Paul Hanna is a middle school science teacher, avid ultimate frisbee player and community organizer. He and his wife Maggie enjoy traveling to visit friends and family all over the United States, and they’re excited to explore territories yet undiscovered (by them, at least). During his initial introduction to Storyhouse, Paul was drawn to the deeply personal nature of their interviews and he knew he had to join the crew!
It’s no wonder Austin, Texas is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. It’s easily one of the hippest, liveliest big small towns with great music any night of the week, incredible food and easy access to nature. Perhaps what makes this city so lovable and dare we say “weird” even in the face of all of its growth, is that story-rich microcosms like the Barton Springs RV Park can sit nestled among million-dollar condos in one of the most sought after neighborhoods in town. Long time Austin resident and lifetime Texan Matthew Nelson knows what he has at his doorstep, and he knows the secret to enjoying it: “Simplify.” We sat down with Matthew to record a Porch Story, and ended up spending the day with him.
Nelson doesn’t travel with his 36-foot long monster (aka his trailer). Anyway, why would he move it? It sits on one of the most valuable pieces of property, in walking distance to the best of Austin. Upon entering his rather swanky, well-designed abode, Matthew immediately put us at ease with his 90-second home tour. My first thought was, “Wait, isn’t that supposed to be our job?” He’s so clearly comfortable in the life he’s chosen, we couldn’t wait to learn his secrets to RV bliss.
We sat down and Nelson told us about his move from a 3,000 square-foot house down to a small apartment, and then to this - a less-than-300-foot piece of paradise. His next door neighbor also happens to be his sister, so their shared yard had become a family meeting spot every Sunday. Nelson also filled us in on of all the interesting characters living in the park, most notably, the famous Doodle Bug the Clown who lived in his trailer before he moved in. He said there were other fascinating personalities in the park ranging from professors and doctors to balloon artists and movie producers. Nelson himself is an elementary school principal and occasional dj (at school dances).
Nelson gave advice for those looking to simplify,“Start today- start looking around your house and say, ‘what do I need?" He also shared his most practical and prized possessions, which left us all a little verklempt. He said, “Everything in here is something of merit or worth, or it wouldn’t make the cut.” In a display of emotion, he showed us a paw print from “Wonder Max,” a dog he had by his side for 15 years before he passed. That, and a wine opener. We were secretly hoping he would reference his bidet toilet, but that came during a lighter part of the interview.
While Nelson’s immediate plans are to stay parked at his RV park oasis, he has high hopes of taking to the road at some point. He’s certainly downsized enough and has had plenty of on-the-job training for the RV travel lifestyle!
When it came time to write the post and edit a short video for this post, we had a really tough time selecting our favorite one-minute clip from the hour of footage and b-roll we shot, because everything this guy said was solid gold - touching, hilarious, poignant and informative, he checked all the boxes. This was my first interview for Storyhouse, and I loved every minute of this day.
After spending the day with Nelson, my thirst for simplicity and the freedom that it provides intensified, and if I can learn and be this inspired during my first-ever interview, then I’m sure others will be just as inspired along the way.
We can’t wait to go back to this RV park and hear from other storytellers. In fact, we can’t wait to hear from all of you traveling simplifiers. Stay in touch and follow us on our adventure!
Matthew Nelson and his family - the whole Sunday crew