In 2013, Matt McDonald hit the road in his 86'VW Vanagan he lovingly calls Donnie. He traveled throughout North America for over 2 years with a deeper calling to explore the land and people of the West. His story reminded us of ours in a lot of ways. He was living in San Francisco commuting to Silicon Valley and living for his weekend getaways out of the city. Then one day it just hit him. Ditching his apartment and living in a van full time would put him in nature everyday and jumpstart his life calling - a career in photojournalism.
While Matt ultimately decided vanlife wasn't the final answer, the 2 years he spent on the road deeply informed his approach and philosophies about life. His blog 63mph.com, named after the top speed of his van, explores what it really means to get out of the fast lane and live life at a slower speed.
We were drawn to Matt's story because his time on the road changed the trajectory of his life. His experience led him to rebuild his life around 3 principles: simplicity, slowness, and a deep connection to the land. He is also an incredible story teller and isn't afraid to talk about the quote "middle of the night lonliness induced panic attacks" or the real concern of sounding or appearing self righteous in his pursuits.
At the end of this episode, we think you'll feel the same way about Matt as we do - he's just a really good guy.
INFORMATION ABOUT OUR GUEST(S):
“I think another lie of vanlife is this concept that your problems aren't going to follow you onto the road. You know if you're frustrated with your job or don't know what you want to do with your life or maybe you have an issue with your family, that van life is going to magically fix that.”
“It's funny, people spend a lot of time thinking about branding these days, of course I do sometimes as well, like what Instagram handle you're going to take if you start a road trip, And this one, <63mph> just came to me in a flash. I didn't even need to question it. It was obvious that's what it was going to be so meant to be.”
“I wanted to share my journey to see if anyone cared. If anyone could gather any inspiration or learnings from it or just to be along for the ride.”
“I would say the easiest way to describe what I was looking for in my travels was just a pure experience.”
“I really do think that everyone should experience traveling for an extended period of time with very little responsibility and just taking it in and seeing how it affects them.”
“Traveling is supposed to be uncomfortable”
“I think that ambition is great, but it can become too much sometimes and you can find yourself with ambition being busy for busy sake. That's how I think about it. And so I'm really thinking about this sense of a balance now and introducing more boredom into my life and seeing where that takes me.”
“A big part of balance starts with being less connected on technology because it's taken over so much mind share and it puts your brain in this rhythm of being ramped up all the time because it's moving so fast. It's not natural to move that quickly as humans. That's been a big effort of mine is to try to get off my technology, my phone specifically, a little bit more.”
“When I first started living in my van and granted I was solo so I was doing all this myself. But, it took me a good three months to even just get my systems down. Where am I, how do I find a camping spot? Where am I going to get water, how do I shop for food now that I have a cooler for my refrigerator. I was posting pretty pictures, but in the background I was really suffering to figure all this basic stuff out”
“I read after I stopped living in my van full time that the sleep you get, if you switch places sleeping every night,...it is equivalent to losing two hours of sleep every night. I read that in some study, I can't tell you which one it was, but I was like, wow, well that makes a lot of sense why I was so freaking tired all the time because I was pretty much picking a new campsite almost every night.”
“My trip was really connecting with the natural world in a different way. It’s so hard to explain it and it won't make sense if you haven't experienced it, but I felt totally connected to nature again in terms of talking to the animals and the trees and just feeling like I'm a part of this place as opposed to being separate from it, which is very much how we treat our modern world, separate from nature.”
“You know, it doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing, you can always tell a story.”
“I kind of got tired of eating my chocolate alone”
“You have to really try to dig in on your motives. What is it that's interesting about this concept to you? Is it that you idolize someone you've seen with all these pretty pictures and you want to go emulate the same? I'd say that's probably the wrong motivation. If you think the experience of living in a van is going to help the changes that you want to make in your life, great. Do it.”
“I think everyone has a moment of pause where they are like man, I'm really looking for this change. I feel really weird about how my life is going or this one aspect of it or I'm too busy or I don't want to live in this city the rest of my life and I need a hard stop. You know, great. But make sure you get what you need out of it.”
“Those memories are my favorite. The van is packed full of people and dogs and food is cooking on the burner. The pop top is up, a big fire is roaring, a sunset, everything's getting dirty and shit's just everywhere - those are the moments”
“I think that if anyone's listening who I've met along the way, families, friends who have taken me in and giving me a warm meal or a driveway to sleep and just thank you so much...If I haven't seen you lately, I will see you again one day...This van is definitely going to be back on the mainland someday.”