ANDREA, JEREMY, & THE CLOUD CAMPER
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 2/27/18
For the sixty fifth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are so thrilled to share the story of Andrea and Jeremy. You may know them as @where.does.that.road.go
I have a lot of travel and life envy when it comes to these two. Not in an unhealthy way, but in the way where you see what they are achieving and you can fuel your own adventure fire. Andrea and Jeremy are doing it right.
I first discovered them through their Instagram Gallery @where.does.that.road.go and I have never regretted it. I highly recommend checking out their gallery, travels, thoughts, ETC. Give them a follow.
I do a lot of interviews about peoples travels in their vehicles. All of them are interesting to me. But, it’s not very often that I have a difficult time narrowing down the best nine or ten images to use in these interviews. I legitimately struggled to do that here. The places they travel contain unspeakable grandeur. The activities they undertake are inspiring and good for the soul. So please, do yourself a favor, go to their page and check out the rest of their stuff. Right after you read what they have to see here of course.
I mentioned above, that I have travel envy when it comes to these two. While I certainly resonate with the choices they made (I’m a sucker for the Tacoma / 4 Wheel Camper combo), I also really appreciate the time in their lives they are taking this adventure together. Often people set out when they are young. At a time in their lives before they know what they have made any commitments or after and they explore as a form of retirement.
Andrea and Jeremy are great reminders that there is no better time than now. Go do and see the things you want in life. Tell people in your life that you love them. It’s important.
Please check out our interview below. If you like it and want to read about another fun couple in a Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper set up check out this interview we did with Devon and Kassandra about their travels
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Andrea: We both quit our long term full time jobs in July 2017 to embark on this journey. To keep our journey going, I rent out my home on Airbnb. So “work” is communicating with guests, managing bookings, and coordinating everything at home from the road.
Another reason I am excited to move on from my previous job is to have the opportunity to peruse photography full time. I have been doing it on the side for the past 10 years, and am now able to have time during our travels to dive deeper into my work. ( You can check out Andrea’s work at her personal website, http://www.kelseystudio.com/)
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
2013 Toyota Tacoma with a Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper. We call it The Cloud Camper.
Andrea: The first night we spent in it we woke up sore and stiff. The 4-5” between the frame and where the roof latched down above it did not offer much room for improvement of the hard foam mattress. We were so disappointed after our first trip, and returned home wondering how we would live with this full time.
After a few weeks of shopping around, including a memorable trip to Bed Bath & Beyond where we pulled out every sample of their memory foams and feather beds and lay on the floor testing every combination, we finally settled on a replacement “mattress” – a 4” memory foam with plus topper and 1” featherbed. The first time we lay on it in the camper, Jeremy described it perfectly – “like being on a cloud…” And so the Cloud Camper was born!
It really is a fitting name, as living in the Cloud is truly living our dreams!
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
Jeremy: For me, Four Wheel Camper was the only choice. I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for 5 months, primarily out of an old pickup with just a camper shell and got used to going off the beaten path and off the road to find camping spots. When I bought my 2013 Toyota Tacoma I again got a camper shell, which was good for weekend trips in the summer, but for extended living I wanted to upgrade. I didn’t want to sacrifice mobility or off road capability by switching to a full truck camper. I knew I wanted a pop-up camper to reduce wind drag and maintain the lowest profile possible. I researched the available brands and kept coming back to Four Wheel Campers. While not the most economical brand, they have the legacy and engineering to maintain full mobility of the truck, on and off the road. We travel from city to wilderness often and do not want to be limited in any way by our camper.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Jeremy: Camper: We replaced the stock mattress cushions with a memory foam/feather bed combo. The stock Four Wheel Camper bed cushions are quite firm and we found it too hard for our liking. The memory foam has been so nice it inspired the Truck/Camper’s name: The Cloud Camper. We added a rug over the floor area which has helped to keep dirt under control and make cleaning easier.
Truck: We’re lucky enough to have an expert fabricator and off road enthusiast live in our town and have had a handful of custom work done on our Toyota. Costa Fabrications (@costafabrications) made a stealth winch mount that looks like it came right out of the factory and blends right into the stock bumper. He also made a custom rear differential guard and additional undercarriage armor. No off road vehicle is complete without a winch… we’ve only had to use it once so far and that was to rescue a cowboy’s ATV that had tumbled off a cliff into the Salmon River in Idaho. The undercarriage armor gives us peace of mind when traveling on extra rocky trails.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
Andrea: The freedom and the simple life. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to wake up every morning and go where the road takes us! We both thrive on not being on a schedule, and creating our own path. It’s wonderful to wake up early one day and decide to do an 11 mile hike, or to stay up late another day soaking in a hot spring in the moonlight. Following our guides and maps, our journey is generally shaped by hot springs, hikes, and beautiful scenery.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Andrea: It can be a challenge in bad weather. With tight quarters in the camper, we spend a lot of our time outdoors. When it’s pouring rain for days, or cold and raw, it’s not as comfortable to spend our time outside. Precipitation outside has also led to constant condensation inside, creating wet walls and damp bedding. When we were in Alaska just before winter hit, it rained almost every day for a month. Each morning the camper had to be completely wiped down. Most days we were saturating two towels before the inside was acceptable and even then we got a few moldy areas.
Wind was also a challenge with our pop-up structure. While half the camper is hard bodied, the 2.5 feet of canvas acts like a sail when popped up in the wind. We had multiple nights where it was so strong it was rocking the camper to an uncomfortable level. A handful of nights we had to pack up and pop down and find another area to camp. Not a fun activity at 2am!
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
19,443 so far!
What is the best place you have taken it?
It’s incredibly difficult to choose one place, but we both really connected to Death Valley. If we had to choose our favorite place, that would be it.
Is there just one?
Of course not! (Does anyone answer yes to this question?)
Most Remote: Dempster Highway – gorgeous 450+ mile dirt road that leads to the Arctic Circle and is the northern most place you can drive in Canada. Great spot for wildlife viewing and remote camping.
Our Favorite: Death Valley – 100s of miles of roads leading through the desert to various landmarks such as countless old mines, the Racetrack Playa, Ubehebe Crater, and Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Feels like another planet! Bring tons of water and extra gas.
Biggest Surprise: Idaho – we were blown away by how much we loved this state! Central Idaho had some of the most gorgeous hikes and hot springs and we found some epic camp spots on the Salmon River. Goldbug Hot Spring was our favorite spot!
Favorite National Park: Banff/Jasper – (technically 2 parks that border each other) With the teal blue lakes that look like swimming pools, and endless hikes to paint pots, gorges and glaciers, this park combo is not one to miss! The hike around Moraine Lake was the most breathtaking, and the hike to Agnes Tea House at 9000ft is epic!
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Dempster highway – it is 400+ miles of dirt road and the most northern road you can drive in Canada. It took us from the Yukon into the Northwest Territories and across the Arctic Circle! It was truly the middle of nowhere. There was only 1 “town” which was literally a lodge & gas station, and other than that, it was us, the Cloud Camper, the wild animals and the wilderness. Perfection!
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
If you’re traveling with a companion, make sure you truly get along well! Living on the road with someone is a totally different experience than spending a lot time with them or even living in a house with them. You need to be able to co-exist in tight quarters for long periods of time, while moving, problem solving, sometimes under stress, with little privacy, and at times solely each other’s company.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
Andrea: For as long as I can remember, what kept me going was the promise of the next weekend or vacation. Even in elementary and middle school, at a very young age, I remember counting down to every day off and each school vacation. When I started working full time it was the same thing. I would put vacation time on the calendar and as soon as that vacation came and went, I would scratch my name onto another future week and the countdown would begin again. Even during my precious time off there was a countdown. How many days, hours, minutes left until I had to work again. My whole life the time was ticking. It was depressing and I could feel how unhealthy it was.
When I recognized my entire life was a constant countdown, is when I began to dream about a time when I would live for myself. I imagined living on my own schedule, working for myself and following my own path instead of someone else’s.
It took 7 years of hard work, saving money, investing in real estate, and creating a way to fund my travels and pursue my photography dream. Finally I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
In November 2016 Jeremy and I ordered our camper, and there was no turning back. We both worked, saved and tied up loose ends over the next 8 months and then it was our time.
After the schedule disappeared and the constant countdown faded, I can honestly say I feel more free and full of joy than ever in my life!
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
Andrea: My family bought our first camper when I was 3 years old. It was a 1982 Class C Chevy and I still remember climbing up on to the brown corduroy couch and watching the great big world pass by between the dark yellow zigzag curtains. I was fortunate to have a father with a passion for vehicles and a mother with a passion for traveling. It’s not surprising I now live in a truck camper. Growing up, we took trips across the country, around New England, and many times just to the next town over, spending the weekend in the state park. It wasn’t about the distance, it was about the sense of vacation and escape from everyday life. Camping was always magical, bringing the family together, spending time outside, and enjoying the simple life.
Over the years my Dad traded and upgraded multiple times, excited for the next model and new features. There was always a camper in the yard, and they just kept getting bigger and bigger. By the time I was in college there was a 40’ diesel pusher in its own designated spot next to the house, complete with full water, electric and sewer hookups. When I went home to visit, I didn’t even bother to stay in the house. I liked “camping” much more. As much as I enjoyed the vehicle, by the time there was a house on wheels in the driveway bigger than my apartment, it didn’t really feel like camping anymore. It was gorgeous and fancy, but truthfully, it was the simple camping experience I enjoy the most. Minimal features and basic needs, feeling like you’re in nature is truly our style. I suppose being exposed to what you don’t need makes you realize what you do… just a place to sleep, a place to cook and a way to get around. And we got that!
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
Andrea: A unique part of our adventure is how our story started. I met Jeremy in the summer of 2015 and despite how much we had in common there was no initial spark. We then reconnected in the spring of 2016 after a chance meeting in a grocery store, and started spending time together. In my mind it was going to be a short casual relationship as he was moving in 3 months, I was planning to uproot in the fall, and neither of us were looking for anything serious. We had both been shopping around for a new vehicle and ended up on our 2nd date at a Toyota dealership test driving trucks. His current plan was to buy a truck so he could drive around and sleep in the back. My Subaru Outback already had a bed in it, but I was looking for an upgrade. As the story unfolded, I learned Jeremy was planning to leave in the summer and travel the country in a truck camper. Coincidentally, my plan was to buy a truck and a trailer and drive across country and spend some time in a handful of different states working and living in my home on wheels. Our plans were remarkably similar, but we did not want to let our paths cross… we both had our minds set on doing our own plans, separately.
It’s interesting how you don’t always know what life has planned for you. Fast forward 6 months and Jeremy hadn’t left. Over the summer he had bought his truck and put a bed in it, and the truck and trailer I had put a down payment on fell through. He had decided to leave in the fall now, and I had pushed my plans back to early 2017. By September, were spending every weekend together, but still hanging on to our individual dreams. And then one night in late September, he admitted to me the truth of why he was still here. He told me he loved me and wasn’t going anywhere unless I came with him.
13 months later, after 3 months on the road living together full time in our truck camper, Jeremy got down on one knee and asked me to marry him… I said yes!
Where do you want to go next?
This year we plan to explore the Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Later on we hope to drive through Baja and perhaps all the way past Mexico and into Central America. Of course we will be touring hot springs and finding adventures. Career wise, my goal is to continue to learn and grow as a photographer and capturing the magic of life on the road and everything that catches our eye along the way.
We have an adventure photography Instagram, @where.does.that.road.go, and sharing our life and stories with followers is an exciting part of our journey!
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