KU graduate leads successful YouTube career documenting life from 13-foot camper
photo by: Courtesy of Elle Malmstom
Looking into her rearview mirror while driving through the Colorado wilderness, University of Kansas alumna Elsa Pageler always has her home in sight — all 13 feet of it.
Pageler, 28, has been living on the road in a Scamp trailer with her partner, Barron Link, and a Shiba Inu named Kamp for almost three years. She documents their adventures and challenges on her Youtube channel, which currently has almost 255,000 subscribers. Together, they have traveled through Colorado, Arizona and Utah, and they’re currently on the road in Montana.
“People think that this is truly a wild and scary thing; I might think so if I was outside of the lifestyle,” Pageler said. “It’s not as scary as it might sound.”
True, living inside a 13-by-6-foot, eggshell-shaped trailer entails utilizing every inch of space and making sacrifices. The trailer does not include a bathroom — instead, Pageler and Link use a shower bag and public toilets. Many aspects of the Scamp have also been heavily modified to allow it to be used as a long-term living space. Standard-issue amenities such as benches and sinks have been removed or covered up to make room for more storage, and custom drawers and cabinetry have been installed.
But living in a trailer doesn’t mean living off the grid.
Pageler said her lifestyle depends on having access to the internet. She uploads videos regularly to her channel and profits off ad revenue, while Link designs and builds websites remotely for clients. They use a Wi-Fi hotspot to access the internet from the trailer, she said, but they can always stop in a town if the connection is bad.
“As long as we have internet, we can really work from wherever we need to in the world, which is sweet,” Pageler said.
• • •
photo by: Elle Malmstom/Contributed Photo
When she and Link originally bought the trailer, Pageler said, they were mainly trying to save money.
The couple were living in Kansas City at the time, and she said they were looking for an alternative to the high rent they’d been paying for their apartment.
But over time, she discovered there were other benefits to living in the Scamp. She said she didn’t realize how stressful life was in the city until she started living on the road.
“There’s not that constant fight-or-flight stress, like how it was in the city … very fast-paced, needing to work all the time in order to fund our life, always needing something to do, people to see,” Pageler said. “The stress level was pretty constant (in the city) without even realizing it.”
Now their life is less busy and less cluttered.
“We have only what we need,” she said.
Not everyone understood their decision at first. Pageler said their friends and family were worried. Over the past few years, however, she said her videos have helped win over the skeptics.
“We showed pretty clearly that this is working for us,” Pageler said. “You have to keep pushing through that with anything you’re doing that’s new and against the classic way that people do things. You have to, or else we’d all be doing the same thing.”
• • •
photo by: Elsa Pageler/Contributed Photo
When Pageler and Link are not busy working, cleaning or cooking, they trek through hiking trails, ride mountain bikes and explore their surroundings. Pageler closely documents their adventures on video and edits the clips together into 10-minute films for her Youtube audience.
She said she’s not trying to convince people to live in a trailer. Instead, she wants to use her lifestyle as an example of what people can accomplish when they live with more purpose.
“There’s so much freedom in removing yourself from the standard society that we’re all kind of caught up in,” Pageler said.
Her videos are not typical vacation highlights. Pageler, who graduated from KU with a film degree in 2013, has made videos about cooking on the road, renovating the trailer and other aspects of daily life in the Scamp.
Before Pageler started her life on the road, she’d mainly produced art-related content on her channel. She said she had to slowly warm her audience up to the idea of more content about camping and the outdoors. But she said the novelty of the videos did a lot to keep viewers interested.
“It’s a weird thing to see a couple live in a 13-foot eggshell,” Pageler said. “So it’s not that that wasn’t interesting to the people who have been following for a long time.”
Pageler said she’s not sure how long she’ll live the nomadic life.
“I can’t picture myself doing anything else in the foreseeable future,” she said. “But it’s not one of those things I plan on doing until I’m dead.”
For now, she and Link are happy with their 13-foot home.
“We have given up a lot to live this tiny,” Pageler said. “But by living so tiny we have all the freedom to travel anywhere.”
photo by: Barron Link/Contributed Photo