Jessica Allossery is a Canadian singer-songwriter currently traveling the USA in a refurbished 1969 Bailey Mikado camper on a four-month house concert tour. Not only is this her first experience touring as a musician, living in a camper is also her first experience camping – talk above diving in head first!
We talked to Jessica two months into her tour after 9,000 miles traveled and much learned. It’s been long enough that there have been highs and lows and she’s gotten a good dose of traveling alone. She makes it sound easy, but leaving a steady job behind to tour and ‘make it’ as a musician is no easy feat.
Learn more about Jessica, what life on the road is like as a traveling songstress, and meet her vintage camper “Pearl”. Interview below!
How did your camper-living music-playing lifestyle come to be?
I’m from London, Ontario, Canada. I started teaching myself guitar nine years ago by watching youtube videos, and stayed persistent by writing new songs often, making music videos, and writing a blog. Three years ago, the pub where I was waitressing got torn down, so I made the decision to try and pursue music full time.
It was really scary to leave a steady paying job behind, but I knew it was the next step in my growth as a songstress, and it’s all worked out ever since – through a LOT of hard work and grit of course. I’ve been on tour across Brazil, Germany, and now currently in the USA on a four-month adventure with Pearl the Camper, pursuing my dreams as a travelling musician and meeting so many incredible people along the way.
Tell us about you camper, Pearl. How did you find her? What did you update and build out to get her tour-ready?
I was looking for a camper to make this trip happen for over two years. I searched almost every day on Kijiji in Canada (the Craigslist equivalent in America). Everywhere I drove, I’d keep my eyeballs peeled for campers tucked away behind barns that look unused. I saw a lot of camper options, but none really spoke to me until I found Pearl online. It was love at first sight. She was gutted empty and rotting when I bought her. My dad (who is a SUPER handy carpenter – thank goodness) and my mom (who is an EXTRA creative seamstress – thank goodness x2!!) and myself worked on her for a full year.
We started everything from scratch. I designed her and my dad started building. I got a few custom pieces made, like the countertop + sink and the cushion upholstery, and the rest we built ourselves. We made sure to make space for a mini fridge and stove with an oven, because those were two things that I thought were essential. I also wanted to have my own bed, and an extra sleeping space for friends or family when they come to visit. We made this option by turning the kitchen table into a sofa or bed when necessary. The sink pump is powered by a battery on my camper’s tongue and the stove is run by propane when boondocking, or 120v when plugged in. All of the electrical components and gas fittings were a little complicated and pricey, but worth it in the end because I can camp off grid and still have all of the comforts of home on the road.
Touring in a camper is also your first experience camping. Did that intimidate you? Do you feel more comfortable in the outdoors/camping now?
When I was pulling out of my driveway for the first day on the road, I was in tears. I was so terrified of the unknown, and I was cursing myself and what I had gotten into…. I didn’t even know how to hitch this thing, let alone pull it across the states for four months!! But, when I reached my first destination, and played my first show on the road, I knew that I was born for this journey. My fears slowly started melting away, and now with 2 months in, I am more comfortable than ever being on the road.
Towing Pearl is a piece of cake, and I feel like I am an expert when I have to back her up! Camping alone as a woman still sometimes can be scary, but I feel very safe in America and especially at State Parks and campsites (the ones I’ve been to at least) have had no danger whatsoever. Once I got through the initial fears of sleeping alone in my camper and waking up with every noise, the experience has been a lot more enjoyable.
What have you learned about yourself with this solo travel and tour experience so far?
I used to think that I was a real introvert, and loved spending time alone… but this trip has opened my eyes and made me realize how much I actually enjoy being around people and sharing experiences with others whenever I can. I find myself holding onto the tiniest moments with a gas attendant or cashier. I make sure to get a short conversation going for my own sanity over the long stretches of road, because there’s been a lot of times when I have nobody to talk to but myself!
It’s been hard. I didn’t sleep the first month. Although I had the protections of my camper, I was still too scared to sleep in it alone… I woke up with every noise I heard. I even slept with pepper spray and an alarm next to my bed to try and help calm my mind! In addition to not sleeping, constantly saying goodbye to my visitors or new people I meet is always so hard and never seems to get any easier.
On the days where I felt too scared to sleep, or too sad to say goodbye, I’d take out my camera and look at all the footage and photos I have from my journey so far…. Immediately I’d feel better, even just for a second. It reminded me of all the incredible places I’ve seen, and how far I’ve come. I also have some amazing family and friends who said I could call any time, and even just knowing that they’re a phone call away helped me in the middle of the night.
With all that being said, I’ve grown IMMENSELY! I knew it was going to be a huge challenge to do this trip solo, but I needed to take this journey for my own personal growth, and to learn how to be okay while alone on the road. I truly feel proud of myself for taking this leap and every day gets easier and more comfortable doing things by myself! I meet people and women on a daily basis who’ve never had the chance to do something this, and that reminds me of how important it is to keep going, even when times are hard.
There are always going to be ups and downs on the road, it’s all about how you’re able to handle the situations as they come up, and remember that nothing lasts forever – even if it’s good or bad.
You said before that when you left home with your little camper and guitar in tow, you had tears streaming down your face, so scared of the unknown. How do you feel now after two months?
Life is good! I have already found my footing and feel like I am getting more grounded each day. I’m not scared anymore, everyday is a new adventure waiting to be had, and I am embracing each moment as it comes!
What’s your favorite part about life on the road?
My favourite part about being on the road are all of the unexpected twists and turns. Travelling is about pushing your limits, testing your ability to adapt, and being open minded, especially in times when you just don’t feel like it! This journey has given me so many unexpected challenges and adventures, and I’m really thankful for them, even in the moments when it’s difficult. It’s only up from here!
Does traveling invigorate you creatively? Have you written new music from the road?
Travelling definitely invigorates my creativity! The bonus about travelling is that I have a whole lot of video footage, photos & stories that I can bring with me wherever I go. I don’t have a lot of time to write on the road just because of the amount of driving and performing on my tour, but having all of these memories ready and available will help with songwriting in my down time after the tour is over.
Take a photo of your 5 must-have items for camper life.
- Shower caddy – although it doesn’t look like much, my shower caddy is a godsend! It keeps all of my stuff organized so every time I’m in a campsite or new home I just grab and go
- Wipes – Perfect for those days you are shower less… which is a lot. LOL
- Sunglasses – must must MUST HAVE. Especially on this trip where I spent a whole month in the Texas desert, I would have been squinty eyed if I didn’t have sunglasses
- Cowboy boots – I bought these at a thrift store in Phoenix, Arizona and it was the best purchase on my trip! I’m not much of a cowgirl, but these boots work in so many situations when camping: mud, rain, dusty desert, forest. You name it, these boots have you covered – more fashionable than runners and pretty comfy too!
- Camera – I document everything on this trip, and there have been many times when I’m lonely and I just whip out my camera to see some of the videos or photos of places I’ve been. It always helps to take the sting out of loneliness to feel pride and excitement of what’s to come
Where are you now and where will you be in one month?
I am currently in Aspen, CO and a month from now I will be somewhere in Michigan!
Additional photography in this piece by Josh Williams Photography