Living with Books in a 31’ 1977 Airstream Land Yacht
An Interview with Airstream Entrepreneurs, Matt and Tim Otten
When brothers Matt and Tim Otten spotted a sales listing for an old ‘70s Airstream, they knew it was the kind of project they had been looking for. Tim, a seasoned builder and Matt a marketing professional, had everything they needed to renovate the 31’ foot aluminum beauty into a modern, upscale camper they could rent out to fellow adventurers. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they could use the Airstream themselves whenever they wanted.
After several months of intense collaborative work, AirstreamTO was born, and the brothers haven’t looked back since. We followed Matt and Tim, both avid booklovers, on a recent trip to Way Home Music Festival in Northern Ontario to see how they live with books even when they’re on the road and how reading has inspired them.
Why an Airstream?
We saw the opportunity to take one of these aging trailers and turn it into a getaway for those looking for something a little cooler than the typical RV.
What kind of work was involved in renovating it?
It was a lot of work. The interior was straight out of 1977 in the worst possible way, so we gutted everything in favour of a modern open concept. We also removed many of the old, heavy, clunky mechanical equipment (A/C, kitchen appliances, propane) and replaced them with more suitable options for the 21st century. Due to the odd shape and space constraints, we ended up modifying and building a lot of the interior features ourselves.
What is the Airstream lifestyle?
The term “glamping” gets thrown around a lot these days, often in a negative way, but it actually applies here. It’s about adventure and exploring without necessarily “roughing it”.
What kind of reader are you?
We treat reading like Netflix. Browse, start a few books, find something you like and then binge.
What type of books do you read?
Did you always love reading? Or was it something that developed later in life?
To be honest, when we were younger we much preferred to watch the movie version of a story than read the book. When everything went digital, reading became a much more viable option with a handheld device. Now we tend to read more because it’s just so easy to get into.
Are you a minimalist by nature?
Yes. Matt lives in a tiny condo, so it is really the only option. We both have an appreciation for simple, functional design and not accumulating too much stuff.
Did books factor into the overall design or renovation at all?
With an open, airy design, storage space is definitely limited. This meant that bookshelves were out of the question from the start. When you are towing a trailer around corners and over bumps, it’s a mess waiting to happen. I do love the look of a nice print book though.
How do you travel with books?
On our Kobos of course! For Airstreamers or RVers or anyone with space constraints like us, there’s no a better option. Having access to what seems like unlimited books in such a small package allows for light packing and an immersive reading experience.
Funny that digital reading fits so perfectly with something so retro like Airstream.
It is! At the end of the day, it’s all about streamlining. Sort of like how mp3’s and the iPod brought an end to racks full of CD’s. Digital reading is the evolution of that concept. You keep what you really like and leave the rest in the cloud.
Tim and Matt’s Reading List
1.Up Ghost River by Edmund Metatawabin and Alexandra Shimo: Chief Metatawabin’s story is an important one. It tells of the damages of colonization, the history of the residential school system and broken treaties, and ongoing systemic racism in Canada. I recommend it to all Canadians.
2.The Audacity of Hope by Barrack Obama: What really resonates is the power of positivity.
3.The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Shroeder: The in-depth story of how one of the world’s richest men started from humble beginnings to build a powerful company and believes it is better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
1.The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I’d call it my guilty pleasure but I’m not even ashamed. Those are good books!
2.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: It’s amazing how a nearly 100-year-old story is so relevant today. Excess, recklessness and the ill fated chase of the American Dream make this a timeless cautionary tale.