Hey there! We are Jason and Emma Walsmith – we call ourselves racontourists – and yes we made that word up, a beautiful mish mash of two words we are very fond of. First, “raconteur” is a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way. And of course, “tourist” – a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.
Jason has spent the last 28 years living the racontourist lifestyle as the co-lead singer of his band, The Nadas. Throughout his music career he has been the proud owner of sixteen different tour vehicles – everything from a 77 Dodge Xplorer Van to an Eagle bus previously owned by Meatloaf. It wasn’t always paradise by the dashboard lights though – he’s seen it all.
The bus brakes started on fire while the band traveled over Rabbit Ears pass in Colorado.
The bus engine gave up on them not once, but twice with catastrophic failures that required a full rebuild of a 6V-92ti Detroit Diesel motor.
The oil cooler hose popped off while we were driving down the highway in our 2004 Bornfree RV.
The 1999 Fleetwood Jamboree caught fire as The Nadas left the RV Dealer parking lot, earning it’s name “Fox Smoulder.”
Of course they’ve also owned a bakers dozen of Ford Econolines throughout the years.
Fast-forward and finally The Nadas landed in a McSweeney Designs sprinter van in 2019 – the best, most reliable vehicle The Nadas had owned to date. The sprinter boasted a spacious front lounge and five bunks. We had it outfitted with our trusty Aluma trailer and she drove to and from gigs like a dream.
But then the calendar rolled over to 2020 and as you experienced as well, the global pandemic of Covid-19 hit. The Nadas had an entire year’s worth of gigs canceled which pulled the carpet out from under us. To minimize the fallout, we said goodbye to our McSweeney sprinter van and rehomed it with a family who decided to start traveling by van in response to Covid-19.
My (Emma’s) career also took a hit when Covid-19 landed in our laps. I’ve owned an online ticketing company for the last nine years and 2020 started out to be our biggest year yet. It was exciting, all the numbers were headed in the right direction and then began the event cancelations. I spent the first half of 2020 issuing refunds every day, watching money not only go out of our pockets but even more worrisome to me, money leaving venues and artists across the US. May and June 2020 were rough, we had a lot of big conversations and we ended up deciding that while we wanted to honor the world was experiencing a pandemic and we didn’t want to add to the struggle, we also needed to figure out how to keep ticking on.
So we decided to do what we know how to do best. Travel, tell stories, celebrate live music but in a socially distanced, outdoor, Covid aware sort of way.
First, we would need a trusty steed to help us travel self-contained to keep us safe and respect the CDC guidelines. We looked at a truck and truck-bed camper but it sold before we could place an offer. We considered converting a Ford transit but knew we didn’t have that particular set of skills. We wondered if we could pull off living out of our 2008 Landcruiser if we set it up for overlanding but two adults, two dogs, a few guitars and a PA system meant we needed something even bigger than Toyota’s biggest rig.
Toward the end of June 2020, we found ourselves digging deep on the Storyteller Overland website and watching all of the STO MODE videos we could find. The MODE seemed to offer everything we thought we needed and solved for problems we hadn’t even considered. The shower system rolled away into a cabinet when we weren’t using it, freeing up so much space! The Volta battery system would let us comfortably travel with our dogs knowing they would be safe if we needed to leave them in the van.
But they weren’t for sale in Iowa. And upon closer look, the MODE seemed to be sold out everywhere – except for one 2020 Classic that had just arrived at La Mesa RV in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It had to be ours.
Within two days, we called, we financed, we rented a one-way minivan to Albuquerque and drove 16 hours to meet our MODE.
Meeting our MODE was the first time we saw a Storyteller Overland van in person. It was love at first sight and across our first eight months as MODElifers we spent 38,000 miles on the road. We named our van, “Falkor” – after the luck dragon from the 1980s classic “The NeverEnding Story.” And with Falkor at our side we were able to book Jason’s “I’ll Play Anywhere Man” tour – a series of outdoor, socially distanced private shows across the US.