with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

1996 Starting Life on the Road Full-time

Date: August 1, 1996
Contact: Lorelle VanFossen, (918) 492-9667, lorelle@cameraontheroad.com

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Driving the Alaska Highway, Photo by Lorelle VanFossenEverett, Washington – “You are crazy!” “You’re going to do WHAT?” “How are you going to do that?” “Wow!” “I sure wish I could do that.” “What a life! Just traveling around!” “That’s so cool.” “You’re too young.” “What about your job?” “How will you live?” “Are you kidding?”

“No, we’re not,” calmly responds Lorelle VanFossen (36), part of the husband/wife nature photography team of VanFossen Productions. “People think we’re crazy, but I think most of them are envious. It’s going to fun, but it’s not going to be easy.”

What are the VanFossens up to? They are pulling up stakes and hitting the road. They are taking their life, their business and work on the road, fitting everything into their 30 foot trailer.
Traveling a lot is not new to the Lake Stevens/Marysville, Washington native, nor to her family. Lorelle’s great grandfather worked the forests across Washington and Oregon, living in not much more than a sagging tent through summer and winter. “My father’s dad worked in the Coast Guard along the Columbia River and San Juans, raising my father in the different light houses and stations along the coast. Like the rest of my family, it’s hard for me to sit still.”

Her husband is no different. Brent (31) was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but got the itch to explore early on. His family took every weekend and holiday to haul the three kids around the country. Brent eventually came to Everett to work for Boeing, falling in love with the tremendous natural wilderness in Washington. “There’s so much to explore around the Pacific Northwest, it’s like exploring the world and never leaving your backyard.”
Indeed, most weekends find this couple out in the wilds of Washington, camping in their tent. Just two years earlier, they were married in the Heart o’ the Hills Campground at the foot of Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, celebrating their union in the wilds they love.

Teaching as They Travel

“We will be teaching classes and workshops across North America as well as building up our photographic inventory,” Lorelle explains. “It just makes sense to take our business and home on the road. We can then spend more time at different places and get to know the areas better.” The couple have been working as a team teaching nature photography programs in the Puget Sound area for the past five years and are featured in many national and local magazines including Outdoor and Nature Photography Magazine and The Mountaineer Magazine.

Brent adds, “The summer was spent getting the trailer ready. We have lots of work to do customizing this thing. It’s a big step up from a two person tent.” Brent is an excellent wood worker. “Our needs are fairly specific but a challenge to fit into a 30 foot trailer. The desk has to accommodate our computer, printer, scanner and speaker system. We need to store our equipment, regulate power sources and find a place for everything we need to take with us.”

Lorelle jumps in. “The trailer will be our ‘mobile’ home and office. We’ll stay in contact with people through e-mail, as well as through traditional methods. We’ll be dependent a lot on cyberspace,” she laughs. “We’ll have a mailing address from which mail will be forwarded to us every two weeks or so, but to get to us fast – the Internet will be the way!”

Their trailer is a 1993 30-foot Fleetwood Prowler fifth wheel. It will be home and office on the road. “We won’t be tied to the trailer. We’ll still take the tent out and go places where the trailer can’t go. This gives us lots of freedom to stay one place for several days waiting for the perfect weather or photo opportunity,” said Brent.

Lorelle leans forward intently, running her fingers through her short hair. “There’s a lot of people just too scared to take off like this. They are afraid of getting hurt, attacked, broken into, breaking down, or just getting lost. It puts people right out of their comfort zone – their home. But you are more likely to get hurt, attacked, broken into and even murdered and raped in your own home or within one block of home. Since I figure the odds are smaller out on the road, there’s less to fear. Yet we’re taking our home on the road. Now I wonder how the odds work on people like us?” She laughs. “That’s why they think we’re nuts to do this. But we are still young and I know a lot of people who wait until they are retired or old and frail. It makes more sense to travel when you are young, healthy and energetic enough to do dumb things and still get away with them.”

Brent shakes his head at his vivacious wife. “It’s a serious consideration to sell everything you have and head out on the road to live. We will be transients – in style, sure, but still, moving from place to place without a home. It takes a lot of planning and budgeting to make sure we can have the money to live on and maintain our medical and personal insurance and still survive while traveling. So we are really pinching to protect ourselves and cover all the potential emergencies over the next few years. Leaving the safety of a full-time job and the benefits of insurance is really scary.”

Travel Plans

The logistics to prepare for this odyssey, even before hitting the road, are vast. They have moved into the trailer, sold most of their possessions at four garage sales, put the few remaining items into storage, sold their two other vehicles, set up mail forwarding services, permanent phone numbers and figuring out how to stay in touch while they travel, working hard to make it all come together in time to leave. “Even the simplest things become complicated,” admits Lorelle. “We have to learn how to get water, dump our sewer stuff, count wattage and amps as not to overload our electrical circuits, and all these things that no one ever told me I’d have to learn when we decided to take our camera on the road. I guess you definitely have to be a little crazy to do this. It sure helps.”
Brent and Lorelle VanFossen will be leaving the end of October, heading first for Oklahoma, then Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Alberta (Canada), Alaska and then to the east coast of the United States, cris-crossing the country as they visit many national parks and wildlife refuges. You can keep up with their travels at http://www.cameraontheroad.com.


With over 40 years of photographic experience between them, the husband/wife team of Brent and Lorelle VanFossen bring a unique perspective and true passion to their photography and educational presentations. “Teaching is a big part of what we do. We enjoy the hands-on work with individuals,” explains Brent VanFossen. “We love what we do with a total sense of passion and dedication. I love being outside and exploring the world, as does Lorelle, and we enjoy showing people how extraordinary it all is. When we are excited about our work, others share in that excitement.”

Feature writers with Outdoor and Nature Photography Magazine, their work has been also featured in a variety of venues including The Mountaineer, Doll Magazine, Women in Business Magazine, The Snohomish County News Tribune, The Seattle Times, Queen Anne News, and many annual reports and commercial publications. They are also popular columnists in Shutterbug, Outdoor and Nature Photography Magazine, CruiseLetter Magazine, Arriving Magazine, Compuserve’s Photography Forum and other publications. Beginning in the winter of 1996, the couple will be traveling and working on the road full time from their trailer teaching programs to clubs and groups throughout the country, possibly the only nature photographers doing so full time. For more information regarding VanFossen Productions, contact them at (918) 492-9667 or email at lorelle@cameraontheroad.com.

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