Solo travel, van expansion and own Tiny House: Travelbubi in interview

Travelbubi is an Instagram channel run by Julia on the topic of solo travel. Julia is just 21 years old and already inspires over 135,000 people on Instagram with her creativity and love of travel. She grew up on a farm and is now a passionate solo traveler. Her channel, by the way, was named after her bright red van, which she customized herself!

Solo Travel: Insights, Experiences & Tips

In this interview, she shares with us what motivated her to travel solo and gives us exciting insights from her time in Portugal. Julia tells us about her preparations, gives us important tips along the way and reports on how she dealt with the issue of loneliness on her trip. The ambitious Austrian already has the next project on the go, which she will probably also report about on YouTube from summer on – be curious!

Here you can find more from Julia:

Lukinski Villas

Germany - Spain - USA

From farm to experienced solo traveler

FIV: Hello Julia! Maybe you can introduce yourself very briefly in advance with your own words, so that our readers can get an impression of you. Who are you and what makes your channel?

Julia: My name is Julia, 21 years young, grew up on a small organic farm with four older siblings in Austria. Moved to Graz at the age of 15 to attend school with a focus on fashion & design.

I am a very creative person and love drawing or designing, sewing, photography and letting off steam creatively with videos to convey a message. Last spring I made the decision to take a solo trip to Portugal in our homemade vintage camper. It was a trip with no end date and full of uncertainty.

Instagram account as a diary

From day 1 of my journey, June 04, 2022, I have kept my Instagram account as my diary, which has allowed me to build a community of over 135,000 people around the world. Every day I am happy to inspire my community to travel alone, live life and follow their dreams.

In November, after 6 months, thousands of great memories and more than 8500 kilometers covered, I arrived back home. Currently I live out my love for interior design, because at the same time as my trip we, my friend Tobias and I, built our hemp / lime tinyhouse.

Van removal and choice of destination

FIV: On your Instagram you can see that you and your boyfriend built out and furnished the van yourself – how cool! What motivated you to travel alone and live in a van in the first place?

Julia: I grew up with this kind of vacation. My family went on vacation to Croatia every summer to enjoy the sea with a caravan and a red VW bus at various campsites. My boyfriend and I decided to buy our own camper in March 2019.

At that time, we definitely never thought that we would completely restore our “Bubi” just a few months later. We worked on it from the beginning of 2020 until summer 2021 and are very proud to have given our Mercedes L206D, which is now 48 years old, a new life.

Motivation for the first solo trip

When I decided to travel to Portugal last spring, the opportunity to travel with our van came in handy and it was definitely the best decision. What motivated me to travel alone? At the time I was at a higher technical school for information design, I also worked in a social media agency and lived in Graz with my boyfriend.

At the time, I convinced myself that everything was perfect, but I was missing my gap year, which I had planned for 2020 after my Matura. I could no longer concentrate on my studies, had the feeling that time was running out and was actually absolutely not happy with my situation. My boyfriend found his dream job at the same time, so it was clear, either me alone or not at all. I decided on the former.

FIV: Why did you choose Portugal? Have you been there before or was there something in particular that inspired you about the country?

Julia: It had been my wish to fly to Portugal for a long time and when my sister and current business partner invited me on a short trip to Lagos in February 2022, I was hooked. I decided while still there with a view of the sea and sunset that I would come back. I then fulfilled that very promise with my 6-month trip through Europe in July.

On top of that, on the flight home I met a girl from Porto, Portugal, with whom I talked the entire flight. This encounter strengthened my decision again. I then visited her in July for two weeks in Porto with our “Bubi”. It was a magical, unexpected meeting on a plane that definitely brightened and changed my life and the trip.

Travel planning: preparations and important tips

FIV: What preparations do you make before your solo travels?

Julia: There are so many things, but if I’m honest, I haven’t spent much time preparing. My tips would be to copy all personal documents and if possible only take copies, except the passport of course. It is also very important to leave a power of attorney for all matters at home. Because no one knows what can happen in the meantime and it is better to be prepared for the “worst case scenario”.

I personally took a self-defense course, my boyfriend insisted on it and I am very grateful about it. Fortunately, I have never had to use it, however, I have been able to take away many of my fears with it.

Using Airtag & Capture Important Memories

Something I can recommend to anyone or everyone is to use an airtag or other tracking apps. I felt much safer knowing that someone from home could see my location at all times. You should also think about how you want to record your trip.

I am more the visual type and decided to buy a Polaroid camera and a small booklet in which I pasted a Polaroid photo every day or at least in beautiful places. It was absolutely one of the best decisions, because these photos automatically recall all my memories about it.

Camping: find the best places

FIV: When planning your trip, were you more focused on specific places or did you let your curiosity drive you? Were there specific factors you took into account when choosing where to stay?

Julia: My travel planning consisted of knowing where I was going to be the next day. At home, I was someone who constantly had to know everything in advance and tried to plan everything for the next week. But when I got on the bus, all I knew was that I wanted to go to Porto, possibly make a stop in Barcelona and that was it.

I unpacked my paper Europe map about twenty minutes after I left and looked up which direction I needed to go.

It is a wonderful feeling to be so free and to be able to make your own decisions.

It was important to me to travel along the sea as often as possible, and that’s what I did.

The best app for pitches

I always found my places to stay through an app called Park4night and made sure that the ratings were very good (3-5 stars) and the comments were mostly positive. I shared a lot of places on my Instagram account. So, if anyone is planning a trip, he or she is welcome to check out the highlights “Park4night” and save the places.

Researched I have always so between 15-30 min. the evening before or sometimes very spontaneously. Nevertheless, I always had nice and safe places. A tip, avoid campsites and rather go to pitches, which are much cheaper and actually have almost the same equipment, perfect for traveling.

All alone? Travel without friends and family!

FIV: What were your biggest challenges traveling solo and what was it like leaving all your friends behind?

Julia: My biggest challenges were definitely not seeing my boyfriend in person for a long time and sharing my experiences with him. Saying goodbye to my friends and family was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done.

That feeling after I got in the car and drove off into the unknown, even though I wanted to turn around and hug each one again, was heartbreaking. Because I just didn’t know if I’d ever see them again, because there’s always a risk, which I’m very glad I took.

I did have a few minor mishaps with our van, but I definitely learned a lot in the process. I can consider myself really lucky not to have had any major challenges, because there were helpful people everywhere who supported me.

My biggest vanlife-struggle was definitely the search for camping gas. A tip at this point, take a second or third gas bottle with you, even in Europe, because in some countries it is forbidden to fill empty bottles. For small campers, there are unfortunately not really alternatives, the ones that exist are very expensive and hard to find.

Self-determined without loneliness

FIV: Have you ever felt lonely and if so, how did you deal with it? Do you have any tips against loneliness on solo trips for our readers?

Julia: There were definitely moments of loneliness, but rather towards the end. I was surprisingly little alone, but when I was, I was looking forward to reading and walking along the beach with music in my ears. It was precisely in such situations that I was able to meet like-minded people again.

I also talked to my family or friends on the phone very often, just calling them helped a lot. Also, my goal of getting to a certain place totally distracted me from feeling lonely. I was just focused on getting there.

I got into a real flow, I’ll never forget that feeling – just so free, self-determined and full of genuine moments.

Making friends: “solo” travel together

FIV: Have you reached out to other people on your travels? Would you also say, perhaps, that you made friends?

Julia: I don’t really have a method, however, one or two times I just approached people. For example, in Cadiz, when I just felt like talking to two girls on a park bench after I noticed that they also spoke German. This two minute conversation turned into four days of traveling together to Tarifa. They were such beautiful days, we even slept three to a bus, although we did not even know each other the day before.

Another tip would be to walk around at overnight stops and when you notice friendly campers, compliment the van, thereby striking up a conversation. I once met another traveler by leaving the engine on “too” long, because the engine sometimes needs to cool down a bit. This didn’t excite the camper in front of me.

This funny first contact led to a four-day trip together, a hike to the Monkey Mountain in Gibraltar at 4:00 am in the morning, which I certainly would not have done alone. That’s what’s so special about traveling, just such spontaneous encounters.

More self-confidence & beautiful moments

FIV: What would you say are the clear advantages of traveling alone and why should everyone have done it?

Julia: I have developed new skills, especially in situations where otherwise my boyfriend would have reacted, for example.

I have become much more self-confident as a result and certain experiences have strengthened me a lot in this.

One special thing is that I realized that there are so many people in this world who have similar goals or needs to travel and I am not alone in that. It was so wonderful to meet people in front of whom I could just be me. Those experiences are just worth their weight in gold. On top of that, I lived in the here and now while traveling, which is unfortunately a rarity in everyday life at home.

“My view of the world has changed as well”.

FIV: How do you think this time has changed your perspective on your life and the world?

Julia: I think it made me more spontaneous and adventurous. I have been able to build my own independent life during this time. I am no longer trapped in the hamster wheel, but now decide for myself every day when and how I work to make the world a bit more sustainable. I am convinced that there are so many people who have similar desires and goals, and these are exactly the ones you get to know during these times.

My view of the world has also changed. I realized that there are so many wonderful and helpful people in this world, because complete strangers have helped me out of trouble a few times on the trip. I realized that if you are open with other people yourself, you will get that same openness back.

I have decided for myself that I will not wait for someone or something to fulfill my dreams. The mere fact that I am now being interviewed by a German magazine would have been simply unimaginable not even 10 months ago.

Julia’s Highlights: Across Portugal & Spain

FIV: What do you think were the two most beautiful places on your trip? Is there a particular moment that you will remember forever?

Julia: This question is very difficult to answer, because there are thousands of moments I could tell you about.

The moment when I crossed the border from Spain to Portugal after only 3 weeks. To have made it, that moment was just indescribable. I parked the van just after the border and went back to the sign that said “Portugal” and was just overwhelmed by the fact that I made it “alone” despite all the contradictions.

My journey really just started there, but it was definitely a great moment that I won’t soon forget. It also includes the moment when I came back to Lagos, where I made the crazy decision to do this solo trip and made a promise to myself.

By bike through Cadiz

My two favorite places, phew, the best memories and places are mostly linked to the great people I met there. Lagos is just beautiful even after all the many places I’ve been. Cadiz, the oldest city in Europe also appealed to me so much because I was able to admire it on my bike and just loved the flair there. Another place with a view of the Monkey Mountain will also remain in my memory. I do not know exactly how the place there is called, in any case, I experienced the most beautiful view and sunsets there.

Tiny House: your own little home

FIV: And now the next project is already on the horizon? A Tiny House – Tell us about it!

Julia: My boyfriend really wanted to build a Tiny House. The project started at the same time I was making my travel plans. So we decided to each pursue our dreams but support each other. So I planned the interior design during my trip and spontaneously flew home for a week of Tiny House building.

Interiordesign and build something with my own hands, is a great passion of mine and has accompanied me since the expansion of our vintage camper. Since November, we are building even more intensively on our Tiny House and are currently researching companies for our complete self-sufficiency.

Soon to be seen on YouTube!

It’s a bigger project than we originally thought, but we are really looking forward to finishing our Tiny House. We have already moved in, but there are still many little things to build and to get. It is just wonderful to come into our own four walls or about 19 square meters, where we have built almost everything ourselves. I am looking forward to make all my future solo trips from here and then come back home and lay together under the starry sky. In the background we are currently planning and implementing our YouTube channel, in which we plan a series of room tour videos about our Tiny House, we hope to be able to go online in the summer.

FIV: Dear Julia, thank you very much for this exciting interview! We wish you all the best on your travels!

Julia’s social media: check out Solo Travel!

More content from Julia can be found here: