Kristen takes shorter-term road trips in her tiny Nissan Versa Sedan with and without her boyfriend. They sleep in their car in national forests, and live out of a tent in the various dispersed camping sites that they find along their travels. Based out of Maryland, Kristen has just wrapped up a road trip from there to California and everywhere in between.
Learn more about her micro adventures in the interview below.
Photos above and below (C) 2015 Kristen May
Meet Creative, Spontaneous Kristen
How did your trip come to be?
Well, for starters I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of dropping everything to travel and see the world. Our trip came to be after we realized we both weren’t happy with where our lives were heading. We both had jobs with no advancements possible and weren’t living life to its fullest. We quit our jobs to travel the country. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Even with the uneasiness of what we will be heading back to when we return home unemployed, it’s been worth every sacrifice we’ve made. Another big reason for this trip was finding where we want to set up our forever home. I think we’ve finally narrowed it down to Colorado!
Why did you decide to car camp? What are the benefits and downsides of setting up a tent each night?
We thought car camping would be the most affordable and best way to take in the scenery around us. It definitely has been the ideal way to take in the sights and sounds of all the various regions we have stayed, not to mention it was much cooler to sleep in the tent than my little Nissan sedan! The downfall was the actual act of setting the tent up and taking it down. It’s not like it took that much effort, but there have been many days where it’s gotten very wet and muddy, which wasn’t fun to fold the tent up in!
Your plan was “Maryland to California and everything in between” in about three months. What is your pace of travel like? Do you feel like you’re getting to know the places you stop?
I would say our pace of travel is faster in the more flat central states, but it definitely slows down when we get to a desert or mountain region since those have been our favorite landscapes. It definitely feels like we have gotten to know some of these places along the way, and many of the places we’ve visited have begun to feel like home to us and have given us a sense of belonging, even more so than our own hometown.
What do you think is the benefit of a “shorter” stint on the road?
Well, one of the benefits to a shorter stint is that you can get the feel of what it’s like to actually be on the road. It’s certainly a lot different and more difficult to deal with than being home or going on a typical vacation. If you’ve never traveled much or you are hesitant to take a bigger plunge and go out for a year or more, I think it would be a good start to stick to a shorter trip. Also a shorter trip can really show you how you and whoever you are traveling with (if you’re not going alone) will get along, which is pretty important since you’ll be spending every second with them on your travels!
What have you learned about your boyfriend that you may not have learned otherwise?
To be honest, I’ve known him for so long (we’ve basically been together constantly since we were teenagers) that there’s not much that I don’t know about him! I did learn that he doesn’t like the beach, which was pretty disappointing, but other than that it’s been as normal as traveling out of your car can be. He definitely surprised me with how great he handled any mishaps we ran into on the road (like getting a flat tire 100 miles from any repair shop!) and I think this trip has strengthened our relationship even more than it was.
What’s your favorite camp food recipe?
Our food situation has been pretty tricky since we eat a plant based diet, but we’ve been able to stop at farmers markets in various states to get vegetables and fruits. We haven’t been eating anything too exciting but I did make a pretty delicious Cajun chile with red beans, Cajun seasoning, corn, onions and rice which has been our favorite meal so far.
What’s your preferred camp location?
Our favorite camp location has definitely been National Forests. We originally set out to camp in these because they are free, but to our surprise we have found national forests to be not only gorgeous but secluded and quiet as well, which is always really nice. We’ve found them to be very readily available and easily accessible, even with our little 2-wheel drive sedan. Our favorite National Forest from this trip so far has definitely been the Coconino National Forest in Arizona. We camped in the Coconino just outside the Sunset Crater National Monument outside Flagstaff one night, and that was our all time favorite camp site.
Do you recommend any phone apps for road travel?
Actually we have been using Waze a lot. It’s been super helpful to inform us of problems on the road and we’ve been able to avoid traffic using it. I also use Afterlight a great deal to edit some of my iPhone photos of the trip to show people where I’ve been going. The map and weather feature on my iPhone have been serious lifesavers along the way. The Instagram community have also been very very helpful telling us which places and hikes are must sees that we might not have known about otherwise.
What are your five must-take items for road life?
Number one has definitely been my Nikon D5000 DSLR to document this entire journey. Dry shampoo is a pretty close second so I can feel clean even when I’m not. Our MSR pocket rocket camp stove has been great. I now know I wouldn’t go on a trip without it. My Osprey hydration pack has really helped me to remember to drink a ton of water while hiking and is able to hold all my essentials for our various hikes. Last but not least has been my iPhone 5s. We’ve been using it as our main GPS and map along the way and it has helped us find cool spots to stop at as well.
Where are you right now [June 30, 2015]?
Right now I’m in the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina, just south of The Outer Banks. We plan on staying out here for a while, then we’re heading North!
All photos (C) 2015 Kristen May
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