May 12, 2022
Midland Radio sat down with YoungWa Kim, a van lifer about her podcast STO Nation.
She shares van life stories, tips, podcast goals, and why radios are integral in her explorations.
YoungWa grew up in Washington State.
“I was able to do an early retirement because I invested in a little stock called Netflix in 2000 and Amazon as well.”
She purchased her Storyteller Overland in 2020, but it wasn't the first van she owned.
“I loved the van life. I would be able to fly back, unpack, and then go pick up a friend and we’d go spend the night at a trailhead, wake up, and then climb the mountain to catch the sunrise. For my lifestyle at the time, it fit very well.”
YoungWa sold her first van when she moved to Austin, Texas. When it came time to purchase her next van, she knew what she was looking for.
“The reason why I bought the Storyteller is because of the battery that comes with it. Especially with editing videos and photos, you have to have a lot of juice. Storytelller uses the diesel tank for heat so I don’t have to fill up any tanks at all. It’s super nice.”
YoungWa has always enjoyed exploring the outdoors.
“Ever since I was in diapers, I always wanted to be outside. When I got my first car when I was 16, I would drive up into the mountains every single weekend with friends and we would go hiking. I’ve always loved fishing and then later on in life, I got into fly fishing. Just about any outdoor activity, I’ll do.”
Getting outdoors and exploring nature through the van life is something Kim continues to enjoy.
“Being able to park in gorgeous places and having different sunrises, sunsets is really special. I find solace in nature.”
Some of YoungWa's favorite places to travel in her van include Park City, Utah; Sedona, Arizona; Moab, Utah; and the Smoky Mountains.
Part of why YoungWa loves the van life is because she can park and explore remote locations others might not get the chance to experience otherwise.
“There’s one place I won’t reveal because I don’t want people to swarm the place, but there is a place on the California coast where you can literally camp right on this steep ledge. That’s probably my favorite place in California. If I could spend the rest of my life there, I’d probably be pretty happy.”
However, it's the tight knit community Kim loves most about the van life.
“It’s being able to meet other like-minded people that are minimalists. They’ve thrown away the social norms that you have to go into the office, you have to have all these things to show how successful you are. With Van Life, it’s the opposite. It’s about who you are as a person.”
YoungWa uses Midland GXT1000VP4 Two-Way Radios while in her van.
She uses the walkie talkies to communicate with others while on the road.
"A lot of times, especially this past summer I would caravan with other Van Lifers for almost three or four months straight. It’s important because you go through areas that don’t have cell service so you need to be able to communicate if something breaks down so this makes that quick.”
She said cellphones don't cut it.
“Some people that I have caravanned with have said they will just text me or call me, but in comparison it takes so much longer than using the radio. Doing that seems like forever.”
She keeps her handhelds in the driver door pocket for easy access. While out exploring in her van, she keeps the radios on throughout the night.
“We usually leave the radios on at night in case of an emergency situation. Security is a big factor. With the radios that I have, I can get the NOAA Weather alerts which is important. Sometimes the weather can change quickly especially if you’re at 12-13 thousand feet.”
YoungWa started the STO Nation podcast in February of 2021. She had previous podcast experience and wanted to give back to the Storyteller community.
“The number one reason I decided the podcast was because I wanted to give back to the community. I still feel like the community is an anomaly in regards to different micro-cultures of RV brands. I was feeling a little depressed with it just being me and my dog so I needed something to focus on to get me out of that slump.”
The first episode came out March 1, 2020. The team consists of six people, all volunteers.
“The most rewarding aspect is when I meet people who have benefitted from the podcast. When I go to expos and people thank me, it’s just like a great feeling."
Between the first episode and October 2021, YoungWa has seen her podcast grow from 50 subscribers to over 1,000.
“People are getting more engaged with the podcast. They’re posting on forums and social media.”
As the Storyteller community grows, YoungWa wants to give as much information as possible to members.
“What I want to be able to do is to help anyone in either the buying circle or the ownership circle and help them by aggregating data on the website by providing podcasts or Youtube videos with reviews, vendors, talking to people looking to buy.”
STO Nation drops every Wednesday. YoungWa said the podcast has turned into something she never expected.
“I’ve always been one to take community seriously. I was part of this community and just wanted to give back. It’s grown into something I never thought it would.”