Full-timer balances work and love for the outdoors in a 2012 Eddie Bauer special edition Airstream
She’s traveled back and forth across the country four times and worked in California, Arizona, Texas and Michigan in 17 months.
Rebecca Ruth is living the “Airstream dream.”
Rebecca works as a traveling speech-language pathologist helping seniors with communication and swallowing disorders as a result of strokes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and head and neck cancer.
“I worked for eight years traveling eight counties in Michigan on the west side of the state from Kalamazoo to Ludington putting 30,000 miles on my Subaru,” Rebecca said. “Finally I thought, ‘I want to travel bigger.’ If I’m going to be putting all these miles on my car, I want to see things.”
That’s how the “Airstream dream,” as Rebecca calls it, took shape.
Moving around and being a part of the great outdoors wasn’t new to Rebecca when she decided to quit her day job, buy an Airstream and begin her career as a traveling health care worker.
“I’ve moved around my whole life,” said Rebecca, who was born into a southern California military family, but calls Michigan home because it’s where she spent the most time. “For me it’s not a big deal to pick up and move, in fact, it’s really exciting. I love where I’m at each time and when it comes time to go I’m so excited about the next adventure. It’s just in my blood.”
So, Rebecca took her career and her love of adventure on the road. Speech-language pathologists are in high demand as the Baby Boomer population ages, with more positions available across the country than qualified professionals to fill them.
Rebecca used her first dream of flipping a house to fuel her second. When other young girls were putting scrapbooks together of their future wedding, Rebecca recalls working on a scrapbook of her future home.
Years later, in 2008, Rebecca purchased a foreclosure in Michigan and spent eight years meticulously renovating it, leaving nothing untouched but the 100-year-old stucco and wood floors. Everything was ripped out and replaced – new plumbing, new roof, 42 new windows and all the modern amenities.
As this “crazy idea,” as some might call it, took shape, Rebecca knew it was time to sell her diamond in the rough.
“I made a profit, had some money in my pocket and I was able to buy my Airstream,” Rebecca said.
And she knew it would be an Airstream before she even started searching for the catalyst that would power her new adventure. Rebecca travels in ‘Spitfire,’ a 2012 Airstream Eddie Bauer edition – an intentional choice due to the rear-hatch feature. As an avid cyclist, the hatch allows her to easily travel with her three bikes.
“My family would go camping when I was a kid and my parents would always ask, ‘Which trailer do you want when you get bigger?’ I always said I wanted an Airstream,” Rebecca said.
Not everyone embraces adventure the way Rebecca does.
“I get one of two reactions,” she said when people learn how she makes her living. “One is that you’re crazy and they are almost scared for me. And then there are my parents who were like, ‘that’s super cool, you should totally do that and we can’t wait to follow you and see what happens.’”
Owning an Airstream and living and working on the road hasn’t been without obstacles: driving a truck for the first time, learning to tow (after the Airstream was purchased), losing brakes, hitches getting stuck, sinking six-inches into mud – Rebecca says there’s always something new to learn.
The most challenging thing, though?
“Finding a hair stylist that I trust,” Rebecca said without a hint of irony. “Every time I land, I have to figure out where am I going to take my recycling, where can I take my truck for maintenance, but the hardest one is the hairstylist. If there’s something that is a challenge about the Airstream, I can do that, but trusting someone to do my hair, that’s a big deal.”
But Rebecca says she’s been embraced by community wherever she goes from a passerby who towed her out of the mud, to a coworker who allowed her to set up camp in her vineyard when nearby campgrounds were overcrowded from wildfire displacement. And the Airstream community is always there to answer questions and offer support.
“I think there comes a point in your life when you think, ‘what have I got to lose?’” Rebecca said. “I’m going to go all in. The Airstream allows me to go and travel to other places too. I just took three months off, most of August, September and October, just to travel. I’ve been able to see a lot and do a lot because of this mobility.”
Next on the list for Rebecca: find a property and build a home base.
“I am working on designing a covered structure (for the Airstream) with utilities and a laundry room – that is the thing I miss most about my house,” she said. “My other goal is to ride a century (biking 100 continuous miles) in every state. I’ve only completed five.”
For Rebecca, the adventure never ends.
“I thought I’d do the ‘Airstream dream’ for two years or so,” Rebecca said. “But I’m not even a fraction of the way done with what I want to see or do.”
Follow along with Rebecca’s adventure via her Instagram, @spitfirespeechpathologist