By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 12/4/17

For the fifty sixth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are extremely happy to share the story of Mike and Kristin Ryan with you. You may also know them as @4000Rivets.

Kristin describes them as photographers & wanderers, parents & grandparents, writers, hikers, paddle-boarders, beach lovers, explorers & adventurers – and we are full-timing throughout North America, indefinitely, in our Airstream.

I first came across Kristin and Mike though Instagram when Airstream shared one of their photos. I quickly found their gallery to be a great look into the lives of full time Airstreamers travelling the American West. Which inherently meant that I loved it. You can give them a follow and view their Instagram gallery here. If Facebook is your thing they have that too.

More importantly they run a fantastic blog that elaborates on their experiences living out of an Airstream. The blog is titled 4000 Rivets and will offer greater insights about who they are are and the adventures they take. www.4000rivets.com. If you haven’t figured it out already, their Airstream has roughly 4000 rivets contained within its construction.

Being that Kristin and Mike are both photographers, they know how to ramp up the romance of the mobile life. If you are interested in viewing their photography specific accounts check them out here and here.  Just because the photos look idyllic, that doesn’t mean that they gloss over the difficulties. Their trip log is an honest look at their choices to live in a nomadic fashion and the hardships that come along with that.

I am very pleased to share their story with you.

Check out their photo’s and our interview below.

What do you consider to be your place of work?

We are retired from our “normal” jobs! We are both photographers…landscape & wildlife & social documentary! So, we “work” on the road, documenting our journey and creating a portfolio we intend to use for a couple of projects up our sleeves, once we are off the road for a while!

Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?

We have a 2017 27’ FB Airstream International and we call her Gracie! (Pulled by a Dodge Ram) We call our journey 4000Rivets because there are nearly that many rivets in our trailer!

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?

We owned a 2006 Ford Sportsmobile for 6 plus years and enjoyed the heck out of traveling in it, mostly in the PNW, but when we decided to travel full-time we wanted something roomier! We always loved the classic styling of Airstreams and when we walked into Gracie we knew she was going to be our home!

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?

We had it modified before we hit the road to give ourselves more cabinetry, more counter surface and a more versatile dining/lounge area. We upgraded the wheels and tires for a better and safer ride and we added 400 watts of solar and an upgraded battery and inverter setup so that we can be off-grid!

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?

Our favorite part is the wandering! We have loved seeing new parts of the country and meeting other like-minded travelers. We started out with a bucket list, of sorts, and have found that some of our favorite spots have been discovered while wandering along the way.

It’s amazing to be able to discover so many cool places and hike, paddle, bike, explore, photograph all day and come home to home, wherever we are!

What is your least favorite part about it?

We do miss our kids and grand-kids! We have been able to incorporate visiting family in our travels, but miss the day to day interactions…and the kids grow up so fast!

How many miles have you put on your vehicle?

13,000 miles since we set out full-time! Lots more in years past, adventuring out as often and as far as we could manage!

What is the best place you have taken it?

The best place is always the one we are in now!!! (Currently: Yosemite)

Is there just one?

No!!! We LOVE the Tetons, the entire Oregon Coast, Glacier, Mt. Hood area, the Redwoods…mountains and coastal areas have been our favorites…small, quaint towns are always a fun find…we are headed to the SW soon and I suspect it’ll be pretty fabulous! Every place has its charm!

Favorite road you’ve driven?

Going to the Sun Road, in Glacier National Park is pretty awesome!

In one word, what describes your approach to life?


If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?

Be flexible! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Laugh often! Have fun! Sounds kitschy, but it’s all so true!

Make your space as comfortable and easy as you can so that it’s not a struggle to live in it, while understanding that you will have to make some concessions (depending on your stuff and your space)…but that’s the small stuff! Just enjoy!

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?

There wasn’t a point in my life, says Mike…more of an evolution of getting out of the project/goal mindset of my career life to a broader, looser perspective.

I, Kristin, however, was raised in a more gypsy-ish household…moving every couple of years as a kid…and learned early on that you had to make the best of each moment and each place. Being flexible and nonjudgmental was part of who I have always been.

You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?

Being open-minded…you cannot enjoy this lifestyle if you have preconceived notions of everyone and every place…you just have to be open to each possibility and flexible with your expectations.  And be friendly, and giving! Good karma really is contagious!

I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?

We leapt! As the possibility of an early retirement seemed approachable and even more doable if we opted for a more minimalistic lifestyle we jumped! It’s amazing how little you actually NEED to live a full and fulfilling life!

Where do you want to go next?

We have no set plans…except to stay out of deep snow! Headed south from Yosemite, towards Death Valley, Joshua Tree, AZ, NM…?!

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