We had the good fortune of connecting with Brooke Michiels and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brooke, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m from Bayou Des Allemands a small bayou town outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. We grew up pretty poor but you really don’t know that as a kid. I come from a family of addicts. Most of my mom’s side of the family has passed away young due to drug or alcohol addiction. I always knew I wanted out of the life I was born into; I knew I wanted better for myself than what was expected of me. I moved out while I was still in High School. I put myself through college and law school with very little financial or emotional support from my family. My mom passed away before she was 50, while I was in my second year of law school. I think that for me was eye opening. So many people save for 50 and then hope to retire and really live their lives. But my mom never made it to 50, so many people don’t. So after law school, I was rotting away a firm that didn’t appreciate me, working crazy hours and my mental health was suffering. My husband was working 80 hours a week in the oil field at the time doing some very dangerous work. So when we had the courage to admit we were both miserable living our “American Dream” we sold everything. My husband and I literally bought a camper, sold everything that wouldn’t fit in it, bought a truck to pull it, quit our jobs we hated, and hit the road in a matter of a month. That was in 2017, and today its 2022. We are still traveling in our camper. Loving life! Spending time with our fur babies and each other, and just … well … living life like it was meant to be lived! I 100% credit the amount of young death I’ve had to process in a concentrated period of time for the way I choose to value life. We are not promised tomorrow, I try to remind myself that daily. I sometimes ask myself. If you don’t make it to tomorrow, would you be happy with how you spent today? It helps me keep myself in check when life gets busy!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Before I started B Happy Camper Photography, my private photography business, and LONG before I co-founded Full Potential Wilderness a local Rocky Mountain National Park Tour Guide Company with my co-owner and dear friend Jessica Shouse; in 2017 when I first started traveling full time, I bought my first DSLR camera. It was a cropped frame heavily used kit set I got on Facebook Marketplace (which in retrospect is not a great place to buy used camera gear lol). I didn’t start photography ever thinking I’d monetize it. I started photography because it was the only thing I could do that quieted my mind. I was very depressed in 2017 when I started traveling. I quickly lost my Gram, two uncles, and my young cousin after leaving Louisiana. I’ve always been high anxiety and can’t remember any time my mind was just still, quiet. I explain my mind to people as a hamster wheel. But with photography it was different. I had found my mental mute button, and boy did I need it then! I started adventuring a lot more in hopes to further my photography hobby. Nature became my mental health therapy, and slowly, started to heal me. But photography is an expensive hobby if you want to advance. And we had just quit our fancy jobs. I had just started my own law firm I was operating mostly remote but building a business takes time.

So to fund my photography hobby and our travel lifestyle we began to work at campgrounds as work campers. I’m here to say this journey wasn’t easy. As a lawyer, I am not too proud to say I cleaned toilets. Yes, you read that right. Was it fun? No. Am I proud of that part of my life? No. Was it necessary? Yes. And that is what sets me apart from others. I’ve had to scratch my way through literal Hell to be where I am today. I want it more. I’ll work harder. I’ll hustle longer. Because at the end of the day if it’s me or you, It’ll always be me. That’s survivor mentality.

I’m smart, and I have always believed in myself. It definitely helps to have a husband who supports my crazy ideas. So I’d say the biggest challenge for me was I knew ways I could make money on the road (other than campgrounds) but they all required money to make money. And, well, I didn’t have much money. I’m talking a few dollars in the bank account, can barley put together a meal with the last of our groceries, not much money. So I stayed at those campgrounds doing work that I was way overqualified for, so that I could reinvest my law firm money into Ecommerce. I got into selling on Amazon. I built that business as passive income while I built my book of business for my law firm. I started doing Trademarks and Copyrights for other Amazon sellers through my law firm. But this was all just a boring means to an end. Eventually my remote work was making enough money for us to leave campgrounds. That was a glorious day!

In 2019 we moved back to Estes Park. I upgraded to a full frame DSLR. I used a little bit of money my Gram left me to buy my first zoom, it was an 80-200 2.8 and I still love that lens. I was hiking and healing. And then I met Jessy. We met in Rocky Mountain National Park which is fitting. We are very opposite personalities but were drawn to each other’s appreciation for the Park. We started hiking together and realized that we both used hiking and photography as a mental therapy.

In 2020 the pandemic hit and boy did we need the mental health therapy more than ever. Everyone did. We decided to share our love for the outdoors and our photography with others by starting our all female owned and operated RMNP Tour Guide Company- Full Potential Wilderness. As we are both passionate about inclusivity in nature, we specialize in accessible hiking for everyone! We offer fully customizable all-inclusive guided hiking or driving tours winter or summer in RMNP.

2021 was really good to my law firm and I was able to really invest in my photography. I bought my first 500mm, a 50 mm, and my first wide angel 14 mm 2.8. It was a GREAT YEAR FOR BUSINESS. The best part is I didn’t have to clean any toilets to buy this gear! (haha)

If anyone else out there is where I was. A low place mentally, emotionally, physically, financially. Remember there’s never a hole too big you can’t dig your way out of. It’s okay if life isn’t easy. That just means you work harder than everyone else around you naturally. Don’t give up. Because if I could escape a bayou town no one ever leaves and live this beautiful life, you can overcome anything! We are taught to color inside the lines our whole lives, chase that American Dream. And I’m here to say, it’s okay if that isn’t what makes you happy. Just find out what does bring you joy, and chase it until you can’t run anymore. When everyone else thinks you are running away, don’t mind them. You will know what you are running towards. So when did I become B. Happy Camper? I’m not really sure, somewhere between the grief and the grind here I am.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So this is an easy one since I book itineraries for people through my company Full Potential Wilderness every week.

Estes is so magical! I would totally bring them on a hike. Something challenging if they were up for it like Chasm Lake or Sky Pond. Or snowshoeing in the winter! I’d definitely bring them by Cinnamons for breakfast (I’m a frequent flyer there myself lol)!

I would totally bring them wildlife viewing depending on season (rams, elk, moose, etc.) Driving the Peak to Peak Highway from Estes to Boulder (because you never know what you’ll see). And maybe a quick stop in Golden at the Sherpa House on their way back to the airport (because that is hands down the best restaurant in Colorado (coming from a Cajun girl who is very critical on food).

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my Pap and Gram, Horace and Joel Mohon. They have believed in me and supported me through so many struggles. They helped raised me when it wasn’t there job. They are 100% the reason I am successful today. They are 100% the reason I escaped my fate. I never deserved humans like you two in my life. Words will never be enough to thank you for what your love has taught me, so I hope to keep making you proud!

Website: bhappycamperphotography.com

Instagram: @b.happycamper

Facebook: Brooke Michiels

Other: fullpotentailwilderness.com

Image Credits
All photos I have taken (B. Happy Camper Photography, Brooke Michiels) except for the last photo (of me) I would like Envied Photography to get photography credit for the photo of me shooting laying on the frozen alpine lake. Thank you!

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