Ever dreamed of packing a bag, grabbing your car keys, leaving your life behind—or what’s left of it after a heartbreak, anyway—and hitting the road with your BFF? B.C. photographers Jill Mann, 28, and Kyla Trethewey, 29, are living that dream. The stylish road warriors have been travelling across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico for three years in a 1969 Kit Companion trailer, chronicling life on the road for their 133,000+ followers on their joint Insta account, “Our Wild Abandon.”
FLARE reached out to the talented twosome with questions about their chic nomadic lifestyle (like, how do they manage to look so fashionable in a camper van?), and they shared their story—with the same ease that they share a wardrobe—during a pit stop from driving down 1-90 in the middle of Minnesota.
Was there a moment for both of you that prompted this journey?
The original idea wasn’t much of an idea at all. We just wanted to leave town after we both went through pretty big breakups. We had been in relationships for four years, and when they ended in the same week, it felt like we were starting over in a way. The original mission was just to get out there and reconnect with ourselves and do some travelling that we had put on hold for too long. We had only planned on doing a couple months, but the whole thing snowballed, growing much bigger than we ever thought possible.
How many days of the year are you on the road?
We started travelling three years ago but it was hard for us to stay on the road full-time at first. As Canadians we were only permitted to be in the U.S. for six months a year, and we weren’t allowed to work during that time. We would do six months full-time in the States, and then try to stay as mobile as possible, travelling back and forth between Canada, Europe, Central America and South America. During that time we kept an apartment in Vancouver and were there maybe 40 percent of the year. As of June we have been back travelling full-time with American work visas and a new trailer, hopefully doing 365 days on the road.
What’s your day like on the road?
Every day is different and that’s the best part of living this way. Typically we work for a few hours every morning over coffee and breakfast in the trailer. We try not to drive more than a few hours a day and always stay a little longer in a place when it feels right to do so. Depending on where we are, we try to get outside for a while and shoot photos whenever the time and place are right. If we’re lucky we will meet someone who will point us in the direction of something we “have to see” while we are in town. We usually cook all our meals in the trailer unless we’re somewhere really special, that keeps us somewhat healthy and our costs down. At night we retreat to our own “rooms.” We have our own beds at opposite sides of the trailer so we get some space at the end of the day.
How has this experience changed your view of life and your future?
It’s taught us that if you really want something, you need to just go out and get it. For years the idea of being paid to travel and make photos was something that seemed like a mere fantasy. It wasn’t until we cut all ties with everything that was holding us back that it became a reality. It’s also taught us that life is really, really short. Three years has gone by in the blink of an eye! There’s no time to put things off, you have to just take the leap. Finally, we have learned you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Some of our favourite places and people are the ones we never expected to feel that way about. We get surprised everyday.
What’s been your most memorable experience?
Getting stuck in a lightning storm in Utah was something we will probably never forget. It was simultaneously the most terrifying and beautiful thing we have ever experienced.
And the worst?
The worst was getting into a really bad accident last winter. We rolled our vehicle and trailer and lost basically everything in a matter of three seconds. That was the first time since we started that it felt like we were up against something we might not be able to come back from.
What about your best experience?
It’s really, really hard to pick a “best” experience. Some of our favourite moments are ones that we don’t even have photos of, just a simple moment driving down a backroad somewhere, when we look at each other for a second and we both realize how lucky we are to be there.
What’s the challenge of living in a camper, style-wise?
Living in close quarters means that we share a closet so we have double the wardrobe! Instead of having a whole bunch of cheap clothes that we don’t really care about, we end up with just a few well-made pieces that we both really love. Over time, we’ve simplified our beauty routines down to the basics and it’s honestly pretty refreshing. We don’t own anything we have to iron and we are probably still alive because of dry shampoo! And since we’re in a new place almost every day, we come across a lot amazing vintage pieces.
What’s the benefit of living on the road?
It’s nice not paying rent! The trailer is amazing since it is our home, no matter where we are. Whether it’s national park or a Walmart parking lot in some suburb, we can close the curtains and feel at home.
How do you generate an income, (i.e., eat!)?
We have been super lucky to support ourselves through photography. That is our full-time job, and we are fortunate that it is a job that we can do from basically anywhere. Our clients range from tourism boards to apparel brands and tech companies.
Do you get irritated with one another?
We don’t really fight on the road, it’s not worth it and a huge waste of time. We try our best to deal with any type of conflict by communicating our feelings right way and quash anything that comes up as soon as it does. We both have a lot of respect for one another and know how lucky we are to have a best friend that is willing to live this way.
What do you say to people who dream about doing what you’re doing?
If you really want to do something, go for it. Don’t wait! But it’s also really important to be realistic. When people base their idea of what this is like off of our photos, they only get half the story. It can be dirty, tiring and stressful but of course it’s also incredible and exciting. You just need to have your expectations in check.