The Stream is so excited to share to have Kerri McHale of A Solo Journer tell us all about her life full-timing in her Airstream.
In 2011, Kerri left the Bay Area, California for a life of travel in her 2008 Airstream International CCD, “Calypso,” and has been on the road as a full-timer ever since. Around that same time, Tim began traveling the West in his Chevy van conversion. During New Years 2015, the two met at big get-together of fellow full-timers in the desert of California and have been traveling together ever since! Kerri works as a freelance web developer and designer for non-profits and medium-sized businesses, and Tim runs an online video gaming service. They spend most of their time boondocking in America’s public lands, and in the past couple of years have driven up to Alaska and down to the tip of Baja. You can follow their adventures on Instagram at @asolojourner and @van_tramp and on Tim’s blog, van-tramp.com.
Learn more about Kerri’s full timer journey:
Photo ℅ Joe Hendricks Photography
Tell us about your Airstream:
Calypso is a 2007 27’ International CCD Signature Series that I bought used in 2010. Based on clues I found hidden under seats, she had been used by the previous owner as a full-time home as well. I was always very attracted to the design of this model, so I haven’t changed the bones much at all. I added all the basics to make it more boondocking-friendly: better batteries, 300 watts of solar and a good charge monitor, better solar wiring. We’ve added two cell signal antennas (a directional and an omni-directional) mounted to the TV antenna and wired to a booster inside, so we can take the Airstream to more remote places and still be able to work. Having two dogs, things with fabric tend to get messy fast, so I end up changing out pillows, blankets and bedcovers about once a year or so. Small changes that make the whole place look like it got redecorated.
How long have you been an Airstream owner and how did it come to be?
Calypso is my first Airstream, and I’ve owned her for a little under six years. It all started when I was bored at my office design job and spent a lot of time browsing design blogs. The 2005 CCD by Christopher Deam had just come out, and I’d never seen such a beautifully designed RV. I’m a visually-oriented person, and the thought of RVing never occurred to me before. I just couldn’t imagine spending time in the space of a standard overstuffed-cushion, La-z-Boy-style RV. I immediately wanted a CCD — I couldn’t stop dreaming about it — and that desire to have one turned into, “Why couldn’t I live in one?”
What's your favorite Airstream Brands product?
(Check out some of Kerri's amazing cocktail creations on Instagram #calyspsococktails ) Here's a preview!
How long have you been on the road? Any pros and cons of the lifestyle or greatest tips for those aspiring to become full-timers?
We have both been on the road for a little over five years each, almost two of which we’ve spent together. My biggest tips would be to have a game plan before you start. Do you have a way to make this lifestyle sustainable? Figure that out first. The other is to not set your expectations too high. It is real life, just like any. Things won’t always go as planned. You still need an income source, still have everyday chores. I honestly can’t imagine living any other way now, and would have a really hard time going back to a stationary life. But that said, I think a lot of people start off with an unrealistic idea of what this sort of lifestyle is going to be like and require.
What’s the hardest thing about living on the road?
Honestly, I just don’t find a whole lot of it that hard. But that’s just me. The things I thought would be hard — like having a community and making friends — are actually easier on the road than they had been while stationary. Even when your backyard changes on a regular basis, your routine stays the same, so I still feel a comfortable amount of consistency in my daily life. I guess the hardest thing would be finding a decent grocery store near more remote places.
What's the best trip you've been on?
Most all of it has been great and memorable in different ways. There’s hardly a place I’ve been to where, somewhere down the line, I don’t feel a pull to go back.
Where's your favorite place(s) to camp?
We love dispersed camping in National Forests and on BLM land. Not only is it (mostly) free, but you are able to stay in some of the most gorgeous landscapes without a neighbor in sight. I also really enjoy marina camping. They’re usually sparse and on asphalt, but also usually have great views and are a short walk to really cute towns.
What’s the most important tip you can provide to someone that wants to own an Airstream? (Dreamer)
Spend some time in different models and layouts before you buy. If you can, rent one or two to get a feel for the differences. Everyone’s needs and lifestyles are different, so really think about how you’ll spend time in it to make sure you’re getting the size and layout that’s right for you.
What’s the most important tip you can provide to someone that owns an Airstream? (Streamer)
Make sure your wheel bearings are packed well! Check your welds on your hitch and truck’s hitch receiver frequently! Towing accidents and damage are no fun.
What are the top three places you want to go that you haven’t been?
There aren’t a whole lot of places left in the U.S. that I really want to go to that I haven’t yet! Though Tim has really only thoroughly explored the West. We’ll be heading Southeast this coming year — Lafayette, LA, New Orleans, Savannah — all places I adore, and it will be Tim’s first time seeing those. I’d like to explore North Eastern Canada, but we may not be doing that on wheels by the time we get to it.
What’s your road trip soundtrack?
We actually created roadtrip-themed playlist on Spotify. Though often we just enjoy the silence or conversation. Sometimes just a music library on random, or a certain genre depending on mood. Often, a podcast (RadioLab, TED Radio Hour, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me are favorites).
What are your must haves for your Airstream?
A down comforter (great in cold and heat), and about 10,001 different tools to make coffee with.
What is your favorite motto or quote?
"One is happy as a result of one's own efforts once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience."
— George Sand
"Never go with a hippie to a second location."
— Jack Donaghy
What are your most treasured possessions?
I wouldn’t call it “treasured,” but I couldn’t live without my iPhone. There are several books I treasure, but it’s hard to keep a lot of books in a 200 sq ft. rolling home!
What is your greatest extravagance?
Well… other than the Airstream? I do spend a lot on a variety of quality alcohols and bitters to maintain my Airstream bar!
What are your favorite qualities in a person?
Honesty and humility