travel

Home, sweet car. | Part 1: Why I turned my SUV into a camper. by Shana Berenzweig

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, then you know I got back yesterday evening from a big ol’ roadtrip across the southwest and up the west coast with my dog, Frankie. Mostly a vacation, I did work a little while I was gone, and so while I’m doing laundry and downloading all my client sessions to my desktop computer, I decided to throw together some initial thoughts about the camping part of my trip.

First, let’s backtrack a moment.

I love tent camping, but it can also be a lot of work to set-up/break-down camp, particularly by yourself, and let’s face it, it’s not always that fun or comfy, especially when the weather turns. And tent camping by yourself can be scary and leave you feeling vulnerable. So like many people, I’ve long dreamed of having of having a home on wheels for roadtrips and camping.

The reality of my bank account, though, says that’s not happening any time soon without an unexpected financial windfall. This meant I had to get creative and so inspired by the ever-growing ranks of DIY car campers, I decided to build a sleeping platform in the back of my SUV.

I’m working on another post about the actual building of the sleeping platform and the nitty-gritty reality of it all, but until then, this one is more focused on the why I chose to do this and how I feel about it now that I’ve spent 5 nights camping in it.

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Like I said above, I really do love tent camping. But doing it alone for multiple nights far from home is another thing. And even though I have tent camped alone a few times, the circumstances were all very different and sleeping in my car felt like the absolute right way to go for me on this trip.

I hoped I would feel much safer as a women traveling and camping alone.

I hoped it would save me time since I wouldn’t have to set up and break down a tent, which would then allow me more time for exploring and relaxing at camp.

I hoped it would be much more comfortable and that I would sleep so much better, which is so important when you’re traveling alone and driving long distances.

I hoped the sacrifices I would make in turning my SUV into camper would be so worth it.

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

Santa Cruz Mountains, CA | August 2019

And I was right. All of the above (and more) was true.

I never ever for one moment felt unsafe in the car at night. Same for traveling the road in general. (Working on a blog post about safely traveling solo as a woman, so keep a look out for that.)

Right again about it being a big time saver. It took a day or two to work out what should go where and there was a little bit of a nighttime set-up for the car, but it was nothing compared to a tent and could easily be done in the dark with just a headlamp, which can’t always be said for a tent. This also meant I could get to camp a little later in the day than I normally would since I wouldn’t have to factor in the time and daylight needed for setting up camp, which in turn led to more exploration and relaxation time.

And right again about being super comfy and sleeping well. A couple adjustments after the first night and I was good to go.

There were some sacrifices I had to make, like bringing a smaller cooler since I didn’t have the same space available in the car like on my other long-distance road and camping trips, but they were definitely worth it to have the ability to sleep in the car.

There are some things I will do differently for the next trip. But the important thing is that there will definitely be another trip. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And that’s the best thing about this little conversion. I already feel way more inspired to go away for a quick camping trip than I ever have before with solo tent camping.

It’s easier and I feel much safer. And those were the two biggest things stopping me before.

Now that I’ve got those problems solved, I can get to making some minor changes, as well as to start saving some money so I can upgrade a few other things, like getting a rooftop cargo carrier to free up room inside and reduce the amount of gear I have to move around.

I’m already planning my next adventure and can’t wait to hit the road again. Until then, stay tuned for more posts in this series about turning my car into a camper.

Riding solo by Shana Berenzweig

Horsebend Bend, Arizona | August 2018

Horsebend Bend, Arizona | August 2018

“So is it just you and your dog?”

“Where’s your husband?”

“Are you meeting up with friends?”

“Wait, you’re out here all by yourself?”

“I could never do that, don’t you get scared?”

These are just a few of the questions I get asked pretty much every single solo trip I take. Both from well-meaning friends at home and strangers I encounter on the road.

Somewhere in western New Mexico, September 2018

Somewhere in western New Mexico, September 2018

I realize that the vast majority of these people are asking from a place of love and concern. And it is always nice to know people care about you and are interested in your life.

But.

(There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)

Sometimes it feels like they are projecting their fears, insecurities, and judgements on me.

I’ve written about traveling solo before (here and here), but it feels like society gives women only three options for travel: with a significant other, usually a man; for work; or with friends or family. The notion of solo female travel, even in 2018, still feels radical somehow. Or at least based on the responses I’ve experienced.

Not nearly often enough does someone lead with “Wow, that’s awesome, I’m jealous!” or share their own solo adventures, or something similarly positive. This generally applies to acquaintances and strangers, but either way I wish more folks would start with this sentiment, rather than one that is fear-based.

West Texas | September 2018

West Texas | September 2018

“Do you have a gun?”

“Do you wear a fake wedding ring so people won’t think you are alone?”

“How can you trust strangers?”

These are a few more of the types of questions I get asked all the time as if I don’t take any precautions when I set out alone. Just because I don’t want fear to control my life, doesn’t mean I don’t take steps to stay safe. For example, I always tell someone my itinerary and check in when I get somewhere. I also always trust my gut and if a stranger’s demeanor is shady or their questions too invasive, I’ll lie about my travel plans and details. Even though I’m a proud independent woman doesn’t mean I am stupid.

But.

(Y’all knew there’d be another “but.”)

I wonder how often a solo man on the road gets asked any of these questions?

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona | August 2018

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona | August 2018

Back soon with more photos from this summer’s epic seven state roadtrip!

XO

Going Solo by Shana Berenzweig

A few weeks ago I finally did something I've been wanting to do for several years. 

There will be some who think I'm stupid for doing it.  And some who will wonder what the big deal is and why it took me so long.

I went camping alone.

Well, of course Frankie was with me, but that doesn't really count.

The luxuries of car camping. An airbed. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

The luxuries of car camping. An airbed. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

My little campsite. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

My little campsite. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

For those who fall into the first category and think I'm stupid and want to know why in this crazy world I'd even think about camping alone, it's simple.

Bad shit can happen to you at home, crossing the street, at work.  Anywhere.  You prepare as best you can and then go about living your life.  I don't want this sort of fear to stop me from exploring the great outdoors or traveling in general.

The sunrise had the sky shifting in a kaleidoscope of constantly changing colors. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

The sunrise had the sky shifting in a kaleidoscope of constantly changing colors. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Because so what if you don't have someone to explore with all the time?  Or don't want to wait for when it's a good time for someone else to go?  Or aren't in a relationship at the moment?  Or what if you have people to go with but just want to get away for some alone time?  Are you just supposed to sit at home?

For me, the answer is a big, fat hell no. 

I'm not gonna sit around and daydream of going places once I have someone to go with.  Or settle for staying in hotel rooms instead of under a blanket of stars.  I'm just gonna go if I wanna.  It's a place I've found myself in before and already have written about once before.

Thankful for this friend. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Thankful for this friend. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

At this point in my life, I'm comfortable doing all sorts of stuff just me, myself, and I, and sometimes Frankie.  I hardly even think twice about most of it.  I know pretty well what my limits are and how far I can push myself.

Hiking and roadtrips with the doggo?  A movie matinee?  Eating out?  Sure, why not?

Longer trips without said doggo?  Parties and networking?  Camping?  Eh, not so much.

What keeps me from doing certain things by myself naturally depends on the activity.  When it comes to camping specifically, my active imagination plays a huge role in keeping me home or in a hotel/motel.  Thinking about sinister people, hungry wild animals, breaking my arm, or whatever fantastical scenario that flashes through my head freaks me out safely tucked in bed, so how was I ever going to do it for real out there?

I read some articles specifically by women about women camping alone to try to ease my mind and find some pearls of wisdom.  I tried to think about things rationally.  I'm doing all sorts of other stuff alone.  Why should camping be any different?

I think a big part of it starts in our culture.  Being alone is something to be avoided.  Something to be ashamed of.  Humans are social animals after all and are better off with other people, right? 

American society tells us there's something wrong with us when we are alone.  Just think of all the stereotypes and tv/movie scenes about the sad-sack eating out by themselves or the crazy old man who lives by himself.  Do I even need to mention spinsters and cat ladies? 

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

I find all of this to be especially true for women who travel or go off to explore the great outdoors alone. 

The general consensus is that it's not safe to go by yourself.  It's risky and stupid.  You could fall and break your leg or get your arm pinned under a boulder and have to saw it off with your pocketknife.  Not to mention all the sexual predators out there just waiting to pounce on a single lady.  All sorts of terrible, horrible things could happen and there would be no one to help.

Or at least that is what society tells us.

But I'm trying hard not to buy into that assumption anymore.  And so a few weeks ago, I finally went on a 24-hour solo camping adventure. 

And y'all know what?  It wasn't scary.  Like, at all.  No terrible, horrible things happened.  

My campsite off in the distance.  Thanks to the  1959 Open Beaches Act , on many Texas beaches you can drive.  I've got mixed feelings about this, but for this camping trip it was great. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

My campsite off in the distance.  Thanks to the 1959 Open Beaches Act, on many Texas beaches you can drive.  I've got mixed feelings about this, but for this camping trip it was great. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Instead I felt a tremendous sense of pride and confidence in myself.  That warm, fuzzy, I-can-do-that feeling when you face new challenges and conquer fears, and learn you are stronger than you thought.  It was an excellent exercise in independence and self-discovery.

And I can't wait to go again sometime.  Especially back to the beach.  I'm sure there will be moments of fear and they all won't be as easy as this one, but just taking that first step was huge for me and what I'm capable of accomplishing.

My shadow and me. And a very rare selfie the morning after. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

My shadow and me. And a very rare selfie the morning after. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

I thought I'd shoot more while I was there, but I found myself content just sitting in the moment.  Listening to the crash of the waves.  Watching the birds.  Taking deep breaths of humid, salty air.

And no camera between me and any of it. 

First light. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

First light. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

This is just a little peek at my adventure.  I'm also working on putting together a post with some solo camping tips and gear just in case I've inspired one of y'all to camp solo sometime.  But seeing how I'm still not very good at this whole blogging thing, I can't make any promises. 

XO

Brown pelicans get in formation. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Brown pelicans get in formation. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

The beach was covered with these teeny tiny shells. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

The beach was covered with these teeny tiny shells. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Beach color palette. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

Beach color palette. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

We heart the National Park Service and wish more of the big official parks were doggo-friendly (although we get, begrudgingly, why they aren't).  Thankfully many of the national monuments and 'lesser' parks in the NPS are welcoming to pups. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

We heart the National Park Service and wish more of the big official parks were doggo-friendly (although we get, begrudgingly, why they aren't).  Thankfully many of the national monuments and 'lesser' parks in the NPS are welcoming to pups. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

We had the beach to ourselves. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

We had the beach to ourselves. | Padre Island National Seashore, Texas | June 2018

On the way to Padre, I drove thru Rockport, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Harvey almost a year ago. While they have come so far, there was sadly still a lot of rebuilding to do. | Rockport Texas | June 2018

On the way to Padre, I drove thru Rockport, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Harvey almost a year ago. While they have come so far, there was sadly still a lot of rebuilding to do. | Rockport Texas | June 2018

A Texan measures distance in hours, not miles. by Shana Berenzweig

In late June, Frankie and I packed up the car and headed west on our third annual roadtrip to LA to visit family and friends.  Each time, I've made the 2-day trek solo, which seems to confuse some people.  Despite what they think, there are lots of great reasons to travel/roadtrip solo.  And as a single lady, sometimes you can't wait around for the right time and travel-partner-in-crime. 

The road calls and you must answer. 

West Texas | July 2017

West Texas | July 2017

Growing up in Texas, the youngest in a veteran roadtripping family, I have a fondness for the bittersweet nature of the long drive.  It takes Texans a while to get anywhere around the state, which is why we tend to measure distance by hours, not miles.  Many curse the trek across the miles and miles of Texas roads.

But I love the drive.

The solitude.

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

The stillness of dawn.

The way the land slowly flattens out from the hill country outside Austin to the wide open spaces of west Texas.

The picnics at rest stops.

The little roadside attractions.

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

The way Frankie curls up next to me.

The lull and sway of the road.

The genius, beauty, and simplicity of cruise control.

The knowing glances and synchronized back-stretching from other road-weary travelers at rest stops.

The mundane stretches of nothingness.

West Texas | July 2017

West Texas | July 2017

The freedom to stop whenever and wherever I want and as many times as my heart (or bladder) desires.

The simple, yet healing powers of having the windows down and the music up.

The giddiness when you cross another state line.

The relief when you get to your destination.

Las Cruces, NM | June 2017

Las Cruces, NM | June 2017

The good fortune of making it without getting a ticket.

The gratitude of my privilege to travel and explore.

The inevitable daydreaming of living on the road.

The comfort of returning home.

The sense of accomplishment in doing it all by myself.

The highs and the lows. 

I love it all.

These are just a few of my faves from the journey to LA and camping in the Sierras.  Hope to have more images posted soon. (But let's be real, it'll probably be a while.)

XO

 
First Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2016

First Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2016

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu, CA | June 2017

Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu, CA | June 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

Tonto National Forest, AZ | July 2017

Tonto National Forest, AZ | July 2017

Inyo National Forest, CA | July 2017

Inyo National Forest, CA | July 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

Big Pine, CA | July 2017

Big Pine, CA | July 2017

Big Pine, CA | July 2017

Big Pine, CA | July 2017

John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2017

John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Forest, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Forest, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

Sequoia National Park, CA | July 2017

John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2017

John Muir Wilderness, CA | July 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017

White Sands National Monument, NM | June 2017