Alison left her corporate job six years ago to live a more mobile life. Today, she travels in a VW Westfalia Eurovan with her dog. Alison is a photographer with a gift for extrapolating the charm in the everyday and the unusual – be it a portrait, reflection, canyon crevasse, or her rescue dog, Max.
Find inspiration – read Alison’s interview below.
All photos above and below Alison Turner
How did you trip come to be? Did you have Max before the trip started or was he a later acquisition?
I quit my job in advertising sales in 2008 and hit the road with my dog, Maggie and a teardrop trailer. I did that for a year and Maggie passed the following year. I then adopted Max and we went on the road and lived out of a tent for two years and now my van, “Campy” for three now.
Is there a certain length to your journey or is this just the norm?
I usually am on the road for most of the year. I own a home in Los Angeles that I rent out as a vacation home so that income helps to keep me on the road. I come back in the winter to regroup and get a lot of things done that I don’t do on the road – dentist appointments and the like.
What are the benefits of independent travel? Do you have any tips for other women who would like to travel solo?
The benefit is being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I travel by instinct so I may change direction by what someone says, my gut feeling, or the weather. I love that I’m on my own schedule and Max is fine with whatever option I choose.
If you want to travel solo, my tip would be to love your own company. There will be many times (depending on how you travel) that you will be alone without reception. It’s good to have a hobby, too, so you don’t get bored. For me, I take photographs. A lot of photographs. I would also say to trust your gut. Be aware of your surroundings. If there is only one family in a campsite and you feel a little uneasy, camp near them. I would love to say that you can go and do whatever you want but there are times where a little common sense comes in handy.
When I was camping in a tent, I made some bad decisions on where to stay and looking back, I can’t believe I traveled so long that way. I didn’t have an iphone so everything was by instinct looking at a map for little green triangles. I fell asleep holding Mace a few times in those instances. People ask me if I carry a gun. I may or may not have one but I choose to keep myself out of situations where I might need a weapon. I’m more frightened of wild animals anyway.
How does photography influence your travel (and vice versa)?
Over five years ago, I decided to stop drinking alcohol and I needed a hobby. That’s when I picked up a camera and started shooting. I haven’t stopped. In fact, I shoot everyday with mostly my iphone. I have a “real” camera that I use sometimes, an instant camera, and a go pro. In 2010, I started taking portraits of strangers that I came across on the road. It’s an ongoing series. I am extremely shy by nature so approaching people isn’t my strong suit but I muster up the energy sometimes to talk to strangers for a photograph. Some towns are just full of characters that I am drawn to and I am also drawn to towns that are empty. Lately I have been enjoying my time alone so most of my images are of Max and me in the environments we explore.
What are your five “must-have” items for the road.
Have you ever read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley?
I have not but several people tell me I should.
On your website, you feature a series of “vanscapes.” What is the most beautiful scene you’ve come across?
Vanscapes came about when I traveled to New Zealand for three weeks in a rented van. All of my things were stolen on my first rest stop after arriving so I only had what I was wearing and my iphone. On the first day, I got out of my car to take a photo of a sheep and they are so skittish that once they saw me, they bolted. So, I sat in the van and hoped they would forget I was there. That shot was the first in the series. I took it from the van because I didn’t want to spook the sheep and after a while, I enjoyed taking images of all the scenes I came across. The most beautiful scene in New Zealand to me was when I first came over the hill and saw Lake Wanaka. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen in the states.
Where are you now [September 16, 2014] and where will you be in one month?
A friend of mine wanted to see if could visit her in New Orleans next summer for a few weeks. I said… Giirrllll, I don’t know what I am doing next week! And that really is the case with me. I don’t know what I will be doing and I just go by gut. I am sure I will be touring the west some more with stops in Utah and New Mexico I think. But maybe not…who knows? I move to a new spot each day so by the time this comes out, I will be in a new place.