Lessons from a Five Year Road Trip

How we got here, the lessons I've learned and where we might go next.
Looking outside the window of Karen and Lenny Blue's Airstream Flying Cloud at a mountain range

Each year, Thanksgiving Day marks our family's "nomadaversary," as many travelers call it. And this year, we'll be celebrating five years on the road in our Airstream Flying Cloud. As we get closer to this milestone, I've been reflecting on our journey—how we got here, the lessons I've learned and where we might go next.

How it started with an Airstream

In December of 2017, our family took a month-long road trip. I wanted to show my husband and daughter the giant redwood forests and beautiful coastline of California. We spent Christmas in a cabin in the redwoods, celebrated the New Year with family and stopped in the Grand Canyon on our return home. After the trip, we tried to settle back into our routine, but if you have ever experienced the bite of wanderlust, you know it is an aching feeling that only increases the more you travel.

My husband and I were already working remotely, so we started to discuss ways to travel more and take advantage of exposing our daughter to more than the suburban lifestyle. When I was growing up, our family always had a motorhome and we took extended trips from California to Canada every year. The idea of extended travel in a rolling home started to take hold, and we began looking at travel trailers as an option. One day, after months of touring several brands, we stepped into an Airstream. Since that day, we have always joked that if you don't want to buy an Airstream, don't go inside one. We came home with the brochure, and our travel vision came to life.

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Airstream Flying Cloud

It was only supposed to be a year

Our desire to travel wasn't about escaping; we just wanted to explore more in nature. We were living in Kansas City where we had wonderful relationships with family and friends, so our plan was always to return there after our year of travel. 

We hit the road again in November of 2018 with our one-week-old Airstream in tow. Naively, we thought we could explore all 48 states in a year. Sure, we could have done this if we had been quite hasty, but we found ourselves spending more time in unexpected places, and we knew quickly that one year wouldn't be enough. A year turned into two, then a pandemic happened, and the list of places we wanted to explore kept growing. Because we can pick our weather and views, we never seem to get bored and enjoy returning to some places in different seasons now.

Life lessons from the road

So here we are, five years later. I could share a lot of wisdom about towing an RV, the mechanics of our Airstream travel trailer and how it operates, and mistakes we've made (and there are plenty), but instead I would like to share some insights after half a decade of RV travel that has changed how our family navigates the road and life.

Karen and Lenny Blue family - Airstream Flying Cloud - interior maintenance

1. Amid tough times, you may find strangers can be incredibly kind, generous and understanding. People's goodness often surprises me in ways I couldn't imagine.

2. You make friends quickly while traveling. Even if our time together is short, I often cross paths with new friends again. Instead of saying goodbye, we simply say, "See you down the road."

Karen and Lenny Blue sitting by the water outside their Airstream Flying Cloud

3. Spending an extended time in the Airstream with my family has shown me our strengths and weaknesses, and encourages healthy communication.

4. Nothing beats the simple joy of sitting around a campfire and sharing a story.

Karen and Lenny Blue's Airstream Flying Cloud driving down a road overlooking the mountains

5. If you have dreams of traveling, don't let anything hold you back. No matter your age or situation, there are always opportunities to explore.

6. Don't time-box your camping adventures. Trust your gut to know when to slow down and when to keep moving forward.

Looking out the window of Karen and Lenny Blue's Airstream Flying Cloud at a desert landscape

7. Remember, you don’t have to cram every activity into one trip. You can always come back or explore the area during a different season.

8. Go beyond the National Parks. Dive deep into lesser-known places. Explore National Forests. Stay longer, and take the less traveled path.

The Karen and Lenny Blue family sitting around a bonfire outside of their Airstream Flying Cloud

9. Our forests, rivers, mountains, oceans, and their ecosystems are precious and are in need of our care.

10. Stay a bit longer and enjoy the view once the sun goes down. You might be surprised by what unfolds.

Karen Blue walking down a trail with wildflowers

11. It's good to be prepared, but don't stick too rigidly to your plans. Tightly scheduled road trips don’t allow flexibility for unexpected opportunities.

12. Pandemics happen. Nature is the best remedy.

Karen Blue at a museum learning about Native American culture

13. Wherever you go, be a beacon of kindness to others. People from other countries notice how we treat each other and our freedom.

14. We're not trailblazers or rebels, and we can learn valuable lessons from the wisdom of our elders and indigenous cultures.

The Karen and Lenny Blue family posed outside their Airstream Flying Cloud with a snowman

17. Simplicity is freedom, and the desire for material possessions loses its charm when you’re camping under the starry sky.

18. We're incredibly fortunate to travel these roads today. Previous generations paved the way for us, and many of them envy the journeys we take.

See you down the road

I've had many opportunities to share our story in the last five years, but my intention is not to brag about our travels. It's about sharing a passion for adventure and curiosity, and taking a risk so life’s questions don't go unanswered. I get so much joy when someone is inspired to take a road trip because we’ve been able to show them what’s out there. Hopefully, as you finish reading this, I've sparked your imagination and dreams for your next destination, too. 

So my advice to you is to take the leap and get on the road—in whatever suits you and for however long. You will figure out the rest along the way. The leap and the learning are all part of the adventure! 

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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