First off, for our readers that have no clue what @TheLittleTrailer is, give us a little rundown!
TheLittleTrailer is our trademark and Instagram presence for the 30 Day Around-the-USA road trip Mandii and I took this Summer 2016. We called our journey @thelittletrailer because we purchased a vintage, DIY teardrop trailer to provide our storage and shelter throughout the 20 states we visited. Her name is June. We will continue to take June on our future adventures, and later allow others to rent her for their own explorations as well!
Now going beyond the trailer, give us a little introduction... Your names, where you’re from, how you like your eggs, haha anything random you'd like us to know about y'all!
(Right) My name is Maria Robles. I'm 23 and have fortunately lived in Ventura County my whole life. I study holistic health & communications at CSUCI and compete and help direct our Endurance Club for cross country and sprint triathlons. I love to learn about metaphysics, energy and frequencies, space time, biohacking, drugs, and to watch documentaries with my new kitten that I adopted in Oklahoma during this road trip! I moved back into my parent's home to work part time as a self-employed executive assistant while I finish my degrees.
(Left) My name is Mandii and I'm 22 years old. I've always loved camping, rock climbing, spontaneous adventures...I'd say I have a pretty much down for anything kind of attitude. I spend most of my time in the outdoors, busking (singing w/my guitar on the street) or with my two big dog babies Billy and Marley. Before this trip I was the manager at a bikini place in Malibu. After having a lot of time to think to myself during those long drives, I decided to quit my job and become a full time musician.
What made you decide to go on this month-long journey across the country?
Haha. In December, this is basically how it happened:
Maria, "Mandii we should go to New York in the summer"
Mandii, "You wanna fly there?"
Maria, "No, let's DRIVE there."
I wanted to go on a big trip in 2016 and figured it'd a great idea to explore and understand my own country before I traveled overseas! Fortunately, Mandii was just as willing to do something bold like this with me too lol. Also, I was about to graduate with some degrees from Ventura College and I knew I needed to scratch this itch before I continued on to finish my bachelor's at CSUCI. We both have less to lose and more to gain right now than we will later.
Mandii: It's funny because we had both planned separate trips. I recall Maria wanting to go to Bali or Thailand, I wanted to go to Colombia to visit my roots. Then exactly how Maria put our conversation above is how it went. When she asked me to go to New York I was thinking, "Ew, I don't want to use my money to just fly to New York", not because there's anything wrong with New York, I just prefer a more strenuous trip and nature rather than a big city. Then she says "drive", well then... yes that sounds more like it.
How long did it take you to save up for the trailer? Any tips on how others looking to buy a trailer/RV/van/adventure-mobile can save up to buy their own? How did you save up for the trailer and the trip?
We made the decision to go on this trip in December, but June the trailer didn't show up until January. We've realized the tools we need to accomplish something show up until after we make the decision to do something. In January, Mandii found an ad on Craigslist for this adorable teardrop trailer for sale. With the help of a small loan from Grandma and our current savings, we purchased the teardrop and worried about paying it off later. Because it is Mandii's trailer, she sacrificed her own room in her own home and rented it out to pay off the trailer with her rental income.
That basically covered the cost of the trailer. For our gas expenses, we hosted a road trip benefit concert at Mandii's house where we had our musician friends and Mandii perform one night and our friends and family attended with a donation that would help cover our gas. We had food and drinks and a ton of fun that night- it was awesome.
Lastly, Maria started a GoFundMe account for TheLittleTrailer. We provided a list of the states we planned to visit and allowed our friends and family to sponsor our meal in the state of their choosing. In return, we sent them a super cute thank you card with a real Polaroid of us enjoying their meal and included some other printed photos we took of our trip too!
The concert helped us with about half our fuel, and the gofundme covered $400 worth of REAL delicious food (ugh- food made us so happy).
Other efforts we made in saving for our trip included working more and finding more ways to make money, spending a lot less when we go out, and we also promised each other we would not purchase alcoholic beverages from bars or restaurants (ya know how those add up quick).
As fellow ladies that love to travel, we’re aware of the negative reactions we receive when we tell our loved ones about our ventures. Sometimes they worry about our safety being female travelers… Did you receive any negative feedback/doubt from family/friends when you told them your plans to travel on the road? Were you afraid at all about traveling alone as two females, if so, how did you overcome that fear? What safety precautions did you take to make sure nothing bad went down, if any?
Okay, we received a lot more negative feedback than I expected. Our friends were excited for us and admired what we were doing but our families were a lot more worried and doubtful for us because we were taking Mandii's small Chevy Sonic to tow the trailer along. I was slightly concerned about traveling this way and only because so many people were infiltrating us with their stories and doubts. When I realized they weren't helping, I lost concern and returned to being confident in ourselves to move along and handle, always. Our safety precautions included having a pepper spray key chain that always stayed around my neck on my lanyard. We also carried pocket knives with us and in our trailer when we slept. We also kept separate sets of keys on our own lanyards for quick access to the car.
Mandii did really well with checking us in on Facebook so if anyone looked us up, it would be obvious enough that our family does know where we are. We also downloaded an app to allow our families to locate our phone in real time, so they literally could see in which building we were, at any time.
Did you have a set itinerary for every single day?
We spent SO much time working on our itinerary, but we only looked at it every couple of days or so to make sure we were in the general area (500 miles cushion).
The itinerary helped us make sure we were generally on schedule, but we were happy to just arrive to the destination on the itinerary at any point. The hours of the day weren't really working in our favor because we would normally wake up late, explore, drive until it was very late, wake up late, etc (it was a vicious cycle).
Did you run into any car problems along the way or problems in general? If so, how did you overcome them?
We had some concerns with our car and had to get him checked (his name is Johnny) because he just got tired from driving long hours through the biggest heat wave this year with June on his back.
To work with Johnny's exhaustion, we had to buy some maintenance tools and monitor the vacuum leak on Johnny so it definitely did add stress and worry (but at least we're pretty well-educated on car maintenance now!)
We also had issues with the weather OH MY GOODNESS. Some nights we had no choice but to book more AirBnBs or even motels because we were so unable to endure another hot and humid night next to each other inside the trailer. It was worse than you'd imagine- non stop sweating all night. :[
I suppose those were the actual emergency expenses we really had.
If you could do it again, would you stick with an itinerary or wing it?
We would definitely recommend making a state itinerary for each day and have a set list of destinations that are calling your soul. We had plenty of time to research (Yelp) the lodging, food, and other attractions along our way towards the set destinations.
Mandii and I normally have wing-it road trips, but this trip was a bit too long to not have an itinerary. We were also on a 30-day time limit due to our work schedules so I would highly suggest to plan out a realistic mileage for each day if you are on a time limit.
Any interesting stories of people you met along the way?
Wow, too many to count!!! We encountered a particular widowed man that told us his life story. It was implied that he took his wife's murderer and left him in the woods to be eaten by animals. The body was found a couple months later... He said the town we were in had the worst trained police force he's ever met and that's why we shouldn't stay there any longer than we absolutely need to. We also met a surprising amount of people who were on cross country road trips themselves. My favorite group was the 200 mini coopers that were driving from the east coast to Palm Springs in California- apparently they do this every year (how sick and adorable is that!)
What was your favorite state/national park and why?
Maria: My favorite was without a doubt Glacier National Park in Montana. It was all incredibly green, big, icy, and there were so so so many natural waterfalls from the melted glaciers. Despite feeling sick, breaking my phone on a cliff side (trying to take a selfie), and getting lost in a remote and unpaved area of the park (where another adventurer got a flat tire!), I thought it was the most beautiful part of the country. We were half hour away from crossing the border into Canada, and I took a shower underneath a small waterfall of melted ice that found it's way through the cliff side! I can't wait to go back.
Mandii: My favorite place was Yellowstone National Park. The variety in landscapes are incredible. One moment you're driving past rivers carving their way along high grasses, next thing you know it's white everywhere and geysers fill the air with steam. Now you walk along the Fountain Painted Pots, hot springs that each have a different color and stain the earth with slivers of orange, brick red and leaves the rest of the ground in a powdery white. This is what we saw, but no matter how much I describe it, it wouldn't be the same. You had to be there :)
If you could change anything about your trip, what would it be?
I would change a few things about this trip:
1) Extend it to at least 2 months (30days was too short)
Because rest, relaxation, me-time, and interacting with more people on a personal level turned out to be one of the biggest keys to our well-being on the road. We both underestimated how critical it is to just chill and not have to be on the go and adventuring 24/7.
2) Pack less! Don't take anything that sounds like it would be a cool idea to do IF you have time- you won't have time haha. I took a table to cook, a beach chair to chill, a rug (??), a hammock (still wish we used it), too many clothes, and just stuff I thought I would use, but didn't. We were too busy resting in the car while we drove, and exploring when we arrived, and grooming when we could lol
3) I KNOW we both wished for some magic super food powder that would balance our emotions and give us a healthy dose of oxytocin LOL. We are two women living together in confined spaces, in hot and humid weather, for 30 days. It was really tricky sometimes to just be okay with our moods and accept each other feeling grumpy, sick, or tired out of our minds to function properly. A therapeutic dose of herbal sleep aids will also help more than you imagine.
4) We both regret not setting aside more time to breath and exercise, and write in our journals about our days. Even if you don't want to or are tire- I suggest forcing yourself to at least write in bullet format some emotions, places, people, images, or landmarks you experienced each day, you will love reading this later. When we came back, I found a journal at World Market that specifically formatted to have fun describing a visit for each state in USA. I so wish I had this before we left because it would have been so much easier to journal.
What adventures do you have planned next? Do you plan on doing any similar trips like this in the future?
Maria: I can't plan an extended trip during the regular fall semester for school, but since the CI Endurance Club competes as far north as Tahoe and as far south as San Diego, I have quite a few weekend road trips to explore California with the team. I really can't wait to go backpacking again in Supai AZ in the Spring, and do the same at Glacier National Park in the summer.
Mandii: I recently went on my second camping trip by myself with just my pup and then flew out to Oklahoma to live on my friends ranch for a week. The traveling doesn't stop for me. As for going around the country again, definitely.
To find more photos from their road trip, check out their Instagram.
Also be sure to check out Mandii's Youtube Channel! She has mad talent... Heart eyes!
Hope our small glimpse of their epic adventure inspires you to go on your own, whether's it's a weekend on the road, a month, a year, or even a short day trip! No adventure is too small.