2017 In Pictures

I will warn you right out of the gates...this post is a beast! So. Many. Photos. But 2017 was a big year and these images still barely skim the surface. In a nutshell...

  • We visited 22 national parks and monuments (and a bunch more state parks, national forests, and wild and scenic rivers!)
  • We road-tripped a total of just over 12,000 miles (these are road-trip miles, not the miles put on in daily life or excursions made from where we were located at the time...our truck actually put on more than double that!)
  • We lived in 4 locations: Alna, Maine / New Braunfels, Texas / Reno, Nevada / Hollis, New Hampshire
  • We took just shy of 13 weeks of designated vacation time total, generally in three-week increments
  • We visited six whiskey/bourbon distilleries (and more micro-breweries than I could even begin to quantify...)
  • We spent more than 50 nights sleeping outdoors either in a tent or the back of the truck (the camper doesn't count and I stopped counting calendar dates when I hit 50...)
  • I guided close to forty whitewater trips down the Truckee River (with just the one "dump-truck" that ended my rafting season!)
  • I shot more than 25,000 images for myself and for clients

There are a million things I can't count...number of campfires sat around, wildlife seen in action, hours spent in the hammock, friends visited and made, belly laughs, wrong turns, gps failures, mountain lakes swam in, moments of awe, moments of growth, moments of clarity.  

This year was harder and better and fuller than I've had in longer than I can guess and I am deeply proud of what we've done with our time. As we begin winding up our time here in New Hampshire and prepare to head west in just a few short weeks to pick up the camper and begin the next year of adventure, it's been a gift to go back through these images and my journals from the year and to step back and process just a bit. I suspect that I will continue to process these experiences for years to come, but for this one moment, I'm simply going to revel in the reflection of this year in review.

 

Maine > Texas (mid-January through April)

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Pulling away from the Alna house...

In front of our wedding venue in Williamsburg, VA...

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Let the Kentucky distillery tours begin...

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Not every night is a scenic campsite...there were plenty of Wal-mart parking lot nights this year!

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New Braunfels, Texas...

One of the perks of being in Texas was getting some time with my family, especially some outside time with my little brother!

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Texas > Nevada (May through September)

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Driving out of Death Valley's 100-degree temps and into the high Sierra's freezing ones in the same day was mind-boggling...a 70-degree difference in a matter of hours!

My love for Reno began with the bulging snowmelt currents of the Truckee...

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California > Oregon > Washington (12 days in September)

Nevada > New Hampshire (October through January 2018)

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Once back in New England, it's been a whirlwind of client work that has taken me all over this region as well as to New Orleans combined with reuniting with friends and family we haven't seen in a year. Snow and walks in the town forest and laughter over dinners with friends. I haven't had my camera out for much of the personal stuff, but I can feel that itch beginning and you can bet you'll see a bit more before we leave this place in a few short weeks...

A safe and happy New Year to all of you. My gratitude for your presence here is unceasing. Onto 2018 we fly, my friends!

Camper Supplies I Love: The Top 10

July 29 marks the end of our first year in the camper (with the exception of the three months we were so lucky to rent the most adorable farmhouse in Maine!), and I’ve been thinking a lot about what has worked for us, what hasn’t, and a few things we’ve learned along the way. 

Just in case you are new to our story, last year we sold our beloved little home in our beloved little community in Freeport, Maine, and moved full-time into 18-foot Whitewater Retro 176s travel trailer. We immediately did some painting and cosmetic renovations that served both to create a space that fit our style better as well as increase some of the functionality of full-time camper living. We lived in our camper in our dear friends’ back yard until mid-October, when freezing Maine temperatures threatened the welfare of our camper’s plumbing and we finished our time in Maine from the comfort of a beautiful, cozy rental home near Wiscasset (rent it here!). Our work in Maine finished, we loaded back into the camper in January and drove away from the Maine winter toward Justin’s first travel-nurse assignment in San Marcos, Texas (stopping here and here along the way!). 

Now in the latter half of our second assignment here in Reno, I’m beginning to feel like we’ve been doing this just long enough to have some ideas about what’s working and what’s not, and to make some plans for the camper as we continue forward. I had originally planned to do this all in one post, but as I rounded the 2000 word mark and hadn't even said half of what I wanted to, I figured that perhaps I should reconsider how I go about this. So here we are, my "Top 10" supplies (or decisions!) that I think have worked particularly well! 

(1) My electric tea kettle*. I love this tea kettle more than I can begin to describe and it makes my day-to-day life significantly easier (every. single. day.). We use it each morning for coffee (I'll get to that in a sec), but also for making oatmeal, tea, heating water for dishes (I always forget to flip the hot-water heater on and it takes like 20 minutes if I have to wait for it), and anything else you can imagine hot water being handy for. I would say that the only downside to this kettle might be that it uses way to much power for me to use it when we aren't plugged in, so in those cases, I happily use either my Jetboil or Pocket Rocket + backpacking kettle combo.

(2) My blessed Aeropress. Seriously, perhaps I should have listed this first. I live in 83 square feet and my house sometimes drives down busy highways or bumpy dirt roads. When we still had our house, I had no less than 7 ways to make coffee at any given moment, but I had to choose ONE and one alone when we moved into the camper full-time. I chose the tiny, lightweight, unbreakable tool that makes good, strong, coffee without much fuss. It was definitely the right call. It also works when we're off-grid or even backpacking. And I'll throw this in because even though I know we could buy ground coffee or use the store's grinder, we use the crap out of our little metal hand-grinder and love this thing as well. 

(3) Tessie's dog bowls + food storage container. This thing is awesome. We split her food between this and a small airtight bin that fits into our under-camper storage (which is tight and not particularly easy to access). It keeps her food accessible, her bowls raised, and it has likely prevented innumerable incidences of us kicking her water bowl across the camper by accident. It's ridiculously functional and easy to clean and it was a stellar buy. 

(4) Our toaster oven and hot plate. I know each of these probably should have had their own spot, but they generally solve one dilemma: how to cook our meals. While we technically have a two-burner propane stove that comes standard in the camper, using it eats up a huge amount of our tiny counter space, means fire is uncomfortably close to our curtains, and contributes to the never-ending battle against condensation that we wage daily. So we do what oven things we can in the toaster oven (which fits neatly over the propane stove when in use or on a small platform Justin built for it under the sink) and generally use the hot plate outside as our single burner. We have a Coleman two-burner propane stove that we pull out when we need more than one burner, but the hot plate has made cooking significantly more convenient. I also feel that I would be remiss not to mention my tiny blender under this general cooking/appliance heading. My wonderful friend, Katie, introduced me to the power of the smoothie last year and I could not figure out how to make a blender work in our crazy small space- there definitely was NOT room. And then I found this little guy, small enough to fit in the little space I could carve out for it, a perfect single serving, and the ability to add ingredients in stages (rather than all the small blenders that have the blades in the lids and are hard to get in and out of as you add things). Love this thing, even if I'm pretty sure it will wear out rather quickly being used every day.

(5) Our outside folding table. I know this is super mundane, but this table is where I cook and where my small collection of potted herbs lives. We have a cheapy outdoor table cloth over it and underneath we store our little grill and charcoal and my fold-up laundry rack. The adjustable height allows us to use it as an outdoor coffee table and when it's time to pack up and head out, it folds up flat and small with a handle for carrying. We'd be lost without it.

(6) Our Nature's Head composting toilet. I know. This is getting awkwardly personal, but hear me out. This thing is AWESOME. We never have to deal with gross blackwater hoses or worry about weird smells or have some disgusting sewage mixture sitting in a tank under where we sleep. It's so much cleaner and so much easier and this video from The Wynns is a great resource if you are at all interested in learning more. (It would be great at a camp or on a sailboat, too...).

(7) To get the camper with the slide-out. This falls into the decision-making category, but there are not many days that have gone by that I haven't felt specifically thankful for our floorplan. It's a very different style of floorplan from the vast majority of other travel trailers and the slide-out combined with how the kitchen is set up creates a truly livable space for me. It's small, don't get me wrong, but it feels much bigger inside than you might expect simply based on the slide out and floorplan choices. I have enough space when the slide-out is out to unroll my yoga mat and do a practice inside our camper. I know that sounds silly when I could do it outside, but privacy comes at a premium in RV campgrounds and sometimes the weather can make that difficult. True livability matters for us since we want to keep our camper as small and mobile as possible, but also remember that we aren't vacationing- this is where we live full-time and where I work. We initially hedged due to the additional weight of the slide-out, but I'm grateful every day that we went with this one.

(8) Using high-gloss exterior paint in our interior renovation. While I mentioned some of the mistakes I made painting the interior of our camper in this old post, I have repeatedly been so glad that we used such durable, wipeable, pretty much impermeable paint. We underestimated how much battling against condensation we would be doing living in a camper full-time...if it's even the littlest bit chilly outside, we can potentially wake up to water running down the walls. The walls of "lightweight" campers tend to be some variation of fiberboard and moisture is the arch-enemy of such materials, making condensation a serious concern. The paint not only reflects light throughout the space (making it feel a bit bigger than it really is), but it prevents any water from reaching the fiberboard beneath it. If I were to begin the renovation project over, I'd probably use this primer instead (after making sure I had a better understanding of how to properly use the chemical de-glosser), but otherwise, I would use the same paint/color/finish. Similarly, I'm glad we installed the peel-and-stick backsplash "tile" (similar to these)...not only do people comment on it whenever we give someone a "tour," it's been so great to have a waterproof, wipeable surface behind the sink and where we prep food and make coffee. One of our smarter moves, for sure.

(9) Our truck build out. This sort of straddles the line between "things" and "decisions" but we have loved our truck bed build out so, SO much. It's been so great not only to have our outdoor equipment all in one place and pretty much always with us, but it's made getting outside so much faster and easier. The entire motivation behind uprooting our life was to spend more time outside doing the things that we love and seeing beautiful places. With our truck set-up, it's been so easy to simply toss some food and beer in the cooler (oooh...add our RTIC cooler to the list, we LOVE that thing and use it all the time, and I use my RTIC tumbler for my coffee and smoothies every single day, though I do recommend replacing the original lid with this one), throw a change of clothes in a backpack, grab the dog, and head out...we know we'll just climb into the back and into our sleeping bags, so no need to even make sure we have an official campsite reserved. It's allowed for more spontaneous trips and for us to take greater advantage of the places we've called home temporarily- which is the point after all!

(10) To do this thing. The best decision we've made has been simply to go for it. It has not always been fun and at times it's been downright uncomfortable. We miss our community and our home and the beauty of Maine. But we are so glad that we chose to do this and to do it now. Not to wait and not to postpone and not to give in to the temptation to be "better prepared." It's messy and we are learning as we go, and almost nothing has played out as we expected it to (let's just say that Reno was never on our list of "must-see" places, but we totally love it here!). We've met so many people and heard so many stories. We've relied on each other and leaned toward one another when things have been hard, and we've laughed uproariously together when the unexpected happened. We've grown so much in just this single year, learned so much about what we need and what we think we need, how we define home and how often we can redefine it. How much that we thought was set is actually quite flexible. We've been blown away by own adaptability and resourcefulness and how quickly we've learned that there is simply no time to wait. So we say "yes" and we reach out our hands to grasp the friendships that are offered and we stop to look right now and we keep our eyes open wide and we set aside fear and fall in love. To go, to leap, to take this chance...it's been our best decision yet. 

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*Please note: this post contains some affiliate links, meaning that if you click the link and it takes you to Amazon, we receive a minuscule commission if you end up buying the product through the link.  

Home Free

Well, it’s official.

We are now home-free.

On Friday we said goodbye to our home of the last half-decade and welcomed the beginning of a new era in our lives. An era that embraces change, uncertainty, and inconvenience. An era brimming with potential and unknown possibility, upon whose edge we are standing, squinting at a future that’s still blurry and just a little shaky.

Truth be told, we are still a little shaky.

Friends keep asking us if we are excited, if life in the camper is what we expected. We are excited, and life in the camper is good, but honestly, we are just a bit shell-shocked and still getting our bearings. The last week or so before our closing was an utterly exhausting whirlwind of decision-making, disposing of our belongings, problem-solving in the camper, and cleaning. The days were long and left little time for rest or reflection. Suddenly we found ourselves sitting on our front deck in bleary-eyed stunned silence waiting for the final walkthrough, the moment of farewell upon us. We walked through our home for one final time, smiled through our closing (we were blessed with absolutely wonderful buyers who made the whole experience as close to lovely as selling a house can be), and that was that. We were now homeless, or, as we’ve decided instead, home-free.

Home free.

It’s just the tiniest bit disconcerting to find ourselves in our late thirties, well educated and gainfully employed, and living in a structure that moves and rattles when our dog scratches her ears with any vigor. We are currently parked in our neighbor’s back yard, so there is the surreal experience of driving down our same street each day but turning into a different driveway, of walking our confused dog around the same block we’ve walked her for years only to pass our old home and cross the street.

But even as we muddle through this transition, forgetting occasionally that we no longer have a shower or an oven (or, you know, a flushing toilet), there is, indeed, the glimmer of freedom dancing around the edges of our new life, just waiting to be welcomed in. Or perhaps freedom isn’t exactly the right word…we’re still obligated to do and be all of the things we were obligated to do or be a week ago, after all. Maybe the word I’m looking for is attention, or, really intention.

Our new life is deeply intentional. From how/where we’ll use the bathroom or take a shower, to which appliances can run at what time (fan + tea kettle + microwave = breaker trips), to grinding our coffee by hand, to not having television (or wifi for that matter), nothing can really be done on auto-pilot. There isn’t space to leave dirty dishes in the sink. There isn’t enough water in the tank to let the faucet run while brushing teeth. To access one thing, we must usually move something else. Most of our day-to-day life “stuff” is shockingly inconvenient. 

Which is surprisingly delightful. 

I don’t feel like life is any less busy than it’s ever been, but since things must be done with care and attention, life has begun to feel slower. And that was part of the point to this whole exercise in the first place. To begin to “let that which does not matter truly slide” (one of my favorite quotes from Fight Club) and to make more intentional choices about how we spend our time and our resources. So, we are still in the midst of transitioning, but as my friend Lauren pointed out in a blog post recently, isn’t life always in transition?

What does it really mean to be home free anyway? I’m beginning to suspect that it has as much to do with being free to be at home anywhere, to carry our sense of home with us, as it does to be home-less...

 

**I wanted to share some current images of the camper with you guys…do you remember the before photos? Our humble little home has come a long way, eh? 

Renovation Station

Things are a-bustle around here. The house looks like its been hit by a bomb as I sort through what few things we'll take with us, what few things we'll store at Justin's parents' house, and what we're selling/donating/etc. The list for the first two things are quite short, while the "sell/donate/etc" list is quite long. We've been focused on getting our still-nameless trailer painted and renovated while we still have tools and space (an an address that Amazon will ship to!). It's been seriously crazy town and I'm pretty sure my friends, family, and clients all thing I've entirely disappeared from the face of the earth at this point!

Like any renovation project, we've run into a few hiccups along the way. We want to be sure to share all of our snags as well as our triumphs, so be prepared for some epic #fail moments as we figure out what the hell we're doing here.

We began the reno by painting everything but the cabinets. I just couldn't handle that much wood and it felt a little dark and claustrophobic to me. Also, while you couldn't really tell at first glance, most of the "wood" was mis-matched fiberboard paneling and some pieces were full-on different colors. The closer we look, the crappier the craftsmanship is revealed to be.

After googling the crap out of how to paint an rv/camper/travel trailer. A few themes popped up:

  •  a general recommendation against sanding fiberboard as it can't stand up to much abrasion
  • instead of sanding, use a chemical de-glosser/sander
  • Glidden's Gripper primer was almost universally recommended
  • consider exterior paint for extra durability

So. I purchased chemical de-glosser and wiped everything we were planning to paint down with it. Here's where we hit our first minor snag. While the bottle and the world of google were full of directions for using it in a properly ventilated area and other such safety precautions, other than a basic instruction to use a clean cloth to wipe it off and that a second coat could be applied if necessary after 10 min, I couldn't find any actual instructions on how to use it or what to expect or how to know whether it was working. So I donned rubber gloves and a mask and opened all of the windows in the trailer and went over every surface we were planning to paint, followed by a wipe down with a clean cloth. Nothing looked different, but what do I know about de-glosser?

Next we painted everything with two coats of Gripper. It went on fine in most places, but I definitely noticed a few places where it did that beading-up sort of thing that started to worry me. But the second coat went on just fine and a scratch test seemed to indicate that everything was adhering, so I continued to proceed. I realized later that Gripper comes in an "all-purpose" version and a "hard-to-stick-surfaces" version. We didn't realize that there were two varieties and ended up with the first. Oops.

After the Gripper had a chance to dry, we applied two coats of high-gloss bright white interior/exterior paint. We knew the gloss would show imperfections, but felt like it was worth it for the increased light reflectiveness as well as the most wipe-ability. 

Y'all it looks GOOD. And so much brighter.

But.

I think you might know where I'm going with this. When we started pulling the tape off, the edges of the paint began peeling up. We haven't tested to figure out just how vulnerable the entire paint job is (mostly because we simply don't have time to fix it all at this point), but it's not looking ideal. Our short-term solution? Caulk down the edges, be careful not to ding up the paint, and have extra primer/ paint handy for touch-ups.

I don't know if it was a poor application of deglosser on my part (since I didn't really know what I was looking for) or the all-purpose vs the hard-to-stick-surfaces primer mix up, but for those of you considering a similar project...maybe do a test area?

Other things we've done so far:

  • Applied this wallpaper to the back wall of the dinette
  • hung small picture ledge shelves in the dinette (sort of like these...)
  • Began applying these Smart Tiles to the kitchen backsplash...under-ordered and are waiting for a second delivery to finish the job and hang a shelf across the kitchen wall
  • applied magnetic & chalkboard paint to the fridge (same issues and had to caulk edges...but it's paintable caulk, so I'll touch them up with chalkboard paint and then test the whole thing!)
  • I sewed some curtains from indoor/outdoor fabric I found on sale at Joann's (though we realized we hung the curtain rods of two windows too low to use the clips I bought to hang them with, so I had to use the top pocket of the curtains instead...not a big deal, but I don't like the look as much) (oh, also...I sewed one of the curtains upside down...oops)
  •  bought this mattress topper and these cute organic sheets  for the new bed (we're going from a full to a queen...so funny to be getting a bigger bed!)

We're under the two-week mark now and it's going to be a race to the finish, I think. We've still not decided where we'll park this thing once we close on the house, so there's that. But I found a co-working space to rent a desk for the next few months, and that takes some of the pressure off...it's good to know that my work can proceed without too much interruption even if we park somewhere without wi-fi!

Next on our list:

  • finish the "tiles" and hang the kitchen shelf
  • paint the front door yellow (low-priority at the moment)
  • mount mirror in the "closet" door
  • figure out storage for clothing/food/etc
  • dispose of all of our world possessions & clean the house for our awesome buyers! 

Sleep is for the weak! 

Stay Curious, friends!