In the spring of 2008, Alison Turner exchanged her demanding six-figure desk job for a new way of life. For eight months she wandered the country in a tiny trailer with her canine companion, then traded “Trailie” for a tinier tent. She spent the next two years car camping, each day letting a roadmap and impulse determine her way.
During this time, she made another game-changing decision. “I put down a drink, and picked up a camera,” she said.
“I loved my wine,” said Turner of her former lifestyle. “At times, I loved it too much. So I made the personal decision for myself to ditch the drink. I felt I was just wasting time and wanted to be more productive and present in life.”
Turner vowed to stop cocktailing—just like that—and has stuck with it. “What has come up in my life now is directly related to that decision,” she said. Abruptly, unexpectedly, her second career was born.
Using only a small point and shoot camera, she began composing beautiful photos of people and scenes that caught her eye during her travels. She upgraded to her first professional Canon DSLR after selling her wine collection and 188-bottle wine refrigerator. “It was the best trade I’ve ever made,” she said.
Making money as a creative is an uphill battle—one that award-winning Turner seems to be winning. “Photography is a hard profession to make a living out of,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, it can be a full time career, but it takes commitment, talent, luck, and consistent drive. I take photographs because I love it. Most of the time, it’s not the actual photograph but the experience that goes with it that I love just as much. I can’t imagine my life without photography now.”
“I believe that everyone has a voice inside of them that tells us what we really need to do with our lives,” she wrote in her blog. “It’s whether or not we choose to listen and are brave enough to follow through on it. I have been blessed with this opportunity and am thankful of everything life has to offer.”
Turner now spends up to eight months traveling with her camera and dog Max, and returns home for the rest of the year. “I can’t imagine life without a dog,” she said. Max, a rescue pup, is now a seasoned traveler who sits uncomplaining atop the piles of packed items in their car while they drive and joins Turner in her sleeping bag at night. The subject of many of Turner’s photos, Max is always along for the ride to destinations far from their California home: Cape Cod, Maine, Austin, Yellowstone, and the national parks along the way.
Turner meets other intrepid souls wherever she goes, and has a special connection to the community of Airstream trailer owners. “I LOVE my Airstream family!” she said. “But all of the people I have camped with are great. I think there is something to be said for people who love to be outside and experience life on the road. It’s like we all “get” each other and it’s an instant common bond no matter if you are in a tent, RV, trailer, or van.”
She enjoys swapping stories and tips with other women on the road and offers some advice of her own for those who plan to wander solo. “You will be lonely at times, and you will be put in situations that you are not used to,” she said. “Use common sense and be assertive. Not everyone has your best interest at heart. That being said, traveling alone might be the best thing you’ve ever done. It’s an investment in yourself, and the best education you will ever get on learning about yourself.”
On the practical side, “figure out how much money you’ll need and double it,” she said. “Also take half as much stuff with you; take only the things you think you’ll need. I learned that from experience. My first year of traveling, I took so many things that I didn’t even touch, and it was a lot more expensive than I thought.”
“I think the main thing to take into consideration when living on the road is to be able to detach yourself from your things,” she explained. “It took some time to realize that “stuff” just isn’t that important in life. Once I was able to let go of the notion that you are your things, everything opened up.”
Turner rents her home while she travels and refuses to worry about what might happen to her possessions. “The most important thing is my dog, and he’s right there with me,” she said.
“I’m not one to be happy just sitting around and doing nothing,” she said. “I have to explore, push myself in uncomfortable situations, and learn something everyday on the road. When you travel to unknown destinations and meet strangers, you’ll never be bored.”
Visit her blog, “Alison Travels”, and join Turner’s Facebook page, We Can Do It! Women Who Camp With An Airstream, Teardrop, Tent or Trailer.