Photo by Mallory Culbert
I was fortunate enough to meet Travis, Lauren and their road captain George back in the early spring of 2014. They had set up shop at my work and I was immediately drawn to their vintage camper and all the amazing artwork,vintage,makers and designers they had packed into that beautiful Airstream. I was able to have a quick conversation with both Travis and Lauren and I picked their brain a little bit just about life on the road and how they make things work while living on the road for the past few years. It was kinda crap weather in Chicago while they were here so they didn't get to stay open as much as they wanted and they left a day or two after we spoke, I figured that was probably the last time I would see them or we might cross paths somewhere down the line.
At this point and time, Stef and I had been talking about leaving Chicago and finding a home in another state. Southern California was an option, Long Beach to be exact, and we were actually both kind of excited about it. As the summer pushed on and we thought more and more about it we came up with the grand idea to take a road trip to figure out exactly where we wanted to live and that ended up snowballing into finding a camper trailer that we could live in, travel, and search for dream destination to live. A few months after I had met Small Room Collective we had found the Frolic and we couldn't be more excited to get in and get to work on it!
A few short days after we got our camper I heard news that Travis, Lauren, and George were back in town and posted up at our sister restaurant a few miles away. I think I was supposed to meet up with Stef when I had gotten off work that day but I completely spaced it do to the fact I was filled with complete joy that Small Room Collective was back in town. I had to see them and tell them our master plan, I had to ask them a million stupid questions on how they make it work, I had to know exactly what Stef and I were getting ourselves into first hand from people that have been doing this for two years now!!! I probably rode my bike way faster than I should have over there and might have made a complete fool of myself acting like a little school girl but they were both very sweet and were genuinely excited for Stef and I once I told them our plan. I remember texting Stef that she had to come over and meet them if it was the last thing she did, she now understood why I wasn't answering my phone and really wasn't that mad at me. After a few beers on the patio Stef arrived and the 4 of us sat there and talked for some time,it was amazing just hearing their stories and all the valuable information they have collected after being on the road for so long. It was getting late so we decided that we were going to take off and before we left Travis and I exchanged numbers, I don't think he intended for me to use that number as much as I have with my million questions I've asked over the past 9 months but Stef and I very grateful for all their help and support over these last few months. Travis and I now talk every few days now that we are about 1 month away from being in the camper and we have made some good plans to meet up this July and do a little bit of traveling together on the east coast. We are very fortunate to call Travis, Lauren and George our friends with only have actually hung out twice in our lives, haha. But that's what is so special about this whole community of full-time travelers,rvers,weekend warriors or whatever you want to call us. Every person we have met (or have never actually met in person) has been more than supportive and some of the sweetest humans I have ever come in contact with.
Here's a quick interview Stef came up with for Travis and Lauren, just a couple questions that racked our brains leading up to our departure and that we found might be helpful to our readers. So thank you guys very much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to answer our questions and we look forward to seeing you very soon!
- What is your background or education?
Grew up in Georgia, became an orphan at 16. He went on to study product design at Georgia Tech, enrolling his final year of high school. After working in various roles launching medical & consumer products, as well as exhibits, , he moved to Los Angeles and obtained an MA in Theology and the Arts. He then worked a short stint in the IT world in Los Angeles, meeting Lauren and then moving to Mobile, AL. Then we got hitched and after living 2 years in Austin doing Design, we left and to travel. He built out the trailer in a couple weeks and continues to be our logistical captain.
Grew up in Texas and was a tomboy who liked the color pink. Her favorite babysitters were old women who lived on her block named Rosemary and Sue Ellen, plus Madeline who did not live on her block. You could commonly find her on a rope swing over a creek, with her basset hound Henrietta, running out in some field, or dressed up in a costume. She left Texas to study creative writing in California and then decided that she would go to nursing school in Alabama. She now is a travel nurse part of the year, does some freelance and personal writing, and co-runs Small Room Collective. She is a hair-brained-scheme type of person that likes to break it down on the dance floor and loves a good adventure.
Found on the streets of Pflugerville, TX (just north of Austin), George came in our lives like a lightning bolt upon finding him at Town Lake Animal Shelter (now Austin Pets Alive). He loves deeply and sleeps even more so, but he's a hard working shop dog that loves every bit of attention he receives.
- What inspires your work?
We're always looking for the transcendent or grandiose in the miniscule. Knowing that the smallest of things have value, and we hope to connect and promote that. The opportunity to constantly discover. So many gems out there
- What does your camper look like?
Its like a large shiny piece of aluminum with wheels. A chrome exhaust pipe with wheels! :)
- What do you pull it with?
Sprinter Van 2500 - 144" wheelbase.
- How do you guys get your mail?
Mail has been tricky for us. Lots of difficulty, especially with tolls and those kinds of things. Lauren's mom sends it to us in bulk a few times a year.
- Do you belong to any camper or RV organizations?
We're only official members of Harvest Hosts. However we've found such a community of travelers out there. We're not organized, but if we had to pick a leader I think Dan of @malimishairstream is the mayor.
- Whats your favorite place to camp?
Coastal, desert and any where free, including friends' driveways, farms, wineries, etc. Getting off the beaten path and boondocking in the middle of nowhere is awesome. But because we find ourselves in urban areas a lot for setting up the shop/gallery, we love being in the middle of metropoli with Bob (the trailer) and George anywhere we can fit (without people complaining).
- How do you make a living?
Through our Small Room Collective Road Emporium which is a mobile Shop/Gallery+ our other pursuits. Lauren writes,Travis does design work of all kinds. Lauren also works as a RN on a contract, typically in the winter.
- What do you use for Wifi, phone, insurance?
We have a hotstpot with Verizon. We have 2 phones on that plan as well. Insurance we have an agreed upon value with Nationwide for the Airstream. The Healthcare exchanges, despite our hopes,was a bust. It has been a mess and we opt not to participate anymore.
- How long have you been doing this?
With the trailer, we are just starting our 3rd year. We've been traveling for 4.5 years.
- Describe the hardest day you have had on the road.
Hmmm. Boy, we've had some tough ones for sure.... trying to get into NYC became a 5 hour ordeal due to having propane tanks on the trailer and not being able to cross certain tunnels and bridges only on the top level--instead of a 30 minute ordeal which is what Google maps indicated;when George got bitten by several ticks and got really sick last summer, and we had to coordinate vet appointments with moving from city to city; being on the toad and learning that we've lost people we love. Lots of hard moments, but that happens in life. Luckily we are adaptable and somehow figure out how to keep the wheels spinning.
- Describe the most rewarding day you have had on the road
Everyday we meet cool people, and we know its an especially good day when going to sleep we feelit and know, "this is why we do this".
- Who travels with you?
Just us, our 10.5 year old lab hound mix George & around 70 makers + shakers (via their good and art work).
You can visit thier website at www.smallroomcollective.com or give them a follow on Twitter and Instagram @smallroomcollective. Also Travis has an amazing company out of the camper he calls his "Mobile Motorcycle Exploratorium" called Hardy Bros Moto. Check them out at www.hardybrosmotoworks.com and Instagram @hardybrosmotoworks and Twitter @hardybrosmoto