The Pendulum Swings…

In nearly a year of living in different places every week, I finally said it:

“It’s too much.”

“I just want to be home.”

Back in April, we drove over 4,000 miles in three weeks due to some unfortunate circumstances.  In total this year alone we drove almost 20k miles with the camper in tow, sometimes staying a night or two in a new place before moving on to the next. That requires a lot of logistics work and a lot of decisions to be made. At times the planning of those details is literally exhausting… imagine planning for a vacation every day. Where will you stay, what grocery store will you go to, which place has better reviews, which place is safer, more fun, more economical, what will the weather be like? And once all that’s figured out, you have to drive there safely while towing your whole life and your cats. That’s what RV life really is. And for most people they get a reprieve from that lifestyle when they pull back into their driveway at the end of a trip.

Mallory+Justin_McCrea_Travel2019-513But, this little cardboard box on wheels IS our home. We don’t have a sanctuary other than this. I think in that moment, when I said it was all too much, I was desperate to disconnect, to go on auto-pilot and stop paying attention to everything in front of me like one can so easily do at home. Sleep in, stay in jammies, don’t go outside, watch Netflix ALL day. Slowness is what I needed, some real down time.

After all that driving and decision making back in April, this feeling of exhaustion crept in on both of us. We weren’t enjoying anything and everything seemed like too much work. We were desperate for something easy. We needed somewhere to feel like home. Comfortable, safe, long term…factors that don’t always come naturally while living on the road. It took us a while to realize why we were being so negative and unenthused with things that would normally be awesome!

When we travel too fast, experiencing new things all the time, we get overstimulated very quickly by the constant visual and spatial pleasures. It’s a pendulum between being overjoyed and irritable because the balance is off. There’s no down time in between to unpack each big experience. What happens then is that we take really amazing things for granted. It’s a feeling we learned to acknowledge and deal with promptly, checking ourselves as best we can.

Our solution is balance. Days far away from it all are necessary, days doing nothing at home are necessary. Days spent running errands and meeting up with friends for beer and pizza are also necessary for a healthy life balance. Knowing our pace and finding that balance is one of the hardest parts of living this way.

Wheres-Mal-Now-Blog_2019_MalloryMcCrea-57We’ve learned that to be living the most of this life, we need access to get away from it all AND be among others within an easy drive. We need nature AND social interaction. We need creative, personal space AND big, scary adventures to keep it all balanced. All this to say that after nearly a year on the road full time, we are slowly learning our style of travel. We are tuning in more to what our bodies are telling us. We are learning what feeds us and what drains us.

For anyone else traveling, living in a camper and doing any kind of adventure/exploring…it’s so important to be mindful so you don’t burn out because this truly is the most extraordinary experience and we’re lucky as hell to be here…where ever here is.

The Choice to Live Differently

In 2014 when I started investigating the idea of living on the road, I didn’t realize that actually doing it would be so monumentally misinterpreted. I didn’t know that making a choice to take the life I was given and do something out of the ordinary with it would alienate and isolate me from virtually EVERYONE I knew. But, it did.

At least that’s how it seems.

A year into the project of renovating our first camper, we still hadn’t moved in yet, we hadn’t taken it on the road once. I could feel the judgement and hear the disbelief as I heart-fully explained that it was a really hard time for us. I’d been written off. Friends stopped calling, family didn’t know what to say. It was almost as if we’d gone off the deep end and everyone was rolling their eyes at us. The few people who did communicate their versions of support said they were “jealous” and “vicariously living through our life” or “proud that we were really going for it” which also felt kind of like their obligatory and nervous response to our impending failure.

Now that we’re on the road, living full time in a trailer with less than 200 square feet of living space, I’m pretty sure that it’s harder than ever for most people to understand us. Our intentions are still widely misunderstood by the general population beyond their perception that we want freedom from responsibility, just like any other millennial (hard eye roll).

The truth is, choosing to go about life this way is harder than the alternative. There are still responsibilities, albeit very different than in ‘regular’ life. Waking up every day with the freedom to choose what to do, where to go and when to get work done is harder than waking up with a much shorter list of possibilities. Normal life, the normal American life to which I am referring, is routine, predetermined to an extent. Boundaries are in place and we exercise freewill within them, going about our days feeling fulfilled by those choices. Until some of us are not anymore.

As humans, the idea that we want options is something I believe is placed on us by socialization and marketing. We don’t want options, we want to be told what is good. We want personalized selection of all of our wants and needs delivered right to our door. Options are harder. Possibility is harder. It’s easier to stay in our lane, to make the comfortable choice. Our time is our own once all the schedules are me, the boxes are checked and we feel accomplished, then we can unwind and do it all again tomorrow.

Seriously? F that.

I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts on this but let me try because I feel like it’s an important distinction. I get the feeling that most people must assume that this lifestyle is an easier choice than doing what’s socially expected of us. I can understand why, we’re just out here dithering around in beautiful places, averting responsibility and cheating the system. Essentially avoiding any of that real life stuff that everyone else has to deal with…and while I get it, not everyone can make a choice or a change how they live their life…it’s still rather demeaning and invalidating for me personally. Based on the few topics of conversations that come our way nowadays; “Where are you now?”, “How’s the weather?”, “You guys must be having so much fun!” it’s clear that our life is comprehensively misunderstood and so, inadvertently degraded. It seems as though the simple act of choosing to live differently removed our option of ever feeling sad or unhappy or needing support or a good talk and invalidated all of our problems.

The number of times Justin and I have had this conversation in the last year has to be proof that it’s not just me being sensitive. We can’t be the only full time travelers to feel this sense of division and downright disassociation. And while I know that it is our own, very privileged choice that is causing us to feel this way. I also know how trivial it is in comparison to the exclusion, inequality and divisiveness in the world, I still can’t help but take notice and connect how even this, a simple (and likely) unintentional form of withdrawal and alienation came so naturally to people.

White Sands National Monument + City of Rocks State Park

Our stop at White Sands was along the route from Austin to Sedona, but it also marked the third sand dunes we’ve been to in a year, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and now White Sands. Cool, right? Before that neither of us had seen a sand dune bigger than at the at the Atlantic ocean.

White Sands was magical. We got there as soon as the gates opened, just after sunrise. The colors of the morning bounced off every single white angle we could see for miles and miles. We spent a few hours wandering around. We were pretty much the only people there. After the short nature trail loop we headed back to our campsite for some coffee.

Next up we headed to City of Rocks State Park, my favorite so far. This place was incredibly serene and beautiful. I’m a huge fan of long mountain ranges set behind meadows or fields where the view is 360 degrees. The sunsets in this park were INCREDIBLE. The first night we decided to take the short walk up to the Table Mountain, not realizing it was a bit more of a climb than the short walk we were expecting we ended up having to jog back to avoid being on the mountain at dark, without headlamps. While we were running we heard coyotes in the distance…making the experience just a little more exciting! The views on Table Mountain we so cool, giant boulders overlooking these big open fields of tall, golden grass and at sunset everything is pink!

Our campsite was nestled into some giant boulders and even though it was a weekend, we were basically the only people in this part of the park! We spent two wonderfully quiet, scenic days enjoying this park’s wide open views. We will definitely return, possibly on our way home!

 

I am small.

I like to remind myself of this often. Each time I crest a mountain summit, each time I look out at an open road. Each time I think deeply about my amazing life. I am small.

I am as a speck of dust in the sun, and not even so much, in this solemn, mysterious, unknowable universe.” –Andrew Carnegie

What is humility? These days, I don’t think anyone knows. I like to tell myself I am small before I share things on social media. Of all the places in the world, I want to be smallest there. I like my Instagram as a journal. As a photographer, I like the photos and the quick way of keeping order of my many memories to look back on, for myself. But somehow our account has attracted almost 3k followers, which recently made me change the account to private. Then sometimes I find myself sharing stories and I’m all like “hey you guys”…like I’m talking to someone. Ick.

This trip was nothing short of insta-worthy but can I just say how much I hate that phrase…hate that concept altogether. That mentality suggests that our experiences are nothing but for a square and some hashtags. Sorry, but my experiences are worth more. They’re more important than that and they mean more to me than a few likes and comments ever could.

Nature sustains my spirit, my soul. A long hike, a climb, a vista…it puts me in my place. Small. Categorized by shape and form, by nature. There’s no one out there who cares what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t, what I wore or what I didn’t. We have a letter board in the camper that for a month read “The desert doesn’t care who you are. And neither does anyone or anything living in it.” A quote I found online that I rather liked for our time in the Arizona desert because of how true it is.

The desert doesn’t care how many Instagram followers I have or how many likes I get. And neither do the people who call the desert their home. It’s a different kind of being that far outside of suburbia. It’s like the confines of the modern world are almost foreign if you’ll let them be.

We trail along this fine line; as photographers, as instagrammers, as travelers. It’s the trend but that’s not why we’re doing it. We want to revolt but we also want to participate to a degree that’s comfortable for us.

This trip wasn’t for Instagram.

The photos I made aren’t for Instagram.

The places we’ve visited aren’t just beautiful landscapes out there for us to tread on. They were once a homeland. Where people, actual people once lived, gathered food, grew crops and loved the land we now “explore” as “adventurers”. We should honor that history by preserving it. By taking nothing but memories and leaving nothing behind. By leaving it better than we found it in doing so.

The more we share about the history of our insta-worthy adventures, the better we are for it. Keep the wild wild. Keep preserves preserved and refuges a refuge. To do that, we need to filter how we share things on Instagram, sadly.

All that to say, in order to respect the earth the way we should, we need to be smaller. If we think less of ourselves and care less about what others think of us and our experiences…then we can have authentic, respectful interactions with nature.

What I mean is, don’t just hit up a place to ‘gram it. And don’t just share squares for the way it makes you seem. Be smaller. By smaller I mean simpler. Be more simple. Instead of sharing an epic vista and hash tagging all the trendy tags, share an inspirational and beautiful experience, share some history, share some backstory, educate. And keep some things wild by keeping somethings altogether to yourself. Just my two-cents.

Ohio>New Mexico

We’ve been on the road one month today. That’s just crazy.

It took me four weeks to get my thoughts together. As an avid reflective journal’er, it’s weird for me to sit down and write about the trip that we are still on. I really didn’t want to wait because I know I will forget things, so this post is sure to read like one giant run-on sentence, never-ending-paragraph-ness of a mess.

We’re here. We made it. One month ago we didn’t know if our dream was meant to be. We had delays and then car trouble the day we were leaving and it just seemed like everything was working against us (our norm). But on February 16 we tore out of the muddy driveway in the fog and rain and didn’t look back. This was the first time we’d driven Ginny loaded with gear and with all the new equipment on the Jeep (upgraded brakes, anti-sway, brake-controller, etc) We also hadn’t de-winterized because it was still in the 20’s in Ohio.

Our route led us through Kentucky, where we stayed in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, then into Tennessee for a bit and on into Arkansas where we stopped for second overnight. Here we experienced our first planning bummer. Somehow I didn’t know that Hot Springs National Park was on our route. We literally stayed less than 10 miles from the park but didn’t have time to explore. At least our park had nice showers, that was a plus. Early that morning we headed for Austin. The traffic and the weather were crazy when we left Hot Springs, AR…Justin was a boss driving through construction and heavy fog. He was really starting to get the hang of driving and the cats were settling into their own routines and kind of seemed to be loving it.

Texas. This is a chapter of the drive that I’d like to avoid but, it happened. Texas is long, kinda boring, the roads were terrible…and then there’s Austin. We had planned to visit Austin because so many people said it was awesome. Maybe it was that we were ready for wilderness and not a bustling city but it definitely wasn’t awesome. We booked a full-hook up RV park just outside the city of Austin so that we could de-winterize and settle in before heading further west for all the boondocking we’d be planning. The park was nice enough, we de-winterized with ease. Austin, though is a city I will be reluctant to return to, especially with a trailer. The roads were HORRIBLE. At one point we got stuck on the service road because it was one way, the RV park was less than a half mile away from where we sat but we had to drive almost 20 minutes through some serious slums to get around and back onto the service road going the right way. There was so must construction it looked like a bomb went off. People we rude, driving was insane. I’ve never seen so many strip malls in my life. But we did experience a few nice Target stops. Ha! We did go into the city for dinner one night but it just wasn’t fun, so we tore ass out of Austin, heading for New Mexico.

The second part of the drive in Texas was much better than the first, as we got closer to the desert things started to spread out and we felt like we could finally breath. At Oliver Lee State Park in Alamagordo, NM we made ourselves at home for the first time in five days. We put the cats out in their mesh tent to watch the sunrise over the Guadalupe Mountains and I cried. The first time ever in my life, I cried pure happiness tears.

At Oliver Lee, Justin did his first ever solo hike. I had some work to do and we were still a little leery about leaving the cats unattended in the camper, so I stayed with them. He hiked the Dog Canyon trail for about 4 miles, mostly jogging. He said he turned around when he realized he was the only person out there and he started to feel like he’d crossed over into someone else’s (mountain lion) territory, so he came back! We had a great time at Oliver Lee, we’ll definitely be back!

The next day we woke up at sunrise to see the White Sands National Monument which was insanely beautiful…stay tuned!

Our first time in Arizona

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.

Cupid in a Camper | A Blogger Series

We’ve been asked to share our love story for a blog series called Cupid in a Camper by McGoverns RV and Marine.

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.

Photo by Meg Brooke Photo

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.

Photo by Lauren Perreault

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!
Happy February!
Love, Mallory & Justin

Meet Ginny | Our Rpod Travel Trailer

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!

Colorado Camper Van Tour

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.