Teacher, 26, lives in a Fiat 500 and travels around UK for camping adventure

When travel restrictions were lifted in summer last year, many holidaymakers made their way to the south coast of England for a UK staycation.

But 26-year-old secondary school teacher Laurie Alyce Matthews instead drove north and escaped Devon in her Fiat Punto.

The keen traveller feels blessed to live in Torbay, one of the most beautiful places in Britain, but Covid-induced cabin fever had hit and left her with itchy feet.

The history teacher packed up her car in search of adventure, and set off on a four-week UK road trip.

Now she’s traded in her Punto for a Fiat 500 and documents her car camping adventures on TikTok, where she’s quickly racked up 2.2million likes and more than 119,300 followers.

Laurie said: “Last year in summer I didn’t want to book a holiday abroad because I didn’t want to suddenly scramble through a border or book an expensive flight home – it was all just a bit too risky.

“I love travelling and I’m really fortunate that I live in Devon, so as far as being in lockdown goes, I was in a beautiful part of the country, but it did start to get a bit cabin-feverish.

“I was conscious that with most people opting for a staycation, the area was about to become plagued with tourists and I just wanted to go somewhere.

“I had six weeks off during the school holidays and had considered tenting, but then you have to book on to campsites and my itinerary would have to be quite rigid with little flexibility.

"Plus, being a solo female traveller the idea of being in a tent on my own, which you can’t lock, was unsettling.”

Instead, Laurie and her stepdad built a wooden bed platform on the back seats of the Punto, with a removable base to store all of her clothes and equipment.

A route was planned and, before she’d even had time to think about it, Laurie was heading towards Scotland.

She added: “I barely gave it any thought and suddenly I was off for 28 days.

“I did a figure of eight of Scotland and went as far north as John O’Groats and as far south as Lands End! I had the odd night in a Travelodge but I was able to travel for four whole weeks for a lot less money than I would have been able to if I’d booked hotels for every night.”

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Since her first solo road trip, Laurie spent five days over Easter traveling around London, followed by a full week in Wales over the May half term.

She said: “I’ve been camping and caravanning before, but we’re not really a family of campers. Though, I would say I’m an adventurer. I’d rather rough it out than totally miss out.

“Before Covid, I’d travelled around Paris, Ukraine and Croatia staying in budget hostels and I thought, if I can go to Croatia on my own, then I can probably road trip Britain on my own.”

On a road trip, Laurie fills her Fiat 500 up with £35 of petrol once every two days, working out at just under £20 per day – far less than a hotel would set her back.

During her Welsh road trip, the car camper stopped off at the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia and Anglesey, admiring the coastal views. But of course, no camping trip is ever complete without a disaster. And a pricey one at that.

After setting up camp in the scenic mountains of Snowdonia, Laurie managed to lock her keys, phone and purse inside her car, leaving her entirely stranded with no-one to help her.

She told her TikTok followers:”Last night I made a boo boo and I locked my keys in my car just as I was about to settle down and make camp.

“I threw my keys in the boot and shut the boot – and the rest of the car was locked. I panicked big time. My phone was in the car, my Apple watch was in the car. Literally I had nothing except what I was wearing.

“Thank god I’d parked reasonably close to a 24-hour activity centre so I went in terrified in the middle of Snowdonia and managed to pull my mum’s number out of my brain and called her.

"We got some breakdown recovery sorted in the end thanks to the lovely lady at reception but £150 later I’m back in the car!”

She added: “That was my biggest car camping challenge so far, but when something goes wrong you just have to grin and bear it!

“People on TikTok have been so supportive and offered lots of suggestions that have been really helpful, which has been an amazing part of documenting it online.”

Other challenges Laurie has come across whilst travelling in her car is keeping it cool in the summer, as well as coping with such a small car when she’s so tall.

The 26-year-old said: “I’m 5’11” – which is an added complication to sleeping in a Fiat 500.

"I use a car mattress with an inflatable section which fills the footwell which gives me a little extra space.

“When it’s colder it was really lovely to have loads of blankets and pillows, it was like an ASMR audio with the rain pattering on the roof.

“The part that’s proved difficult is having the car sitting in the sun all day and not knowing how to cool it down for the evening, because I don't want to have my windows down for security reasons.”

Laurie said: “There are a few rules and etiquette to car camping. I avoid any residential areas because no one wants someone sleeping in their car outside their house. Some car parks specify no overnight camping and you can be fined quite heavily for that.

“For the rest of the places, as long as you’re within the bylaws of the area then you can park there.

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“One thing that surprised me was that you can’t be under the influence of alcohol if you’re car camping, because even though you’re asleep you’re still in your car with your keys so can be prosecuted as being drunk in charge of a vehicle – even if you weren’t intending to drive it.

“I also love the Park4Night app, which is a database by other campers and they recommend places they’ve been, if there are any parking charges, nearby facilities and if it’s popular.”

She advises people doing similar trips to share their location and carry two portable battery packs.

Another top tip she says is to use the Park4Night app which lists safe, recommended, places to park.

Other suggestions are blocking the windows at night to deter people from looking in the car, keeping valuables in a backpack on her back and keeping the driver's seat free.

Laurie said her top five destinations are Isle of Skye, Newark, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and the Peak District

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