!


July 07, 2022at10:59 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thank you so much for sharing this, Kathy. We are sorry you lost your husband so young – and hope your story can encourage others. Team RV Lifestyle


July 04, 2022at6:48 pm, Ronnie Abrams said:

Are there any single groups for very old singles (when and if I am ready). We have been RVing for over 50 years, I am in my 80s and my husband is ill and in hospice care at home.


July 05, 2022at10:51 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

We are so sorry to hear your husband is ill and in hospice. That is so hard…. We recommend reaching out to the groups listed and asking about age. Our guess is you will a place you will feel welcomed. Team RV Lifestyle


July 04, 2022at9:24 am, Dianne Suarez said:

Many years ago a solo camping group came to our fairgrounds for a weekend away. I went to visit them and toured many of these proud singles rv’s. That is where I decided camping would be our my husband and my next big adventure. We’ve been Roadtreking ever since. Obviously I am not single, but I often wonder what I will do in that eventuality. Thank you for all the encouraging information here, especially the recommendations for singles camping clubs.


July 05, 2022at10:50 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing this, Dianne! Team RV Lifestyle


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