Just Say Yes
I’ve approached life a little bit differently than most. I say yes to a lot of opportunities, for instance, waking up at two in the morning to climb a 1,000-foot-tall rock spire, eating grilled sausages with complete strangers as the sun rose in the Black Rock Desert, or backpacking down the West Coast of South America on two months’ notice. Ultimately, this mindset of saying yes is why I now live in a 25-foot Airstream travel trailer full-time.
My first foray into mobile living began back in 2016 when my partner, Amanda, and I bought a 1964 Clark Cortez motorhome with ambitions of traveling full-time (societal expectations of 30-year-olds be damned).
Our first rig, a 1964 Clark Cortez RV.
After making the jump, we found that living on the road facilitated incredible experiences, social connections, and opened our eyes to new ways of living that we’d never considered. We spent three years living in the Cortez, roaming across the Rocky Mountains and up and down California’s coast, before resuming conventional life for a year and a half in Denver, Colorado.
If there’s one bit of advice that I can offer to aspiring full-time travelers, it’s this: don’t consider this lifestyle an absolute, something that you have to stick with, no matter what. There is no predetermined time frame or approach that qualifies as success. If you love it, great. If life on the road is not what you thought it would be, don’t be afraid to call it quits.
We put a huge amount of time and love into renovating our first RV.
Social media (all media, for that matter) often shows a glorified version of what life in a vehicle is like. The reality of living on the road is that all the standard challenges still exist; you just have to deal with them in a confined space while navigating a society that doesn’t generally understand this unconventional lifestyle. Despite these challenges, once you’ve experienced the freedom of full-timing, I suspect that there will always be a part of you that longs for it.
Our Mobile Living Evolution
In our case, the isolation of the pandemic combined with Denver’s urban environment conspired against us. We’ve made some fantastic friends living in this city, but there’s a big difference between waking up to the sound of a garbage truck versus a thunderstorm rumbling through the high mountains. It was time to get back on the road.
We discussed our experience living in the Cortez at length, as well as our options moving forward. We decided that a truck and trailer combination would provide the comfort that we previously lacked, along with the capability to explore more remote locations. We weren’t in much of a hurry to select a vehicle and trailer, but after a last-minute opportunity to step inside our friend Stacey’s 25-foot-long Airstream travel trailer, we knew what we wanted.
Our friend Stacey’s Airstream, one of the trailers that inspired us to consider the classic travel trailer.
The reflective, riveted aluminum panels of her Flying Cloud appealed to our love of classic aesthetics. Additionally, the interior of the Airstream felt modern, with ample living space. This visit gave us the motivation we needed to find our new home on wheels, and within two months of stepping inside the trailer, we were on the road to pick up our own.
As I write this, I find myself living on the road again, and this time, my home is a 25-foot Airstream travel trailer. We’ve wasted no time logging miles, 10,000 of them this summer, to be exact. Some miles were stressful, but most have been sublime. Even though it’s only been a few months in the trailer, we’ve already learned a lot about it, and we’ve even been lucky enough to share it with family this summer.
The Airstream Life: Lessons from the Road
To help you understand what I love most about this lifestyle and how we make the most of our time on the road, here are a few lessons and bits of advice:
Plan Ahead and Prepare– This is one of the principles of the Leave No Trace outdoor ethics framework, and it’s a great approach to living life in an Airstream. To begin with, planning ahead is crucial when you are hauling around a 25-foot-long trailer. If you want to ensure that you’ll have a beautiful campsite with plenty of room to turn around, a little bit of research using Google Earth or some maps can go a long way. Having a plan and sticking to it can also ensure that you arrive at camp during the day, making setup much more enjoyable.
There are lots of tools that can help you find a great place to stay including smartphone apps and conventional maps.
Find the Perfect Campsite – This dovetails perfectly with planning ahead. While it may not be a prerequisite to having an enjoyable time, putting in the effort to find a campsite with level ground and excellent views makes base camping out of the Airstream even better. One way to do this is to park at a road junction and scout ahead on foot or by bike. If you take this approach, it’s best to bring a folding camp chair or some sort of item to reserve that perfect spot once you find it.
The ideal Airstream campsite includes beautiful views, flat ground, and a relatively easy turnaround. Crested Butte, Colorado.
After a long day of driving, it’s great to sit back and relax.
Bring the Right Tools– Traveling in an Airstream affords us a good amount of storage space, allowing us to bring more specialized tools that make camping tasks easier. We use cast-iron cookware because of its versatility on the stove or campfire. And speaking of campfires, we have a hatchet and folding saw on hand for processing firewood that we find. Leather gloves are also highly recommended for protecting your hands when performing camp tasks.
Eat Like Kings and Queens– Eating well when you are on the road or in the backcountry can really elevate your camping experience. Additionally, eating well helps with overall morale on longer outings. One of the biggest advantages of traveling in an Airstream is the complete kitchen with ample food storage and prep space, allowing us to prepare more complex meals with multiple courses. Of course, spaghetti is also an acceptable meal at camp.
Having a full kitchen in the Airstream makes it easier to prep meals. In this case, we prepared everything inside and cooked our dinner over the campfire to cut down on clean up.
Meals don’t have to be fancy if you enjoy them in a beautiful setting with those you love.
Explore on Foot – One of the most important things to remember when you’re pursuing vehicle-based adventures is that you should take time away from your rig to explore on foot. Walking and hiking bring you even closer to the beautiful places that we like to visit, and there are a variety of advantages to leaving your vehicle behind. Traveling on foot is quieter and slower, which means you are more likely to see wildlife and notice the little details that you often miss when you are behind the steering wheel. Also, exercise.
Appreciate the Details – Last but not least, slowing down to appreciate the details is one of the most valuable opportunities that Airstreaming provides. Once we’ve unhitched and set up camp, we like to explore our surroundings and take note of the little details. Whether it’s a unique flower, the glowing coals of the campfire, or the dappled shade from nearby Aspen leaves fluttering in the breeze, we’re constantly amazed by the beauty that surrounds us. In your own time outside, take a moment to appreciate these gems, and I promise you’ll develop a greater love of the natural world.
Clockwise from top left: Cow Parsnip, the Scofield Pass summit, relaxing under Populus Tremuloides (Quaking Aspen), and the glowing coals of our campfire.
Special thanks to YETI for helping to make this trip a possibility. The YETI products shown are: