Back in November when we were itching to get out of Ohio but couldn’t due to the motorhome set backs, we decided to book a New Year’s Eve trip to Arizona because we weren’t sure we’d make it back out here this year. (Luckily we have, and as I sit typing I’m listening to the desert wind howl around our new, tiny Rpod trailer).
We had an AMAZING first time in Arizona. I love when a trip goes better than expected and even better than you’d planned for. We had free flights from points on Southwest and then we snagged a Black Friday deal for half off rooms at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale, which is an adorable little spot. Highly recommend both Scottsdale and the hotel. We were basically the only people there for 4 days of solitude at their colorful pool in the sun. But before we headed to the city, we spent some time in the mountains. The mountains of Sedona were incredibly beautiful. We had literally my favorite every Airbnb in Cottonwood/Camp Verde area and never wanted to leave.
Where we went: Lost Dutchman State Park- hiked the Siphon Draw to the Flatiron Summit and man was it wicked. Wicked hard and wicked awesome. Highly recommend. Apache Trail Scenic Drive- Awesome, quiet sunset drive through some beautiful mountains and canyons. Would definitely go back. Jerome– Drove through Jerome, a sweet little (haunted) mountain town on a hill. We didn’t stop but wished afterwards that we did. Doe Mountain- This hike in Sedona was a favorite, after a fairly short switchback climb we had great views from the top of a table that was big enough to explore on it’s own for the day! Watson Lake- in Prescott was a great way to spend a day. The hike was athletic and the views were awesome. Secret Slickrock Trail– We did a sunset hike at Secret Slickrock on New Years eve to ring in the new year in the mountains, it was EXACTLY what we needed to get reset our intentions for the new year.
I could continue writing but I’ll stop and just show you the photos! They don’t do it justice but neither does my writing…just go.
So…where to start the story of our love inside 150 square feet. My mind first goes back to the early days when we were kids, Justin in his twenties about to graduate college and me at 18 about to start college. We fell in love over long talks at work where we met about our big dreams. We compared and agreed on all the amazing things we knew we were destined for in our then separate lives. Justin’s dream of working for Disney as an animator and mine of being an artist, teacher and photographer then seemed so far off. Like the entire world was in front of us, but it wasn’t long before we only saw each other when we thought of our own future. And just that was enough to make us happy forever.
We had a whirlwind romance and looking back now, it’s been that way for fourteen years. We were like debris in a tornado, swirling with force around each other, but with more direction. Like bees, then. They probably have more of a plan than debris. Anyway, we fell in love…hard and we’ve had whirlwind adventures, big dreams and crazy plans every day since.
The plan to live tiny came after a road trip. Rewind a bit, I read a book called The New American Road Trip Mixtape by Brenden Leonard (Semi Rad). I had a bad case of wanderlust and I thought the book might satisfy the craving. It did. It also sparked an idea. The idea turned plan to head all the way west from our driveway with only the essentials in the Jeep, for three weeks. That’s what changed everything.
We came home and knew that life in our beautiful (1500 square foot) home that we loved, in a town that we didn’t love wasn’t what we wanted. In 2014 we started learning about minimalism and purging and living tiny. By April 2017 we moved into our newly renovated motorhome after a long, hard renovation project and get-out-of-debt lifestyle.
Since then, we’ve experienced set back after set back. You can read all about those on this blog. Basically, pick out any well-laid plan and you can bet your ass it didn’t go accordingly. We’ve had expense after expense, major repairs, so many delays, safety and healthy concerns…it’s been a hectic year but if I’m being honest, I don’t think I would trade it for anything. I definitely wouldn’t trade it for the “normal” life we used to have. We used to live paycheck to paycheck, collecting credit card debt just to live ‘comfortably’. We didn’t know any better, really. We didn’t know that life could be different than what we were used to but we were determined as hell to find out. Having each other to lean on is really all that got us this far.
Living in 150 square feet, with six cats, in my parents backyard, while sharing a car isn’t easy. It can be insanely frustrating at times but when we can look at the dreams realized and the goals accomplished, we feel so proud of our tiny, simple life. We’ve cut out so much of what wasn’t working for us and are still working towards making time and space for all the things that bring us joy.
I’m supposed to be talking about how our relationship has changed living in the camper. Let me get back on track. First of all, we’ve always been happy, we like each other…a lot. To claim that our marriage or our life is perfect would be a complete lie. For every gut-throbbing wonderful moment we share in love, we also share a deeply rooted difference of opinion or perspective. We argue, we get overwhelmed, we cry. We don’t always treat each other with enough love or respect as we should. That said, living in a house with no walls between us has made us completely aware of each other, all the time. Something we try to acknowledge with a mindfulness that brings us closer emotionally. We were never a ‘go to bed angry’ or ‘slamming doors’ kind of couple, though on occasion we have blowout matches that usually involve me throwing something (a pack of hot dogs) at Justin’s face or punching something (like a moron) and yelling…but those usually end quickly with a bout of hysterical laughter. We fight because we love each other, because we care enough to fight. The fights haven’t gotten worse in a small space, they’ve been fewer and more hilarious.
We’ve always been the ‘always together’ type, we do everything together so the day to day in a small space really wasn’t a tough transition. Over the last year we’ve worked out the minor kinks and run our home like a well-oiled machine because we make a great team, hence why we own a business together. But we argue…and Justin still leaves his socks in the middle of the floor…and I still avoid the dishes…that’s just normal life with a spouse. The best part about living in a small space is that we’re always together even if we’re doing different things. The VERY best part about living tiny is that we are able to realize so many of our shared dreams and goals. We are able to travel, live stress-free financially, spend more time with family, work less, have a flexible schedule, take on creative projects…all of which makes us incredibly happy and extremely thankful.
I wish I had more mushy, romantic stuff to say about our love and how it’s been affected by living in a camper but the truth is we just live it, day in and day out. We let ourselves feel all of the good, all of the bad and we continue on in this journey because it means everything to us. Just that alone, that we are that connected, that in sync is everything I ever dreamed of in a marriage.
As always, we are happy to answer your questions and we would love to hear your stories! Thanks for reading!
Love, Mallory & Justin
Back in September we hosted a open house at a park. We invited our friends and family and even some strangers came over to check out all the hard work we put into building our 1985 dream home on wheels. We didn’t expect a camera crew from MTV cribs to show up.
Ok, we’re kidding. Our friend Amanda is an awesome videographer and she decided on to film some details which somehow quickly turned into her filming a cribs episode with Justin playing the part with Oscar worthy acting. Watching this back made me slightly concerned about the amount of MTV my husband must have watched as a teenager because he was SO GOOD at being a cribs guy…haha. I just really can’t say much about the video other than it was so much fun to watch….you just have to watch it and be prepared to laugh.
The holidays got wild around here. We spent a whole week just hanging around the camper, making delicious meals, watching Christmas movies and enjoying family time. Then we hopped on a plane headed for Arizona for New Year Eve (more on that later). But before we did that, we added a member to our family of vehicles. (face palm)
I’d like to keep this short because I have a million other things I should be doing for work….but this story is one I want to remember.
Back in 2014 maybe early 2015 when we were looking for a home on wheels, we were considering all the options. We looked at a new Rpod with an outdoor kitchen. It was too small for our vision back then so we kept looking. Fast forward to October this year when we got the news about our engine needing a major repair and we decided that it was time to revisit a smaller, towable option for getting around and getting the hell out of town as soon as possible before we go insane. After months of back and forth decision making we decided that a more mobile, smaller, towable travel rig made us both more comfortable and excited rather than feeling nervous and anxious about driving a 32 year old motorhome.Our tow vehicle can’t tow much so we were pretty much limited to less than 3-4 options. We had been looking for weeks. We looked at very used, very old trailers. We looked at brand new, very expensive trailers. We even considered a van build. We knew that we wanted to tow something so that if we needed repairs or had an emergency that we would have a separated home and vehicle while traveling. We spent more time on RV Trader than is healthy for any person. And then we found her in Columbus and we just had to meet her.
Rpods are a hot commodity in the RV world. They hold their value really well and sell very quickly. We made the decision in one afternoon to drive the two hours south to get a look at her, but more so just to put a deposit down so that we didn’t lose the chance to make her ours. Big purchases are always scary and we both hate that we financed something new while we are on this path of financial freedom….but we just couldn’t pass it up. We got a great deal and we are SO excited to make her our own!
As for the Big Girl, we are increasingly saddened that we won’t be traveling in our real “home”. We’re sad she won’t be joining us this winter on our western adventures because we worked so hard to get her ready but our plan is to fix her up this summer when we have time and nice weather to do so. For those wondering what we will do and why we have two campers, that’s our rationalization. We live in one, travel in the other, for now. When you don’t have a house, a mortgage, a slew of bills to go along with it and you aren’t tied to any one particular lifestyle the options that open up to you are many.
So, without further ado, meet Ginny P. Also known as Ginevra Pod’der, as in Ginny Potter…Harry Potter’s eventual wife and Ron Weasley’s sister. Her and Berty (our Jeep Liberty) are best friends already, they’re attached at the hitch. I couldn’t wait to use that joke when we picked her up. We’re starting to put our own touch on the interior of course, because it has to feel like home (base) but we cannot wait for her to be sitting among the cactus and the mountains in a few weeks! Wish us luck!
I’ve been mulling over titles for this post for a few weeks; “A very merry Cat-mas”-“Deck the Hall (singular)”… we’ll go with a simple “Our Camper Christmas” since this will be our first Christmas in the camper and it’ll definitely be a very merry cat-mas I’m sure. 😉
Every year at our house we would decorate on Justin’s birthday weekend (Dec.1). We’d drink hot cocoa and dance around to Rock’n Around the Christmas Tree with antler headbands on. The only difference this year was that we did the decking of our hall (singular) a little bit early. Our friends over at Mountain Modern Life asked us to be a part of a camper Christmas tour, so I had to up my game a little bit and get things done early. I’ll be honest, if they hadn’t asked us to participate, I probably wouldn’t have done much decorating. We weren’t feeling very festive. I was still looking over my shoulder wandering what happened to summer. Our year and specifically the last few months of camper life have been a little lack-luster. We’re ashamed to admit that we’ve had more changes to our plan than we have had things go according to it. Ultimately, we made a new plan that has us parked for another couple of months so we took that as an opportunity to cozy the place up for some restful weeks of winter here in Ohio. And to get into the holiday spirit because it’s impossible not to when your whole house twinkles. Plus, nobody likes a Grinch around the holidays, amiright?!
I wanted to do more DIYs and there’s still time but let’s be honest, I’ll probably just spend the rest of December watching terrible Christmas movies on Netflix. I did manage, however, to throw together some yarn for a cute and SUPER simple little wall hanging on an already DIY’ed drift wood piece I made a few months ago. You’ll see it below! We also really wanted to put up a tree and since we had the space in front of our big window and I went searching and found the perfect skinny tree. We used our normal ornaments even though they aren’t glamorous and most of them don’t really match. They’re all meaningful and special to us because of where they came from and we like to be reminded of our blessings this time of year.
I absolutely LOVED hanging real pine around the house in the winter. I used to go ALL-OUT lining the table and fireplace mantle with pine clippings and garlands so, you better believe I had some in my cart at Lowe’s on our last trip to grab a propane tank for our “tiny fireplace”… Which, I realized just now that I didn’t include in these photos because when I shot this tour, it was sixty degrees out and I actually had the door open most of the day. That’s Ohio for you. Anyway, here’s a little trick if you didn’t do this already; when you go to Lowe’s and probably Home Depot you can take the extra clippings from when they wrap the cut trees for customers and they’re FREE.
I wouldn’t say that we went all-out this year but instead we tried to keep things simple and minimal, with lots of glitzy light to keep our tiny space feeling warm and cheerful. Because we are mooch-docking we have the luxury of basically free 30amp hookups, so the outside lights are a huge bonus in a camper! Now, all we need is some snow around here and we’ll be in full hibernation mode.
My mom made those cute and crafty wood outdoor decorations. She’s the cutest. We started a shop this year for her creations but I haven’t had much time to get it going. You can check it out here -> Linen & Timber They also built our deck and basically the entire interior of our camper. 😀 You’ll probably also notice that there is a different cat in pretty much every photo. Yes, we know we’re crazy. We’ve had 5 cats for 10+ years, they’re our babies. The cute one with the gold eyes is our youngest and she appeared in our old garage on National Cat Day, so I had to keep her. Then, we somehow adopted two outdoor kitties when we moved here and they are just the sweetest, brother and sister, kitties ever! Crazy, cat-crazy.
So, I hope you enjoy our camper Christmas tour and we hope your holidays are full of twinkling cheer, joy and cozy nights around a warm fire! We’re happy to answer any of your questions about camper living, renovating or cats if you’ve got ’em…haha!
Note, check out the links at the bottom of the post to see all the other 13 camper tours in the Christmas in the Camper series! So much tiny inspiration!
I haven’t always understood the value of being still. In fact, I used to believe, like most people do, that by constantly moving and doing that I was making progress somehow. During and after college, I had a demanding job that required me to work long hours and weeks at a time without a full day off. Time spent with my partner was limited to late nights after work or in passing between shifts. I went on for years like that without noticing…without knowing that I could’ve been happier in so many ways. I now endearingly refer to those as my ‘collecting years’. I was collecting paychecks, collecting debt, collecting clothes to fill my closet, collecting stuff I would later call junk. I was collecting trivial friendships. But, I was successfully ticking all the boxes on the checklist of life, surely well on my way to success and happiness in anyone’s perspective. I had a well paying job I liked, a nice car, a nice house. I had lots of nice things to put in my nice house. Nice clothes. A nice vacation once a year, if I was lucky. I could eat at nice restaurants and order fancy drinks. Because I had all these nice things, it seemed not to matter that I wasn’t creatively stimulated or that the friendships I had weren’t meaningful or lasting. I was climbing a ladder to somewhere and I had to keep doing what I was doing in order to get there. That’s how it seemed.
I can’t recall what changed or what life event inspired a new perspective, maybe it was marriage or finally, after 5 years, finding balance in owning a business, maybe it was the birth of 1-8 of my nieces and nephews or maybe it was the constant stream of content and information flooding my brain at all hours of the day because of social media. I really don’t know. But I changed. I started going out to go in, like that John Muir quote. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
I started finding peace in just intentionally sitting and watching the light bounce off the surfaces of the room. Some of my best laid plans were made out of ideas born on trail hikes and bike rides. I’d have these long, script-worthy conversations with my husband about life and meaning, always while we were trekking up a mountain or making a long drive on some back road. I started to really acknowledge the feeling I got from those breakthroughs and where I had to go to find it. Stillness. Stillness in motion not so much but stillness in whatever is happening in that moment.
My best moments aren’t the ones where I am rushing between errands, multitasking text messages and instagram posts or half-listening to conversations while making to do lists. But those moments still happen sometimes. The difference is that used to be the whole of who I was and how I’d spend my days.
Now, I have a less is more mentality. A very stark contrast to my ‘collecting years’’. Now I simplify, I focus, I’m intentional. I find myself…I hear myself in the stillness. When I shut out the world and intentionally tune in to something present, whether it’s the crunching sound my hikers make against the gravel and dirt or the steady buzz my bike tires make against the pavement, interrupted only by my heavy breath, it’s as if I can see more clearly and feel more keenly. Even something as simple as cranking up the radio and belting out the lyrics to my favorite song, I’m less overwhelmed by the traffic and less annoyed by all the distracted drivers surrounding me. When I put down my phone for conversations, when I put down my camera to take in a vista I’ve worked hard to witness, I can be more of the person I know myself to be. And being present for even the most trivial of moments in my day gives everything meaning that I didn’t give myself the chance to notice before. Even shutting out the constant stream of visual content and information sometimes opens the door to a creative breakthrough. I try looking inward or at nature for inspiration rather than replicating, though it’s hard.
The very act of sitting down to write this has opened up a room of questions. By being intentionally singular and checking in to the stillness of our minds (and our screens), can we find ways to truly experience our lives, no matter who we are, rather than speeding through, on a mission to a place we don’t even know exists? Are we free to shape our own version of success and still be accepted or seen in a flattering light or will those of us who live unconventionally be separated imminently from normal society? If we live by the standards set for us by the masses and don’t consider them intentionally for ourselves and our own unique life, are we really ourselves or are we a version of someone else? Are we blindly following in the path of those before or around us?
As we count down the mere days left until we begin another milestone transition into our desired lifestyle, one we’ve been planning for over two years, we are experiencing mixed emotions and anxiety instead of sheer excitement. In just a few weeks, Justin will be leaving his college teaching job of eight years and in a few more weeks we would be leaving for our trip West. We should be planning to celebrate. We should be mapping routes and packing backpacks. But as life would have it, as it often does, something else is brewing in our pot. I say we “would be” leaving for our trip because last week we got some news that threw a big-ass-wrench in those plans.
Rewind our story back to August 2015 when we bought our rig and took it to a Ford truck dealer to have the mechanics inspected to get a list of repairs that to be done before she was road ready; then fast forward to last spring when we took it to another Ford dealer to have those and a few additional repairs completed. Then to the three of four times we’ve had to take it back in to have little things fixed or readjusted at the fault of the garage. First a missing nut on our shocks, then an exhaust leak that turned into a brand-new manifold that was apparently warped, which then turned into a crack in our cylinder head. That was the news over three weeks ago. Last week, the garage called to tell us after they’d already scheduled us to come in, after taking three weeks to find the replacement part that they couldn’t get the part after all. After thousands of dollars, too many hours to count and a lot of piece of mind wasted on that garage we were left feeling not at all taken care of and a little bit swindled.
In the midst of this, my dad suggested looking into putting a new motor in the camper. It wasn’t a bad idea. It would solve many of the problems and possible problems and the investment was less than double what the original repair was going to be. We jumped at the idea to soon have our rig running like new, at first. Then I began to second guess the entire situation. If only we had the time and freedom to get a second opinion or make a thorough and informed decision, since it seemed the mechanics weren’t doing us any favors. Or even being considerate of our situation. If we had a place for the cats, a place to set up our office, a place to sleep without completely disrupting life during these busy few weeks leading up to the holidays and before our trip. Then we could hop the camper around where ever to get it looked at by other, hopefully more competent mechanics. But, we don’t have that.
We took a few days to let it sink in. We talked about all the options and decided that this is a set back and that letting it idle (pun intended) for a little while would give us a little bit of space to wrap our minds around the bigger picture. Not to mention the fact that we are in a very busy season with our jobs right now that require a lot of our focus + the holidays coming up which we really want to be immersed in with family. Last week, in a moment of weakness through tears I said to my mom “why doesn’t anything come easy for us”. To which I immediately responded to myself. I know that one day we’ll look back and say how glad we are to have learned from these experiences rather than looking back and saying how lucky we were and how easy everything was.
The life lessons we’re learning are many; that set backs are inevitable and don’t have to be detrimental to the plan, they just set you back; We haven’t failed, we’re learning; We aren’t giving up; There is no roadmap or how-to guide for this lifestyle; Our priorities change; We can do whatever we want; Our options are endless even though our pride or our hearts might hurt a little during the decision making process.
So, we’re in the thick of a tough spot. We’re hashing out options and making new plans. We hope to share something fun and exciting one day soon. Maybe from someplace new. Maybe not. Either way…it is what it is and that’s life.
An open house was finally on the calendar. I had planned a menu and theme and sent out a mass-invite. It’s been months since we’ve seen some of our closest friends and months since we’ve had anyone over. Some of our close family has yet to see the camper we’ve spent the last year on and everyone kept asking when they could see the place. We thought an open house would be a great way to have everyone visit at once. Of course a party is always a good idea and the fall weather and fall menu had me excited. And then September came and it was a crazy, sad, whirlwind of a few weeks. My uncle who had been recently diagnosed with cancer had a stroke and passed away rather suddenly, so the week leading up to the party was a mix of chaos and numbness. We just kept thinking about how short life is and how waiting to chase your dreams is never a good idea. Anyway, all that family who hadn’t been here to see the camper was suddenly here all together. I’m still sad that my uncle, who was pretty excited about our future adventures, didn’t get a chance to check it out. He would have loved it!
The weather was cold at the beginning of the month but by mid-month it was hot again, like I’m talking 90 degrees and humidity that would melt your face off hot. Our party was slotted for Sunday, so on Friday my sister had a shindig to celebrate her two kid’s birthdays and on Saturday my brother and sis-in-law had a party to celebrate my youngest niece’s birthday. We were already exhausted from the week of mourning and events but Justin said the open house would lift our spirits, so I obliged. The morning of, we had to tote the cats to my parents basement, tear down, un-jack, pack-up and drive an hour to the park where we wanted to have the party. Then set up again. It was seriously SO HOT. We planned to grab the food on the way up, so that morning we made an uncharacteristically lazy decision to order party pizzas and call it a day. Thank god we did. It was a non-stop day. We barely got set up and changed when the party started. Justin’s parents delivered the pizza, that was a big help! I didn’t take many photos but we had a great turn out for the open house. A few people I would have loved to share our story with weren’t able to make it but hopefully that just means they’ll meet us someplace for an adventure soon!
Our dear friends from Cleveland, Canton, childhood friends, family and strangers who drove 2-4 hours from Millersburg and Athens came to see our hard work and pat us on the back! It was an incredible humbling feeling. I still don’t understand how our hair-brained ideas can be an inspiration for people but they seem to be, so we’ll just keep coming up with new ones! ha! We got the most compliments on how home-y the space is, how open and big it feels and on the aesthetic which is just so cool because I spent a lifetime planning our details. Justin answered most of the questions about the technicalities of waste, electricity and water. It was rather cool to host a party at a different location but still have all the things from home that we needed! We also discovered how much kids love tiny spaces! My nephew sitting under our table is the cutest thing ever, see below! Also our friends sweet little girl just curled right up in our bed (under a blanket in 90 degree weather) and it was so sweet!!!
On another note, my anxiety about driving the camper has gotten A LOT better. We took the highway north on this trip, just an hour or so. On the way home we took the backroads which were curvy and hilly. It got dark when we were about 20 minutes from home so I got to practice driving at night for the first time. We pulled in just before 8pm to see my parents standing in the parking spot with lanterns to help us park! They are seriously THE BEST! It took us about an hour to set-up house again for the second time in one day. It’s such a great team-building exercise. HA! Those of you who have done it and done it after a long, long day and in the dark know I’m being completely sarcastic. But, in personal celebration of my new found driving confidence I started planning our route to Arizona! We’re SO excited and the count down is on!
As always, thanks for reading my rambles! We’re planning some big things for this blog in the new year so stay tuned for a more steady stream of posts, inspiration and tiny-living/travel tips!
The speed at which time seems to pass in the summer is incredibly fast, much faster than the slowness of long Ohio winters. Speaking of which, is a distant memory these days. We’ve been full time camper dwelling since mid April and that’s just insane. It won’t be long before we pack up for our first long trip down unknown roads to new landscapes.
We’ve been busy making this place a home these last few months. Between work and spending a ton of time enjoying family and summer things, we created a cozy new resting place for our home on wheels on my parents property. With their help of course; we leveled a parking area and added a deck (really, that was all them…we didn’t have much of a hand in that). We added some plants, got a new tiny patio table and have really been feeling at home.
With the new sense of contentment, we excitedly announced an open house so that we could share everything (finally) with friends and family who have been wanting to visit! And of course, that news didn’t go out without some minor catastrophe hours or days later, in true vintage camper lifestyle fashion. Oh well, repairs will happen, mistakes will be made but this feeling of home is something we’ve worked so hard for, I’m going to take in every single minute of it.
Colorado calls us. Every year we try to make a visit to see my best friend who’s been a Denver’ite for the last 8 years or so. If it weren’t for her moving across the country, I’m not sure we would be as adventurous, as outdoorsy or as in love with the mountains as we are now. So, thanks Andrea! This year, we took the whole month of June off from weddings. It just kind of worked out that way, so we booked a campervan to roadtrip around the Colorado Rockies because we usually only spend a day at a time in the mountains when we go.
On this trip we spent 10 glorious days driving all around in a cozy little campervan we rented from Native Camper Vans. I can’t recommend them enough, not only are these vans badass but these guys are super rad, genuine dudes. I’m going to keep this post short and sweet so you can see the photos but if you’re into roadtrips, here’s our route on the RoadTrippers App. We didn’t make it to every stop and have YET to visit a hot spring…but this route is a good one! Campsites/Hikes listed in captions!
We loved our short-lived van life and can definitely see this being something we do again in the future, for fun or in addition to our tiny camperhome! We loved how this little van could just whip around wherever but that we still have everything we needed and more.
We explored Kremmling, Buena Vista, Great Sand Dunes, Boulder and a bunch of beautiful places along the way. We went a week without a proper shower and loved every second of it. To see some of the sessions we shot, head over to our blog at Mallory + Justin.