4,500 Miles. Five Showers.

Karissa and Linhberg are professional commercial photographers based (mostly) in Los Angeles, California. You can follow their adventures on Instagram at @gondirtin.

Our month living
out of an SUV

Words and photos by @gondirtin

Four weeks. Seven states. 4,500 miles. Thirty-one days on the road. Twenty-six days of wild camping. Five total showers. Zero bear encounters. And now, we’re finally back home. Stepping into our house felt strange – it didn’t feel like our place. That’s because home for the past few weeks had been our 1999 Mitsubishi Montero. It was what we’d come to know and love.

“Twenty-six days
of wild camping.
Five total showers.
Zero bear encounters.”

We didn’t jump cold turkey into a life on the road. It began as a slow simmer, a way to get away during the weekends. We wanted to distance ourselves from the noise and hustle of the city, longing for the stillness of the outdoors. It started with our daily driver – a small sedan. We packed ourselves into it, along with our two small dogs and all the camping gear we had. We paid for campsites at proper campgrounds. You know, the ones with paved access, running water, and flushing toilets. We had neighbors, all of whom camped very differently. Some brought legions of children who made all kinds of kid noises. Some partied the night away like it was 1999. Others had their RVs and ran their generators. Despite all that, we were hooked. We woke to the sounds of nature while filtering out the excess noise. Birds chirping, trees rustling, and the sound of streams forever commuting downhill. We were addicted, and we needed something more. We craved solitude.
The constant Tetris-ing in-and-out inconvenience of packing our small car made us long for something larger and more capable. Something to take us away from those campgrounds. Enter our 1999 Mitsubishi Montero. We desired the fabled Toyota Land Cruiser but quickly realized it was far too expensive for our “just-fun-car” budget. But, sitting at a cool $5,000, the Mitsubishi had, on paper, roughly the same specifications as its much more expensive brethren.
Behind the wheel of our new-to-us Montero, we hit the road and experienced public land for the first time. We got dressed out in the open without worrying about any potential peepers. When nature called, we dug a hole. We experienced actual silence. It was all so glorious. We learned a lot about what we liked, and about what we needed to improve upon for future travels.
We quickly added a rooftop tent and went through three different variations of organization before settling for a permanent, custom-built drawer system. We moved from an ice chest to a powered cooler. All to be able to spend more time on the road and less time with chores. As all of this was happening, our trips got longer. Quick weekends away became extended weekend trips. Three or four days on the road became a week, then two.
Soon, life aligned for us to take four entire weeks to live on the road. We had work coming up in the Grand Tetons area, and instead of flying, we opted to leave a week early and drive.
Leaving Los Angeles, we passed through Las Vegas and camped our first night in the desert, surrounded by red rocks near the border of Nevada and Arizona. We took our time going North through Utah. We rolled into Wyoming and the Grand Tetons in June and were greeted by falling snow as we entered the park for the first time. From there, it was Idaho, Washington, and then we headed South into Oregon. Four weeks after we left home, we crossed back into California and were greeted by stunning views of the coast and a beautiful sunset. It was all so glorious.
Looking back, it was the relaxed pace of life on the road we’ll remember the most. The mornings of getting up right after the sun hit our eyes through the tent’s windows to grab a quick breakfast under the canopy of a great forest. The nights of crawling into the tent just as the air was starting to cool to immerse ourselves in the next chapter of a book. It was four weeks filled with endless amounts of seeing and doing: hiking, landscape photography sessions, missing an epic unset due to trying to find a campsite, and, of course, the constant search for a cell signal that would let us get a little work done. This was our life for a month. It was simple, and we loved it.