Why are we running around in a tin can?When someone learns about our extended trip, one of two things is inevitably said. “Wow. I have always dreamed about doing that.” or “Wow. Why so long?” Sometimes, strangely, we even get both responses. When Shel and I purchased our first Airstream, in 2011, we had never owned a trailer before—we hadn’t really even camped before. I can count on one hand the number of times I’d been camping in my life. Shel had grown up doing some RVing and camping, but in the 10 years we’d known each other, we’d gone camping maybe once. So, the Airstream life was not one we’d planned on.
I blame my friend, Angelo, from Jersey. He and I share a love of cars, and while he’d been to several shows, I’d never been. So we planned a little trip around the 2011 show in Chicago. He visited me in Indiana for a couple days before we drove up to Chicago. It was at that show that I saw a 2011 22’ Bambi Sport Airstream trailer. Like many people, I said, “they still make those?” and walked over to check out their display.
I was impressed with how clean and simple the trailer was; it felt very “Apple” to me, and anyone who knows me knows I like Apple. I love design, in general. I spoke with the rep for a while about show discounts, etc. but didn’t think I’d end up owning one. In fact, within about a month, I would own the very trailer we were walking through at the show. We named her Gidget, and she was pulled by Pearl, our 2011 Ford Flex.
Over the next couple years, we learned some of the ropes of trailer life. We’re not experts, not by a stretch, but we don’t drive off with the stabilizers down any more (still a painful memory…the creak and pop of steel folding under tremendous stress, the grind of metal on pavement).
Shel and I quickly grew to love the trailer life. As someone with an anti-clutter OCD, I craved the restriction of being able to only carry what would fit in such a small space. Even more, I loved that we didn’t need any more than what would fit in the truck and ‘stream to live, travel, work, learn, and be happy. Then there’s the community—nearly everyone we have met has been friendly, helpful, and interesting.
In June of 2013, we took a 30-day trip, mostly via highway 70, to California, where much of Rachelle’s family lives. If she could, Rachelle would be a full-time trip-planner. She relishes researching, reserving, and recording. She routed us through spectacular national parks, and diverted us to quirky, small-town oddities. I have a lot of photographs to post from that trip. I’ll get to it. Soon. Really.
As we set out on the Cali trip, my prediction was that, after 30 days in a tin can, even as nice a can as Gidget, we would all be clamoring for the space and stability of our 4-bedroom, full-basement, big-yard home. And yet, as we were on the final stretch, Rachelle and I found ourselves entertaining ideas like selling the house and buying a bigger Airstream.
We loved Gidget, our little 22’ Sport, but the 30-day adventure showed us that we could use a little more room. The last straw was in December of 2013, when we went to South Carolina for a little 10-day trip that included camping on the beach and visiting my son, Zeb, who is stationed at Camp Le Jeune. We had a cat at the time, and we thought she would be an Airstream cat. With Sol and Eden (our 6 & 9 year-olds), Zeb, Shel, Me, and the cat (and the cat’s litter box, litter bag, food bag, etc. bag) all in the trailer, I started looking online for bigger Airstreams.
We traded Gidget in for our 2014 28’ International Serenity (Xiao An, or “Annie”) on the way home from that trip. I guess you could say I’m impulsive, but it’s an instinct that has served me relatively well over the years.
The 6-month trip we’re on now was originally planned to be another 30-day summer trip, but this time to my family, in the Pacific Northwest. Somehow, and I don’t rightly recall how, it blossomed into a half-year. Shel and I had talked about doing extended trips before, and it finally came down to just setting some dates and making it happen. It’s sort of like having your first child—there’s no way to prepare for it, but by the time it happens, you adapt and cope. (Or, you don’t, and you simply lose your mind.)
Once we decided on “going long,” we also decided there should be some family goals. I’ve included some notes we sketched in February, at dinner.
We really wanted to de-clutter our lives, both physically and spiritually, so we called the trip 2014 Streamline. In preparation for the journey, we purged the house of many things. Any clothing of the kids’ that we weren’t taking on the trip, we gave away. We went through our clothing and got rid of anything we hadn’t worn in the last year or so. Shel gave away over half the items in the kitchen—more than half of our cabinets and drawers are empty (it’s a beautiful thing).
Since Streamline is such a large break from our normal day-to-day, we are using it as an opportunity to work on things in our family that are harder to do when you get easily distracted by schedules and stuff. Family worship is a priority. We’re trying to sing Psalms, read, and pray as a family daily. We’ll be going through the 107 questions from the Shorter Catechism, working on manners and respect, and learning how to put others first.
In a couple days, we’ll have been on the road for a month. It’s funny to think that last year’s 30-day trip would already be over. I feel like we’re just getting started, settling into a travel-groove. I write this, as we follow a river through the Lolo National forrest, in the panhandle of Idaho. We’re singing Psalm 25a, and enjoying God’s creation of both nature and family.