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ON THE ROAD

INSPIRATION ON THE ROAD SOCIAL MEDIA

The Reality Behind My Instagram Photos

You’ve probably seen my Instagram. It’s full of photos of my travels, the outdoors, selfies with inspirational captions and personal stuff about my life. It’s like that on purpose– I curate my Instagram carefully, and I want my feed to look the way it does. But I hope you know: my life doesn’t look like that every day.

I never thought that was big news to anyone. I assumed everyone knew that social media usually only broadcasts the best or most interesting parts of people’s lives. I think I was wrong.

Yes, this was stunning. But I also hadn’t showered in six days.

In my case, I use Instagram to show photos of my travels and experiences. I aim to be honest and yes, inspiring. Because I find that people want inspiration. My account is Erin Outdoors, not Erin Sitting in Coffee Shops, Erin Making Smoothies or Erin Decorating Her Apartment. So I generally only post outdoor or travel photos, because that’s what my audience wants to see.

There’s a lot more happening than what you see on my Instagram, and that’s why I try to be honest in captions, and why I have this blog. I try to tell the whole story– one that the photos alone simply could not tell.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

My life is full of amazing places and people. I have a lot of good stories. And it didn’t go this way just by chance; my life is the way it is because of the choices I have made. Choices I want to empower you to make, if you want to.

You might know that I’m currently wrapping up a solo road trip across the Western US and a bit of Canada. I’ve been on the road for six weeks, and have seen some incredible stuff. I’ve also been scared out of my mind, eaten PB&Js for every meal to keep costs low, and slept in countless Walmart parking lots. I’ve been lonely, I’ve felt lost and questioned everything, I’ve been terrified of my future and my bank account.

Beautiful, but when it's pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

Beautiful, but when it’s pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

It’s so easy to romanticize anybody’s life based on what you see on social media, but know they have ups and downs too. Because that’s life.

The message I want to send– the message I think is incredibly important– is that you already have everything you need to create the life you want. You have the power to be the boss of your own life, to decide where it goes and what it looks like.

If you look at my Instagram and say, “Wow, I want my life to look like that,” please know that it can. Go ahead and create a life full of Instagram-worthy views, but know that it will be full of less glamorous moments, too.

I want you to know that my life is so much more than my curated Instagram of beautiful photos and selfies. I try to show you the big picture as much as I can. I show a lot of it on this blog. I try to have a sense of humor about the less-than-amazing moments, because they happen… and they are important.

Gorgeous sunrise after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Thank goodness for a gorgeous sunrise. Took this after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions about how I made my travel lifestyle a reality. How have I seen so many places and done so much? Stay tuned. If you have specific questions about my life, where I’ve been, or anything else, please shoot me an email. I’d love to answer them.

If my Instagram account is “#goals” for you, I’m truly flattered and honored, so thank you. I hope you appreciate the whole story, too. I hope you know that there might be a sleepless night or a broken windshield behind that beautiful photo. And I hope that makes it even better for you. I hope me sharing the whole story gives you the inspiration to create beautiful moments in your own life. Because you can.

What’s stopping you?

INSPIRATION JOURNAL ON THE ROAD TRAVEL

Why I Travel Solo

Right now, I am in the middle of a solo road trip. I have seen friends along the way, and they’ve even joined me for a few days here and there. But for the majority of this trip, I’m by myself.

I have traveled solo a few times before.

The first time was in Europe. I was 21 and very intrigued by the idea of traveling solo. I thought it looked so cool and so badass. I wanted to be that girl. I remember being so nervous. It felt like a huge scary thing, but I booked tickets and forced myself to swallow my hesitations.

I couldn’t enjoy it. I was still struggling so hard with anxiety, and I hadn’t given myself any training wheels. I hadn’t given myself any cushion or safety net. I would dread the time that wasn’t scheduled– I found it difficult to go through my day without a plan, and found it even harder to make that plan for myself.

The next time I traveled solo was in Thailand. I was 24 and had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years. This time, I was prepared. I knew I would have to overcome my anxiety. I knew I would struggle with being lonely. And I also knew there would be an emotional piece to the whole thing. Because I was prepared, that trip was so good for me.

A year and a half after the Thailand trip, I decided to head out by myself again.

I did not decide to travel solo with the intention to have a fun, carefree vacation, to get cool photos, or to look like a badass. I did not decide to travel solo because I think it’s the “best” way to do it.

Here’s why I did decide to travel solo.

jtree

Self-Awareness

So much comes up when you spend all of your time by yourself. You laugh, you cry, you feel great, you feel hopeless. For me, I experience all of that in a span of approximately five minutes.

Sometimes it’s really hard to not have another person to vent to, or someone to distract me from whatever is going on in my head or heart. But what I have come to love, is that I’ve gotten really good at identifying my feelings and working through them, whatever they are. Even the messy ones. Even those feelings that, at home, I’d avoid by distracting myself with issues that seem more urgent.

Here, by myself, driving or hiking, I’m alone with my thoughts. The only option: truly listen to them and work through it all.

selfawareness

Decision Making

I’m a pretty indecisive person. I usually don’t really care what to eat for lunch or what to do this afternoon. Being on a road trip solo forces me to be decisive and to get stuff done.

When I had a boyfriend, I would rely on him constantly to take care of things. I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, he would. If I didn’t go food shopping, he would. I never worried or stressed about things because he was the back-up plan. He had things pretty dialed-in and organized.

Traveling alone, I am solely responsible for my safety and comfort. If I don’t go food shopping, I’m gonna be hungry. If I don’t research a place to camp for the night, I’m gonna be uncomfortable. If I don’t decide what to do on any given day, I’m gonna be sitting twiddling my thumbs without direction.

Solo travel forces me to make deliberate decisions.

carjtree

Communication

I have always struggled with anxiety and still deal with it now.

Because I’m by myself, I am the only one who can communicate my needs. There may be times when I need to ask a neighbor at a campground to borrow something, or I might need to approach someone to ask for directions, or I might need to ask for a wifi password. Maybe this seems extreme, but all of that would have made me unbelievably anxious a few years ago.

In situations where previously I would have relied on someone else, now I only rely on myself. Because I have to. Because I have put myself in this situation.

solojtree

In short, I travel solo to learn. It’s often uncomfortable and rarely easy. But I have always come out of it stronger and wiser.

Solo travel will always be a part of my life. It will always be a way to learn. Will I always travel solo? Do I “prefer” it? Of course not. Solo travel is a completely different experience than traveling with someone else. There is a time and place for it, and it might not be appropriate for everyone.

Solo travel has taught me how to trust my gut and listen to myself, but it’s also taught me how to be resilient. It’s taught me about time management, menu planning and finances. It’s taught me about balance and happiness.

So that’s why I’m doing it.

I don’t hope this inspires you to try solo travel. I hope it inspires you to do something that teaches you about yourself, whatever that is.

INSPIRATION JOURNAL ON THE ROAD

Reasons to Celebrate Fear

A week ago, I left Boulder, CO with one direction in mind: West.

Seven days in, I’ve let my hair get caked with mud and felt the lines on my face deepen. Not just from happiness or sadness, but from emotion that defies a category and changes often.

I’ve been watching bright orange sunsets, hiking in the desert, and wading through knee-deep water between massive canyon walls– my mind completely blown by the astounding beauty of all of it.

As wonderfully romantic as all of that is, I am scared shitless.

I’m writing this in a library in rural Utah, looking at my tanned and sandy hands and wondering where I’m going to sleep tonight. The desert is amazing, and something I can’t explain pulls me to it, but it’s got me very easily spooked. I flinch every time the wind blows. I’m by myself a lot of the time. It’s scary.

I feel a little guilty that I’m scared. Being scared in a situation like this is frankly, a huge luxury. I don’t have to be doing this and I feel lucky that I am able to. That being said, it’s okay to have feelings. This was never a “find myself” trip, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to do a little of that.

There have been moments of crying inexplicably, of feeling hopeless, of feeling totally overwhelmed. I have felt like I’m exactly where I need to be, and at the same time, felt an insane longing for home. And I haven’t been totally alone– I have met up with people along the way, but for some reason I seek out the feeling that comes with being by myself. And I haven’t had a night yet where I’ve gone to bed without my heart pounding out of my chest.

I’ve always been hard on myself. I hate being “bad” at things, I can’t stand being “weak,” I really dislike not having a “direction.” And that is why I am doing this—to be bad at things, to allow fragility into my life and to celebrate it, to only know where I am in this moment, not a week or even an hour from now.

I feel like I’m trying to pry a lid off of myself that has been screwed on for a long, long time. All I did for the past month was assert and re-assert how strong I am, how capable I am, how “fine” I am. And all of that is true. But in reality, a lot of wounds are still pretty fresh for me. I’ve never really given myself the space to be fragile, to allow myself to be worn out and worn down, to be broken, and to heal.

The stuff I post about this trip won’t all be like this, I promise. But some of it will. I think it’s important to acknowledge that I’m looking for that space. Maybe we should look for that space, to sit with fragility and weakness, to come out with a better understanding. I’m celebrating my fear because I want to work with it, through it and past it. I am celebrating fear because I know I will come out of it better.

In the case that fear is stopping you from doing something, consider celebrating it instead. Consider making it part of your journey, not something that halts it. Let me know what you find.

ON THE ROAD OUTDOORS SUV CAMPING TRAVEL

How to Turn Your SUV into a Camper

This conversion is specific to my 2009 Honda CR-V, but principles can be applied to any vehicle.

I want a van. I’m about to head out on a road trip for the next six weeks, and having a van would be perfect. But I don’t have a van. I have an SUV. A Honda CR-V, to be exact.

I really like the idea of being able to have a comfortable bed pretty much anywhere, so I decided to build one in the back of my car. Here is a step-by-step guide to turning your SUV into a camper.

STEP 1

Do you need to take out the back seats? If your back seats fold down flat, skip this step.

If you’re like me, you’ll first watch some YouTube videos on how to remove the back seats from your car. Procure a socket wrench or other tools you might need.

Clean your car. Take everything out. All of the things to the garage! Take the seats out of your car and put them somewhere. The only tool I needed was a socket wrench, and taking out the seats took me all of 15 minutes. Have a victory beer. Or don’t, but I did.

No seats no problem!

No seats no problem!

STEP 2

Time to start thinking about your design. My design is a plywood platform in three parts, using 4x4s for legs. I placed the middle legs slightly off center to accommodate a storage bin. Because the floor of my car is uneven, measuring was a bit more complicated than if your car’s floor is completely flat.

Things to consider: How big do you want it to be? Do you want to be able to remove the platform easily? How will you be storing gear? Do you want to access storage from the back and/or sides?

Measure out the dimensions for the wood you are going to need. Having a friend help you with this comes in really handy. Go to Home Depot or equivalent with the measurements and have them cut it. Buy screws if you don’t have them. I used 3/4″ drywall screws.

STEP 3

Assemble the platform.

For me, it was definitely crucial to have someone help get everything in the car (thank you Henry!). We put all the pieces in the car (propped up) and tried to visualize what it would look like nailed together. It became clear that it made sense to actually put everything together inside the car, rather than taking it out and trying to put the pieces back in once assembled.

Platform assembled! Victory. Next, I put another piece of plywood near the front seats, attached with a hinge. This is an easy way to extend the length of your platform when you move the front seats forward. When you want to drive, just flip it back and move the seats.

how the hinge works

how the hinge works

STEP 4

Before you go any further, vacuum any sawdust and crap out of your car. Next, you can start planning storage and bedding.

I first put a mover’s blanket down on the platform. Alternatively, you can buy carpet and even staple it to the plywood. I wasn’t feeling picky about it.

For bedding, I bought two foam mattress toppers (think egg crates) that were on sale and put them on top of eachother. I then covered them with a full size fitted sheet to keep them in place. Sheets, blankets and pillows are up to you, but I wanted to be the coziest person in the world, so I went big on this.

One great thing about having a platform bed is the storage space underneath. Under the platform, I am keeping all of my gear, clothes, food, cooking stuff, a folding table, a camp chair, a cooler and too many pairs of shoes. Figure out a system that is both easy and organized, and one that works for you.

STEP 5

You’re probably going to want some kind of window covering. Curtains are a good option. Instead, I used Reflectix (buy at any home improvement store, comes in a big roll) and cut it to size. This means no curtains swinging around, and no velcro or tape needed. I am really happy with how these turned out– nobody can see in my car, plus the insulation will keep me a bit warmer.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb now?

How much did it cost?

  • $56 for wood and hardware
  • $21 for Reflectix
  • $53 for foam
  • $71 for bedding and pillows

So in total, this project cost me $201, plus the cost of a cooler, folding table, and some storage bins. If you already have some extra bedding you like, I bet you could easily do this for $120 or less.

What are the dimensions of the platform?

When the hinge is extended, total length is 72″ and width is 41″. Height is 15″ from the very back of the car.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m heading out today to start my road trip and I’m super excited! I’m supposed to stay at a friend’s house tonight, but I honestly might just park in her driveway so I can sleep in my new camper.

Questions? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Do you have an SUV or car to camper conversion you would like me to feature on my blog? Shoot me an email at info@erinoutdoors.com. I would love to hear from you!

JOURNAL ON THE ROAD

What Now? Fall Plans

car

After feeling like I got the wind knocked out of me, it’s time to get up and do something fun and challenging. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want and what success means to me. I define success as doing something every day that stimulates me and improves me.

So like, how am I gonna do that?

EASY! I’ll do stuff that scares me!

Fall 2015:

I’m going on a road trip starting next week and ending at some point later on in life. Okay, probably 6-8 weeks. I have never traveled solo and camped by myself (even if it’s just sleeping in my car) for this long, and frankly I’m really, really nervous. And that’s why I’m doing it.

Solo travel is something that has enriched me and helped me grow a lot in my life. But traveling solo in a place like Europe or Thailand is different than road tripping by yourself. I’m afraid of being lonely and scared. I’ll be meeting up with friends along the way, but spending that much time by myself in The Nature is intimidating. I think that’s why it is so important for me to go.

It’s going to be epic. I am going to get lost, I am going to camp in the rain, I am going to be terrified at times and blissed out at times, I am going to make new friends, eat good food, eat weird food, see amazing things and write about all of it. I want to network like whoa on this trip, meet a lot of cool people, and plant myself in the adventure industry in a new way.

I’m planning on Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and then we’ll see. And since you asked, my car’s name is the Spaceship.

  • Do you have recommendations for stuff I should do, places I should go, things I should try? What do you want to see on my Instagram and Snapchat? I would LOVE to hear from you. Email me!
  • Are you a collective, magazine or blog? I’d love to write something for you about solo female travel, adventuring, or something else. Shoot me an email!

You can find me on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter at @erinoutdoors.

See you on the road!