Colorado native Mandy Lea and Missouri-born Kendrick Callaway are joint nuCamp Ambassadors, sharing their love of life on the road. (Check out this video on how these two met.)
You may have seen this duo on YouTube describing their journeys through canyons, hosting tours of new nuCamp products, or cooking at their campsite with their TAB 400, Little Bear. Mandy Lea and Kendrick are very active in the nuCamp community — even taking on organizing four new rallies.
The couple also recently got engaged at the end of December! Kendrick popped the question after five years together while hiking on the Lily Mountain Trail near Estes Park, Colorado. From all of us at nuCamp, we want to extend a big congratulations!
In this post, Mandy and Kendrick talk about their full-time lifestyle and what being a nuCamp Ambassador means to them.
How did you first get interested in traveling?
Mandy: I was lucky that my parents loved camping. Our vacations were almost always road trips around Colorado and the Midwest. The memories of my family camping definitely played a part in my desire to live on the road.
Kendrick: Growing up, I mostly tent camped until my parents bought an old, beat-up camper, which felt like luxury compared to the tent! I first hit the road in 2012 at the age of 28 and proceeded to live in the back of my 2000 Toyota Tacoma for four-and-a-half years before meeting Mandy.
(Check out this YouTube video celebrating 5 Years on the Road!)
A life filled with travel
Over the years, you transitioned from a TAG to a TAB. How did that occur?
Mandy: I started out tent camping, and then, when I got my first TAG in 2015 — I named her Birdsong — I thought how luxurious it felt. Just having a hard-sided shelter that was off the ground made camping feel fancy! The TAG was a good fit for my mid-size SUV since she was small and lightweight. Unfortunately, she was stolen, so in 2016, I replaced her with another TAG named Phoenix, the camper I had when I went full-time.
But when Kendrick joined me, we decided we needed more room, so we moved up to a TAB 320, which we named Rocky. Finally in 2019, we upgraded to our current TAB 400 named Little Bear that we’ve been living in for more than two years. In the past five years, I’ve been through three tow vehicles: Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk with a tow package, and now a 2019 Toyota Tacoma — a great compromise to get the car storage and power we needed without going too big!
Kendrick: We decided to move up to the TAB 400 because of the comfort it provides us while living and working full-time from the road. Having a separate bed and dinette allows us to wake up and go to bed independently of each other. This really helps since I’m a morning person and Mandy is more of a night person. Also, at 6’1” tall, I really enjoy being able to stand fully upright in the 400!
You’re both full-timers. What does this lifestyle choice offer you?
Mandy: This lifestyle allows me to work on my landscape photography in ways I could never do if I was stationary. I can go farther, for longer, and see places in a light that you can see just by visiting for a few days. I am able to immerse myself into a location emotionally and capture that feeling. Most important of all, it allows me to feel like I am really living every day to the fullest.
Kendrick: The full-time truck/RV lifestyle has always allowed me the freedom to go where I want, when I want, and to do what I want. I first moved into my truck as a way to live simply, live cheaply, and to get out and explore the mountains and deserts. In the nine-plus years of living full-time in a truck or camper not too much has changed.
Joining the nuCamp family
When and why did you become a nuCamp Brand Ambassador?
Mandy: It’s hard to put a date on it as I was one of the initial ambassadors before that title existed. I think the reason we make great ambassadors is that it was not a job we pursued. We just grew into it. We didn’t do it for the title or notoriety, we just became it because we loved the product. We share our love of nuCamp because we want others to experience the same joy it gives us. Simple as that.
Kendrick: I guess I became a nuCamp Brand Ambassador when I decided to join Mandy on the road. I knew nothing of the products at the time, but she introduced me to the brand, the family of nuCamp employees, and the RV world in general. Over the years, I’ve gained experience in the RV industry, learned more about nuCamp as a company and as a family, and learned more about other manufacturers. With that knowledge, I can proudly say that nuCamp is a company of high integrity making some of the highest quality products on the market. Who wouldn’t want to represent a brand like that?
Not only are you a nuCamp Ambassador, but you and Kendrick are also very active in the nuCamp community as well as planning rallies. What has all this camper-related activity brought into your life?
Mandy: I am 100% for the nuCamp family and community. When I bought my first TAG, it was just to have something to sleep in while I was out photographing. I had no idea that these little campers would turn into such a big part of my life. The friendships we have made within this community are true and lifelong. I never thought I would have so much family on the road. As for planning the rallies, they are definitely a labor of love. It is a lot of work for minimal monetary return, but they make us SO HAPPY!
Kendrick: The nuCamp family is so passionate about all things nuCamp-related as well as travel, RVing, and so many other things! We love putting on rallies that allow people from all over North America and all backgrounds of life to get together and share their experiences while having a great time! These rallies are a great way for us to see old friends and make new ones. It’s amazing all the great people you get to know simply because of one common thing: owning a nuCamp product!
Working on the road
You and Kendrick are partners in Mandy Lea Photo, a business focused on photography and teaching. How does life on the road mesh with your business?
Mandy: It’s absolutely amazing! Since we offer workshops and rallies all over the country, this allows us to travel from event to event rather than trying to keep a home that we are constantly tied to. We stay incredibly busy so there is surprisingly little “downtime” between events.
Many people are blinded by the “glamorous idealism” that social media lends to full-time life. The truth is, we are working. Sadly, this means we have almost every day of the next year planned out. Between photo workshops, guided backpacking trips, and rallies, we rarely have a day off. We are either hosting an event or traveling between them. Our 2022 schedule is full-on, with photography workshops in Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Tennessee, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and nuCamp rallies in Colorado, the Smoky Mountains, Arizona, and Texas. And who knows… we might even make a surprise visit above the border in Canada!
However, while most of our travel is work-related, when we have a few days off we try to go to one of our parents’ homes in either Colorado or Missouri. Gotta be good little children!
Let’s talk travel
Do you two have a bucket list of destinations?
Mandy: I think we could live an entire lifetime on the road and still not explore all of our country!! However, we’d really like to more deeply explore both Canada and Mexico. Additionally, we’d like to do some overseas travels, but will have to leave our little home behind for that!
What are your top travel tips for those new to being on the road?
Here are five tips from Mandy:
- Have a plan. If you aren’t yet retired, you still have to make a living. We meet a lot of people who head out on savings to try to figure it out, run out of money, and have to stop.
- Use your resources! So many people have been living on the road for years and are happy to share. There are countless apps and websites that will help you find campsites, propane, cell service, internet, etc, as well as YouTube channels and Facebook groups that will answer any question you can think of, and even some you didn’t!
- Expect mistakes and learn from them. Set your expectations that things WILL go wrong. Something will break, you’ll get lost, you’ll mess up. We are all human. But we have learned from every mistake we’ve made, and that’s how you become a pro!
- Be social. Even if you’re not a “social” person, life on the road can get lonely! It can be very rewarding to meet fellow campers. They almost always have great stories and make great friends. Try a rally if you don’t know where to start!
- Enjoy every day. Sometimes we get so busy that I forget to enjoy my place in life. Set aside one minute each day to intentionally be grateful for what you are doing and the life you are living. This will make dealing with those mishaps much easier!
Need some more tips? Check out this video on 15 Worries of RV Camping and How to Avoid Them!
What are one or two of your most memorable times while on the road: places you stayed, experiences you had, people you met?
Mandy: After five years on the road, we have had more experiences than I can even begin to explain, let alone choose between.
Hiking stands out — reaching the top of the Grand Teton with Kendrick after two attempts, hiking 14 Fourteeners in 14 days, hiking with a pack of wild dogs in Mexico, making it up to Mexico’s third-highest peak over 17k feet, and getting caught in a lightning storm on a Colorado summit!
Then there are the people, starting with everyone we met in Mexico. They were so kind, and we seemed to have full conversations knowing next to no Spanish! I am also so grateful for all the people we have met. Although we may only see folks once or twice a year, they have become lifelong friends and support who we know we could count on.
Kendrick: One that immediately comes to mind is our journey from the northernmost point you can drive in Alaska down to the Mexico-Guatemala border. (Check out this video about their trip!) And then, as Mandy said, all the amazing people I’ve met over the years of being part of the nuCamp family. Every time we do an event associated with nuCamp, it feels like one big family reunion!
Follow their journey on social media!
Mandy FB: https://www.facebook.com/mandyleaphoto/
Mandy IG: https://www.instagram.com/mandyleaphoto/
Kendrick FB: https://www.facebook.com/kendrick.callaway
Kendrick IG: https://www.instagram.com/kendrickcallaway/