January 31, 2018

Solo Women Van Dweller - Do you feel safe?

Why I love van dwelling!

Do I feel safe?
Before answering this question I would like to share some of my history. 

As a child I was never a girly girl. In fact the one photo of me playing with dolls as a child was posed. I preferred to play outside, run, climb trees, ride bikes, and build campfires in the many campgrounds we visited in Washington State. 

In my teens I sometimes rode a unicycle to jr high school and a motorcycle to high school. I dreamed of becoming an interior designer or an architect. However instead I got married at 19 to my highschool sweetheart, helped build a software development company, Comtronic Systems and had my first of two daughters at 22. 

After my second daughter was born I took on the role of full time mom, became President of the PTA, started a reading program at the elementary school, volunteered tons and in their high school years watched them play years of tennis. 

Life changed in 2002 when I got divorced. It was a time of change in many ways. It was time to discover who I was, besides mom. I once again considered going to school to become an architect but instead pursued photography because it freed me to travel.

One of the many trips - Utah
In the summer of 2004 I packed up my X5 BMW SUV and took my first car camping trip to Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. I slept in my car even though I had a tent since I felt safer that way. Also in 2004 I took my daughters and mom on a 2 week European vacation where we stayed in Zimmers (private homes). What an adventure that was! 

Truck and Camper - Idaho

I graduated to a truck and camper in 2006, traveling by myself as far away as Iowa. While on a trip to the Sawtooth Mountains in October of the same year the stock market crashed and I was momentarily scared. Scared that I might lose my house and scared that I wouldn't have enough savings. A couple hours later I paused, in the middle of my self imposed pity party, to realize that I was truly happy for the last week with very little - my camper, my computer and my camera. 

It was in that moment I realized that my happiness needed to be reassessed. Yes I needed to make deep cuts in my spending and at that time I decided to VRBO my house to help with payments but I knew that happiness wasn't tied to things, it was a way of being.

In 2010 I went back to car camping and sleeping in my car after a painful breakup with my boyfriend, he owned the truck and I owned the camper. In September of that year I flew to the east coast, rented a car (not a SUV) for 6 weeks and drove from Baltimore to New Hampshire to Long Island, to DC, down the Blue Ridge Highway to the Smoky Mountains and back up the coast to Baltimore. It was a fabulous trip. 

I remember being concerned only one night on that entire journey. I was sleeping in a parking lot along the Blue Ridge Highway. There was not a "no parking" sign but I felt like I shouldn't be there. It was dark and raining, and I was tired. So I parked in the back of the lot, kind of in the shadows, crawled to the back seat and curled up in my sleeping bag. I remember rearranging my pillow a few times, while listening to the rain, thinking I can't fall asleep. Next I knew it was morning. Once again a successful nights sleep in my car!

Other nights I remember well include:
A night in Escalante when the full moon seemed like a beacon pointing directly just on me. After that I got nightshades. 
Waking up in a packed Starbucks parking lot at 7:30am because a car door had slammed. That was a little awkward.
Parking on the street in Monterey, CA wondering if anyone would notice and since no one seemed to care doing it again the next night.
Arriving to a camp spot on BLM land in Utah at night and waking up to the most incredible view. 
Barely pulling off a gravel road with a commanding view in New Zealand to watch sunset and then sunrise.

Getting lost in New Zealand
Parking on the beach, in the woods, in the desert, in hotel parking lots, rest stops, truck stops, neighborhoods, by a cemetery, near city parks.
Listening to silence, staring at the milky way, sitting by the campfire, being visited by a fox, watching the eclipse of the sun and the moon, dancing with the Aurora Borealis.

The memories are priceless, my life fulfilled by so little when I am on the road. 

So back to the question: Do I feel safe? YES! I have had moments of concern that cause me to pause and evaluate if I am in a safe place, if in doubt I move. I have never been approached by someone that felt threatening. The plan is that if something spooks me I can easily get into the driver's seat and leave. 

My life as a vandweller came in baby steps and I have lots of experience sleeping in vehicles. However I have never lived in fear. I believe the majority of people are good and that I am safer in the woods than in the city. I lock my doors at night and keep the key by my bed. 

If you are fearful of this life style consider taking baby steps yourself. If the thought of a night in a hotel room by yourself is scary for you, evaluate why. Maybe you don't have experience navigating outside of your city, perhaps take a drive with a friend one day and repeat it by yourself the next. If you are scared for your safety take self defense classes and find out how real the dangers are. Concerned your car might break down, become a AAA member. 

In other words empower yourself, believe in yourself and take charge of your life. No one else will do it for you.

January 7, 2018

My Intention - Continue Inspiration, Positive & Honest

This morning's intention at yoga.
Purpose, Intention, Breathe In and Breathe Out.

Yoga has been a wonderful addition to my schedule while in Austin, TX. I am so grateful to Wanderlust for their special 30 days for $39 that includes unlimited yoga and showers. I took full advantage of both, sometimes engaging in back to back classes and always spending luxurious minutes under loads of water.

My life is very sweet right now as I live as a vandweller. It is a life I have wanted for a long time. Before vanlife I travelled often in my car sleeping on a foam pad in the back with the seats folded down. It was while on a solo 6 week trip to New Zealand in 2015 that I decided to make vanlife a serious goal.

Along the way I have been told two things often, "You are so brave." and "You are such an inspiration." So when at yoga this morning and it was suggested to set an intention I came up with, "Inspiration" then "Continue Inspiration" then to make it very clear to myself, "Continue Inspiration, honest and positive."

So here it is for all to witness and keep me accountable to.

January 6, 2018

#1 Question - Do you have a toilet? My Full Disclosure

So many portable toilet options if you want one!
This blog post might be too much information (TMI) for some, even though it is the number one question asked of me. I’ll warn you that blunt honestly is to follow. 

The majority of the people I share my van lifestyle with are concerned about where I will pee and poop while on the road. 

They don't quite ask me in that way, instead they ask, 
"Do you have a toilet in the van?"

The question still surprises me because I came from sleeping in my car for weeks at a time and never needed a porta-potty then. Besides, don’t you want to know all the awesome places I have visited instead of how I empty my bladder? I guess not!

Is it that we have become so domesticated that we can't imagine anything but sitting on our own private throne at home to do our business? I suppose that is partially true. 

Did you know that not every female sits on a toilet? I have seen signs in women's bathrooms, that have a large Japanese tourist population, showing women that they must not squat while standing on the toilet rim in the USA, sitting is instead required. Also, I recently read in a Lisa Sees book how a young woman, who grew up in a remote village, couldn't image why city dwellers would want to sit on the same seat that many others before them have sat on instead of squat. To each their own I suppose. 

So back to the question. Normally I answer one of two ways, depending on the person asking. 1. Nope, I did make room for one however if in the future I want one. 2. Yes, it is stored under the bed (not truthful but makes some people more comfortable.) These answers satisfies most people and the issue is dropped. 

However I believe the questions should continue so here is complete disclosure, for me personally, as I wouldn’t dare guess how others remove the waste from their bodies. 

How do you avoid the need to pee in the van?

Before I enter my van in the evening I do my best to empty my bladder, if in nature I usually squat nearby the van. If in the city I find a restroom, most of the time. Honestly, dogs pee on bushes and I have too. I have also peed In alleys, in dark corners and in the middle of the night. Okay now that I have revealed that, I have always wondered why a  guy can and a girl shouldn’t?

What happens if you have to pee in the middle of the night and don’t want to go outside? 

If I just can’t hold it any longer in the middle of the night I’ll use a portable urinal that I bought at Amazon.
It works great, doesn't leak and has a large capacity -  but I hate to clean it out in the morning so I avoid it if at all possible.

Have you ever had a bowel movement (my mom calls it that) in your van?

Nope I have never pooped in the van. Pooping is always, in my case, in the woods, where I dig and cover, or a public toilet. 

When you first wake up don’t you really have to go?

Most mornings I wake with an urgent need to pee. However I usually lay there, write my Morning Pages, check emails and read social media postings. 
When I do get up, I dress first, when in the city, and by the time I complete that task and make the bed I am surprised how the urgency has diminished, sometimes so much so that I stay in the van for an hour or so longer without relieving myself. Okay this is not a good option for many because it is my understanding that “holding it” too long can lead to a UTI but so far that has not happened to me. 
Also, another disclosure, I am not a “need to drink coffee first thing” girl so that helps with the need for number two first thing in the morning. 

When in the city I park near a coffee shop, cafe, gas station, hotel lobby, Walmart or 24 hour services; just in case I do need to use their facilities first thing or last thing. When traveling from place to place I often spend the night at a Rest Stop. 

Bottom line, I suppose, is that I never stress over it. I just make it part of my life and don’t feel inconvenienced. Thankfully I have never had the flu or illness that might make the issue acute. If the need was acute, I suppose, I would either be in a mess of trouble, possibly rely on ziplock bags or quickly rent a hotel room. 

So now that you know that I don’t have a toilet, don’t want one and am totally happy with my arrangement, maybe, just maybe, you can be a little less concerned for me. 

Now if I did have one I may get the composting toilet kind but they must be vented which means air exchange, cold air at night in many cases. Brrrr!

January 5, 2018

My Journey as a Solo Woman Van Dweller

Teri Lou and her Artistic Adventurer Van
My life dramatically changed in 2017 and so it was time to expand teriloublog.com to better express my artistic adventures.  This blog now includes: vanlife, photography and other thoughts as I meander through life. My goal is to educate, encourage and inspire people to fulfill their dreams.

At one time, as my daughters grew up, I was a more traditional woman with routines that didn't change much day to day, year to year. Then everything changed in 2002, I got divorced and my daughters were in high school; it was time to figure out who I was.

The journey has been full of: travel to amazing locations, incredible people who have given to me unselfishly, heart ache and hard work, variety of creative endeavors, and self discovery that lead to a very happy and content Teri Lou.

I am now a very non traditional woman as a full time solo van dweller who as a professional photographer prefers the iPhone because I can express myself in emotionally creative ways anytime, anywhere. My days are rarely the same and so I see this blog meandering as I do.

Please join me on this artistic adventure. Subscribe through email - see link on left column.
Who knows where it will lead us to.

July 6, 2016

iPhoneography Art Show in Moscow - Art Affair

I will be showing and selling my Palouse images at the Art Affair July 13th 2016. 
Hope to see you there.
There will be over 20 different images available. Prints in barn wood frames, metal prints, luster paper prints and postcards. Come pick a few!

July 2, 2016

iPhone Photography - iPhoneography - Workshop for All Skill Levels

iPhone Creative Workshop will be awesome. Be sure to find time to join Lynette and I in Lake Tahoe this October. It will ignite your creativity in a whole new way. Let's grow and learn together!

Click here for all the information.

February 24, 2016

iPhone Photography Processing - Sunshine to Rain

Processed with DistressedFX, Rainy Daze and Snapseed

Take a look at yesterdays blog post of my first serious iPhone photo. The image of the beautiful blue sky and gorgeous fall colors.
Today I processed that image with a challenge in mind, how to create a moody rain storm. The photo has now taken on a very gloomy appearance. Amazing how just a few processing steps can change the mood completely.

First step that came to mind was to use DistressFX to add texture and tone down the saturated colors. See above for the setting that were chosen.

Rainy Daze
Next the image was processed in Rainy Days. Don't you love the way the trees glow? An unexpected bonus.

The final photo at the top of the blog was also processed in Snapseed, desaturating the colors and adding structure for more definition to the rain drops.

Try it yourself.

February 23, 2016

My iPhone Photography Beginning - September 2010 iPhone 4s

Unedited ProHDR Image from 2010 
My AH HA moment

I have been going through several old hard drives looking for images to put on Dropbox so I can access all my iPhone photos in one place, when I came across this photo. iPhone 4s - Sept 2010

The scene:
I am in New Hampshire at a photo workshop with my Nikon camera when John Barclay informs me of an app called ProHDR that I must install on my iPhone. Ok I think, I'll give it a try. Then a fellow student Dan let's me borrow his iPhone holder for a tripod. (crazy looking thing).
As you see by the photo it is a gorgeous day. I set up my iPhone Camera next to the shore of this river, opened the app ProHDR, tapped the button, watched the screen saying 'calculating, hold still' and then a few seconds later this incredible HDR processed image appears on my screen.
For the next several months (embarrassing to think back on sometimes) I was a crazy girl, thrusting the iPhone in anyone's face that was nearby to show them my latest photo and exclaim 'WOW, look at this, amazing, it was taken with an iPhone, can you believe it?" I was hooked and became know as the App Queen as I absorbed everything iPhone Photography.
What a great journey it has been. 
I must also mention Harry Sandler as he is my gracious mentor and friend that guides me to learn so much about photography.

There are many others that influence and inspire - a few include: Lynette Sheppard, Karen Messick, Dewitt Jones, Laura Peischl, Bobbi McMurry, Helen Breznik, Dan Burkholder

February 7, 2016

Night iPhone Photography Comparison

Since ProCamera just released the in-app purchase 'LowLight+' I went to the Portland Winter Light Festival to capture some comparisons between different camera apps.

I am the visual comparison type, not the technical type so this comparison is purely visual for you to decide for yourself what image you like better. If you want to find out how the different apps are technically capturing the image I am sure there is plenty of opportunities to find out through a Google search.

The first image in each pair is the original capture focused and exposed with a tap on the center of the flower. The second image was processed in Snapseed with two folder settings: HDR Scape - Nature - 100 and Details - Structure - 100. This processing technique was to show the noise not as a suggestion for the best processing option.

There are obliviously differences in the results. I can see that LowLight+ has much smaller noise particles, with an interesting pattern in this example. However to accomplish this the image is much softer.

I was most surprised by the Native Camera and SlowShutter (by Cogitap) results. Even though without processing they all have very little noise.

iPhone Camera Night with Snapseed


Camera+ Night with Snapseed


ProCamera LowLight+ with Snapseed


SlowShutter Night with Snapseed


November 23, 2015

Morning Has Broken

Morning has Broken

As I sit in my warm car in between rain squalls I am looking out at the Okarito Lagoon. The air is moist and everything is cast in gray, a stark contrast to the brilliant greens in the gorge the day before. 
The mood is quiet and still, even with the birds fluttering about. 
Among some brilliant mountain peaks that were meant for a less cloudy perfect sunset location. However even last night the showers and mist prevented a peak at their grandeur. 
A small boat house is sitting proudly at the shore of the lagoon. A simple 'Information' sign is at the top of the ramp. 
The rain has stopped for a moment, perhaps I'll have a closer look. 

The processing for this image includes a texture later from the boat house siding. I captured the image with the hope that it would be fun to use. 

November 16, 2015

Smash Palace - New Zealand

What is this girl going to do when she's driving 100 km down a country road at 8:30am and sees a sign pointing turn right now for 'Vintage Car Museum'? Put on the brakes fast, but not fast enough and figure a safe place to make a U-turn.

As I approach I saw rusty vehicles everywhere, acres of them. Piled high, rusting into the ground, with ferns growing out of them, with wooden wheels, most with steering wheels on the left and there were even sheep milling about to keep the grass down-how awesome is that. 
A dream come true. 

I find rusty fascinating. The patterns, textures and color as they deteriorate   The models of cars here in New Zealand vs the places in the US were so new and different. Many small cars, few hot rods, even the trucks and buses were tiny. 

After spending only 1.5 hours outside I finally went into the 'museum' for a $5 donation admission charge that was promised would go into a fund for the 'new' museum. 
I walked up a narrow steep stairwell and found what can only be described as: a car part hoarders dream! Millions of organized chrome gems. Starters, grills, license plates, chains, hub caps, head lights, carburetors, electric wiring, radios - every piece from those gutted shells in the junk yard outside - AMAZING! 

Walking around I was quite careful, even tiptoed when observing the floor bowing under the pile of complete motors. Wondered how the building didn't collapse under the weight of so much metal. 

What a rewarding morning I had!

November 13, 2015

To Paris with Love

Feeling very sad that there is such cruelty in the world. Caused me to pause and appreciate my life a bit more. Hug the ones you love, life is uncertain.