This is the story of two French modern nomadic wanderers: MelleSan, who lives on an island near Stockholm and takes analogue pictures, crafts jewelry and sells vintage clothing; and Maider B., an analogue photographer who is based in Biarritz, South West of France. The two women only knew each other on the Internet before they met for their adventure in the desert. You'll discover them off the grid journey narrated by MelleSan in this article. She tells us about what it's like to be living in the desert, to be a foreigner in Slab City (a snowbird community in the Sonoran Desert, California) and most of all to meet people. Discover the story, the analogue photos taken with Lomography films and the instant photos taken by MelleSan and Maider B. with the Lomo'Instant Wide just below.
It took me some time to find words and selecting photos and getting back to our incredible adventure without getting too emotional about it. Maider and I were internet contacts for over 10 years but had never met, both sharing a love for exploring the world and doing analogue photography with a similar sensitivity. A coincidence happened that we were both going to travel in California at the same time, so I dropped Maider a line and we decided to go on a photography journey together.
We clicked at once, love, at first sight, they call it, making it effortless to travel and live at the back of a Jeep together in sleeping bags and laughing from sunrises to sunsets together in the middle of nowhere in any circumstances, good or bad.
We decided to leave LA quite soon and to embark on a journey to the desert to meet people with a story to tell, people that have decided to live in a totally different way from the majority. That’s the stories we wanted to try and share through our photographs and be inspired from. Images and stories to keep forever.
I’ve left Paris myself 5 years ago to go and live in a small house in the middle of the forest on an island outside of Stockholm, Sweden so I already knew a bit what off the grid living could be, and both Maider and I had experienced some of it too through our personal travels all over the world.
But what probably stroke us on this adventure the most was the community life we found at Slab City. I had heard of Slab City before, "The last free place in America" located on what used to be a military base field left aside where people can come to find a spot of land to live on freely. Some people warned me not to go, that is maybe unsafe for two foreign girls on our own to enter this free zone where people make their own laws in the middle of the desert with real life "Mad Max" feel to it. We decided to go and live there for a bit in order to make our own judgment.
What we found there was beyond anything we expected. True heart kindness, solidarity between people, people making us feel welcome and part of the family, willing to share with us a bit of their story, why they left everything behind to start over with nothing in a rather harsh environment. The desert is not the easiest choice to go to, but they seemed to have found their happy place there.
We spent time with George that we portrayed on film too. He took us along with his dog in his car and drove us around Slab to meet people at their homes, most of the time made out of homemade improvised tents with fabrics or recycled materials. There we also met this beautiful artist woman named Nada and has been living with her daughters at Slab for a few years and would never trade her freedom to go back to anything else.
People were sweet and welcoming, willing to show us how they lived despite the fact that we were "outsiders". It was almost hard to leave Slab City but we had more people to meet and more experiences in the desert to come. But one thing is for sure, the desert changes you in some way, and you can never be the same again after living in the desert.
We were also struck by the number of people that live in their cars or trailers as a permanent living turning them into minimalistic homes, people that have decided they didn’t want to pay ridiculous amounts of money for renting apartments in the cities like Corey, originally from Ohio who moved to LA and lives in his car, allowing him the freedom to be mobile and travel around going skateboarding as it pleases him.
Or people that decided to go on exploring full time, like these sweet people from Oregon that we met in Death Valley that helped us when we got our rental car stuck at 7 in the morning in the desert.
Further on in my trip down south, I also met Leslie in Texas, who lives in the most beautiful wooden cabin in an artist compound a drive away outside of town, with farm animals, and artists as neighbors turning the land around them in a colorful artistic playground. Leslie crafts the most beautiful handmade unique garments made out of recycled leather as a living in that magical environment where she finds inspiration and peace at.
All these encounters and many more confirmed to us that there’s not just one way of living. There are many ways to find happiness in life when approaching it with an open heart and mind. More sustainable ways for the future that are already proving to be working.
Travels on the road and new experiences change you, you never return "home" the same, learning and opening your eyes on all the options you can create for yourself. Feeling free. Until next time on the road.