Mandy Lea Photo

Interview with a full Time Teardropper

 

Georgianne Austin:
Hey, everyone. My name is Georgianne. I’m with Escapees RV Club, and today we are hanging out in Mandy Lea’s teardrop trailer in Quartzsite, Arizona. We’re going to chat a little bit about her experiences as a solo RVer, and what it’s like for her on the road, what sent her out on the road, and how she makes money and makes it work for her along the way.

Mandy Lea:
Awesome. I’m excited to have you. Welcome to my home.

Georgianne Austin:
Yes. It’s so cozy and cute. I love it. As we go along, make sure that if you have any questions that come to mind that you’d like to ask Mandy, go ahead and enter them in the little bar to the side. That way, we can make sure that we don’t forget about them. When we get to the end, we’ll do a Q and A session with Mandy, and you guys can ask whatever questions about solo RVing, and we can try and get you the best answer we can.

Mandy Lea:
Welcome to my home. This is Phoenix. I live in a Tag teardrop trailer. It’s made by New Camp, and I simply love it. I full-time in my teardrop, which I found to be kind of unusual. I’ve met other teardroppers, and other full-timers, but I have yet to meet any other full-time teardroppers. I’m a photographer, and I love photography. I love being outside. I love nature. I shoot a lot of landscapes, and I just love to share my story. I like to try to get people out of their comfort zone and show them a world that they may have forgotten existed. That’s what I try to do with my photography, and living in this teardrop helps me do that.

Georgianne Austin:
Fantastic. In thinking about small-scale stuff, what drove you to do this? Whenever you decided to go out solo, what drove you to this, versus a motor home or something like that?

Mandy Lea:
What drove me to go full-time in the beginning is just, I suffered from what I think a lot of people suffer from, which is really just the worst problem is the mundane life, where you forget to live. I was working a normal 9-5. It was a lot of work, and then I would freelance in the evenings. I was just getting burned out on my passion. I started to think about ways that I could not be burned out on my passion. This is what the answer was for me. As far as why a teardrop, I’m very passionate about the living tiny movement, and having a small footprint. Although any RV is a wonderful, small footprint, the reasoning behind it was not for space. The reason was to live simpler. The simplest way I could think to live was in a teardrop.

Georgianne Austin:
That works. With that comes questions like, how do you handle some of the basic things? For example, a lot of RVers choose what size that they do to suit their space needs and the things that they need. For example, your kitchen. Your kitchen’s outside. What do you do with—

Mandy Lea:
I actually chose—they had different options. There were definitely options with the kitchen inside. I chose a kitchen outside on purpose, because the reason I’m doing this is because I want to live outdoors. If I’m stuck inside, cooking dinner and doing everything inside, I could easily just as well have an apartment. I actually preferred the outdoor kitchen, because I just really wanted to be outdoors. I know that comes with tons of challenges as far as weather. When it rains, I have an awning I can put up, and if the weather’s really, really, really, really bad, I just don’t cook dinner that night. There’s nights when people order in or go to the grocery store and buy food all the time. I just do that some nights. I also have the option of cooking over a campfire when I want to, which is something I never did in my apartment.

Georgianne Austin:
That’s frowned on, balcony campfires.

Mandy Lea:
It’s very frowned upon. I love it. There’s nothing better than an outdoor kitchen. I have the best view of any kitchen around.

Georgianne Austin:
Oh, yes. Oh, my goodness, yes. Some of the coffee by the campfire at 6:00 a.m., watch the sunrise. Heck, yes. That’s awesome. With that in mind, you said you love the part about being outside. What kinds of things have you found to be the most challenging by both living small like this as well as just being a single RVer out there?

Mandy Lea:
Living small is relatively easy, except I would say in extreme temperatures. I’ve done both -14-degree camping, and 110-degree camping. Both of them are honestly equally as difficult. It’s hard both just logistically, and also it’s hard on you emotionally, too. When you deal with a day or two of extreme temps, it’s not a big deal, but when you’re living in 24 hours a day, it can get hard. This winter, I just spent two months in Colorado. When I was there, everything was freezing. Things I never expected to freeze would freeze. I had things like my cleaning solution, my 409 and my Windex, they froze. My little Cottonelle hand wipes froze. Then, it gets frustrating when you’re cold and you just want something to eat, and everything is frozen. My peanut butter would freeze. My salad dressing would freeze. All my waters froze. I had a hard time keeping water thawed to drink, because if it was in my car or my trailer, either one, it would freeze. That was really frustrating. My makeup froze. That was really weird. I went to put some mascara on to do a video blog or something, and I pulled it out, and I’m like, seriously? My makeup is frozen? It was just ridiculous.

Georgianne Austin:
Then, an argument to that that a lot of our viewers might make is, you live in a home on wheels. Why would you stay there?

Mandy Lea:
Because I’m a photographer, and snow is beautiful. I can’t express how beautiful the winter is. To sit in a huge, fresh-powdered field that’s just perfectly white and to get to hike through softly drifting snow, and to photograph that, it makes all those troubles worth it. It’s like, yeah, there’s all these cons. It’s freezing. I have a hard time keeping warm, but the minute I get to go on a hike through a winter wonderland, it makes it all worth it to me.

Georgianne Austin:
The elks don’t care that your mascara’s frozen, do they?

Mandy Lea:
Yeah, no. The elks don’t care that my mascara’s frozen. Along those lines, the same can be said for the heat. I’ve spent a lot of time camping in Texas, where if I don’t have electric for my air conditioner, then I’ve got to keep everything from melting. I buy ice and it melts in a day. You can’t keep anything cold. I love salad, so it’s hard to keep my salads cold. It just gets wearing after a couple weeks. It just gets wearing, but it’s always worth it in the end, the things you get to see and experience. I’ll put up with a lot to get that photo.

Georgianne Austin:
Do you think that if you were with somebody else, would that person’s opinion affect the decisions that you’re making as far as staying in those freezing temperatures or—

Mandy Lea:
It depends on the person. I am a very low-maintenance person, and I would rather freeze and get the good picture. I would have to have somebody with me who was equally as low-maintenance. If I had somebody with me who wasn’t willing to put up with the things I put up with, it would be a challenge. I guess if I found the right person, there’s always, misery loves company. It’s always better to suffer with somebody than alone.

Georgianne Austin:
You seem to travel with friends pretty frequently, too. It’s not that you’re always out there by yourself.

Mandy Lea:
No, no, no, no. I’m not. I have a lot of friends who either join me, and I also have a pretty big community on the road. Usually, if I’m in an area I can find somebody to adventure with me, somebody to go on a hike with me, but at the end of the day, that person is only experiencing that weekend with me. Whereas, I’m in it for an extended period of time, and that’s what makes it hard, is the amount of time you’re in the situation. Anybody can live tiny for a weekend, but it’s when you’re in it for weeks on end, where it really starts to become a thing.

Georgianne Austin:
Oh, yeah. Then, with that in mind, do you have any advice, thinking about traveling by yourself and what that means for you? The space that you’ve chosen in which to live, and that sort of thing? Do you have any advice that you would like to offer, or you think would be useful for people who maybe haven’t quite hit the road yet, but are thinking about it as an individual? The things they should think about or budget? How do you consider—

Mandy Lea:
There’s two different approaches of advice. There’s the logistical advice as far as budget and all that, and then there’s also—one of the biggest things I had to do to get on the road was prepare myself emotionally. Those are two whole different games you’ve got to approach. Emotionally, I went on a six-week road trip by myself before I hit the road. A lot of people will do a week or two, or a few days, or a long weekend to test their rig. First, I would say, that’s not enough. You can’t go out on the road for a week to see what it’s like, because you will never hit that emotionally traumatic period where you actually have to fight through it. When I went on the road for six weeks, about a month into it is when the loneliness really kicked in for me. It was terrible. When I got back, people would ask me, how did your test go? I’d say, oh, it was terrible. I was so lonely.

They’d say, oh, so you’re probably not going to live on the road? I’d say, no. If anything, this trip convinced me I should live on the road, because now I know what to expect. I know a month in, I’m going to get lonely. I’m expecting it, and I’m ready for it. When I hit the road full-time, a month came in, I got lonely, but I was like, it’s okay, Mandy. You knew this was going to happen. I was ready for it. I was prepared. Emotionally, I would say, just know it’s going to be hard, but know that it’s okay. It’s okay that life is hard. Life’s going to be hard whether you hit the road or not. You may as well do it somewhere you can experience life. I would say, just be open to things being difficult, and that will help you get through them. Just know what to expect, and know it’s not all unicorns and butterflies, but there are a lot of unicorns and butterflies. Then, logistically. Oh, man. Logistically, I’ve learned 99% of the things I do now on the road.

I thought I was all prepared. I thought I was packed perfect. I thought I got rid of enough stuff, but the truth is, until you physically hit the road, you’re not going to know what you need and what you don’t need, and the way you’re going to do things. A lot of it just going to be, do the best you can before you go, but know everything’s going to change. I have completely unpacked and repacked my whole situation, my car and my camper, like six times. Literally, just unpacked it, and I’ve left at least half of what I originally left with at my parents’ house or at friends’ houses or whatever, because I just didn’t need it, and I thought I would. My current setup is almost 100% different than it was the day I left, just because I’ve learned while I was on the road what I needed and what I didn’t need. I guess just stay open to changing and learning and know you can’t have it all figured out the day you leave.

Georgianne Austin:
Something you had mentioned before was the idea of having community and support. How did you find that? Especially once you hit the road. Of course, everybody has friends when they leave, but how did you find that on the road?

Mandy Lea:
There are so many groups online, my main one, obviously, being Escapees. This has been, seriously—you know what’s great is, I learned about Escapees from another full-timer. I was on the road, and I was sitting around a campfire with some other full-timers, and we were just chatting like, oh, man, life’s hard. We were just reminiscing how hard it is to do life, and he said, don’t you get your mail through the Escapees? I said, no. That changed my life. It really did, aside from just the services that the Escapees offer. The community is amazing, and since then, I’ve met 100 other people. I would say, definitely stay open to being social on the road, and don’t just hermit yourself in your little camper. Aside from Escapees, there’s all kinds of Facebook groups and online communities, and people you just meet on the road, too. Particularly with the Escapees, I’ve noticed that you meet somebody one time, and you’re friends for life. You could see that person once a year, but the minute you see them, you just pick up where it left off. It’s a great community. I love it.

Escapees RV Club

Georgianne Austin:
Awesome. I’m glad to hear that.

Mandy Lea:
Unsolicited advice, seriously. I love it. Let me check this. Let me see how far in—

Georgianne Austin:
That needs to go in the bloopers. That sounded like it hurt. I felt the walls shake.

Mandy Lea:
Sometimes living in a tiny home can hurt.

Mandy Lea Photo

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