Your questions answered: 3-month teardrop camping AMA

I have been traveling in my 5-foot-by-8-foot American Falcon teardrop camper for three months! My partner, Jason, and I quit our jobs and along with our 16-year-old dog set out from Anchorage, Alaska on May 15. In over 10,000 miles, we have visited 12 western states and provinces and have enjoyed 12 National Parks (and counting), and countless National Forests and other public lands. We have also stopped to visit good friends along the way. We are traveling for at least a year from Alaska to Mexico, and then wherever the road leads.

Each time we stop we get asked a lot of questions. Even at the gas pump, we often get asked to open the hatch of the trailer to share our galley with someone who is curious about owning a teardrop. One thing I learned right away is that teardrop trailer owners are a community. I have been blogging while traveling and thought it would be fun to open an AMA – Ask Me Anything. Thank you for your questions!

Q: Eileen asked, “what kind of camera do you have as your photos are amazing?”

A: Thanks, Eileen! You would be surprised to know that all I have is a Cannon Powershot SX30 IS and an iPhone 6. The Cannon is a hybrid point-and-shoot and SLR. It is foolproof to use and has a great zoom without needing changeable lenses. Mine is several years old but I love it. It’s a testament to the beauty of the places we’ve visited, however, I’m not a photographer nor am I using nice equipment!

 

Q: Allison wants to know, “what is something that you’ve discovered (a place, or something about yourself, anything?) that you didn’t anticipate at all?

A: That’s a great question. I decided to answer it both ways. First, I was surprised by South Dakota. I’ve always heard the badlands are beautiful, but I had no idea I would fall in love with the state. The Black Hills and area around Mt. Rushmore was my favorite. Second, I am surprised at how easy it’s been to start a blog and publish articles. At the beginning of summer, I considered signing up for elephant academy, an apprenticeship for bloggers and new writers. But Jason and another good friend encouraged me to just write.  I realized that I don’t need another qualification or certification to do something new. I can do it right now, and I did! I’ve already had two articles published by elephant journal and my blog sees upwards of 2,000 visitors per day, and growing! What was once a pipe dream is now looking more and more like it could support a life of travel and adventure.

 

Q: A lot of you have questions similar to John S. “How do you handle the necessary routines of going to the toilet, showering, washing clothes?”

A: With a tiny teardrop, we have a bedroom with a little storage and a galley for cooking and that’s it. It is a challenge, although a fun one, to make sure we have the necessities such as water for cooking and drinking, particularly in remote areas. Showers are also super important – especially in these record-breaking high temps! Toilets are easy on public lands – campgrounds, picnic sites, etc., all have toilets. They vary from vault toilets to flush, but most have been pleasant. In towns and cities, we find restaurants, rest areas, and stores for toilets. For showers, we got a gym membership to Planet Fitness. It’s a chain gym found all over the U.S., and we pay $10 a month each. We prefer not to pay between $5-$10 for a shower at RV parks (when not camping in one), but we do in a pinch. Our favorite way to get clean is to visit hot springs or recreation centers with pools, gyms, and other fun activities. For the price of a shower in a worn-down, creepy RV park restroom, we can swim, play on water slides, and get exercise. Washing clothes has also been simple – mostly because we have amazing friends scattered across the West who have graciously offered their washers and dryers. In three months, we have only needed to use a laundromat twice! But laundromats can be found anywhere and are not expensive.

 

Q: Andrea R. asked, “how long did you plan before the start of your trip? And what, if anything, was your biggest fear in taking this adventure?”

A: I knew I was going to quit my job and travel in August, 2016, but I didn’t quite know how. Traveling with my aging dog presents some challenges – I didn’t want to put her underneath an airplane, for instance. That limited me to traveling by road. In late September, Jason and I took a motorcycle trip from Portland to San Francisco (Jason continued to Prescott, AZ) and we tent camped. I’ve done a lot of tent camping both for fun and for work, and setting up and taking down a tent every day gets old! And if it rains, you’re packing a wet tent only to pull it out at the end of the day, still soaking wet. On that trip, I started thinking about teardrops. Jason and I planned to build one over the long Alaska winter, but some uncertainty in our plans (we seriously considered moving for a job in Uruguay!) made it easier to buy one already put together. As for our itinerary, we have purposefully not had a solid plan or much of a timeline.

Even with quitting my job and driving into the unknown, my biggest fear was my dog, Kiji. She has anxiety issues that have gotten worse with age, and she is most comfortable at home. Thankfully, she settled into the trip early on and associates the camper and the car as ‘home’. We have her bed and favorite toys in the back seat, and, as always, treat her like a princess! The biggest challenge of the trip has been to keep her cool. We have mostly camped at high elevations to beat the heat.

 

Q: Thomas S. asked on Facebook, “how do you deal with moisture accumulating in the van?”

A: Joy B. responded correctly in the post, “you need to leave your windows open a bit, even if it’s cold.” Some folks have a motorized vent, but we are minimalists, and we don’t need to hook up at RV parks for power or anything like that. We have a roof vent and two windows that open. In Alaska and Canada in May and early June, the night temperatures often dipped below freezing – open the windows anyway!

 

Q: Barry K. would like to know where I park the camper when NOT camping (traveling).

A: In Anchorage, I parked my trailer in my driveway (uncovered) for about six weeks before embarking. When and where I land will determine what I do with it next.

 

Q: Thomas G. among others want to know if I’m traveling alone, and a few folks have asked for tips for a single woman teardropper.

A: This trip I’m lucky to have my two best friends along, but there could be parts of the journey that I do solo. I have traveled and camped alone in the past and this is what I recommend. A reader mentioned the issue of overly-friendly (male) neighbors at campgrounds. When people are making me uncomfortable when I’m traveling alone, I politely excuse myself from the conversation to read a good book or get some rest. In one rare instance, I packed up and moved. Most people are friendly and mean no harm, but trust your instincts and remember that you are camping to relax and enjoy yourself – so put yourself first. When camping solo, it’s advisable for women to make friends with other campers, in case you need help or run out of marshmallows. The good thing about a teardrop over a tent is that the doors lock! When in cities, it’s important for a single woman to use common sense. Be aware of your surroundings and be especially careful walking alone at night. Keep a cell phone handy and if traveling solo, you may consider renting a satellite phone that works when cell phones are outside of service areas.

 

Q: Thomas G. also wanted to know, “what has been your most memorable experience?”

A: That’s a hard question, Thomas! I’ve spent the last few days trying to pin down the most memorable time, but alas, it’s too hard! I do think about the time a full-grown, male bison walked through our campsite at Badlands National Park. I also remember singing the blues and playing guitar around a campfire in Durango, Colorado. I’m passionate about music but I’ve been too shy to sing in front of people most of my adult life. It seems little, but was a big deal to me. The north rim of the Grand Canyon also took my breath away. I’ve read about it in textbooks since I was a child. To see it with my own eyes was moving.

IMG_5609

Bison walking through the campground at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Q: From Donna D: “How much fun did you have with Donna and Brad playing Mexican Train [dominoes] in the rain?”

A: Donna asked me this question on my blog as a way to stay in touch, and she probably didn’t expect me to put it in my article! But I think it’s a great way to highlight the community of teardroppers. When two teardrop owners camp near each other or meet at a fuel stop, they are instant friends. Brad and Donna invited Jason and I over to sit under their canopy in a full-on Colorado thunderstorm! We played dominoes and had a blast. Keep in touch, Donna!

 

Q: Jeff C. asked, “is there anything you’d like to know from a guy who’s been on the road in his Teardrop trailer for 19 months (2 ¼ years total, having started out in a tent)?”

A: Absolutely! Several readers reached out to say they have been traveling for a year or more in their teardrops. That is inspiring! The longer I spend in mine, the more I think I could just keep on going. The overhead expenses are super low, I have everything I need at my fingertips, and I’m spending more time than ever outside doing the things I love. My question for you, Jeff, and readers like him: Did you start traveling knowing you would be camping long term (year +), or did you start for a few months and then kept on going? Please respond in the comments section below!

 

Thanks everyone, for the questions! Keep them coming. I can tailor future blog posts to your interests.

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