You might have seen him in the films Wedding Planner or How to Lose a Guy in 10 days. Maybe you’re a People Magazine reader; he was their sexiest man alive in 2005. His recent flicks include Beach Bum and The Gentleman. He’s been a busy writer during the lockdown, authoring “Greenlights,” a semi-autobiographical take on life … and RVing.
As the Jerry Jeff Walker song (kinda) says: “He’s not strange, He’s just like us.”
Academy Award winner, Time magazine’s Most Influential People in the World, oh, and a man who loves his Airstream… Yeah, that’s right. Actor, writer, producer, and all-around good guy Matthew McConaughey is one of us. He’s got a new audio version of his New York Times best-selling book, and plenty of thoughts on all the things important to all of us in the RV world.
Here are excerpts from my wide-ranging RVTravel.com podcast interview with this van lifer, boondocker, and Airstream puller. Click here and listen to our entire discussion.
Matthew McConaughey: I’m glad you started doing this podcast because, hey, it’s pretty tough to read and drive. Now you can listen as you cruise through the rivers of North America that we call our highways.
Scott: I love that phrase. Tell people from where you are talking right now.
Matthew McConaughey: I’m talking to you from Austin, Texas, in my backyard. In one of my four Airstreams. This one is named The Smithsonian because it can do just about everything but fly. It’s my fourth one. As you all know when you live the RV life you begin to see what you really need to determine is how you really like the ergonomics, what you really need, what you don’t really need, where you want things, the light switches, etc.
So I customized this with The Smithsonian. It started off on a napkin in a bar. And that was about 15 years ago. And then about eight years ago, I finally finished it and it’s now my office. I must say I’m a little guilty. This one needs to get the wheels turning on the concrete a little more than I have.
Scott: I love it. And we’ll get back to that topic in just a moment. But you talk about the wheel spinning and especially the notes on a napkin thing, and it leads me to your book, Greenlights. I want to say it’s autobiographical, but it’s not an autobiography. It’s a how-to book but it’s not a self-help book. Why did you write it?
Matthew McConaughey: Well, I’ve been keeping journals since I was 14. I write every day. Now they’re on a mobile device, so I write notes. But I kept those journals with me. And I always said, I’m going to open those up and see if there are some words worth sharing with the world.
But I never really had the courage to do it. Because every time I looked over, that was the goal. But that sounds intimidating. The older I got, the more I sort of regretted the idea of looking back over my shoulder, looking at my past, seeing who I’d been. I feared embarrassment, guilt.
Well, finally, about two and a half years ago, I got the courage to open up all those journals and go away to the desert on my own and say, hey, what the hell do I have here? And what I found was a lot of stories. A lot of people, a lot of places, a lot of poems, a lot of prayers, a lot of bumper stickers.
And that’s what is in this book. The cover of the book underneath my “paperback face” is a traffic signal with three green lights instead of a yellow and red and a green. And that’s because what I found going through my past 50 years is that all those yellow and red lights in my life … those hardships, crises, interruptions, things I didn’t like … well, they all had lessons in them that made them turn green. So I say that in the rearview mirror of life all the lights are green.
“All the lights are green”
Scott: It is an apt metaphor for an RV traveler like you and me.
Matthew McConaughey: Yes, we love green lights. You know, they tell us go, proceed, more please, put another 100 miles on, let’s roll.
Scott: It’s not Travels with Charlie, but there are moments in there when it could be.
Matthew McConaughey: Yes. There’s a lot of that. I’ve been fortunate to be able to fill my passport in my 50 years of life but a lot of that traveling has been with RVers. I spent four years on the road in my Airstream. I’ve been to every single state besides South Dakota, in my Airstream. So I lived in North America for four years from the road where all of you are right now.
Scott: What is it about the road and RV travel that gets your juices flowing?
Matthew McConaughey: “Freedom”
Matthew McConaughey: Freedom. Pull over when you want. Leave when you want. Hey, I’ve got one I’ve only got 110 square feet, or how many square feet this damn thing is. I can have one of everything I want but can’t have two, because then it’s going to get crowded messy in here. It gets rid of options of material things that we have in our life.
Every highway is a brand-new journey. If it’s in a different season, the same highway is a brand-new journey. If you’re coming back, the other. My favorite office is behind the wheel of my truck pulling my Airstream. I love it. It’s where my mind is the most free. It’s where I do my best thinking without trying to think.
Having my foot on the pedal, my hand on the steering wheel, frees up the mind, I think in all of us. I think that’s part of what everyone loves about being on the road. But destination unknown, you know, picking out a couple of spots, you know, being able to say what’s on my calendar? You know, back when I was on the road, it was like, hey, when’s Roger Clemens going to be pitching? And where’s he going to be pitching? Let’s head that way. And I will say this deal, every time every million-miler I met on the road, you know what their consistent regret was?
Scott: They started too late.
Matthew McConaughey: Exactly.
Scott: How do we get over that hump and start sooner?
Matthew McConaughey: Well, like anything, the hardest part of going to the gym, is tying your shoes. We all have busy lives. We like to say, hey, let’s get our work done. And then hey, if we look up and go, Oh, my gosh, I got a few days open, maybe we’ll sneak in a little time to say, Hey, I’ll go get on the road or take a road trip or go camping or something? Well, I think it’s just as constructive to actually put a plan out, schedule those things and then say, Hey, I’m going to make work move around this because I’m not moving this day. Because I know it’s good for me in my own health spiritually, mentally. I know, it’s good for me and my family, if we’re together, or me and my spouse, or me and my best friends.
Scott: You’ve mentioned before that boondocking is a passion. What do you find the difference between that and kind of a more formal campground situation? Why do you like boondocking so much?
Matthew McConaughey: Wow. I mean boondocking is the original version of RV travel. What I like about boondocking … that I’ve pulled over in Utah, because it was getting late and just drove across the desert and was startled awake at night because a train came by my bed and I noticed that I pulled up five feet away from the track unbeknownst to me. And because my alarm clock has been a coyote howling right outside my door under a full moon at night.
There’s plenty more, from practical advice on driving, boondocking and equipping your RV to the intrinsic rewards of RV life. Listen in one click, here.
Oh, and you can find Mr. McConaughey’s new book here.