Q&A with Shawn and Lauren Harris - Wanda Does America

Posted On Feb 17, 2016
Q&A with Shawn and Lauren Harris - Wanda Does America

Shawn and Lauren Harris, are full timers traveling and writing in a 1974 Airstream Sovereign named Wanda. Shawn is a musician and producer. His latest album, under the name St. Ranger, was tracked across America in slot canyons and grassy heartland prairies. Lauren is a writer, video editor, and amateur photographer. You can see their work and shots from the road at WandaDoesAmerica.tumblr.com, or follow them on Instagram @WandaDoesAmerica. They truly know how to #LiveRiveted.


Tell us about your Airstream:

Wanda is a 31-foot, 1974 Airstream Sovereign. When we first got her, she was barely in road condition, and we realized we were going to learn a lot about renovation. We built the bench seats and table that pop down to become a guest bed, the desk, and the kitchen counter, mostly from found furniture and fabrics. We wanted to keep the 70s feel alive, so went with orange and avocado green color accents. Waking up in our tangerine bedroom is magical (extra magical because we managed to squeeze Shawn’s amazing queen-sized mattress into the back!). We got our new fridge and AC unit installed by Camping World, but now that we have installed a few more electrical appliances and plumbed our own sinks, we wouldn’t take her back to a third party, ever. We installed all LED lights, so our 100-watt solar panel easily recharges the two 6V golf cart batteries daily, no matter where we are. Of course, we don’t have a TV, microwave, or anything else that can’t run on DC power, so we can stay off the grid longer.

How long have you been an Airstream owner and how did it come to be?

We have had Wanda since April of 2014. We were talking to some friends about our dream of working from the road, and how we kind of envisioned it in one of those “silver bullets.” Later that month, those friends called and said they found out they actually had an old Airstream sitting in the desert in New Mexico, and if we could get it out of the sand we could have it! It was the best wedding gift. We invested our savings in fixing it up together, and then in October 2014 we moved into it and drove to Texas to get married. We have been full timers since!

How long have you been on the road? Pros/Cons of the lifestyle/greatest tips for those aspiring to become full-timers.

We have been full timers for almost a year and a half. We would say the key thing for us has been figuring out how to identify BLM or other free land to camp on, and how to boondock/ dry camp so we can get the full “offline” experience. We sorted out our solar power (one 100-watt panel works fine for our needs), got a few 5-gallon water containers to fill up our tank once a week, bought DC chargers for our laptops and phones, and now we can spend weeks living unplugged and under the stars. You can also usually find us gushing about our compost toilet, which you can be sure will show up a few more times over the course of this interview, or any conversation you might engage us in. It’s so simple to use, has zero smell, and we fully disposed of our black water tank.

What’s the hardest thing about living on the road?

On a few occasions we’ve had to back out tight quarters when there was no sufficient turnaround. Also, sand has proved problematic.  

Where's your favorite place(s) to camp?

The Joshua Tree dry lake bed off Sunfair can be magical in the early spring. Any later than April is probably too hot, but on weekdays in February the area is quiet and vast, surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and stars. Weekends can get busy with ATVs and prop planers, but there’s full phone service so we can live and work there perpetually.

What’s the most important tip you can provide to someone that owns an Airstream? 

There are some great apps out there now that have helped us find free or cheap camping all around the US! One is Ultimate CG (Ultimate Campgrounds), and the other is the Public Lands app.

What are the top three places you want to go that you haven’t been?

We met a couple who spent a few months in Newfoundland, and we really want to go! Apparently it is a few hundred to take the trailer on a ferry over there, and then you can camp almost anywhere. We also want to check out some places in Mexico, after we get through a few more levels of the Duolingo Spanish app.

What’s your road trip soundtrack?

Surf guitar instrumentals sound good in most of the 50 states, in spite of popular belief that they are only suited for CA.

What is your favorite motto or quote?

One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time. -Hermann Hesse

Favorite Airstream Brands products?

The Airstream wine lovers package is quite steezy.

Tell us about the cause or charity that is closest to your heart - 

We just did a successful fundraiser via Shawn’s St. Ranger album release for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. We’re also very interested in water and energy conservation, as well as fossil fuel usage; interests which have all been piqued by our hands-on relationship with the matters via off-grid living in Wanda. All of our devices and LED lights are fully charged on solar power, and we’ve minimized our combined water usage to about 2 gallons per day (less than one flush of a toilet), largely thanks to our waterless compost toilet. We can talk about our toilet all day.  It’s really cool.

What's the favorite gift you've ever received?

Our compost toilet.  It was a wedding present from Lauren’s sister.  How romantic, right? Seriously. It’s awesome.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Follow your bliss. -Momma Harris

What is your greatest regret?

Slapping Jeff Kase on his sunburn while he was drinking from the drinking fountain in 4th grade, and then lying and helping him and the teacher try to find the culprit.  Man, I never copped to that one before- that’s cathartic.  I don’t know if it’s really applicable here, but thanks for asking Airstream Brands, and Jeff, if you’re reading this (which there’s a chance-- you were quite the young outdoorsman), I’m really sorry.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Babbling brook/ 73 degrees f / light breeze / Wanda’s gettin’ shade but the solar panel’s gettin’ sun / snow-capped peaks in the distance / no clock / no rent / no neighbors / a campfire later on / all of the stars / is a few bars of 4G too much to ask for?

Who are your heroes in real life?

Tom Wolfe / Hermann Hesse / David Foster Wallace / John Lennon 
oh yeah, and Stephen Curry.

What are your most treasured possessions?

We got rid of so many baubles and keepsakes when we downsized into Wanda, that virtually everything left made that top-tier treasure cut.  But having gone minimal, I still feel like there’s so much room to simplify.  We got our wedding rings tattooed so that we couldn’t break or lose them. That’s my favorite possession.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Watching the Golden State Warriors on cable at a local bar.  We don’t have a TV, so we search yelp and call around to find out who has the right cable channel, eat bar food, have a beer, and call Dad at halftime for his commentary.

Which living person do you most admire?

Sascha. She’s our Pomeranian, but we treat her like a person-- a very optimistic life-loving person who loves treats, the outdoors, and values the life of all beings (even the mice we tried to teach her to catch.)

What are your favorite qualities in a person?

A sense of humor. And at least a self-awareness of ego, if not a detachment from it. Or at least a partial detachment… Not toooooo holy, ‘cause that’s annoying, but ya know, not too materially obsessed either.  If they’re too much like me though, there’s not much stimulating debate to be had, but they shouldn’t be too argumentative either.  Passion is good. But also not too narrow-minded and focused to the degree that they can’t appreciate topics they have no personal stake in.  General awesomeness is a plus. Is French a quality? French people are pretty cool.  Or they’re assholes.  But the ones that aren’t assholes are cool.

What is your favorite virtue?

It can be difficult to find, but a lack of pretension is something we love to find in the people we meet on the road. But if they’re towing a 2015 Windjammer, we’re too cool to follow their Instagram. KIDDING! In the age of hyper self-awareness and self-promotion though, meeting people who are what they are without needing to define it or spend time cultivating it is a rare and precious thing, and it inspires us.

For more about Shawn and Lauren, you can see their work and shots from the road at WandaDoesAmerica.tumblr.com, or follow them on Instagram @WandaDoesAmerica.

For designs inspired by the Live Riveted lifestyle that Shawn and Lauren lead, check out our catalog of Airstream branded apparel and merchandise. Use code WANDA10 for 10% off your next order (one time use). 

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  • Jeff Kase says...

    April 08, 2016

    I don’t know if I was the Jeff Kase that you slapped in fourth grade or not. I don’t remember any situation like that. I would have been in Fremont, MI at the time, and it would’ve been around 1974, if that helps. If it was me, thanks for the apology and you are forgiven. If it was another Jeff Kase, I cannot forgive you for him, it will have to come from him. :}

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