Friday, December 13, 2019

Annie Wynn's Wonderful World: 3 Years on the Road

Tiny trailer camping, Safari Condo Alto
"At Seaview State Park, in Washington State, on my way to my first Alto Rally in Oregon, 2016."

During the Renaissance, a balanced life was considered ideal. Specialization in only one area without a breadth of abilities was not as admirable as integrating the physical, mental, and social skills of life into one harmonious dynamic. Annie Wynn, full-time tiny trailer owner and world traveler, has and is living a diverse, "renaissance" life: sailor, project manager, tech writer, programmer, photographer, world-class traveler, and in the last three years a tiny trailer owner.

Based out of Florida, Annie describes herself in the following words: "I am a vagabond in a Safari Condo Alto 1743 trailer towed by a Subaru Outback 3.6R. I started full-timing in May, 2016 and have camped in 38 out of the 48 states in the continental US as well as four Canadian provinces." Having legal residence in Florida enables Annie to vote and have health care. She is also the writer and administrator of her website, Wynn Worlds, which provides fascinating reading about her dynamic lifestyle as a full-time RV adventurer. Check out her About page for more details regarding her life and times in Seattle, Santa Cruz, Boston, New York, and L.A. "So, yeah, I get around!"

Tiny trailer camping, Safari Condo Alto
Annie Wynn, 2018

Also a photographer, Annie has photographs available for viewing and purchase at the website Smugmug. She also has published three books of photography, Coast to Coast, Sunday Serenity, and Daylilies. Links to these books are on the Photography page of her website, as are links to her galleries on Smugmug.

"Schodack Landing State Park, New York.
Just south of Albany, this is one of the newest state parks
 and one of the best, mainly because it’s right on the Hudson River."

Annie had to wait fifteen months before traveling to Quebec to pick up "Breeze" on May 2, 2016, so she thinks that date will always be in her brain. "I really didn't know what I needed, so I bought all the options, like solar and a better heater; everything except the microwave and inverter!" She gets a lot of questions about her tow vehicle, "Bella," a 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R (six-cylinder), which has a tow capacity of 3,000 pounds, "so I made a web page for it (and get fewer questions now)."

From Annie's Year 1 "Alto-versary"
I remember being nervous about if I had the right hitch and wiring, what tools I might need on a daily basis, and, biggest thing of all, how the hell to drive with a trailer on the back of my Subaru. When I showed up on May 2, the Safari Condo person, Denis, was training two new guys so we all learned a lot that day! And then suddenly, the training wheels were off, and it was just me and Bella and the Breeze. I drove the mile down to the KOA campground completely out of my depth and more than a little freaked out. But I made it.

Schodack Landing State Park, New York; KOA
Driving 1 mile to the KOA in Quebec City, Canada, Annie's first time ever towing,  May 2016

When she was young, she did Girl Scout camping as a kid, and then a bit of tent camping in her 20s. "And then nothing till I bought the trailer. I’d never spent a night in an RV or towed a trailer. I did not realize how big a life change this would be, but I had lived on boats so I knew I could handle small quarters and a very limited amount of possessions."
"Unlike a lot of people, I think I bought into the full-timing life because I love to travel, not because I love to camp. I had traveled all over the globe for work and loved seeing new places: Ireland, England, Austria, Luxembourg, Australia, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, Beijing, Tokyo. I’m a lifelong vagabond at heart, and having a trailer was a way to bring my stuff with me (I really got to hate hotel rooms…) and explore America rather than the rest of the world."

California Redwoods; Tiny Trailer camping; Safari Condo Alto
"Photographs cannot truly capture what it is like to walk among the California Redwoods,
completely alone, the forest silent except for late-season birds and the sound
of my footsteps meandering down the narrow dirt trail.
I crane my neck up at every bend, the trees soaring so very high above me."
November 2019.

Annie chose the Alto because of the build quality, owner experiences with it, and the manufacturer. The Alto 1743 possessed the no-compromise requirements she had set down: "separate table and bed, so I could have both in use, and a toilet. I wanted a 'home' that I could leave behind at a campground while I took the car to explore, buy groceries, etc."

In the past 3 years, Annie's gotten around a fair bit.

Having lived full-time in her Alto since the day she picked it up, Annie has amassed some impressive numbers: 40,600 miles on the Alto; and 323 campgrounds, RV parks, boondocking spots, hotel parking lots, and driveway surfing at friends' homes since May of 2016. She camps mostly at state or provincial parks, which are a mix of hookups and dry camping. "I have boondocked a bit, and I try to avoid RV parks, which are mostly upscale parking lots where it can be really noisy and crowded for me. I like wide open spaces and no one camping six feet away from me."

Big Bend National Park; tiny trailer camping; Alto Safari Condo
"One day I got up early to hike a nature trail and my reward was seeing this on my way out.
By the time I came back this way it was gone, the slight morning mist dissolved by the heat."
Big Bend National Park, Texas, March 2017.

Coastal camping is Annie's "absolute favorite" place to camp, but she's not afraid to mix it up. "I’ve spent a month on the South Carolina coast the last two winters and loved it both times, even though it was a bit cold. I never really liked the desert till I camped in New Mexico for a few months in 2016-2017, and then I fell in love with it and can’t wait to get back there this winter. And anywhere I can put my kayak into the water is going to be an awesome place. I love floating on the water, it’s my church." And as for what time of year makes the best camping, any time is OK "when it's warm enough to wear t-shirts and shorts." Annie has strong opinions, though, about her least favorite part of full-timing, at least in terms of weather. "Camping in endless rain is my least favorite part of full-timing. I can deal with cold but rain, not so much."

Blue Ridge Parkway; tiny trailer camping; Alto Safari Condo
"The road down from the Blue Ridge Parkway was steep and twisty enough
that I moved my car to manual and went down in second gear.
Only the second time in a year I’ve felt the need to do that!" June 2019.

From Annie's Year 2 "Alto-versary"
I’ve learned a lot in the last two years, more than I could ever put into one post. Here’s a short summary.
  • Family and friends are the key to surviving life on the road.
  • You can learn anything if you want it enough. 
  • You’re never that far from a Walmart. Or a Target. Amazon sells almost everything and delivers almost everywhere.
  • Plans change, and I can, too.

tiny trailer camping; Alto Safari Condo
A cold day in Colorado, October 2017

Living in her Alto full-time, even with all her world-traveler experiences, has still managed to provide Annie with insights into herself and her personal strengths, as the experience below reveals.
"I worried about traveling solo and committing to the trailer life. I thought, what if I broke my leg or something, what would I do? A year after I started full-timing, I fell and broke a finger. One finger but it turned everything upside down. A week later, I was finally leaving town, hand in a cast for a month, and got a flat tire on my trailer. One of my favorite pictures is my purple cast in front of the shredded tire. It was 90F, humid as heck, and I spent two hours on a stranger’s farm waiting for the tow truck. And surprisingly, all I did was laugh. In the space of ten days, two things I had feared the most had happened and I was fine. (I also wrote about the finger incident and aftermath here.)"
tiny trailer camping; Safari Condo Alto
"Everything is broken."

She also relates a happier favorite story that is a longer, more complicated one, but she has managed to shorten the story to one line: "When I bought my Alto, I didn’t realize I was gaining a new tribe." She has made wonderful friends through a shared love of Altos, and camping with those friends has been a series of fun adventures during her last two years. "They help me out when I’m stuck, they cheer me up long-distance when I’m lonely or cold, and my life is richer because of all of them."

New Mexico; tiny trailer camping; Safari Condo Alto
New Mexico, 2017

When asked the following question--In what ways have you modified, personalized, or upgraded your trailer or equipment that has made camping more fun?--for Annie, it was pretty much a case of, "Now, don't get me started!"`
"Oh, man, lots of little things to make the inside more useful, from a different table mount to a latex topper for the bed, taking off the door of the bathroom to buying new cushion covers (which aren’t here yet!). And a set of applique flowers and vines from Home Depot that I stuck on the walls, which I love. 
"I’ve changed my infrastructure to support full-timing better: two Viking fiberglass propane tanks on the tongue, a permanently installed surge protector, and my next project, moving up to a Battleborn battery and better solar controller. I want to boondock more, and this setup will help a lot with that. 
"I realized early on with this vagabond life that connectivity was important to me, both personally and for my part-time work as a contract technical writer. So I’ve invested in two phone plans, two hotspots, a Netgear MIMO antenna, and a Weboost cellular signal booster. While I like to disconnect sometimes, and enjoy that, I also enjoy staying in touch with people via things like Facebook and Twitter and good old-fashioned email. It would be a much lonelier life without cell towers and cell phones."
Annie's advice to new owners of tiny trailers is to "figure out what kind of camping you want to do. When I started, I had no idea what my camping preferences were, and I blew through a fair amount of equipment I didn’t really use or need. So that’s my second piece of advice: Don’t buy much before you figure out what kind of camper you are. Turns out I’m more of a glamper than a hard-core boondocker, at least so far."

From Annie's Year 3 "Alto-versary"
I’m starting year 4 and I’m ready for it. Head cold, hot weather? No sweat. Broken hand, flat tire? Been there, done that. I’ve learned I can deal with whatever comes my way. As my dear friend told me when I was panicking that first year, “You got this.” Yes, I do.

Nova Scotia; tiny trailer camping; Safari Condo Alto
Bella and Breeze in Nova Scotia, May 2018

For future plans, Annie is planning for a trip next year over the top of Lake Superior. "I’ve done the lower half (in the US) but not the upper, and it’s been on my bucket list for a few years. My longer term dream is to figure out how to stay a month or so in places that really interest me so that I can explore the place without having to move every seven or fourteen days (the limit for most campgrounds)." She's already camping at a slower pace, with more time in each place, than she did the first few years, and she enjoys that much more than rushing to the next new place. Annie has provided such experienced-based advice that speaks to the heart, hopefully one day we'll pull into a campground, and there she'll be, kicked back beside Breeze and enjoying the life.

All photos copyrighted by Wynn Worlds Photography

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