Matthew McConaughey
Credit: Courtesy Matthew McConaughey
It's 2004, and McConaughey buys his Airstream. He's been traveling around the previous three years in a GMC Savana van he calls Cosmo, sleeping in the back. He can afford an upgrade. Wally Byam, the creator of the Airstream, has long been one of McConaughey's heroes. "There was this perception that trailer-park living and RVers were all like gypsies. He was like, No, we're not gypsies. Gypsies have no home. We find a home wherever we go. We're ambassadors. He went all over the world, places that no one else was going, from Cairo to Johannesburg, and he did it all in an Airstream carrier." McConaughey has a dream of owning eight or nine Airstreams and driving them with all his friends around the country in a caravan. If that doesn't work, he figures at least he can park them all in one place, "like a corral," and in the evenings everyone can gather around the fire.

It's not a coincidence that McConaughey's Airstream period runs concurrent with his coming into his own professionally. He's eased into a life of starring in romantic comedies that critics hate but women love – films such as 'The Wedding Planner' and 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.' He's got a killer smile, a great tan, a knowing wink, and an easy way with people. Plus, he looks good with his shirt off. "Romantic comedies aren't the first movies I hop out to go see," says McConaughey, whose next movie in that genre, 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,' comes out May 1. "But those are the ones that have done really well with the public. They're supposed to be like an easy Saturday afternoon. Keep it afloat, keep it buoyant. Bring some balls to it, but don't go too deep to sink the thing. Move it forward, have a good time, and tell the truth when you can. Wages are good, and they're enjoyable to do, man."

Best of all, they fund a vagabond lifestyle. After McConaughey buys the Airstream, he takes it to a trailer park near Golden, Colorado. He drives from there to the Squamish Indian Reservation, near Vancouver, where he's filming 'Two for the Money.' It's 30 miles outside of town, but he decides to settle there along the Coho River and localizes with the Squamish. "I cooked them a rib eye," he says.

Soon after, he moves the Airstream into a trailer park near downtown Austin, a little community of weirdos that he's admired since college. His neighbors include a professional clown and a guy who makes balloon animals for a living. "I had plenty in the account," he says. "It was by choice."

The Airstream becomes an extension of him. "With technology today," McConaughey says, "I can communicate just as well from the Airstream, run everything right there. I can do it better. My thoughts are better when I'm on the road. I'm more creative. And I can get to anyone at any time. If I need to meet someone – I've done this before – 'Well, here's where I am. I'm going east coming up here out of Idaho. I'll be in Missoula in about five hours. Why don't you fly up to Missoula, I'll pick you up, we'll drive east from there, we'll do our thing on the road, and I'll drop you off at the next airport.' It works like a charm."

There seems to be plenty of business. He goes to Jamaica to hang out with "this cat Mishka," a "conscious reggae" artist whose music he once heard in a bar. Mishka agrees to let McConaughey produce his next album. McConaughey also produces an independent movie, 'Surfer, Dude,' which opens in a grand total of 69 theaters in September 2008. It stars McConaughey as an old-school Malibu surfer who's pressured to take part in a reality TV show, along with Harrelson, Willie Nelson, and copious amounts of weed. In real life McConaughey has been doing some surfing himself, though just for a couple of years, so he's a little opaque on the topic: "I connected with the surfing philosophy. Riding the wave. No wide turns. It's how I go about living life. It always takes you to a different place. But that's what I like about living out there in Malibu. Even if there's no surf, you're in some great spot with a beach."

The movie doesn't go over so well with critics, one of whom refers to McConaughey as a "bland, bargain-basement Siddhartha." The film is panned as "crushingly unfunny," "a shapeless slog," "limp and rambling," "a lackluster vanity production." But none of this really gets to McConaughey. "It's just a movie I made with my buddies," he says.

Sometimes things go your way, sometimes not. Still, the success he has had, he says, "is not all by happenstance. There's been good fortune and luck and fun and blowin' in the wind and whimsy, but, you know, you work to create your own weather so you can blow in that wind."