Note: Andre and Jeff Shinabarger went on Airstream's Endless Caravan in 2017. Along the way they interviewed hundreds of people, looking for an answer to the question: Can you change the world, stay in love and raise a family? Their work eventually became a book – Love or Work – which was just published.
Go Away, Stay Together
Pink flamingos are discreetly viewed as the mascot of Airstream owners. Or at least that's what we discovered on our first Airstream adventure. Everytime we set up camp we always placed our pink flamingos on display. Seems fitting. They are social animals that tend to gather together. And it was Airstream that gave us the chance to really understand how working couples and family can stay together.
Three years ago, we were loaned an Airstream (through the Endless Caravan campaign) to help make a dream project come true. We are a working couple with two young kids. We both do our work with a deep sense of purpose (a non-profit founder and a first responder). And we often wonder: Is it possible to both work, stay in love, and raise a healthy family? We have been asking this question to everyone we know ever since. One of the people we interviewed, Jeff Foxworthy, remarked that we “are a bit obsessed with this question.” We would say we are committed (in more ways than one). Since that exciting morning we first towed the Airstream, we have interviewed 100 couples and surveyed 1500 people about this topic of love and work. Can we do it all? Both work, both stay in love, and raise a healthy family?
One of the areas we explored in our research was the importance of how going away helps relationships. In our research of 1500 working couples, we found a very surprising statistic: only 41 percent of the couples we surveyed use all their vacation time. So, in turn 59% of working couples do not use their allotted time away from work. In fact, in 2018, Americans left more than 768 million vacation days unused in the workforce! Obviously, choosing to get away is not a priority for the average working American couple. Yet, our Airstream traveling experience has taught us the complete opposite, getting away is not just valuable, it’s imperative to sustain meaningful careers, family bonds, and forever love with your life partner.
Here are three life giving benefits we experience when we get away with our partner.
Whenever We Go Away, It Brings Us Closer Together
When our family is in a new place, we create new memories. The time off encourages us to release stressors and make space for love to flow in and flow out freely. We have learned that we must decide to step away from our work to remind ourselves of the purpose we are trying to live and take time for the people we care most about. Now, sometimes that means we have to address some things that have caused distance in our relationship and those moments are hard and usually essential. When we step away it gives us a renewed perspective. Close proximity not only physically draws us tighter, but emotionally connects us together.
The Open Road Creates Open Conversations
Our greatest conversations happen on road trips. There is the initial excitement of a new destination. Where will we go? What will we see? What will the campsite look like? The possibilities are endless. Then comes the more challenging moments: backing up to park the Airstream in the campsite. (Definitely our number one fight each and every time.) After setting up camp and settling in, the dialogue takes new turns when we start exploring the area. We begin to relax and enjoy talking to each other again. One thing we have found to be true is that when we travel our dialogue and communication expands beyond the four walls of our house back home. Here are some fun expanding questions to ask each other at your next campfire.
What are you dreaming about? What is something you would love to do on this trip? What brings you joy? What brings you peace? What do you miss from home?
It's Not An Adventure Until Something Goes Wrong
Our family motto. Our kids know it well and remind us often. Because somehow, something always goes wrong when we travel. You too? When you hit the open road, things are bound to go wrong. As a family we have found those moments have given us the best stories, introduced us to the most unique people and morphed a spirit of bravery and adventure, instead of fear.
We once wanted to surprise our kids by taking them to the Disney World Campground in the Airstream. In the middle of nowhere Georgia our truck broke down. We had to find a way to fix our truck, yet it couldn’t be attached to the Airstream, so we had to drop the Airstream in the nearest (not nicest) campsite. In the midst of this major conundrum we had to break the news to our sweet children that they would NOT be going to the supposed “happiest place on earth.” We were ready for the sobbing and tears, and instead our kids shrugged and asked, “Does that mean we get to watch a movie in the Airstream tonight together?” And that was that. We cuddled in one bed and watched a movie...together. That’s all our kids wanted. All of us together.
These moments of closeness, conversations and conundrums would not have happened without Airstream. This company's belief in us helped us interview hundreds of working couples, launch a podcast and gave us the chance to write a book called Love or Work: Is It Possible to Change the World, Stay in Love, and Raise a Healthy Family? All of this to simply help more couples grow closer together, encourage families to take adventures and find purpose through exploring new places. Next time you are sitting in your silver bullet - take a moment and remind yourself that you are part of a community that creates small spaces, yet makes a big impact in this world.