Welcome back to the Ready to Wander Podcast! I am your host, Sydney Breann. As always I am absolutely pumped for today’s episode, because I have a great industry friend of mine on as a guest. Today’s episode is allll about living and working on the road as a photographer. We all know about the camper van lifestyle right now, right? My friends, Chuck and Shiloh are two people that dove headfirst it! They have been into living and working on the road in a truck camper as a photo and video team (and of course a married couple). I have one half of the iconic duo here today. So we are ready to dive in with this week’s episode of the Ready to Wander Podcast, with our guest Shiloh Miller!
Shiloh will be sharing the nitty gritty on van life – chatting through the highs + lows, what living and working while traveling looks like, and more. She even gives us a little glimpse into a “day in the life” while living on the road. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
As I mentioned before, Chuck and Shiloh are a husband and wife photo and video team! They currently live in their Scout truck camper with their sweet pup, Hoka. They capture weddings of all sizes, elopements, and recently fell in love with maternity sessions! While their home base is technically Winona, Minnesota, Colorado is calling them! (Fingers crossed). Chuck and Shiloh are both originally from the Midwest; Chuck is from Michigan and Shiloh was born and raised in Minnesota.
I actually shot a wedding with Shiloh and Chuck a few years ago, and then ended up shooting a few of her friends’ weddings. We have just stayed in contact since then! It has been so fun to watch her go from shooting big weddings in Wisconsin and Minnesota to living on the road. Would wouldn’t want to travel, shoot elopements, and adventure with their other half (or should I say other third? 😏)!?
It’s really interesting to me how Chuck and Shiloh’s journeys to where they are now began. Chuck actually has a degree in photo journalism from Central Michigan University. Shiloh’s background is video; she went to school for mass communications with an aspiration to be on TV. After graduating, Shiloh worked for a video production company filming dance recitals, corporate gigs, and a lot of weddings. Chuck and Shiloh met in 2016 and when they eventually dated, she asked if he wanted to come film weddings with her for fun! A few years into that, Shiloh decided it was time to learn how to take pictures. The ultimately ended up switching roles; Shiloh is the lead photographer and Chuck is the primary videographer.
Like many photographers and videographers, traveling seems to be a natural progression. For Chuck and Shiloh, travel has always been a big part of both of their lives. Randomly one day, Shiloh remembers texting Chuck dreaming about all the possibilities of documenting weddings and elopements around the country. Well, as fate would have it, Chuck replied that he was literally thinking about the same thing just minutes before. So wild!
After Shiloh sent that text, they met up at home later that day and talked about what that might look like. They considered a variety of different options from having a roof nest, to a pull behind, to a van and ultimately decided to go with the Scout truck camper. Combining their deepest passions (and getting to share the experiences together), they really made their dreams come true.
As one might imagine, Chuck and Shiloh really had to downsize in a lot of ways. They sold basically all of their big items (TV, furniture, etc.) Then they were left with narrowing down what items they used most often and how to keep their space organized and not chaotic. Although their camera gear takes up a good chunk of their real estate, they have made it work with some good ole Tetris. The camper itself is pretty lightweight compared to other models which makes it great for travel! Before they adopted Hoka, they were able to have the table set up on a regular basic. Now that they have a pup, the table is down almost all the time – so they lost their work area!
During the summer months, Chuck and Shiloh typically “home” in the Winona, La Crosse and Minneapolis area. Because they are in the wedding industry, they use their “off season” for traveling – so far, they’ve been out west twice. As soon as this current “busy season” is over, they are hoping to go out East to explore the Carolinas! Being Midwest natives, they love spending time on the North Shore and exploring all the beauty Wisconsin and Michigan have to offer.
One of the biggest pros of living on the road is pretty obvious: there’s no rent to pay! Additionally, there isn’t a limit to when they can travel or even how long they can be gone for. Being on the road gives them so many opportunities to see all the beauty the US has to offer. Shiloh mentioned that it’s a bonus to not have to pay for hotels or campsites, since there are so many free spots to park. Beyond the logistics, one of Shiloh’s favorite parts of traveling is how many people they have met along the way. There’s always someone curious about their truck and their lifestyle.
The biggest perk of their lifestyle as a photo and video team is the endless possibilities and things to capture. There’s always something special to photograph! Recently, they were in San Diego, CA and were sent a DM on Instagram from a couple who lives out of their mini school bus. The couple reached out after having seen Chuck and Shiloh’s Instagram handles on the side of their camper. Once they saw that Chuck and Shiloh were photographers, they asked to meet up for a beachfront photoshoot.
There aren’t any pros without the cons when it comes to living and working on the road as a photographer. Because Chuck and Shiloh share a small space, it can quickly get cramped (especially if it’s raining). And when it’s raining, Hoka obviously gives off that “wet dog” smell!
Besides those little things, some of the bigger things that become a hassle involve work. As an entrepreneur, setting your own schedule is typically a “pro”. But when traveling on the road (in a small space), Shiloh said it’s pretty challenging to stick to a schedule. Shiloh also mentioned that her and Chuck really thrive being in and around a community – especially their church community. Because they’re constantly moving from place to place, participating in Bible studies and services doesn’t occur as frequently as they would like.
Another major aspect of being an entrepreneur who works from home is establishing a healthy work-life balance. My fiancé and I live in a one bedroom apartment, so I can relate on some level, but maybe not as much as Chuck and Shiloh!
Living in a truck camper isn’t as glamorous as one might think. Chuck and Shiloh don’t really work in the camper frequently, because it is such a small space. They most often we can’t even brush their teeth at the same time unless one of them is on the tailgate! To compensate for that, they will usually work inside a coffee shop; luckily, lattes are Shiloh’s love language. If anything, Shiloh finds it most challenging to get into the “work” mindset vs. the “hey lets go and check out this new city” mindset. Coming up with a game plan the night before helps the duo remain diligent in getting work done the next day.
Believe it or not, Chuck and Shiloh’s camper doesn’t have an air conditioner! So when the temperatures soar past the 90s, they have to ask friends if they can stay in their place while waiting for the heat wave to past. When they first started living in the camper, they didn’t always know where to park at night either, so finding good apps that are resourceful has been super beneficial. Keeping the camper clean can be difficult too since if basically anything is out of place, it feels dirty and cramped.
Powering all of their gear is also a bit of challenge, too. Because the camper runs off of solar, they need to make sure they are getting enough sunlight to keep the fridge cold. But when camera batteries, laptops, and their fan need charging, the battery can drain relatively quickly (especially when the weather isn’t ideal).
While living and work working on the road as a photographer, one of the biggest “pain points” is keeping communication going with clients. When Chuck and Shiloh first began their journey, they thought about buying StarLink. However, it’s not too often that they are in the middle of nowhere with zero service. So instead, they’ve opted for a Verizon Jetpack with 150gigs of data. They usually FaceTime with their clients without any issues. But if they have a ton of work to do, they head to a coffee shop for the day.
I asked Shiloh first-hand what advice she would those who are looking to try the nomad lifestyle. Here’s what she said: “Don’t go into it lightly. It’s a completely different world than living in an apartment/house but, it’s also one of the best decisions we have made! It’s been a super awesome experience and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. The ups far outweigh the downs in my opinion. And it’s something that I didn’t want to wait until i was in my 60s to pursue.
There are a lot of great apps you can use to find dispersed camping, such as iOverlander, Harvest Host, and Free Roamer. I would say get used to being uncomfortable and be willing to make friends wherever you go. There is so much to explore here in the United States and you won’t regret giving it a go!”
Shiloh couldn’t really narrow down her favorite memory while living and working on the road, because she truly has so many. Chuck and Shiloh have gone out West twice; the first time was planned around a snowboarding trip where they went to ski resorts in Montana, Colorado and Utah. They met some great people in Utah and hung out with them a handful of times in Salt Lake City! They also had a chance to visit a good friend of Shiloh’s in San Diego for two weeks where she had the best latte of her life. (Psst, Salt Water Culture if you’re in the market for an incredible latte). More locally to the Midwest, they’ve had a few spur-of-the-moment trips to Door County, Picture Rocks National Lakeshore, and Devils Lake. Pinpointing a single memory is just too difficult.
It was such a blast having Shiloh on this week’s episode of the Ready to Wander Podcast: Living and Working on the Road as a photographer. If you’re looking for more from Chuck and Shiloh, you can find on them on Instagram + YouTube (@chuckandshiloh). Their website is also chuckandshiloh.com.
That wraps up the podcast! Stay tuned to the pod for more awesome guests and incredible conversations. Until next time, are you ready to wander?