Korrine W. traveled 7,000 miles across the northern part of the country [US], then down the Pacific Coast out of the back of their Chevy Colorado with their dog, Rocko, before picking up their partner Suri W. in Las Vegas, Nevada where they traveled an additional 7,000 miles across the Southwest and back to Brooklyn!
14,000 miles, 26 states, 12 National Parks, and 2 alligators later they have some tips and tricks for living on the road!
Traveling as Queer/Non-Binary:
The goal was to trek around the back country and off beaten paths across America, so we stayed away from cities completely, which initially felt pretty intimidating! However, the reality was a lot different than the one in our heads. Often times, we were camping in places where there was no one around and when we did camp around people they were usually curious about where we were from and how we could live in such a tiny space! Did we get looks sometimes? Sure. Was it uncomfortable? Of course. But, luckily, we were never in a position where our safety was threatened or compromised. However, one time deep in Louisiana we stayed at a State Park and when I went out to use the bathroom someone or something was in our campsite. It went into the woods and we quickly moved to a new campsite that had more people around. In short, always have a plan B!
That leads us into safety. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. There’s a difference between being nervous about a campsite and having a bad feeling. There were a few places we camped that just didn’t feel right, so we moved. Trust your gut. If you plan to camp somewhere remote, always have a backup place to go. Look up 24-hour gas stations, casinos, or grocery stores just in case you need to change locations. If nothing’s around you, store away some motel cash as a plan B-2.
We carried Bear Mace, which emits a wide 30 foot spray that will incapacitate any large animal or human in its path. Along with that, we carried smaller maces and a large knife. Luckily, we never had to use any of it.
Places we camped:
Freecampsites.net is a great resource for free places to camp! It has reviews and, sometimes, photos of the campsites! I used this website throughout the entire trip!
Bureau of Land Management Property: This is public use land you can camp on for FREE!
State Parks: $10-$30 per night and there’e usually access to bathrooms and showers.
Recreation Areas: $7 for truck/tent camping per night – 1/2 off if you have a National Parks Pass! That means you’ll pay $3.50 for a campsite. So cheap!
24-hour gas station parking lots, truck stops, travel centers: I always called from the parking lot to see where they preferred overnighters to park if it wasn’t obvious.
24-hour casino parking lots: This one was dangerous for Korrine only because they can’t be trusted in a casino (read: too many slot machines, not enough money). Do know some casinos require you to play to stay overnight in their parking lot.
24-hour grocery store parking lots: Listen. We’re not pro-Walmart, but throughout this trip you bet your ass we stayed overnight in some Walmart parking lots. Walmarts are everywhere and many allow free overnight parking, which means you have access to a bathroom and a well lit, well trafficked place to sleep.
Speaking of bathrooms… where do you go when you’re in the middle of nowhere? You go outside. Weird? Maybe the first few times you do it (and by “it”, I mean shit outside), but after that you’ll prefer it and miss it once the trip is over. Bring a tiny fold up shovel. Walk away from your campsite, dig a hole, do your business, and cover it up.
2-3 layered outfits: don’t use up valuable space with unnecessary clothing. You may think you need a piece of clothing for any and all occasions, but the reality is you’ll end up wearing the same two outfits throughout your entire trip! Trust me on this one.
Food and Water:
One coffee cup, plate, and cutlery set per person. One pan with a lid. One cooking utensil. A Coleman one burner stove for cooking and a few mini propane tanks. One french press if coffee is mandatory like it was for Korrine! Store your food and cooking gear in a bin with a lid. Easy access to your supplies is everything! We used long bins that slid under the bed in the truck. Everything was organized and super breezy to get to. We reused 7 one gallon water jugs and refilled them at State Parks or Recreation Areas for free.
Things you may forget to budget for:
National Park Pass: $80 for a year of National Park goodness. If you plan to go to multiple National Parks get this pass! It will pay for itself after going to roughly three parks. Completely worth it!
Firewood: Who doesn’t love to be under a star filled sky next to a cozy fire!? It cost anywhere between $5-$7 for a small bundle of wood and one bundle, when used efficiently, will get your fire started. Include another bundle to keep it going.
Showers: When we stayed at State Parks, we rarely came across showers that were free. Keep a roll of quarters in your vehicle, so you can freshen up your butt when you have the opportunity.
Motels: Some people will say, “You’re traveling on the road, living out of the back of your truck. Why would you stay at a motel?” There’s a 100 reasons why, but the reality is it might be the only option when you’ve exhausted all the others. We stayed at Motel 6 a few times before we realized we could use Priceline’s “buy a hotel room based on how many stars it has” option. When you do this, you don’t know which hotel you’ll get, but we ended up with really nice hotel rooms on the cheap. Also, if you’re traveling with a dog, many hotels charge a pet fee for your pooch. The great thing about staying at Motel 6 is they don’t charge extra if you bring your fur baby along with you!
Korrine at Badlands National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Smith Rock State Park
Alvord Hot Springs
Meadow Hot Springs
Suri (left) and Korrine (right) at Meadow Hot Springs
Mystic Hot Springs
Korrine (left) and Suri (right) at Great Sand Dunes
Suri at Great Sand Dunes
Colorado/New Mexico boarder
Korrine at Aguirre Springs
Sea Rim State Park
Sea Rim State Park