The good, the bad & the amazing
by Alexandria Bombach, filmmaker and Horny Toad Ambassador
I didn’t set out to live this way, it just sort of happened. And now there’s a blurry line between whether I live this life to do this work, or if I do this work to live this life.
It started in early 2010 when I figured out that staying in one place was not going to be an option if I wanted to run my production company, RED REEL.
The stories I wanted to tell were all over the map, and my schedule didn’t leave time to come back to a home base in between. To solve the problem, I got a 1970 Airstream I call Roma. After a few years of wandering across the country, the stories I began to want to tell exceeded the travel capabilities of my slow-moving little silver home. That’s when I left the airstream behind to start my one-bag life as a filmmaker on the road.
Now, I travel constantly. I’m in most places for less than a week – hopping from story to story. Whether it’s working on my own films, or being hired by other production companies, this work takes me everywhere from the remote Outback of Queensland to the thick jungles in Kauai, from filming ranchers in Montana to the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. When I meet new people (often every day) they usually have one of two reactions to my chosen lifestyle: longing or pity.
The truth is, there are wonderful highs and desperate lows to living this way, and the never-ending swing between the two can be both exhausting and fulfilling. Although this isn’t the ultimate list of every road warrior, here are what I have found to be the five best and toughest things about living on the road.
Best: Humans Meeting people from all over the world is my favorite part of this job. From belly laughing with my driver in Kabul to an amazing wordless conversation with a young girl in Kenya, to meeting a stranger-turned-friend on the plane to New York City – connecting with people who live in different parts of the world, all with their own story to tell, is one of the most enriching parts of my life.
Tough: Missing Family and Friends Hopping from place to place has me missing everything from weekend BBQs to birthdays to weddings, and sometimes that’s pretty tough on relationships. I feel lucky to have such a wonderful community that understands and even supports this lifestyle I lead.
Best: Simplicity Everything I need is in one suitcase and two camera bags. If I can’t carry it, it’s not coming with me! Making life work with just the necessities started as a challenge, and now I see it as a benefit of traveling. Your favorite shirt becomes a scrapbook of memories, your only pair of sunglasses becomes your partner in crime, and the perfect sized notebook becomes a cherished friend.
Tough: Bike I miss having a bike more than anything else. I daydream about the freedom of two human-powered wheels almost daily. Thankfully, city bike rentals are popping up across the country. Just need to remember that helmet.
Best: Season Skipping The sun kissed beaches of Baja, Mexico are my favorite place to escape to when the snow starts to fall. I’ve skipped winter for three years in a row now, and I think it’s starting to become a habit.
Tough: Being the “Newb” No local clubs, memberships, or frequent customer benefits come with this life. It can be tough! While trying to settle in everywhere I go, I’m constantly a “newb” (short for newbie). Bartenders never recognize me and I am always doing something wrong, like walking into the wrong entrance of a grocery store or pronouncing a word wrong in a foreign language. But, being the new kid on the block is not as bad as it seems. Even people in a busy city are willing to give me directions once they realize I’m “fresh off the boat.” It’s wonderful glimpse into the kindness of strangers every day.
Best: Balance Bouncing back and forth between wilderness and urban landscapes inspires me creatively and keeps me going. Getting my fill of mountain air and the thick heat of a spinning metropolis is a huge benefit of living on the road.
Tough: Gardens and other living things Literally having no roots is a tough part about living on the road. I’m green with envy from anything to a friend’s beautiful garden to a simple succulent! Not to mention having a pet. Can I borrow yours for the day? Thanks.
Best: Food A hobby I love is eating new fruits in every place I go. I was just in a coastal village in Kenya where the apple mangos could make you fall off your seat. Lilikoi in Kauai will electrify your senses and a glass of pomegranate juice in a cafe in Kabul will make you forget your name. Yeah, I love fruit.
Tough: Food I have completely lost any cooking skills I once had. Grocery shopping? Fugheddaboutit. My lifestyle has made me into an “opportunivore,” a forager, and I’m not sure if that will change anytime soon. I have no room in my suitcase for a spice rack or a nice cast-iron pan. Will you make me dinner?