Jess and husband Andy are living out of a renovated Scamp Trailer and traveling the United States. Along the way, they are providing crowd funded design work to nonprofits, artists, and small companies in need. They’re also climbing as often as possible.
Learn how Jess juggles travel, work, and climbing in the interview below.
Photos above and below (C) 2015 Andy Wickstrom
Meet Creative, Resourceful & Athletic Jess
How did your trip come to be?
Andy and I lived and worked in Chicago for eleven years before we were able to spin this dream into a reality. In our early 30s (when did that happen?) we started to think more about the next chapter of our lives and knew we wanted to be in a place with more access to the outdoors. Last spring, things got serious and we almost moved to Colorado—going as far as to take a reconnaissance trip to look for apartments. But this lingering dream of traveling the county, climbing a lot, and developing our own business was just under the surface. While delayed at the Denver airport for our flight home, the idea for what would become DesignEgg—a traveling, nonprofit, design firm—was hatched. Four months later, we had quit our jobs, rented out our condo, and wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
Why the Scamp Trailer?
Growing up in the Midwest, we often saw Scamps on the road (they are made by a small company in Minnesota). So when we were in the market for an RV, the Scamp immediately came to mind. In addition to loving their cute shape, there were also practical reasons why we settled on the Scamp: they are lightweight (a mere 1,800 lbs), easy to tow, and affordable. We bought ours used and made it our own with an inexpensive DIY revamp. Fiberglass trailers like ours are referred to by RVers as “eggs”—that’s where the name for our project comes from.
What have you learned about Andy that you might not have without this adventure?
Andy and I have been together for thirteen years, so you’d think there wouldn’t be much left to learn. But since we started this trip, not only do we live together, we also work together—that’s been a big shift. Although we’d maintained a small after-hours freelance design business in Chicago, I never had experienced what it was like to collaborate with Andy so closely and so often on a professional level. In the last six months, I’ve learned that he is even more talented as a designer and photographer than I had realized and that he has an unending capacity to develop new skills.
How do you balance time climbing and learning about new places with “DesignEgg” and other client work.
I have a tendency to take on too many things at once so finding balance on the road has been one of my biggest challenges. Andy can attest to periodic meltdowns. To be honest, I’m not sure I was ready for all the competing pressures of the nonprofit work, our regular client work, achieving fitness goals in climbing, seeing the country, connecting with new people, staying in touch with old…. It’s a work-in-progress, but so far I’ve found the best strategy is to schedule my time in advance. I try and set aside work days and climbing days, as well as time for myself and keep little separations between activities. I’ve found that too much multi-tasking has its pitfalls. [Editor note – completely agree!}
What’s your favorite road meal?
We like to cook and have made some pretty delicious and fancy things on our little two-burner stove. But when we get busy and tired, when we don’t feel like chopping veggies and doing a bunch of dishes, we make Annie’s macaroni and cheese. We sit on the bed with two forks and eat it right out of the pan.
If you and Andy’s “trailer roles” were a Venn Diagram, how would they overlap? How would they differ?
Like many road couples we share most all of the day-to-day duties of cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, etc. But we do have our own “special” duties: I fold the laundry, pack lunch, and keep track of the finances; Andy backs up the trailer, fills the water jug, and grinds the coffee.
Take a photo of your five must-have items for road travel.
Dog, down booties, coffee, laptop, and that 1,000-page book you’ve been meaning to read for the last 10 years.
Do you have any safety tips for others planning long-term travel?
I know this might not be possible for everyone, but having a dog along on your journey is a huge asset in terms of safety. Although our pit-mix Pickle can sometimes go overboard when on security duty, it’s great to know you’ve got a keen set of ears and eyes looking out for you. It’s also a good idea to try and get to know the people you are camping around, even if it’s a short-term spot—they’ll look out for you. When parking overnight in urban areas I would recommend busier streets rather than super quiet ones, and if you choose to stay in a business’ parking lot (Walmart or the like), try to go in and let the manager know you are there.
After 6 months in to your journey, can you name a most beautiful site?
Big Sur blew us away. Zion National Park would be a close second.
Where are you now [February 13, 2015] and where will you be in one month?
We are currently in two places, actually. I’m in Albuquerque parked with the Egg and the dog while Andy is in El Paso on a photo assignment. We’ll meet back up in a few days to begin a big push east. A month from now we hope to be settled for some more climbing and work near Chattanooga, Tennessee.