It’s a Wanderful Life!

Our Forest River Rockwood Geo Pro 15-ft Travel Trailer

When I graduated in August 2017 with a Ph.D. in environmental geography and specialization in conservation biogeography, I never expected I would live full-time in a 15-foot travel trailer and not have a full-time career in 2019. I had different aspirations: nature conservation education. I didn’t want the tenure path at the university so I was/am content to teach as an adjunct professor. What I really wanted was to educate the public about the “wonders of [] life and the importance of conservation” (to borrow from WAVE Foundation’s mission statement, a non-profit organization at Newport Aquarium where I had volunteered, interned, written the interactive storybooks about their ambassador animals, and finally obtained a paid position as a conservation educator). However, the Universe had a different path for me.

It seems my path will be literal–hiking trails. 🙂

Granted, I will not hike 24-7, nor could I even if I wanted to. However, we’ve found a temporary home for us and our travel trailer at a campground nearby Moraine and McConnells Mill State Parks, where I will wander into wonder as often as possible. We lucked into finding an available campground (with facilities and WiFi, even) within an hour drive of Shane’s work. The majority of campgrounds close from the end of October until the beginning of April. As the owner told me over the phone when I booked the reservation (we pay monthly rates), camping in the winter is rough. Our first adventure as full-time campers started in December, though I didn’t join him until after the New Year. We’ve already had to make adjustments for warmth and surviving winter.

1) Shane insulated around the bottom of the camper.

2) Shane insulated the inside of the camper by hanging grey wool blankets over the 3 windows. Otherwise, you felt the cold seep into your bones.

3) We use a small electric space heater instead of relying on the propane furnace. Water vapor is a by-product of burning propane as fuel, and, with the frigid outside air, condensation would build inside the camper. However, the space heater eliminates that potential problem and keeps us toasty warm. 🙂 Sometimes a little too toasty. Something I never thought I’d say in the winter.

As you may note in the image above, we have a full sized mattress. We opted to redesign the living space so we didn’t have to make a bed every night and unmake it every morning. Shane works long hours nearly every day; I have physical limitations and would end up dislocating my shoulder no doubt moving everything every day (I partially dislocated my shoulder dancing by myself, soooo…). Not to mention, I would end up hurting myself on that uncomfortable-to-me pad. However, a full-time mattress means less moving around space. We’re left with ~20 inches exposed of the original seat/mattress pad to sit on for meals. I’ve added a gel foam cushion and the decorative pillow for support (not pictured: my daypack and knee pillow for side sleeping behind decorative pillow that fill the space).

We modified the kitchen as well. Since I love to cook and Shane loves to tinker with things, he built shelves for me to store spices and teas. He also added a magnetic strip to the wall near sink for knives, and I put up sticky hooks for my cooking utensils. In a 15-ft. travel trailer, space is very, very limited. I’m actually not sure some of my friends can even fit inside. They’re giants; I’m a Hobbit, as evidenced by the fact I have second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, and afternoon tea/snack. 🙂

Finished Project!

You’ll find lots of tips on Pinterest for small space storage–the magnetic strip for knives stemmed from such a search. I’d actually created a “The Wanderful Life” board that inspired the name of this blog site. I’ll eventually figure out how to pin my blog and associated images. 🙂 Find my board here:

My first week in the camper has mostly been settling in, organizing all the things I brought that made Shane laugh the second he saw my packed car. He knew the struggle it would be to fit things. I actually still have pantry items in my car, as well as two pair of hiking boots, two hiking hats (one for sunny hiking, the other rainy hiking), and my trekking poles (godsends to those who have bad knees, hips, etc.). But, I did store most of the things. We have one undersink cabinet and two drawers in kitchen. Under the bed, we have storage space on one side. Additionally we store things under the mattress.

The Instant Pot wouldn’t fit inside the door. Like some of my friends wouldn’t fit inside the camper. And I need a step stool to reach some things still. But, Walmart carried a collapsible one that stores well and serves as my foot stool too. Not pictured in this: my protein powder. You can see it in the image above, but clearly I had to make myself a protein drink after working so hard to organize and store everything. Note the plywood Shane used to construct a bedframe for mattress support. He’s so handy. ❤

It must be noted I’ve bumped my head multiple times every day as I get things out. I may be concussed. So if this is a rambling blog, I blame the brain bruises. Speaking of bruises, I bruise easily since I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). I swear you can look at me, and I’ll bruise. 🙂 But, last night the bathroom door shut on my leg, and I have a purplish love bite from the door and shower edge on my ankle.

I had one other bathroom problem: I…ummm…pooped (all animals poop! LOL) and couldn’t find the toilet paper. At first. And then…

This occurred because, even though we have a shower, we haven’t used it. The water heater never worked (on a brand new camper. Grrr! We’re not sure where the fault lies, but I’m guessing since Camping World, where we purchased the Geo Pro, closed down, and the technicians who would be unemployed didn’t care about the last camper sold.). Until we have it repaired under warranty, we’ve been carting our toiletries to the campground facilities. The building is chilly, and you can shower with only hot water and not boil yourself at all. Roughing it, for sure. If I pretend I’m camping though, this is a luxury since we backpack and never have a shower. I’d carried dirty dishes to their bathrooms as well but have since used my kettle to boil water for washing dishes in our sink. We have wills and ways. 😉

My plans for this blog will be weekly updates on full-time camper living, including posts about camper cooking and wandering into wonder. I will create a separate post with photos from the few hikes I have done. I believe this may be too long as it is. But, you tell me! What would you like to know?? I am rather isolated in the campground. Only 7 other campers here and I’m the only one present during the day since I don’t work outside the camper. Please leave comments or start a discussion because I might need some company other than…

5 thoughts on “It’s a Wanderful Life!

  1. I LOVE this!!! I have been researching some of this lately and am curious on your thoughts on composting toilets and utilizing gray water.

    I realize water is abundant here -but I still feel like wasting it is disrespectful. Plus the fact that we dump so much waste into oceans and such, I’d like to think I could be more responsible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! 🙂 I love composting toilets–first experience I encountered occurred on the trail in Shenandoah National Park. It smelled like a hamster cage and not at all gross like most outdoor toilet cans. Unfortunately our camper already had a water-flush toilet, but if we do off-grid we can certainly get a composting toilet. I want one at the house we’ll build or modify one day.

      We should definitely reuse grey water (water plants< for example) and collect rain water! Water is a precious natural resource we waste without thought. Though, some states or communities do not allow rain water collection or grey water conversion. You'll have to research your area's local laws. In the meantime, you can conserve water by not buying plastic water bottles and just using a reusable water bottle (takes 6 times as much water to make the bottle as it contains), installing low flow toilets and shower heads, filling laundry tub only as much as needed for load, determining whether it's more efficient to use dishwasher or wash by hand, turn off water while you shampoo hair or soap body, turn off faucet while brushing your teeth, putting dropped ice cubes into plants or animal dishes instead of into sink, etc. Another thing we can all do: pick up litter wherever we see it. It ends up in our streams and oceans. 😦


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