A picture of a Lance travel trailer at Gooseneck State Park

Welcome to my first blog in RV Adventures, a category of blog posts focused to how RV life and travel/nature photography work together; both the good and bad.  Today I want to share with you the reasons I chose to buy an RV for photography pursuits.

My RV life began in 2003 with my first RV, a 2014 Phaeton motorhome and has continued to the present with only a brief interruption of 4 years and a change to a travel trailer.  

During this 17+ year,  I have traveled full time, part time, been stationary, and everything in between.  However, after 4 years of recent full time RV travel, I am now transitioning to 6 months stationary living and 6 months of travel. I found full time travel did not provide adequate time to work at the office side of my photography business.  

Main Reason I Chose To RV For Photography:

Traveling in an RV was and still is the only feasible way to pursue my Mountain to Sea Photo Journey of photographing the entire United States.   See my journey at: The Journey

My goal is that in the next 5 years, I will have an extensive portfolio of photographs, video and travel guides from every state in the United States. That’s a lot of time on the road that I do not believe is possible without owing an RV.  In fact, with an RV, I can always have a home without having to be at a house. 

I did not chose to RV for the RV lifestyle like most RVers. Full time RV living was solely a business decision

Other Reasons to RV For Photography:

1. Looking For New Places To Call Home

A Western Soul on the East Coast

I began thinking about relocating from Florida to somewhere out West but did not have a clue where I wanted to live. Sound familiar?  So I decided that, in addition to being able to travel for photography, full time RV travel would give me a chance to explore potential new homesites.  

I frequently joke that I began life in Florida with a western soul who must have been very bad in a former life and was sent as far east as possible for my punishment. Don’t get me wrong; I love Florida and East Coast but my heart longed to photograph the open spaces and spectacular scenery of the West.  At the time, it is where I felt most at home when behind the camera. 

Lastly, although Florida is beautiful and filled with stunning scenery most visitors never see, sadly it is overdeveloped, humid and has roaches!  I hate roaches and humidity.

Florida Beauty

2. Time For a Career Change:

I had a 27 + year career as a healthcare finance executive mostly working for a well known healthcare provider. Although I made a very comfortable living, owned a big home, had closets full of clothes and all types of possessions, I was restless and unsatisfied. In fact, the only time I was happy was on weekends and vacations when I was outside with my camera. 

Frantic Weekends and Vacations– On weekends I would frantically rush through my household tasks to make time for photography. During my six weeks of vacation, I spent every minute traveling to new places. In fact I drove the 2289 miles from Florida to Yellowstone in 2 1/2 days on three different occasions.  During those trips, I felt alive in ways I had not since childhood.

3. Hated Staying In Hotels For Photo Trips:

    • Noise level- Hotel rooms are noisy at all hours and getting a good nights sleep was too difficult.
    • Constant packing and unpacking between locations was a pain.
    • Staying for months on end in hotels was expensive and a waste of money.

4. Pets and Travel:

Prior to owning an RV, whenever I traveled, I had to leave my two cats at home. I was fortunate to have a wonderful sitter who would spend an least an hour a day with them.  However, owning pets still limited the amount of time I was willing to be away from home.  

Here is picture of one of my cats, Hopper, from 2003 who left this world at the ripe young age of 19. Hopper walked out of the woods and up to my house on an Easter Sunday that was also my birthday.  So with her Easter arrival and the flopping ears I decided to name her after the chocolate Easter Bunny, Hopper.

My current travel companion is Boo who also just walked up to my house. 

Was Full Time Rving For Photography Worth It?

Yes and no. 

Positives:

    • Helped narrow down type of city I wanted for a home base- Spending time in many different locations helped me realize what type and size city I was looking for as a home base. For instance, I now know I value having access within 30 minutes to good grocery stores, art districts, outdoor activities, and like minded friends. So I have now begun looking at cities of around 50-75,000 population for my potential homesite.
    • Saved from making a costly move– Prior to spending the last 4 years on the road, I have ever intention of moving out West permanently.  However bing in the West year round, I encountered months on end of wildfires 3 out of the 4 years I was there.  Now I know that I am not able to live full time under those conditions and have eliminated the West as a potential home base.  
    • Constant travel taught me the importance of  research and planning for photo shoots- Always traveling to new photo locations alone does not guarantee an end result of beautiful images.  Only knowledge, preparation and a bit of luck will produce good photography. When you are constantly traveling, it is easy to get lazy about doing photo research on new destinations. My first year on the road, I fell victim to the lazy bug, skipped my research and paid the price. Thankfully, I quickly learned the value of  the proper preparation I know undertake:Great Apps for Landscape and Travel Photography Planning
    • Discovered I missed photographing Florida -Surprisingly I missed photographing the lush and tropical greenery of Florida that I had taken for granted. In fact, I discovered I enjoy photographing coastal and tropical landscapes as much as I do desert and mountain photography. How many of you reading this take for granted the photography opportunities near your home?
    • Lastly and most importantly, I went amazing places–  Traveling full time provided the time to photograph,  not just the hot spots, but many interesting places along the route.  These were places I never would have photographed without RV travel.  Places such as Bear River Wildlife Refuge in Utah.

Negatives:

Although RVing fulltime provided access to many places in the country, it also came with a lot of hassles.  

1.Wrong RV –

I can’t stress how important is it to understand your particular needs and lifestyle prior to shopping for an RV.  To learn about my mistakes and things you should consider before buying an RV, check out: The Perfect RV for Photography Checklist and Top Questions Every Photographer Should Ask Before Buying An RV.

2. The Daily RV lifestyle can be time consuming  

In fact I found it took significant time and focus away from photography for the following reasons:

    • Travel and trip planning requires a lot of time.
    • Most RVs need constant maintenance and many places photographers travel are remote.  You must invest the time to learn handyman (gal) skills.
    • Travel is slower and more restrictive than in a car which limits the places you can visit to photograph. 
    • Most RV’s can not handle the various climates one may need to be in for photography.  They are poorly insulated and have pipes that freeze.  In fact, I missed those noisy hotels on nights with subfreezing temps.
    • You can’t pick your neighbors! Even boon docking in remote locations does not guarantee a quiet night. I can’t tell you the times, I had RV’s show up at 1 A.M. to camp next to me. Don’t get me started on this one!
    • Time limits on campgrounds and other camping areas such as 14 day limits  may result in you having to leave an area just as conditions are becoming perfect for photography.
    • The increased popularity of the RV lifestyle is making it more difficult to locate campsites in prime destinations without planning months to a year in advance.  

3. Small Tourist Towns were very costly

4.  Can be very lonely

5. Internet Access was a constant struggle

Amazing Places I Have Photographed:

Here is just a small sample of the places I have photographed on my Mountain to Sea Photo Journey by choosing to RV for Photography.

no images were found

In summary, I am happy I decided to RV full time for photography.  Time on the road taught me a lot about what I need in a home base along with how to photograph many different places.  However, I also discovered how difficult it was to run a photography business while traveling full time.  This was particularly true as a single woman with little maintenance skills. Also, lack of internet access was a huge problem due to the remote locations I chose to visit.   

Will I Continue to RV for Photography?

Yes but with some changes.

There will be another RV change in the very near future that better fits the checklist I linked to above.

RV travel will only be part time, possibly three months away, three months home, then three months away again.  I want to fully enjoy locations when I am traveling without worrying about projects I need to complete.  And likewise, I want to be able to focus on projects without being distracted by what photo opportunities I may be missing.

Advice to Other Photographers Looking to RV Full Time:

 If you are a photographer looking to RV part or full time, I encourage you to carefully evaluate how traveling full time will impact the business side of your photography.  I am not talking about the capture of images, but the hours of computer work that go along with a photography business. In particular are you someone who has the disciple to spend hours behind a computer in a new place filled with with spectacular scenery? Answer this question honestly before hitting the road full time.

Lastly, although RV travel for photography can offer wonderful opportunities to photograph amazing places, it is not the glamour lifestyle portrayed on Instagram..  Set realistic expectations and you will be much better prepared to embark on your own photographic journey.

Thank you for joining me on this discussion of Full time RVing for Photography. I  would love to hear from thoughts and experiences of RV travel for photography.

 

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