Take a look at the little trailer with your heart instead of your eye — you might see something much greater.
By Tom Burick, F529976
On the surface, my tiny teardrop trailer is little more than some featherweight foam, fabric, and a whisper of paint. Look closer, though, and you will see something greater than the sum of its parts; it is a labor of love rooted in friendship and a conduit of joy and human connection.
The project started out simple enough. Being a schoolteacher, I wanted to surprise my students with a disposable foam trailer that they could crawl around in for my Friday camping club. The idea was to hitch the micro teardrop trailer to the back of my vintage Vespa motor scooter and roll up to the school playground to surprise the kids. I enlisted the help of friends, many of whom are craftspeople and artisans.
We gathered materials to construct the individual parts, such as the aluminum frame and sidewalls. When we met in a friend’s garage to complete the final assembly, a small miracle unfolded. The garage door was up, allowing passersby on the sidewalk to see the little trailer. They smiled and asked tons of questions in a patchwork of joy, curiosity, and bemusement. All of us, even the passersby, understood that there was no logical reason for this absurd, whimsical, oversized toy to exist — yet it did.
The project ended up evolving in a different direction. We started using better materials, leaving behind the notion of it being disposable. The trailer is now constructed of aluminum, extruded sheet foam, and canvas. It has a galley, a 6-foot-long bed, and an extensive storage area. In its entirety, the 170-pound trailer is 8 feet long, excluding the hitch. Three weeks into the completion of the project, I started a YouTube channel called “The Tiny Side of Tiny” to document the adventures
of my scooter camping trailer.
Using it can sometimes be a challenge, because it is towed by a 60-year-old scooter. I try to find camping spots within a 10-mile radius of my home in Mesa, Arizona. I look for farm pastures, open fields, and any other local spots where I can get permission to stay. I recently designed an elaborate trailering system for my truck. I carry the Vespa on the front bumper and winch the teardrop up on the bed. That way I can take them anywhere in the country.
The whole point of the project is for connection with my fellow human beings. Like many people, I struggled earlier in life and worked hard to overcome a lot of big obstacles. I came out on the other side as a very whole human being. However, I was still missing something — that something being real connection. So, I built this absurd little trailer to disarm people and have them approach me with a smile and open heart. It worked better than I could have ever imagined. It has been an incredible experience to share this project and connect with people in such a joyful way.