I’m a firm believer that good things come in pairs like s’mores and campfires, Jeeps and dirt roads, peanut butter and jelly, and of course, socks. So, it’s no wonder that when I searched for an activity that paired well with RVing, I immediately thought of photography. If I wanted to learn photography, I knew that no dynamic duo does RVing and photography better than Mandy Lea and Kendrick.
Mandy Lea and Kendrick
Mandy Lea and Kendrick Callaway, a pair of nomadic photography instructors, are household names in the T@B RV and tiny camper community. Where there is a teardrop camper, there is a Mandy Lea, and where there is a Mandy Lea, there is a Kendrick. Mandy and Kendrick are full-time RVers who live and work from their nüCamp T@B 400 teardrop trailer, and they document their lives and share their stories about RV living on their popular Mandy Lea Photo YouTube channel.
They’ve mastered the digital nomad lifestyle, hosting landscape photography workshops in some of the country’s most scenic places, and they know how to find adventure wherever they park their camper. Since I needed to learn how to use my camera and take a class from instructors who live the RVing lifestyle, I knew Mandy and Kendrick would be ideal photography instructors.
Road Life and Photography
Mandy Lea knows a thing or two about road life and photography. Almost five years ago, when she left her nine-to-five in Austin, Texas, and set out on a quest to live full time in her T@G teardrop trailer, Mandy didn’t know where the road would lead her, but she knew wherever she ended up, photography would be her guide. As luck would have it, the compass guided her north, and while camping in her beloved Colorado, Mandy met Kendrick.
Kendrick was also a nomad, except he didn’t live in a camper; he lived in the back of his truck. Kendrick, an engineer by trade, preferred nature as his office, and he left corporate America to traverse Patagonia for a year and explore as much of the west as he could. When Kendrick met Mandy, he had lived in his truck for four and a half years, and he was in Colorado training for ultra marathons, scaling fourteeners, and scrambling up Boulder’s Flatirons.
Perhaps it was luck, kismet, or a little bit of both; whatever you call it — meeting Kendrick was meant to be. Before long, Kendrick joined Mandy on the road, and the two teamed up to create something unique: photography workshops with a camping twist.
Photography and RVing?
When Mandy first started her photography workshops, she and Kendrick often stayed in their teardrop trailer, while most of their students preferred hotel accommodations. Over the years, though, more students ask to camp near Mandy and Kendrick, so they’ve expanded many of their workshop locations to include a camping option if students want to camp alongside them instead of staying in hotels or vacation rentals.
Since I’m more comfortable in my RV, of course, I chose to RV alongside Mandy and Kendrick. During the summer Colorado Wildflowers and Waterfalls Workshop, all of us, except one student, RV camped, and at the Colorado Fall Colors Workshop a few weeks ago, eight out of ten of us stayed in an RV of some sort. What’s even cooler? At our first location, we boondocked on public lands, and then we caravanned across a curvy mountain pass to get to our second destination: a campground in another area of the state.
An RV Adds to the Fun
Staying in an RV to take a photography workshop isn’t necessary, but it adds to the fun. On the few evenings where we have some downtime, we have campfires, visit with one another outside of our rigs, and spend time helping each other edit and process our photos. Usually, by the first night of the workshop, we start to feel like family instead of strangers, and by the end of the workshop, almost everyone agrees that we are now part of the Mandy Lea Photo family.
Camaraderie and friendship are some of the biggest reasons class participants attend more than one of Mandy and Kendrick’s workshops. When we take a second or third class, we can almost guarantee that we will get to meet up with a member of our workshop family for more camping and photography fun.
Safety and Social Distancing
I knew that choosing a Mandy Lea Photo workshop to fuel my RVing hobby was an easy decision, but choosing which workshop to take wasn’t so easy. Mandy and Kendrick take their photography students to some of the country’s most beautiful locations, and they spend weeks scouting the perfect photography settings in places like Grand Teton National Park, Big Bend National Park, or the Colorado mountains.
I wanted to go to the out-of-state locations, but because of the COVID pandemic, it was easier to stay close to home. Since the pandemic hit Mandy and Kendrick’s business hard, I knew taking a class would teach me a new skill and financially help out people I now consider my friends. Traveling and staying in an RV eliminated my need to interact with the general public. Once I got to the class, Mandy and Kendrick made sure that we took every precaution to maintain safe social distancing throughout the entire workshop. Safety, photography, and adventure? Sign me up!
When you sign up for a Mandy Lea Photo workshop, expect to have an adventure. The classes are on the road before the sun comes up, and on most days, the classes are out until the sun sets. It’s the best way to capture the ambient light and see every hand-picked photography location. While you might miss out on a little bit of sleep, you won’t miss out on an opportunity to capture stunning landscapes.
Mandy and Kendrick also craft each workshop with people of all ages in mind. I love that my new workshop friends span fifty years of life experience. Age really is just a number at the workshops, and everyone comes together like peas in a pod, paying no mind to age or ability. Aside from the RV camping and friendship, I also love that each of the workshops cater to all skill levels. During my first workshop, I never felt like a novice photographer even though I snapped photos alongside photographers with forty years of photography under their belts.
I didn’t even feel singled out when I had a complete meltdown on a particularly scary mountain pass. We are all one during the workshop, and Mandy and Kendrick make sure we all get the time we need to better our craft, and they make sure each student feels safe and cared for from the time we meet up until we say to one another, “See ya at the next class!”
Rent a Teardrop Trailer
Don’t worry if you don’t have an RV, but you still want to take on a new hobby like photography and pair it with RV travel. The best way to see what kind of rig suits your style is to rent an RV and see what type works for you. There isn’t a better time to try out the RV lifestyle than alongside a handful of teardrop-savvy friends, especially if you are interested in checking out a T@B, T@G, or even a Cirrus truck camper. No one knows the ins and outs of nüCamp trailers like nüCamp ambassadors Mandy and Kendrick.
Want to Give Solo RVing a Try?
Four years ago, I had the crazy idea of quitting my full-time job, buying an RV, and becoming an advocate for solo-female RVing. I loved the idea of traveling and showing women that it’s possible to RV alone. Little did I know that Mandy had the same idea, and we started our journeys less than a year apart from each other. While Mandy lived full time in her T@G teardrop, Phoenix, I traveled as a weekend warrior with my T@B, Towanda the Adventurer. Who knew that one day we’d cross paths and support each other’s ventures through photography, RVing, solo-female travel, and eventually friendship? You could say that we’re a pair of like-minded women with a passion for tiny trailers.
If you are unsure about solo travel, I hope you won’t let your uncertainty stop you from finding your passion. I’ve never felt safer than I do on the road, and I’ve met some of my best friends through the T@B and solo-female RVing community. I dedicate a lot of my travel planning meetups and adventures with other solo RVers, and as the interest in RVing grows, so do my opportunities. The best way to find your footing and see what RV camping is like is to try a trip with people who can give you pointers and support along the way. If you live close to Texas, consider renting an RV and teaming up with Mandy Lea Photo at either the spring or fall camping and photography workshops. Mandy and Kendrick meet up with a small group of campers at a campground in Texas, and they help tiny RVers practice photography and camping basics together in one fun-filled weekend.
Find Your Adventure
Even if photography isn’t your thing, you can still use your RV to take you to new places and try out new hobbies. There are events all over the country where RVs take center stage, from RV meetups at music events or festivals to campouts at sporting events or cultural events. If you want even more adventure, nothing goes better with outdoor activities than RV camping; the two are like the bacon and eggs of outdoor fun.
Speaking of big-time adventure, I can’t let the opportunity pass to let you in on a little secret. Did you know that Mandy and Kendrick do more than photography workshops? It’s true. You can take your RV and park it in a campground and head out on foot with Mandy and Kendrick as your guides. The two lead Grand Canyon backpacking and Colorado backpacking trips. They do all of the planning, gear packing, and permit collecting, so all you have to do is show up and hike. Rest assured, no matter what Mandy Lea and Kendrick activity you attend, know that you are in good hands. Mandy is basic first aid and adult CPR certified, and Kendrick is Wilderness First Responder, and both adult and child CPR certified. Mandy and Kendrick have your back in the wilderness, just like Han Solo and Chewbacca would have your back in space. You can’t go wrong with a pair like that!