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The Current Camper Life of Whitney Tressel

By Marah J. Morrison

Seasoned freelance photographer, photo editor and world traveler Whitney Tressel adopted the camper life May 1, 2017. Tressel bought a 1985 Toyota Dolphin camper and was prepped on the road two weeks later, by May 15.

She named her camper Penny Lane, after the real Pennie Lane Trumbull, personified by Kate Hudson in the movie “Almost Famous.”

“I like to think this Penny Lane, in vehicle form, is a symbol of strong, independent women believing in and following what they love,” Whitney Tressel said.

Whitney Tressel & Her Motivation

Whitney Tressel said the choice of camper itself was not the inspiration, but more the mode of travel, for a different lifestyle. She said logistically, she has been traveling so much, it made sense for her to live in the vehicle that transports her to do her work.

Also, Whitney Tressel said she wants her journey to deliver a positive message to young women who want to travel solo.

“I sometimes miss having a home base not on wheels,” Whitney Tressel said. “But for the message I’m trying to send and the lifestyle I currently want to lead, a camper is a perfect choice.”

Whitney Tressel is intentionally not working as much right now because she is hoping to let some personal projects of hers bud. However, she still consistently works for Google, National Geographic Student Expeditions and Budget Travel.

Whitney Tressel’s external work consists of her photographic work — and work she does for a living — which include Instagram stories for WeWork, videos for Budget Travel and Samsung, and live broadcasts for Zagat and Google. However, her internal work is work that benefits her life in positive ways such as having a morning meditation, reading books by heroes and mentors and leaving space for ideas and thoughts.

When it comes to her photography, video and writing business, Whitney Tressel hopes to work as she has been, but be brave enough to pursue personal projects and welcome transitions in her work. She said this happens with time, care and lots of reflection, but she will always be photographing.

Whitney Tressel said she is also working with WeWork, a new client that highlights her freelance camper life via Instagram stories she sends them from various destinations. She also believes finding and maintaining work is more difficult when you are based in one place.

Whitney Tressel said her friends and her family will be the first to tell someone she is a poor communicator. She said she truly tries to stay in contact, but she is also an advocate for keeping present in the moment, which often doesn’t include a cell phone or email inbox.

“They understand, but nonetheless I’m trying to improve,” Whitney Tressel said.

Whitney Tressel said both her mother, Carol Zabel, and her father, Jim Tressel, former Ohio State University and YSU head coach, and current president of YSU, are supportive of her camper adventures, and she cannot say they would have been the ones to think up such an idea for her. However, her parents know Whitney Tressel is a willful, adult woman and that she is going to do what she’s going to do regardless of anyone’s approval.

Jim Tressel said his daughter decided — rather than camping in New York City and flying everywhere — she just camps wherever she camps, flies to where she needs to go, and goes back to her camper and goes on to the next thing.

“With social media the way it is, she can do both of her passions of her artistic side and also her what will help the world side,” Jim Tressel said. “She’s a brave young lady with a lot of passion to be really good at her craft.”

Jim Tressel said his daughter wants to make a difference in other ways, and so she has a real desire to see everything in this country and a lot of things in the world.

At first Whitney’s mother had a lot of questions and concerns, also a lot of worry about what this looks like and how anybody would do this.

“I was pretty nervous, but I really trust Whitney,” Zabel said. “She’s really smart, intelligent, not spontaneous and thinks things through.”

Zabel said Whitney Tressel did a lot of soul searching even before she brought the camping adventure up. She said if people ever have children, they know they love them and worry about them from the moment they’re born and forever.

“It doesn’t go away, just because you guys become adults or that you’re on your own and you’re able to make your own decisions,” Zabel said. “Mothers and fathers continually think about your life choices, and where will it take you, and if you’re going to be all right.”

Zabel said at this point, she’s comfortable with what her daughter is doing, and she’s shown a lot of confidence, made great decisions. It’s a way of life.

“It’s a lifestyle, it’s not camping anymore,” Zabel said. “You wake up in the morning and you decide what does my day look like, where am I going to work, where am I going to sleep tonight, where am I going to eat and how do I need to dress.”

Zabel said this lifestyle is different from the average person’s usual day. She said it goes right down to the basic needs and the safety needs of an individual.

Whitney Tressel said at the end of the day, her family knows how smart she is on the road, and how she has become an adversity expert. She said her sister and her brother are supportive as well, and she only hopes she can reciprocate one day for them.

Photo Courtesy of Whitney Tressel

“My motivation to live on the road is to be a symbol to young women that they too can be wild and free,” Whitney Tressel said. “They too can celebrate choice and responsibility and take ownership in the way they contribute to the world.”

Whitney Tressel said she hopes to be more involved, not only in media and the travel industry, but also on the ground as a daily messenger of kindness, adventure, open-mindedness and hope. She also said she thinks it is important for women and girls to feel comfortable out and about in their country, just as most men are.

“I believe that all people are mostly good, and part of the reason I’m out here is to prove that to myself — practicing what I preach,” Whitney Tressel said.

Whitney Tressel said this new adventure is good for her as an unrelenting New Yorker and an industrious Ohioan combination.

Whitney Tressel’s history of work and feedback on her work include working in seven countries so far, teaching for National Geographic Student Expeditions, over the past five summers, which is half the amount of years this arm of National Geographic Expeditions has even existed.

In 2016, her best “Coast-to-Coast by Word of Mouth” project was a finalist for Min Magazine/Folio Mag’s “Best of the Web” Awards for “Best Multi-Media Feature.” This was a project in which Tressel drove, solo (not in a camper), from Los Angeles to Charleston solely off the in-person word-of-mouth recommendations on where to eat and play, things to do and see. In this experience, Tressel was basically traveling blindly, all according to others. She said it was “wild.”

Whitney Tressel didn’t win, but she was a finalist. Min Magazine has since merged with Folio Mag, and she they still do these awards.

Whitney Tressel was one of the producers for “Food Tripping Live,” a project with the Zagat/Google team that was nominated for the 2017 Webby Award for “Best Social Video Series” when the team live broadcast the best of the food culture, such as restaurants, bars and farms, from 50 states over 50 days last summer.

Whitney Tressel was also interviewed by Business Insider in 2015: “A travel photographer reveals how to get the best photos while traveling,” which she said was “pretty fun.”

To keep up to date with Whitney Tressel and her adventures, follow her on Instagram @whitneytravels.