Nature has the ability to heal itself. Camping is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries and reconnect with the environment. Whitney Lauritsen discusses how to carefully explore outdoor spaces, find campsites, and the transformative aspects of outdoor activities with Rolland Tizuela. They also address the drawbacks of recreation by delving into the surprising factors that keep people from camping, making this activity safer and more accessible, and the negative impact of social media on travel. Rolland also discusses how he became TikTok’s “poop guy,” a proponent of proper outdoor adventure preparation and leaving nature in better condition than you found it.
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The Great Outdoors: How Camping Can Change Your Life With Rolland Tizuela
I feel absolutely giddy to start this episode. Rolland, you might have hit the record for the most time spent talking before I hit record on an episode with a guest. It’s fairly common for me and a guest to talk for 20 minutes. Sometimes we go 30 or 40, but not crossing the hour mark and plus. You and I have been talking for 1 hour and 45 minutes. That was supposed to be the entirety of our time together.
Yeah, with the outro, intro and banter.
I’m delighted to connect with you. I was so excited about this episode because this is the last episode I’m recording with a guest in 2022. This is fun, but also I feel like I know you because of TikTok. For our audience, I got to know Rolland by watching his videos about camping and outdoor adventures.
For those of you who have been on the show for quite some time, that became a big passion of mine in 2020 when I did this big camping trip. I had never been camping before, Rolland. My friend suggested that we do a cross-country trip. Because it was during the heightened time of the pandemic, we thought it would be safer and much cheaper to camp along the way. The things I had to learn about camping were quite shocking because you don’t know a lot about those experiences until you do them.
There’s a huge learning curve of stuff you would never think of like the most basic of things. You don’t think of it until you’re there. You’re like, “I forgot, I didn’t do, I need or I should have packed.” I’ve been through all those questions in my head on the campsite kicking myself in the butt.
To set this up for Rolland’s videos on TikTok, they’re so thorough. They’re fun. Sometimes he does vlog-style journal-type videos. Sometimes they’re camping gear reviews. Sometimes it’s poetry. There’s so much in that outdoor world that Rolland has covered in a very short amount of time because I learned that he’s only been on TikTok for a few months since April 2022.
It’s a very short amount of time.
The ground that you’ve covered is remarkable. It’s wonderful because, for someone like me who is still pretty early in this outdoorsy experience that I’ve been embracing more and more, I find so much value. I’m learning about all sorts of things to buy. You also speak so frankly, honestly, and down to earth. You’re known for your poop video, for example. I don’t know if that was the first one I saw of yours, but certainly in the early days of you talking about how you poop while camping. People got into it. What do you think it was about that video that drew so much interest?
A lot of my videos that do well are about the pain points of camping. It’s humbled and grounded me because when I first started my TikTok, I wanted to make videos about all these experiences and campers’ gear, “This is super niche. This makes your camping experience cool like above head lighting,” and so on.
One of the simple things that our bodies do is go to the bathroom. That was one of my first videos that got quite a bit of traction. Many people are like, “Thank you. This is what’s preventing me from going camping, especially dispersed camping.” A lot of times, developed campsites like state and national parks do have either pit toilets or regular restrooms.One of the simplest things the body does is go to the bathroom. Click To Tweet
Another thing I found out is people, me too, are scared to death of those bathrooms because sometimes they’re horrific inside. I always say in my videos, especially during the 2020 pandemic, “I’d rather deal with my germs than everybody else’s germs.” I was like, “Let’s get back to basics 101. I’ll be the poop-camping guy on TikTok. This is cool.”
I fully embrace that and then now, I try to get this #epicpooview. When I take people camping and they have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I love the Luggable Loo. It’s the middle of the night and I say, “Take this. It’s 20 yards that way. Do your business under an epic starscape, not enclosed within walls or a porta-potty. Look up while you’re doing it.” Everybody comes back like, “That was the most epic poo of my entire life.” It’ll change you. It’s an experience you don’t think about. It can be so great, or if you don’t have a plan to go to the bathroom, it can be so bad.
You and I were talking earlier about how we wish that we had been connected to more like-minded people earlier on, specifically discussing TikTok. We were wishing we had a community of TikTokers that we trusted and that we can go to with questions as content creators. I feel that way right now. Where were you in September 2020 when my friend and I did this road trip? We made the decision that we were going to avoid public bathrooms because we were hearing at the time about the possibility of spreading. It’s not just COVID. It can be all sorts of things like germs.
It’s poopy germs. That’s what it is.
What COVID has done is opened my eyes to how germs work when somebody flushes a toilet and all the germs that go into the air, for example, and how transmission of certain things spreads more through our sewer systems. I certainly became a little bit more concerned about those things. On my travels, we started back then avoiding that. Number one was like, as women, how do we pee? I know you don’t have to worry about this Rolland, but you travel a lot with your girlfriend. I’m curious about her experience. There’s public exposure and it might not be as socially acceptable for a woman to pee in certain places where they’re used to seeing men pee.
On the road on the Interstate or somewhere out there, guys all the time are doing it. It’s funny like, “Look at that guy,” but not if it’s a woman. It’s a double standard.
Also, privacy. We were rigging it up. It was a huge part of our trip. When it came to poop, that was a much more challenging thing that neither one of us has ever had to figure out. Digging the holes and not knowing the distance between the cat holes. What do they call it?
A trail or a cat hole. How deep it has to be?
How did you learn all of that? You have a fascinating history even going towards your studies with the Pacific Crest.
Pacific Crest Trail, the PCT. I went to school at UCSD and I was a McNair scholar. I had to pick something to do a project on. At the time, I’ve always camped since I was younger. I was lucky enough that my parents took me camping. I always grew up hiking in San Diego and Southern California. We’re fortunate enough to have neighborhood hikes around. I had no clue what to do it on so I decided to do the Pacific Crest Trail because I wanted to do a whole section of it.
I thought, “What’s the better way than to do some research on it?” I got the research typed in. It was cool. I was able to buy some new camping gear. Section A, which is from Campo to Warner Springs is the first section of the Pacific Crest Trail. I spent quite a bit of time in 2016 doing the whole thing from point one to section A, and then going back and forth. I was doing what they call Trail Angeling, which was called Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail in the ’80s, where you help hikers out in any way.
A lot of people go out there and leave gallons of water. Some people leave phone numbers if they need a ride somewhere. They leave snacks in boxes, especially in the first section in California. It’s so dry. Depending on the rain, there are not a lot of water sources, even if you are filtering. I trail angel out there and I learned all of this stuff around hygiene. This is all backpacking. I don’t know if they use the term ultra-light anymore. Digging a cat hole, you have to be a certain amount of feet or yards away from the trail, away from a water source, and away from a campsite that people camp in.
It has to be a certain deep in the ground. Even if it’s biodegradable, you’re not supposed to bury toilet paper. You’re supposed to pack all that out. At the time, they called them white blossoms like, “Did you see all those white blossoms?” It’s all these people leaving their toilet paper on the trail. That was the different thing with hikers going back and forth. That’s how I started my outdoor journey which eventually led to thinking about all those things like how to do while camping or in nature or when hiking.
If you check out the video that I do have, it’s a whole system with a five-gallon bucket and a privacy tent. It’s not ultralight, but it’s mainly for car camping or families. We even use it on road trips if there’s an emergency. Some of my viewers too are from that prepper side of TikTok, which isn’t that outdoorsy and the prepper’s side meshes together. I saw some of those people in my comments. Who thought pooping outside would reach such a wide audience and have so many concerns?
I love that you mentioned the disaster-prepping side of it too because that is a big benefit that I’ve learned. Every once in a while, I’ll fall on that side of TikTok of the disaster prep and some of the content could be a bit scary but incredibly helpful.
Especially around 2020. It’s good to have a plan or at least know or be familiar with how to do something.
In California where you and I live, we’ve got earthquakes in certain parts of the country. There are many examples of natural disasters where you could be left without power for days or without a water source. Speaking of cars, there was a story. I don’t know if it was in 2022 or 2021 or if it’s somewhere on the East Coast on one of the major highways. During winter, there was a huge accident or something, and people were stuck in their cars for at least twelve hours.
Their car is probably going to run out of gas. They’re trying to figure all this stuff out. They don’t have any type of prep there, not only in terms of food. People often cover the bases of their cars like, “What if I get injured?” They might have the first aid kit in there but, do you have an extra sweater? Do you have a blanket? What are you going to do if you get really cold? What are you going to do if you’re stranded and you need water and food? Doing all these trips has helped me think through these basic needs like you’re talking about. Speaking of going to the bathroom too, if you always keep this gear in your car, it’s always going to come in handy for something. Even if you’re stuck in traffic and desperately need to go to the bathroom.
You’re always ready to go. I borrowed a lot of that mentality from the preppers. If we want to get back to it, when I started watching Walking Dead in 2015, it got me thinking about preparing a little bit and getting into what they call EDC, which is Every Day Carry. It’s the things you’ll need on hand throughout your daily life. Prepping is a whole science that I’m not very well-versed in. A lot of times they say, “If at the drop of the hat anything were to happen, could you survive or could you get home if you’re at work for the first twelve hours of something happening?
As you said, all those cars were stuck for twelve hours. You should at least be able to sustain yourself for twelve hours or have a plan to get to where you need to be or a safe spot, especially if you have children, and they’re at school. It’s having some kind of plan, and maybe brushing up on that plan twice a year. If cell phones go down and all that kind of stuff, it helps. A lot of that blends into camping and being exposed to that type of knowledge and planning.
Going out and having a good camping experience does require quite a bit of planning. Especially if you are someone or going camping with someone that isn’t used to the outdoors or doesn’t know if they’ll like the outdoors, it could get pretty complicated. There are those of us that can go out with a couple of Clif Bars and a sleeping bag and sleep on the floor. I’ve done that quite a bit too.
One of the goals of my channel is to get more people comfortable outside and there are all different comfort levels of being in the outdoors. I always say, “If I can give someone a warm bed and be comfortable outside, they’ll have a higher chance of wanting to go outside, therefore, hopefully caring about the environment.
Even if it’s not for those bigger-level things, being outside is good for your soul. It’s good for your spirit. Part of my research on the Pacific Crest Trail was looking at the transformative aspects of long-distance hiking. There’s something that I came across. The Japanese are on the cutting edge of outdoor research. It’s something called Shinrin-yoku. I think you mentioned this in one of your episodes. There was a book you were listening to.
I think it’s called The Nature Fix. It’s such a good one.
That’s what it is. I had that in one of my other notebooks from tuning in to your show. They’ve seen that just being outside can lower your cortisol levels within twenty minutes. You don’t have to be hiking, climbing or going on a walk, but just being outside. Some of the studies that we’re trying to look at are if being away from non-linear right-angle things and more organic shapes is easier on your mind. Your cortisol levels start to drop and it’s within twenty minutes, and just being mindful outside.
As everybody knows, in this day and age, cortisol levels and anxiety are so high with people that anything we can do to bring that down and re-center ourselves is great. The bigger goal in my channel is that. It starts with poop. There’s so much anxiety as pooping outside. It’s easing all those on that long road to getting people to be comfortable and having a good time outside.
That’s wonderful because I think of people that have been very perplexed and sometimes curious about my travels. I’m curious if this comes up for you, Rolland. Are people a bit taken aback when they hear about all the adventures that you do? Maybe it’s the people that you know. Since it’s a relatively new thing for me, I’m not surrounded by a lot of people like you yet. I’m surrounded by my friends that I’ve had for ten-plus years. They’re like, “Why are you all of a sudden doing all these round trips and camping?” They don’t get it.
I have a close group of friends that I’ve known for twenty-plus years. They’ve seen an easy transition of it for me. I do a lot of solo camping. My mom is a very nature-based person, so she gets it. My dad was like, “What are you doing going out for a few days?” When I’m hiking for a week at a time with nothing, he was like, “Why would you do that?”
It’s so weird for me. Sometimes I’ll meet new friends and I’ll invite them camping. I didn’t realize how weird that is. People are like, “Is this guy going to murder us in the wilderness?” It’s something that’s so natural for me. I don’t even think twice about it. Now stepping back, people say, “When I first met you and I didn’t know who you were and how much your camp, I thought, ‘Why is this guy inviting me camping? This is weird.’” Now, my friends always want to go camping with me. Because I go so often, I tell everybody, “I’m going to stop inviting you. Just know that you’re welcome because I don’t want to pester you every other weekend to go camping.”
You do things at another level, which I admire. Part of me is like, “I should add that to my 2023 goals because I feel like I do this as almost an annual pilgrimage. I don’t know if pilgrimage is the right term. For me, it’s a tradition now of going out across the country, and seeing all my family and friends. They still are a bit perplexed. They’re like, “Why are you out here? What are you doing? Why are you doing this every year three years in a row?”
I’m getting so many questions. “What if I did it more frequently like you?” That is something I’ve started to ponder, especially because Southern California or California in general is such a phenomenal state for nature in ways that I didn’t even fully realize until probably 2022 when I decided I wanted to check off some things on my list of certain parks and places in the state.
One thing I love about TikTok is the abundance of travel content. When I saw a TikTok video of someone raving about a place they went to, I go instantly to Google Maps and marked it there. On Google Maps, you can write these notes and keep them all organized. I went through all of my TikTok notes and maps and tried to plot out how many places I could visit. A ton of them were in California. I’ve been in living in California since 2004, and my mind is blown by how little of the state I’ve seen. For you, Rolland, since you traveled so much, you grew up out here. Do you feel like you’ve seen the majority of California yet?
Here’s something that’s so funny that people are always shocked about. Even after watching all my videos and I am a San Diego connoisseur of camping, I rarely go out of San Diego to camp. I went to Yosemite for the first time this year and that’s because my cousin won one of the campground lotteries. One of my goals for the coming year is to camp outside of my comfort zones. It’s so funny to say that because all my videos are from within two hours of my house. I would love to go out. I feel the same. I need to go out and explore more of California.
It’s so fascinating how easy it is it can be to get in our comfort zones. Also, you’re pointing out how we can have assumptions about people, and then they reveal the truth and you’re surprised by it. What you’ve been able to do in such a small area of the country is also impressive to me because you probably know every inch of your area.
Whereas I’m still surprised at certain streets that are not that far from me, walking around and exploring your neighborhood. That was something else that surprised me on some of these trips. A great example is when I went to visit my family in Ohio. I’ve been going to the Cleveland area my whole life because I have family out there.
It wasn’t until last year that I found out there was a national park there. I’m still in this moment of like, “What?” My whole life, I’ve never been there and I didn’t know it existed. I told my cousin, “Can we go to this national park? I want to check it off my park list?” She was like, “Sure.” It was a half an hour’s drive. I’m like, “What do you mean?”
We’re casually at some national park versus Yosemite. That feels such a huge undertaking. Yosemite is so majestic, but also it’s competitive to get into some of these parks. You have to play a lottery. You have to figure out where to camp. Depending on the season you go, it can be extremely overwhelming to go to some of the national parks.
That’s one of the things that I still love. I love being outside. When I get my camp set up, whether I’m solo or by myself, it doesn’t matter where I am, and I truly mean that. I know it sounds weird to say. I love cracking a nice beer, having a nice fire, and looking at trees. It doesn’t matter where the trees are. Don’t get me wrong. Yosemite and all the big national parks that are just beautiful and Instagram-worthy are experiences in themselves, but I love the little close-to-home campgrounds that I know.
In some of them, I know the camp hosts and the animals. There’s a campground that I go to where I have a skunk that visits me almost every time I’m there if I’m in the same campsite. I was talking to the camp host there and he had a name for him but I forgot. He was like, “He’ll come around. Don’t leave any food out. That’s what he is looking for.”
He was telling me about a mating pair of ducks that have been coming for the past three years. He’s like, “That’s probably those ducklings from last year. When we have water, they come back.” This is some little hole-in-the-wall campsite off the trail that I found in the past couple of years. The camp host has such a big heart and he’s been there for twenty years taking care of this campsite. He’s retired and he lives in a town close.
When you see people or overlanders, especially on these big trips with all this gear and all these trucks, everything looks beautiful. If you’ve never been camping, it feels like an impossible undertaking like, “I’m never going to get there.” I’m an advocate for doing things easily. If you can rent gear or if you have friends that you can borrow stuff, go to a local campsite. Counties, state parks, national forests or national parks have campsites. There are so many different ways.
One of the biggest questions I get is how to find campsites. It’s confusing because every site is different. If you find me in one of my lives, that’s what I do sometimes. I try to help people find campsites, but just getting out there. Make sandwiches at home and go out. You don’t have to make steaks on this expensive grill. I have videos like that because when I first started my TikTok, it was geared toward stuff like that.
In my last video, I’m like, “I bought this burrito at Frazier Farms. I didn’t even make it at home. I’m just going to heat it up.” It doesn’t have to be super crazy. I’m such a creature of habit. Local spots that are easy are my biggest thing. Especially when I’m solo, I like being easy. When I roll out all the gear because I’m trying to get people to feel comfortable and have a good experience. That’s when we do the nice dinners and this and that, but it doesn’t have to be all that. I can pick up a pizza to go and eat that for two days or some instant oatmeal.
I’m so grateful that you’re covering this because sometimes I wonder based on the way I do things. I spend so much time planning and saving money. Every year, it becomes bigger and more extensive for me. In general, sometimes when I share all these details, I feel like it overwhelms people. I’m grateful for you sharing the simple side of it too and reassuring people that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. I don’t even know what the term overlander means, by the way. I think I saw you mention it in a video and I was like, “What is that?”
It’s also a controversial term. I do overland. The best explanation I’ve heard is vehicle-dependent travel. Usually, you’re going out to campsites like national forest areas and the Bureau of Land Management. That means you are taking everything that you need to camp. You can roll up to a bare patch of land. You have your tables, fire pit, lighting, electricity, bathroom, and water to drink and wash clothes.
They’re going to places with zero amenities. It is a vehicle-dependent travel. There is a whole community that will be like, “That’s not overlanding,” or “Overlanding is this. You have to go 1,000 miles to be considered overlanding.” Vehicle-dependent travel is something that I’m comfortable with saying that I think is a good explanation of it.
Technically, that’s what I do then because I usually sleep in my car. I have this whole bathroom set up in there. You might find it funny because, with all these different definitions, I sometimes will try to go to RV parks. My car is electric. A huge benefit to the RV parks is that I can charge my car there. That helps me save money sometimes because it’s an all-in-one price. The pricing of camping is fascinating and how that differs from place to place. I guess what you consider cheap is relative. My point being is every time I go to an RV park, I have to call and explain. I don’t have an RV. I have a little electric sedan.
One time somebody said, we don’t allow that because we need to have everything contained. They were implying the bathroom. In my head, I’m like, “But I have three toilets or three different ways of going to the bathroom. I’m not going to dump it on your land.” I know how to carry it out. As you were saying, I know the rules.
This one place turned me away because they said, “I take your word for it, but we can’t allow it because we’ve had such bad experiences.” I find that so heartbreaking because a lot of the prices go up or the rules change because not everybody treats places with respect. I wonder, is that because of ignorance or is it because of selfishness?
You’re bringing up a whole other topic that is very controversial, which is sharing some locations that you camp on public platforms, especially TikTok. It’s very controversial. I think it happened in Alabama Hills in 2020. A couple’s posts went super viral. As I said, “Who knows that they don’t know if they don’t know what they’re doing, if they don’t know the rules or if they don’t care?” Some people are a-holes that don’t care. Some people honestly don’t know. Regardless of why, they had to close it down because there were so much trash and destruction out there.
Pin-dropping is a hugely controversial thing and a lot of people use that term. There’s a side of the fence that says they don’t share anything, and there’s a side of the fence that says that those people are gate-keeping. I honestly see both sides of it. My biggest thing is I see so many videos that talk about gate-keeping or also videos sharing places, but I didn’t see a lot of videos telling and showing people how to properly explore the outdoor spaces.
That’s why before I even get into this conversation or share locations, I want to give as much information so that people are prepared, and respectful of the land and other people camping out there. I feel like that was missing in the conversations. Should we share or should we not share spaces? What about let’s educate people to share spaces? Not everybody is an a-hole. Some people just honestly don’t know.
If you go camping somewhere and you weren’t brought up or you weren’t taught that, I don’t want to “gate-keep” that information. I want to put that out there. Sometimes it can be a safety thing too. If you are going to places that are on off-road roads or forest trails and you’re not ready for the weather or the road conditions, and someone gets stranded out there, but they’re trying to get there because they saw it on TikTok that it’s a beautiful spot. That can be very dangerous for the people there and the people coming down the mountain if they block the road. It’s a whole can of worms, but that contributes to campgrounds being overflowing or camp prices that we’re talking about.
In 2022, all state parks went up $10. That was because since 2020, with the huge influx of people out there, there are more facilities being used. There has to be more cleanup. There has to be more maintenance on the trails around the campgrounds. It makes sense. As I said, one of my goals is to get more people outside that haven’t been outside, but I want them to be prepared. I want them to feel like they have a connection with the land. I want them to feel like they can leave it better than they found it so that we don’t engage in a heated conversation about sharing locations on public platforms. I would rather have people be informed.
I appreciate that and it’s such a beautiful mission that you have because it’s interesting how many people are feeling disconnected from not just nature but themselves. As you mentioned, there are so many impacts that nature can have on our mental health. There’s a viral trend or sound on TikTok about how important it is to see water. Have you seen that one? I forget what the phrasing was. We’re so fortunate in Southern California to have the ocean right there. There are plenty of people in the country that yearn for that.
Someone like me never goes to the ocean out of sheer laziness. For me, where I live in Los Angeles, it’s a trek to get out there. It takes a lot of time and energy. It sounds like you live very close walking distance to the ocean, and you do so much camping there. Do you feel big benefits on your mental health from that? Is there a noticeable shift every time you go out to the water and crack open that beer and set up that fire?
I honestly say yes to that. I believe that and I’m extremely fortunate. Not only do I camp a lot and that includes beach camping in Carlsbad when I can get a camp reservation there. I work for a city in San Diego that is on the beach and I am on the beach maintenance team. I am on the beach literally all the time and driving on the beach all the time. I attribute a lot of that to feeling so good. I don’t think I would consciously say it. I don’t go there to feel relaxed, but I feel like it does have a very big impact.
Because I start work early, I’ve watched so many mornings of the sun coming up while on the beach, and it is so calming. I look forward to it all the time. I”ll have a morning coffee, watching the sun come up over the beach. If I’m working late shifts, watching sunsets or working events. I’m sure people have experienced this. I’ve experienced it at the Grand Canyon, but I experienced it from a lot at work, working late shifts.
If it’s an epic sunset, people will clap for the sunset because it’s so beautiful, especially if there’s a concert going on or something. I’m I always need to take a step back and be like, “I take this for granted. It is so beautiful out here.” Sometimes, I got all these people clapping for the sunset and I have to take a step back and be like, “I am so fortunate.” I have to check myself and be like, “Yes, you should. That is a beautiful experience.” Sometimes I do feel a little jaded, so it’s almost the opposite. I’m like, “The beach again.” The joke at work is, “Another beautiful beach day. Here we go out there.” It does have a big effect on my mood subconsciously though.Sometimes, we need to take a step back and appreciate the outdoors we often take for granted. Click To Tweet
It is something I’m laughing at because I used to live relatively in the same part, except I was further north in Venice Beach. I started to get annoyed with it. It’s mostly because there were so many crowds, like what you’re bringing up. That got to me over time. This beach can be dirty. There have been a lot of issues with crimes or various safety concerns and yet, I would try over and over again to appreciate it.
You have to look past some things in certain parts of California. That’s probably what drives me and makes the experiences of traveling so sacred. It is like seeking out those places where there aren’t crowds. Are you able to find that in your area? When I think of San Diego, I think of the city or the downtown. I think of the areas outside of it but, I still see a lot of people and cars in my mind. I don’t know much about nature beyond the water.
In San Diego, there are a lot. The Cleveland National Forests is right in our backyard, and there are a bunch of campgrounds all along that. Julian is a popular little town up there, but there are campgrounds surrounding all of that. It’s so funny that you ask about the crowd thing because luckily, I work a weird schedule so I have some weekdays off. Sometimes, I’ll be able to get a campsite first come, first serve or a reservation site on a Thursday and a Friday night. It’s so funny thinking about this.
The way that a crowded campground feels versus when it’s empty is completely different. This happened to me when I was at Laguna Campground. It got down to the low teens, which is crazy for Southern California. I think it was 14 degrees or something. It was a Thursday night when I went up there, and there was one other person camping all the way to the other side of the campground. It was a full moon that night and it was beautiful. It was so calming and peaceful and cold, but I took it all in.
The next night was a Friday night and it wasn’t super packed, but there were a lot more people. It wasn’t bad, but it was a different vibe. I know that some people find that comforting, especially if you’re a new camper, knowing that there are people around when you’re out in the forest. I’m not knocking on crowded campgrounds at all, but depending on where you are in your outdoor journey, I feel like when you spend more time outdoors and you find yourself being more comforted being alone.
That was one of the very interesting things that I found in my research, especially people that completed 200 to 400 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. The research I did was right. A year or two after, the book Wild came out or was it the movie? I forgot, but I saw the PCT charts of people that attempted versus the year before, and there was an incredibly huge influx of people that try to hike the trail.
Once they got to the 200 to 400-mile mark, they said that when they first started, they felt extremely scared. Those are the first couple of weeks because you’re out there and you don’t know. There’s nobody around for miles except for probably some other hikers because they’re in herds. There are animals. They felt very vulnerable.
Once they got to the 200 to 400-mile mark, people said that they started to feel like nature was protecting them. When you had to go into town to resupply sometimes, especially people that go up to 700 miles to 1,000 miles, they felt uneasy in towns. They felt like when they were going back on the trail, they felt hugged and protected by nature. I’m getting goosebumps talking about it because it’s such a beautiful experience. The people that had that most profound experience were the people that were the most scared at the beginning.
That’s interesting to say. I feel the same way. I’m more afraid of people sometimes than I am of being alone out there. As I said, if you are new to camping, it is reassuring to know that if something happens, not even something scary. Let’s say it gets too cold or you forget something or you get hurt. It is reassuring to know that there are people around. It’s two different experiences that are interesting, Experiencing it from a hiker standpoint, as well as a camper standpoint of car camping.
It is an interesting thing that you don’t understand until you start doing it. I’m still in the phase where, generally, despite my preference to not be around crowds, when I’m camping and sleeping, I feel so much more comfortable in a crowded campsite. I feel like if something goes wrong, somebody could help me or they’re going to hear me. I still have paranoia, especially as a solo female traveler.
Usually, I do these trips by myself. That vulnerability is shifting slowly but it’s still there. When you book a campsite, a lot of times, you can reserve. I’ll study the map and I want to read the reviews. I want it to be close enough to somebody else but buffered enough that I have privacy. That’s a tricky thing. In one of your videos, you were sharing a camping resource that shows you all the reviews of each individual campsite.
It’s CampsitePhotos.com. I use that site all the time. Do you know how Google car drives around and takes pictures of the streets? There has to be something that takes pictures of the individual sites. That’s cool to see.
I was trying to remember that when I was planning one of my trips. I’ll go on to Recreation.gov, which is run by the government. That’s a nice resource when you’re staying at any government-regulated site, which there are a ton. I usually feel a little bit more comfortable there. In my mind maybe these are safer. I don’t know. It’s interesting examining the safety and thinking through all of these things that might be misconceptions.
I’ve never stayed at any of the BLM land areas which are free. That sounds super appealing, but I’m afraid to stay there. I’m thinking, “What if I’m the only one there and in the middle of the night, some random person shows up?” I feel scared. Would I feel comfortable if I was the only one there and it was just me in the middle of the woods? I’m not at that stage yet where that feels comfortable.
I still experience that. That’s a question I get asked a lot. People are like, “Aren’t you scared when you go out there?” I always tell this story to people. I can be alone in the woods or the high desert completely fine without people for miles and miles. I went desert camping and it was dispersed camping in the desert for the first time by myself. Desert nighttime is very different from a mountain or high desert nighttime. I’m not going to lie, I freaked myself out.
The way that the shadows come over the mountains and I was in this little valley, I can’t explain what it is to this day. I think it is that vulnerability because when you’re in the forest, you feel protected by the trees. When you’re in the desert out there, there’s nothing higher. Shrubs are usually below your waistline. I put out my fire, I had my tent out, and that’s it. I had everything packed in my car. I was like, “If something happens or if someone comes upon me, I’m going to be out of here in a second.”
Even being experienced, it has to do with the environment. I love being out there by myself. Since then, I’ve been back to the desert a couple of times. Being informed of what it’s going to feel like and what the experience is can ease so much of the anxiety when it comes to camping. That’s why a part of my closing for my TikTok videos is, “Keep it safe, keep it clean, and keep yourself informed.” Those are the three pillars that are required to have a good time.
I still have scary times out there too. You don’t outgrow that. Depending on the environment or the weather, it can get pretty scary out there. There have been times when I and my girlfriend have been out there. It was so windy. We were like, “We have to leave. This doesn’t feel safe.” We were up in one of the mountains and we were dispersed camping. It was a 45-minute drive at night before I had proper ditch lights on my car. I was scared driving down there. It was extremely windy.
I was like, “We’re either going to get crushed by a tree or it’s going to fall in the middle of the road down and then we’re not going to be able to get down the mountain.” Luckily, we made it down. Now, I made some alterations to my setup since then. I have ditch lights now. I carry some type of saw just in case I can cut something that’s in the road. I know you’re a big planner. Being prepared can make stuff a lot better. In a weird way, for me personally, it allows for more spontaneity because you’re ready for more things. You can take more risks and be like, “Wherever I go, I’ll probably be okay because I’m a little bit prepared,” at least for sure.
You’re covering so many important elements of this. That’s part of where you have to do something in order to understand it or learn from it. Unfortunately, you never know how big of a risk it is because I don’t think I have a saw. I have a little ax, but I’m a little afraid to use it because I don’t fully know how to use the ax yet. There is all this stuff that I have to start doing it. I have to be shown.
When you mentioned the wind, it was something else that I’ve only experienced one time. I was in Colorado in mid-2022. I remember reading about this area being a bit windy because it was up on this exposed mountain area, but none of the reviews made it sound that dangerous. I thought, “Okay. Cool.” The night I went there, it was windy. I happened to be trying to set everything up. This woman came by who was staying there too. She was like, “Is everything okay?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m a little afraid that my car is going to be pushed off the side of this mountain.” She was like, “No. You’ll be fine,” but in my head, I was thinking, “Are these winds strong enough to push my car?” I had never been in that experience.
It was uncomfortable and then I was wondering, “Is something going to fall on it? Is my car going to get all scratched up?” I was fine but in those moments, you see how powerful nature is, for better or for worse. It’s very humbling. It speaks to my curiosity about learning and about the what-if scenarios. You’re saying the emergency prep and all of that. There’s so much.
For somebody that enjoys learning, camping and traveling are some of the best educational opportunities for us. With that being such a big part of your work, that’s incredible. I’m going to look at your TikToks from a whole new lens after chatting with you, and also thinking through other people. I imagine you know who I’m referencing, but I can’t remember their account name. It’s a couple that walked from Mexico to Canada. They like the PCT. They have the canoe. They’ve done all those trips.
I forgot their names too. I think they triple-crowned.
What does that mean?
That’s when you do the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide. I think they did all three of them, and then they did that crazy canoe trip, which was longer than all of those combined. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” They have their system dialed.
I didn’t have a ton of exposure to people that did stuff like that until I found their account. I listened to the Wild audiobook just a few months ago. I had no idea how hard the PCT was. I had so much ignorance about what people go through and I kept wondering. Part of me feels like, “I don’t know if I could do this so I’m not going to do it.” Another part of me thought, “I don’t know if I can do that, and that’s a reason to do it.” You discover so much about what you’re capable of and you’re talking about these mental challenges of vulnerability and getting over fear, figuring things out, and surviving. We don’t have that many opportunities in the way that our society is set up.
Especially if you’re fortunate enough because it does require that. That’s one of the things that was in my research. A lot of times, people are doing this in very transitional stages of their life, to begin with, because it takes 5.5 to 6 months on average to do. Not only does the trip cost money, but you also have to be able to leave a job or something in that timeframe.
Everybody that has done it and even people that I haven’t interviewed said it’s 100% worth it because of that transformative aspect as what you were saying. It’s weird because you have one job out there. One foot in front of the other, and it’s to walk. The rest of it is the head game. All decisions are made for you out there. Eat and walk is all you got to do. Once all those are removed. By the time they stop, people are hiking for 20 miles-plus a day. A lot of people don’t even hike with music. It’s like, “What’s going on?” I think the longest I’ve done is 4 or 5 days. I can’t imagine being out there for six months.
It’s the mental game of pushing yourself. People are burning 3,000 to 4,000 calories out there, eating as much as they can. Your physical body is going through this turmoil and your mental mentality is weak sometimes. You then hit a high point where you get to a mile marker or somewhere. It’s such a roller coaster that’s coming out the other end. It’s like coming out of a portal. You’re not the same person anymore.
People experience post-hike depression. They’re like, “What am I doing with my life? Where am I going?” I almost said, “Reality feels weird.” The non-hiking life and the off-trail life feel weird. It’s almost like a dream state you were in. I totally understand the, “Do I want to do it? Can I? Why I should do it?” That’s a huge part of taking on that huge and monumental endeavor for sure.
For me right now, that’s exactly why I do my road trips. I remember in 2020, many people are wondering if it was safe for me to do as a woman, which was interesting to ponder. I felt fairly safe, and it wasn’t until other people questioned my safety that I started to feel unsafe. All of this is a big mental game, and that’s probably why it feels so rewarding and deep. I’m doing that vehicle-dependent travel.
You’re overlanding. It is vehicle-dependent travel by my definition. That’s overlanding.
I’m not even close to that end of the PCT, for example. I’ve never done the campsites where you take your tent out and you walk somewhere, and you set up your tent far from your car. I don’t sometimes feel comfortable saying that I camp because I’m car camping. I have my heat on. The inspiration for me was the camp mode on the Tesla. I was like, “That sounds cool. Let me try it.”
I’m super grateful for it, but it’s definitely on the borderline of glamping. It’s not quite roughing it, but if I can get all these big benefits from doing that, my mind keeps wondering, “There’s so much more to discover.” That’s probably part of the mental health side of all these things you and I are both passionate about, Rolland. There’s so much more. Even for you, there’s so much more of California to be seen. There’s so much more for all of us if we can only step outside of our day-to-day lives, get into nature and spend more time outdoors.
I’m deeply grateful for the way you approach that through your work. I’m sad that our conversation is coming to a close because I could sit here for hours as we have. You and I have been talking for almost three hours straight. It brings a level of joy that you continuously tap into with your TikTok and your other content. I’ve been learning more about what you’re doing on YouTube. I am excited to see what you continue to put out there in the world, and how our paths might cross in person. I want to take you up on the camping. I want to come down and see what it’s like.
Let’s do it. That means so much. I’m glad that’s coming across because as I said, that whole big step to outdoors, the first steps are your front yard. I hope that’s coming across. I’m having such a good time out there. Even one time, I was at a campground alone, but I FaceTime my girlfriend. I was FaceTiming her and she’s like, “You look so happy out there like a kid.” Nature is so healing and being out there. Anytime you want to go. LA is not that far and I know of a couple of campsites up in that area that you guys have as well.Being out there with nature is a healing experience. Click To Tweet
It’s such a great piece of inspiration because certainly for the two of us, we have Southern California, which, I don’t. I understand that’s a privilege. There’s so much here that we have that other parts of the country or the world don’t have. You’ve inspired me to look outside my door. There are so many trails I haven’t even been to out here. There’s so much to see. As I mentioned in Cleveland, Ohio, which some people think is not that exciting part of the country, they have a national park there that you can drive to and go to for free.
Maybe this episode and maybe Rolland’s work on TikTok and other platforms will inspire our audience to literally step outside, whatever that means for them. They can look on a map and see what park they could go to. Can you camp for free or can you pay $5 for a campsite and check it out? They can go with a friend or do some glamping. There’s nothing wrong with glamping.
If anybody has questions, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, or you can direct message me. I love having a smaller following right now because I can respond to those messages and help people find their campsite where they are. I’ll do a little research for you if you’re new or if you’re experienced. One of the things I love doing is finding campsites online. I’ll help anybody out, for sure.
That is a great reminder too with social media. As I often talk about on the show, there are so many benefits to having a smaller audience, a smaller following, or whatever you want to call it because you get to connect. That’s something I’ve been so grateful for you, Rolland. You probably wouldn’t be on this show if it weren’t for the connection we formed through the comments because I found your videos and you responded to me.
I try to respond to as many as I can.
You are doing such a phenomenal job. I’ve felt connected to you. That’s the best way I can describe it. Thank you for being here. Thanks for creating that connection, and offering that to me and many other people I’m sure. This is just the beginning. I told you before we started, we can always make a part two.
Let’s do it. It’s such an honor to be on your show. Thank you so much.
You’ve had so many great quotable moments here, Rolland, that I plan to turn them into a TikTok. Thanks again for being here.
I’m excited to see what those are as well.
You might be surprised. We were writing your bio together. This is part of the amazing collaborations that can happen through a platform like TikTok.
I had a great time. We could probably continue this for hours. Thank you so much for having me, Whitney. It is amazing.
It’s my pleasure, Rolland. This is just the end, for now.
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About Rolland Tizuela
Rolland is an outdoor enthusiast and gear aficionado based in California. He is passionate about promoting safe, clean, and responsible recreation in US public lands. Rolland’s expertise lies in camping gear reviews, outdoor tips and tricks, and travel recommendations for campers of all experience levels.
As a McNair Scholar at the University of California San Diego, Rolland conducted research on the transformative aspects of long distance hiking. He earned his BA in Sociocultural Anthropology in 2018 and has continued to use his education and personal experiences to inform his work in the outdoor industry.
In addition to his love of the outdoors, Rolland is also a cultural observationist and enjoys exploring and learning about different cultures and traditions. He is always seeking new adventures and ways to share his knowledge and love of the outdoors with others.
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