Something happens when you hit the road for the first time with an Airstream travel trailer in tow. It doesn’t take long until you realize that you may never quite be the same. Call it a change of pace, the promise of new adventures, the refilling of your spirit’s cup. However you define it, it’s a transformation that I imagine many longtime “Airstreamers” are accustomed to putting on their calendars and anxiously counting down until their next adventure. After recently completing my first Airstream trip to the Northwest Michigan shoreline, I now count myself among that fortunate group.
“The freedom that Wally sought is more important now than ever.”
As a first-timer, my trip was colored by the luster of novelty. Everything was new — from the logistics of hooking up and hauling to the change in my perspective that happened as the trip got underway. There was much to learn — some of it the hard way — but the experience was invaluable and brought with it a sense of accomplishment that my family never expected, and will never forget. So, for other first-timers getting ready to embark on your first Airstream adventure, and those that may have forgotten the wonder of their first trip, here are some tips and observations from my maiden voyage.
- Stay in the slow lane — with trailer in tow, it’s time to leave your speed-demon, commuter tendencies behind. In the state of Michigan, this still meant going no less than 65 on most of the main thoroughfares, but hey, that’s still slow for me. Besides, one of the true joys of Airstreaming is the chance to step away from the frenetic pace of day-to-day life.
- Attune your senses — now that you’ve slowed down a bit, you’ll find your senses re-awakening. This means seeing the familiar with fresh eyes and truly becoming awake to new experiences. For us, it also meant listening closely to the advice of locals who led us to secluded beaches and other must-see destinations. When you’re tuned in, the adventure will come to you.
- Be level-headed — it’s not always easy or possible to locate the most level ground on which to set up your Airstream for temporary home base. When we got to our campsite at dusk, I made the mistake parking on a slight incline so the city water hose would reach. This made leveling much more difficult. Had I waited until the fresh light of the morning, I would have seen the extension hose in the storage compartment and parked on level ground.
- Go with the flow — finding a place to park a 23-foot trailer isn’t always easy, especially when you’re 500 miles from home and in unfamiliar woods. So, when we were turned away from our second campsite due to a reservation mix-up, we had to improvise. Luckily, the operators at our current campsite happily accommodated us. We did have to move to another plot on the grounds, but this gave me another practice at leveling — which was much better the second time. As it turned out, this “opportunity” gave us a chance to fully explore the hidden beaches, inland lakes, crystal clear rivers and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore of Lake Michigan.
- Disconnect and rediscover — a magical thing happens when you disconnect from the distractions and entrapments of everyday life (emails, meetings, deadlines, homework, TV, etc.): you rediscover what really matters. After setting up camp, the first things my kids asked me to do was find the HD channels that were available. Luckily for us, none were! Instead, in what little down-time we did have, we reconnected, hung out around the fire ring and entertained each other.
They say that first impressions are everything. My first impression of Airstream living Is that it offers the aforementioned advantages of roughing it, with all the comforts of home. When Wally Byam built the first Airstream trailer in 1929, he could have never imagined how fast-faced, prescribed and complicated modern life would become. After my first Airstream experience, I’m left with an overriding conclusion: the freedom that Wally sought is more important now than ever.