10 lessons I’ve learned in 6 weeks of tiny teardrop living

IMG_5541In mid-May, I set out from Anchorage, Alaska with my partner and senior dog, to explore western North America in a 5 x 8-foot teardrop trailer. We have gone nearly 5,000 miles and, so far, have seen wild places and small towns in Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. The road has taken us to five national parks and handfuls of state/provincial parks, national forests, a national wildlife refuge, and other public lands. I’ve settled into the camping lifestyle and found balance between town and country. In remote places, my days are slower and I have more time for creativity. The mornings may be spent hiking and taking photographs in some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, while afternoons may be spent playing guitar, writing, or reading in a hammock. Cooking over a campfire is one of my favorite things to do at a campground. In the towns and small cities, we typically have a few friends to see in addition to writing at public libraries, visiting museums or tourist attractions before seeking out recommended restaurants. The best part of a tiny home on wheels is that no two days are the same.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to travel through Canada, the United States, and Mexico. This is my first long-term trip with no itinerary and no end date. I’m also grateful for my travel companions and the ability to have the time to reconnect with myself. Here are some musings from the last six weeks on the road:

  1. Living outside is easy, especially once there’s a routine. Initially, I was worried that I would feel cramped in the teardrop after a few weeks. A couple from British Columbia wanted to look inside our trailer (this happens everywhere we stop). The woman commented that we have everything in our teardrop that they have in their large RV, save for walking space. I smiled and looked at the Rocky Mountains, thinking to myself that we have all the walking space we’ll ever need. I realized then that there is never a lack of living space when the entire outdoors is your living room. Living outside is also a guaranteed way to live in the present. Every day brings something new, allowing us to accept whatever is at that moment – sun, rain, wind, etc.
  2. Less is more. Ok, I would have told you in Anchorage before ever setting off that we don’t need most of the things we hoard around us. But I didn’t realize how little we do It seems we have all the bases covered on this trip. One lesson I’m actively learning is to use something up completely before buying it again. I’m tempted to buy more ketchup or pancake mix when it’s getting low. But there is always a general store or grocer around the corner when I run out, and I won’t have an over-stuffed kitchenette in the meantime. It also encourages me to be creative with cooking, as I use that last bit of cheese and bread to make room for new food. As far as toiletries go, I decided to use this trip to finally release me from the dozens of bottles and products in my bathroom vanity, most of which are toxic. I decided to minimize my moisturizer to one lotion for both face and body before leaving Alaska and the north. Bad move! It was much too cold and dry for such a drastic move. Luckily, I made it to Whitehorse before my whole face peeled off and the healing creams of famed herbalist, Beverley Gray at Aroma Borealis, saved the day. Now that I’m farther south, I only need one moisturizer or even just almond oil for the whole body.
  3. Teardrop owners are a community. Each time we pass folks pulling teardrops along the road both parties wave and honk! We have seen tiny teardrops in multiple shapes and colors in Montana and Wyoming. People are yearning for a simpler life. Every stop people say they wish they could do what we are doing and several people we’ve met are doing exactly that.
  4. Camp cooking is an art worthy of a TV cooking show. Camp food should be simple, especially in the cleanup department, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious or even gourmet. We have a Coleman cook stove with a propane burner and a grill that can be switched out for a griddle. We cook with a GSI cookware set that has an ingenious storage solution for two pots with lids, a frying pan, and four plates, bowls and cups – all tucked inside a carrying case which also functions as a sink! The best, however, is to cook over a campfire. We have cooked everything from carne asada tacos, lemon chicken pappardelle pasta, bison burgers, chicken curry with broccoli and peppers, fresh-caught rainbow trout and baked potatoes, pizzas in a cast iron sandwich toaster, and, of course, hot dogs over an open flame.
  5. I can back up a trailer. Towing in reverse has been a long-seeded fear. A little practice makes perfect – or maybe a lot of practice. Either way, it feels great to conquer something that was once daunting.
  6. Marshmallows have no calories if you’re camping.
  7. I can meditate with open eyes. When I am in nature, I sit and watch the grass swaying, streams rippling, wind in the trees, bees moving from flower to flower. I do not need to close my eyes to sense that everything is constantly changing, inside and out.
  8. We are all artists, writers, creators. We don’t need another class or degree or certificate to start doing something new. We just need to prioritize the time and the space to cultivate what we love doing, or to learn new hobbies or skills.
  9. Unplugging is a blessing. I don’t have television in my teardrop and can often go days without internet service. My trailer has a battery which I have not bothered to charge yet during the 6-week trip. In our 24-hour news culture we are used to being bombarded with information constantly. I’ve found my stress levels and general well-being are improved when I am spared from all the negative headlines and partisan politics that were ever-present part in my old life.
  10. The entire universe conspires to help you when you’re fulfilling your personal legend. This is a main theme to Paulo Coelho’s famous book, The Alchemist. We listened to the audiobook while traveling and this quote has been the theme of the trip – at least the first six weeks.

10 thoughts on “10 lessons I’ve learned in 6 weeks of tiny teardrop living

  1. So glad to hear about your travels and observations – getting lots of vicarious pleasure! Meanwhile steve and I continue our salsa-ing to boost our fun factor back here in Anch. Miss you guys!

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  2. We just got back from our tour of the east coast visiting family. I just read your blog….love it! I am so happy for you. This journey is not only going to teach you alot but it will teach me alot too! thanks. XOXO

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  3. Hey Amanda, sounds like a wonderful trip. I am so envious of you. I may drive out sometime. I love the teardrop! The food wagon is going well and I am keeping busy. Did the Bleeding Heart Brewery tonight and made some homemade soft pretzel bites with a cheese dip. Yummy! Your eats sound amazing. Happy trails!

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  4. We have the same size teardrop. Used it for a month so far this summer. Going fishing for a couple of days next week. People do ask about it everywhere we go. Enjoy it and feel much more relaxed when we are camping although we do have a TV. Good article.

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  5. I’m not sure if you are aware but in Australia we call camp cooking bush cooking.
    There have been a few TV shows on this topic. look up bush cooking on youtube and you’ll see lots of videos on the unique Aussie approach to cooking.

    Cheers and happy travels!

    Alison

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  6. Loved your post! Your trip sounds amazing! Our camping is not as unplugged as yours, but perhaps we will get there. In the meantime, we are loving our version of teardrop camping.

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