The Great American Road Trip is a compelling symbol of freedom in the USA. With long stretches of interstate highway leading to miles and miles of backroads that crisscross the country in every conceivable direction, the possibilities for exploration are nearly endless within our borders. Add to the mix a kaleidoscope of landscapes and environments to explore – from deserts to rainforests to high mountains, beaches, and endless oceans of prairie grass – and the itch to hit the road becomes irresistible.
But scratching that itch doesn’t require “going big.” In fact, many of the best adventures happen close to home – sometimes right in our own back yards. A 2019 Airstream survey found that for 24 percent of Airstream owners, the majority of trips they take are three hours or less from home. And in 2021, another survey found that almost 70 percent of new Airstream travel trailer owners were planning to use their Airstream for weekend adventures.
Beyond the statistics, the anecdotes confirm the fact that the adventure of a lifetime is a relative term. Camping close to home means less planning, less prep and packing, and fewer miles to travel. While we all might dream of epic cross-country trips, a quick jaunt into the wild is a great way to get out of your norm, away from the distractions of modern life, and into the natural world to reset, recharge, and reconnect with the things that matter most.
In Search of What Matters Most: Five Benefits of Camping Close to Home
#1: More Quality Time with Family and Friends
Whether you’re taking your family camping or meeting up with friends at the campsite, camping is a great way to spend time with the people we care about most. Camping close to home is an easier prospect than hitting the road for a week or more, and a great opportunity for friends and family in your local community to come along and share the experience. Making meals together, talking around the warmth of a fire, and exploring the natural world together creates lifelong memories, strengthens friendships, and builds bonds that are hard to break.
It’s easy to stay home, turn on the TV, and endlessly scroll on our devices. The trappings of the 21st century mean a near-constant stream of notifications, emails, text messages, and advertisements that crowd into our lives in a sea of digital noise. Getting out into nature gets us away from those distractions. Bringing along friends and family lets us connect at a deeper level than what’s possible online, in social media, and via text message. What you’ll remember most are the moments around the campfire – laughing, sharing, communicating, and being together.
#2: Save Money, Energy, and Hours
Extended trips often mean an expanded budget. Fuel costs are the easy culprit here and camping close to home necessarily means spending less on gas or diesel than you would racking up the miles cross-country. But there are other hidden costs that you avoid when you choose to take a short jaunt. You’ll buy fewer groceries and spend less on camping fees and activities.
Beyond the dollars and cents, there’s the cost of your energy and time spent preparing for a big trip. Short trips mean less packing, less worrying that you have everything you need, and less unpacking when you return. Plus, exploring in your immediate travel radius means getting to know the hidden gems right in your own back yard – the places where you can grab a quick reservation or boondock for free. You’ll discover the best sites at nearby state parks, the best places to grab firewood, and the best place to head out for ice cream after a satisfying dinner at the dinette. Getting to know the camping options in your vicinity means acquiring more local knowledge that leads to savings – both in your wallet and in the hours of your day.
And perhaps best of all: Camping close to home means fewer windshield hours behind the wheel. There’s a special kind of joy in heading to a campsite that’s only a couple hours away. Less time driving means more time having fun, exploring nature, and spending quality time together.
#3: Practice for the Big Trip
Taking shorter trips is a great way to gain confidence and build your RVing skills. This is especially true if you’re a new Airstreamer and the camping world is filled with mystery and new experiences. Camping close to home gives you more opportunities to practice hitching, unhitching, hooking up to services, and navigating campgrounds. You’ll learn the ins and outs of backing into a campsite and dumping your tanks. You’ll gain experience watching and learning from other campers, and you’ll put your new Airstream through its paces learning which switches control which lights, how to fire up the furnace or the A/C, and how to operate the various systems that work together to provide all the comforts of home. With practice comes experience, and every seasoned Airstreamer knows the power of being prepared.
This kind of mindful practicing also gives campers invaluable insight into what to bring along and what to leave at home. Newbies often pile everything into the tow vehicle they can safely fit – camping gear, bikes, firewood, fishing poles, camp furniture. But the more you camp, the more you realize what’s important to bring and what’s not worth the trouble. With practice, too, comes the knowledge of how to pack. With a couple trips under your belt you’ll become an expert in making things fit perfectly both inside your Airstream and in your tow vehicle. Soon, you’ll be maximizing your space like a pro.
#4: Health Benefits
Nature is one of the most powerful anti-anxiety balms known to human beings. Step into the forest, sit below the rock formations, relax by the shore of a gently babbling stream – within moments you’ll know a special kind of calm that’s mostly absent from our busy lives. When we head into nature we leave behind the stress that comes with our modern lifestyles. There is very little in the forest that’s hectic – possibly the squirrels cavorting in the trees or the riot of insects communicating as the sun goes down. But even the animal world going about their business as we hike, cycle, paddle, or simply relax pales in comparison to what we call “hectic” in our normal, day to day.
Aside from the mental health benefits that flood in as soon as you unhitch, the natural world is a playground for activities that build muscle, burn calories, and strengthen our physical bodies. On the trail or on the water, an active lifestyle provides fulfillment unlike any other. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Better sleep, less stress, and access to moments of beauty that fill our souls with gratitude for life and the joy we are privy to: Getting outside is good for the body and the mind.
#5: Push Through the Mental Barrier
Whether you take a huge, multi-day trip or a short one-night jaunt, there is a mental barrier that all Airstreamers feel when getting ready for a trip. That's because this style of travel is intentional – it’s a choice you make because you’re called to adventure. Making that choice comes with equal parts excitement and trepidation at setting off into the unknown. It’s the feeling felt by the great explorers of history who set off across oceans, across polar expanses, up into orbit around our planet or down to the bottom of the sea. It’s the tingle in our stomachs whenever we stray beyond our comfort zone. The simple act of hitching up and setting off on an adventure of any size means breaking through that mental barrier and finding a singular kind of joy at escaping the day to day. It’s a feeling that Airstreamers know well, and once you're hooked you’ll never let go.
Adventure is Closer Than You May Think
While it may seem easier to book a flight and stay in a hotel, ask any Airstreamer and they’ll tell you a similar story about how this is the very best way to travel. You are the captain of your riveted aluminum escape vehicle, and the unique feeling of running a tight ship, being prepared, and setting off on any sized adventure you want is something not every traveler gets to experience. With an Airstream, you choose the route, the destination, and when and where you’ll stop to rest, relax, and recoup before getting underway again.
Taking a short trip gives you invaluable experience that prepares you for every trip to come. You log that knowledge as you build a foundation of experience trip by trip. Each adventure is another brick added to your foundation – some adventures are big, while others are small. But like the foundation that holds up a brick-and-mortar home, every piece is equally important in the grand scheme of things.
Ready to take your own Airstream adventure? Start exploring the floor plans, decors, and optional features available in your dream Airstream with our Travel Trailer Configurator.