June 25, 2018

Best Apps for Finding What to do When Visiting a New City?

Best Apps for Finding What to do When Visiting a New City
Vacation vs VanLife
Some people plan months in advance when going on vacation but that isn’t often the case when living on the road full time. Many times I find myself wandering from one place to the other because of recommendations by others. This way of travel is exciting and often brings me to places I never would have visited otherwise.

Often when I arrive I will go to the visitor center and ask questions: What shouldn’t I miss doing or seeing when here? Is there a special event happening this week? Where can I take a shower? Is there free camping? Do you know of a vegan restaurant? 
The answers are often helpful but there are other options that provide much more information. Here is a list of apps I often use as reference.

Yelp is most known for finding great restaurant options around you. Not only will you find a large variety of food but each location is rated helping you to weed through the not so good places. Yelp however is helpful in many other ways, try searching: “comedy clubs”, “hiking trails” or “beaches” for things to do. If you are in need of personal care search: “shower”, “haircut”, “pedicure”, or ”laundromat”. The options are pretty much limitless. I like to filter my search with the “open now” option checked so I don’t drive across town just to realize the place is closed. Yelp provides phone numbers, directions, website links, reviews and so much more. If you haven’t yet used Yelp you will soon love it.

Facebook - Events
If you have never accessed this portion of Facebook you will be amazed at the options listed. Where ever you are or might be going to you can find an abundance of events that are happening, Today, Tomorrow, This Weekend, Next Week or Choose Date. The events are searchable by type if you tap ‘Filter’ and pick from choices like: Art, Health, Music, Party, Food, etc.
The events will provide information on number of people going or just interested, the date and time, location, details and how to get tickets, if applicable.

If you aren’t already a member of Meetup you should be. Meetup is an App that gives you access to groups of people that gather for all kinds of activities. Hiking, happy hour, board games, coffee and chat, and photography; are just a few of the 1000’s of options. Each city has their own options.
If you are a planner you can start joining groups all over the country that have like interests and see what activities are planned or join when you arrive at a particular city. Some Meetup groups have fees, but most likely waive it for the first time attendees. Sign up for the activities/events you want to attend. If you change your mind or can’t attend change your status to “not going” as being a no show isn’t polite since you most likely stopped someone else from being able to attend.

Other Apps
Another favorite suggestion is to search and download  apps that the visitor center or chamber in the city you are visiting created. By searching the name of the city you may find a variety of options. Start with the free ones to find “Things to do in ....”
Also Travelocity is a great reference for option of things to do and see in different cities.

Where do plan to visit next? What will you do there? Who will you meet? Enjoy the adventures that lie ahead!

June 18, 2018

Top Questions at TinyFest California

Information Board at TinyFest California
I just spent 3 days at TinyFest California sharing my van build and my vanlife with the public. After talking to about 500 people I have tallied what the top 5 questions were. I will answer them briefly here and continue to expand the information regarding each one in future posts.

If you have additional questions that you would like me to answer please add it to the comments.

Where do you sleep?
Since my van is very stealth, I am able to park it overnight most anywhere. I never park where it is signed not to because that is just asking to be hassled.
Some places have been: Hospital, Hotels, Apartments, Roadsides, Neighborhoods, Friend's house, Rest Stop, Truck Stop, Campgrounds, Churches, Trailheads, Casinos, BLM Land, Forest Service Land, etc.

Where do you take a shower?
I have an outside shower that I can use if in private location, I have also used: Laundromat, Campground (even if you are just at the Day Use area), Truck Stop, Recreation Center, beach parks  (swimming suit required).

Have you been hassled by the police or security?
Before arriving to my location that I plan to sleep for the night I take care of my bathroom needs and anything else that would require me to leave the van. Then I find my location, park, shut my partition between the cab and living space, cover my windows with blackout curtains and THEN turn on the lights. This way I am less likely to attract attention. I also am quiet, respectful and leave in the morning before I would most likely be noticed.

Do you have a toilet?
Not in my van, however I often use a female urinal.
For full disclosure please read a previous post, "Do you have a Toilet?".

How long have you been living in your van?
Since May 2017, just put my house in Washington on the market and have no plans on stopping this lifestyle at present.

Please follow me: Instagram @artisticadventurervan

June 15, 2018

Happily Houseless - Live the Life of Adventure and Opportunity

Teri Lou is Happily Houseless
A Happily Houseless Life!

Since my goal is to provide inspiration, guidance and assistance to those wanting to pursue their dream of living on the road, I am starting a new business.

In the next few months I will create several step-by-step, easy to follow handouts that will guide, educate and empower you. I will schedule workshops that will help with design and the conversion. There will also be live chats to discuss the questions that are currently on your mind.

Whether you are planning to start in several years after retirement or just want some last minute advice, you will find the answers you are looking for to move you toward your goal.

Plan, Design, Build, Travel, Live

Some topics:

How much does it cost to live on the road full time?
Is it really safe?
Where can I park overnight?
What vehicle should I buy?
How much does it cost to convert a vehicle?
What size of vehicle do I need?
Should I bring along my pet?
How about kids, is this lifestyle a good choice for them?
Where do I start?
What happens if I don’t like it?
Should I sell everything I own?
What about personal care?

Don’t want to wait until the business is up and running…. No problem.

Until I have the handouts, blogposts, workshop schedule and the rest of the business plan set up, I am providing free one hour consultations. Please email me at teri@terilou.com

This adventure is going to be one of my best!

For daily inspiration go to Instagram @artidticadventurervan

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