Roadlyfe And The Toyota Chinook

Roadlyfe And The Toyota Chinook

Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store

I ran across Roadlyfe on Instagram ( earlier this year while looking through our #thetoyotamag hashtag list. What immediately caught my attention was not only the beautiful Toyota Chinook RV/Truck, but the amazing locations this vehicle was visiting.

I reached out to Adam Smith, owner of the Toyota Chinook and creator of Roadlyfe. Adam is currently located in Kansas City planning his next slew of adventures, and agreed to do a short interview.

TCT Magazine: How did you end up finding a Chinook to take on the road?

Adam Smith: I found the truck when I met Troy Moth, an artist from British Columbia back in 2013. I worked hard to convince him to sell it to me, which took over two years. I finally acquired it in 2015.

TCT: Tell me more about the truck, is it an original Chinook or was it built?

Adam: This truck was actually put together before Troy bought it. It’s an ‘87 4x4 Toyota Pickup (Hilux) with a 1976 Chinook camper attached to it.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook

TCT: How did you decide to travel full time in the 4x4 Chinook?

Adam: I was actually already travelling full time when I bought the truck, in a VW EuroVan, which was a bit of a pain to work on. It was just a placeholder until I could get the Chinook.

Getting into the Chinook was a big upgrade for me. It’s not only a bit bigger inside, but as you’re aware...early Toyota trucks are fairly easy to work on. The 22RE engine is bombproof, so if you have a good Haynes style manual, a simple set of tools, and a little know-how, you can do just about anything.

I was actually able to fix a clutch problem in the middle of nowhere in Idaho just using the manual, and saved myself a very long walk back to civilization.

TCT: We’ve had almost every modern iteration of Toyota vehicles in our family, so I definitely understand the desire to explore in a vehicle that’s reliable, and easy to work on.

Adam, maybe you could run through the rough timeline of how you went from owning an art gallery to traveling full-time in a Toyota Truck RV.

Adam: Back in 2014, I was able to sell my longtime business in Kansas City and move to Bellingham Washington, mostly in an effort to start a new life in a more interesting place.

When that relationship didn’t really work out, I just started driving.

The first few months of traveling was really about finding out what was next for me. Once I finally got the Chinook, a new trajectory started for me. I found myself in the American west, and was able to finally pursue my long time dream of becoming a professional photographer. The Chinook and this situation allowed me to focus without distractions.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook

TCT: Wow, that’s a really interesting way to start such an epic adventure.

How long did you end up traveling full time?

Adam: 1251 days

After 3 years, things changed a bit...and even though I still love the concept of being on the road so much, I realized it wasn’t going to be long-term sustainable. You know, there’s a lot of smoke & mirrors in the full-time travel community that make it appear that you can stay on the road forever without worrying about money.

So after spending that long on the road, since I’ve come back to ‘normal life’, I’ve been working on ways that I can travel intermittently and sustainably going forward.

TCT: I agree that within the ‘overland’ community, there is a stark difference between a fully built ‘sponsored’ vehicle setup for extended travel, and something that’s more achievable and sustainable for most people.

Earlier you mentioned that you were in the EuroVan when you got the Chinook. How did it work out that you were on the road already?

Adam: I actually had a Jeep with a bikini top when I was in Washington, which wasn’t suitable for winter travel. I ended up moving into a Honda Civic after that and drove it to California. Then I wrecked it, and ended up in the hospital. That’s another long story, but to keep it simple: I was recently broken up, in a new state, with a wrecked car that I was living in, and ended up with a hospital stay PLUS a cancer scare. Once I got through all of that, I got the van, and it helped me realize that I really needed to be out there to experience more from life.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook

TCT: So tell us a little more about how you chose where to explore next.

Adam: I’ve always tried to chase the nice weather, I’m not a huge fan of extreme heat or cold. My normal route would lead me from the LA area up the western US and over to Vancouver Island, where I have quite a few friends.

At the beginning I was pretty much always on the go, I did multiple trips up and down the west coast, exploring the entire time. However once I gained more experience on the road I ended up slowing down and taking more time in certain locations. I got a lot more interested in wildlife photography.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook>>

TCT: During all of this exploring, do you have a specific, favorite trip that you could tell us about?

Adam: For sure!

During my last year on the road, I did a pretty great west to east trip.

I basically started in Oregon, then went through Idaho and up Highway 12 and made my way to Missoula. Then I headed north and spent quite a bit of time in the Glacier National Park area. From there I headed north into Alberta through Jasper, and up to Banff for a good six weeks. I then headed back south to Glacier, and back to civilization. This trip took at least 3-4 months.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook

During that last year I had about 19 bear encounters, including a false-charge by a big momma black bear up in Banff. That experience was a good reminder to be careful with wildlife, especially when they have cubs nearby.

TCT: So back to the Chinook. What do you love so much about that truck for doing this kind of exploring?

Adam: One great thing about that truck, is that it’s made to go slow. If I’m lucky I can get it up to 65mph downhill with a tailwind. In fact, the fastest that truck has ever gone is when it was being pulled by the bus (see the sidebar).

So since that truck goes quite slow, it’s great for small dirt roads and fire roads. It’s a great platform for taking time in the woods, looking for wildlife.

Roadlyfe and the Toyota Truck Hilux Chinook

My Roadlyfe project is really a great outlet for my photography, and I couldn’t imagine a truck that’s better for this than the Chinook.

TCT: So you’ve been off the road full time for a while now, do you have plans for some great exploring with the Chinook in the future?

Adam: I currently own a commercial photography studio in Kansas City, and it’s been doing really well. Going forward, I’m hoping that my commercial studio can help fund my travel, and some of my travel photography can fund itself. Ideally I’d like to spend 3-4 months on the road each year, with the rest of the time spent back at home.

TCT: That sounds like a really great plan. Thanks so much for your time today. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Adam: Thanks for the opportunity! I do have one last thought about how this time traveling really changed my life.

I never knew that I had it in me to wander the wilderness freeway until I was given the opportunity to do so. My early life was all like a lot of other people who come up without a lot of support. I never knew that I could support myself as an artist until I took the step of forcing myself to try.  I understand that not everyone will be given the same opportunities that I was, but I think it’s important to note how much taking those opportunities when presented has changed my life. All I ever want to do is find a way to sustainably travel and take photographs. There’s so much to see out there and making space to find that new version of yourself is invaluable.


I have no doubt that Adam will continue to find adventure around the country with his little Toyota Chinook. Such an inspiring adventure, and I can’t wait to see more!

[flickr set=72157717353087106] 

To get your copy of the

Summer 2020 Issue:

Download Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine
Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Printed Magazine
Read Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine Online

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get up-to-date industry news, events, and of course, amazing adventures, stories, and photos!

tct FBtct TWtct FB

tct social