Roll with Alyssa & Brian in a Truck Camper

In March, Alyssa & Brian gave up their San Francisco apartment, quit their full-time jobs, sold their belongings and hit the road in their truck camper with all their essentials—bikes, boards, boots and beer. Since then, they have been exploring North America, from San Francisco up to Alaska, and now they are currently in Colorado.
They plan to make their way to Austin by November to complete their route, Northbound and Down.

Square Feet: 50

Most of the time the outside is covered with sand, dirt or mud, but the inside is always nice and cozy.

Make, Model, Year: 2000 F250, 7.3L Diesel Truck with a 2008 All Terrain Pop-Up Camper

We originally considered a van, but living in San Francisco we did not have a place to build it out. Plus, as we began planning our trip, it became clear to us that we would need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, which would increase the price of a van greatly. We began researching alternatives and landed on a truck camper.

Bringing the pieces together was a bit tricky. We found the camper in the East Bay first and had to convince the seller to hang on to it for us until we bought our truck, which we assured him would be the following week. So we had to find a truck. Luckily we found our big, red F250 in Chico, California, shortly after. Once we had both, Red Zeppelin was born.

Months Living Mobile: 6

Why do you call yourselves Northbound and Down?

When trying to decide on a name, we considered many options, but they all seemed too serious or cliché. One day, we were kicking around ideas and one of us said, "Northbound and Down." We like the straightforwardness of it.

It describes the route we’ve taken from California to Alaska to Texas.

We also like that it shows we don't take ourselves too seriously.

What was your past life like and why did you leave it?

It seems that people in our society work their youth away and wait until they are 60 or 70 to take off and live the life they want. We didn't want that to be our story.

We wanted to start living life on our own terms now, while we’re still young enough to get out and climb mountains.

With that said, we are both graphic designers and worked for design studios in San Francisco. We really enjoyed our work and liked the studios we worked for, and as a result we've continued to work as designers on the road. Now we limit our working hours by only taking on a few projects at a time.

Tell us about this trip you are on.

We sold everything we owned, quit our jobs, said goodbye to friends and hit the road in March. We had no plan other than to head to Alaska and then make our way back down.

We’ve traveled through the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Alaska, the great northern plains and the Southwest, and we’ve loved every minute of it.

How are you funding your travels?

Before leaving, we worked hard to save money while living in San Francisco—one of the most expensive cities in the country. By the time we left, we had hit our goal.

Now we supplement the money we spend with the money we make from freelance design projects.

What camera do you use and what do you like to photograph?

We use a Sony A7ii, a Fuji X100 and a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. We love capturing the landscapes we see and the adventures we go on.

We enjoy capturing the small, intimate moments of nomadic life.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every morning, we take time to make coffee and eggs for breakfast before setting off for the day's activities. We spend most days hiking, kayaking or biking, and this means we normally eat our packed PB&J lunches in beautiful, remote settings. Evenings and nights are full of reading, podcasts and just hanging out together drinking a few brews that are local to whatever region we're in. If we have a project going on, we'll spend a few hours somewhere in the day focused on work.

It’s hard to believe how many evenings we used to spend indoors watching Netflix. Living on the road has helped us live in the moment and take time to appreciate our surroundings.

Has your relationship changed at all in a small space?

Yes, living, working and traveling together full time in a small space has made us more aware of each other's strengths and has made us a stronger, better team.

Where do you usually park?

We generally disperse camp or go to a campground. Our favorites are those that are remote and free. We loved camping along the Denali Highway, off Nip and Tuck Road in Stanley, Idaho, and at Chilkoot Lake Campground in Haines, Alaska.

Have you had any scary moments on the road?

Honestly, not many. We aren't too worried about the bears or wildlife, but we get a little nervous if we're in a really remote area and a sketchy car pulls up.

What has been your most memorable moment so far?

Probably climbing Mt. St. Helen's on Mother's Day. It's a tradition that everyone wears dresses during the climb, and it was hilarious and surreal to see burly climbers making their way up the mountain in sequin cocktail dresses. Aside from the absurdity of our wardrobes, we got to complete the climb with friends and family, which was a great experience.

The views along the way and at the top were unreal. Once we were above the clouds, we could see Mt. Rainer and Mt. Hood in the distance, and at the top we looked down into the snow-covered crater from the 1980 explosion. Definitely something we'll never forget.

What advice would you give someone looking to work remotely and travel?

Make sure you set up schedules with your clients at the beginning of every project so you can plan in advance for the days you'll need power, Wi-Fi or just cell service.

Make sure you’re honest about your lifestyle, and let your clients know any communication limitations you may have.

For travel in general, be responsible about it. Save money, buy a reliable rig and make sure you're knowledgeable about the areas you're visiting.

Lastly, buy a lot of wet wipes.

How long will you do this trip?

We're planning to land in Austin this November for the winter. So it will be about nine months for this portion.

What’s next?

We're planning on building out a new rig for our 2017 travels.

At this time we’re still contemplating a few different route options, but we’re strongly considering Latin America.

Follow Alyssa & Brian of Northbound and Down

Produced by Kathleen Morton.
Edited by Kate
All photos credit to Alyssa Pugh & Brian Wood