Welcome Rich Luhr, editor & publisher of Airstream Life magazine and new author of The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming. I recently had the opportunity to read Rich’s book and also do a question and answer with him. Before we dive in a few words from us about the book.
First off it is geared for new Airstreams (or relatively new) if you have a vintage Airstream like we do it has lots of info that won’t coincide, however it still has tons of useful information such as, hitches & weight distribution, backing up (which can be scary to newbies for sure), boondocking (which we are so anxious to do if we can just get that gray tank!), and tons of maintenance tips. Much of what intimidates new campers is universal and this guide covers all of that, for those with a new or newer Airstream it will prove invaluable and save lots of time and frustration…for just $9.95 you can’t beat it. Links below with buying info and a big thanks to Rich for taking the time to do a question and answer for us all!
1. Your new book, The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming, just came out.. Can you share a quick synopsis for those who haven’t read it yet?
It’s the first-ever “quick start” guide for people who are new to Airstream ownership. I tried to take all of my experience and combine it with contributions by other Airstream owners, to help people get past all of the little questions and problems that newbies always have. Airstreams are a little different, and until now there really hasn’t been anything out there to help people get started.
2. How long have you been Airstreaming and how did you get started?
My wife and I bought our first Airstream in 2003. It was a 1968 Airstream Caravel, which we still own. We were tent campers for many years, but when our daughter arrived we decided to try a “camper.” That led to the discovery of Airstreams, and after a few months of traveling with the Caravel I was so hooked that I quit my job and started Airstream Life magazine.
3. When you first got started, what made you choose an Airstream over other travel trailers?
We thought at first that we’d want a pop-up, since it was the most like a tent, but after trying one out and trying to set it up in the rain with a three-year-old child, we decided we wanted something easier to deal with. We walked a few RV dealer lots and saw all the white box trailers, and that quickly led us to desire something a little classier and more durable. It wasn’t long before Airstream hit our radar, and after seeing the 2003 Airstream International CCD, we couldn’t take any other brand seriously.
4. What do you find to be the most common mistakes in newbies?
It really runs the gamut. I’m constantly surprised by the things that people ask me when we meet in campgrounds — things I would never have thought of. But the most common mistake I see is having the tow vehicle and trailer improperly hitched. The vast majority of travel trailer owners really don’t understand the basic principles and goals of setting up a weight distributing hitch. I covered the basic elements in this book, but at some point I hope to do another book solely about hitching.
I also see a lot of people who are afraid to try camping without hookups, who overload their trailer, and never do any safety checks. In the book I tried to focus on tips that would help people get more enjoyment out of their Airstream, and avoid potential disasters.
5. Do you have a number one tip that you think all future travelers should know?
Rather shamelessly, yes, I recommend that they subscribe to Airstream Life magazine. I’m the Editor & Publisher. We cover everything about Airstreams, like towing, destinations, time-saving tips, history, people, interior design, etc. For $24 a year it’s a really cheap ongoing education. I’m always amazed when people tell me “it’s too expensive,” and then go make an avoidable mistake that cost them $100 or $1,000.
OK, if that’s too self-serving, then I’ll suggest this: Take the time to understand every system of your trailer before you go out. It’s no fun trying to figure out how the propane system works, or how to change a tire, or why the shower won’t drain, during a camping trip.
6. What did you not know when you started that would have made the biggest difference?
Wow — there were so many things we did not know, it’s hard to pick just one. I do wish that someone had given me the tip on the bottom of page 38 about sewer hoses … it would have spared me from a really bad experience!
7. Do you see any major benefits to one style of Airstream over another (for ex. a Safari vs. an International)?
No, choosing the “right” Airstream is really a very personal thing, and that’s why there are so many styles and floorplans. Almost everyone I meet is convinced that their Airstream is the best one ever made.
8. Do you travel full-time?
Right now we travel about four or five months a year. We take a few short trips in the winter, and are generally traveling from mid-May through mid-October. We log about 12,000-15,000 miles of towing per year these days.
From 2005 to 2008 we traveled full time, and visited 48 states (just missed North Dakota and Alaska). It was the most wonderful experience of our lives, and great for our daughter (aged 5-8). I kept a blog of the entire adventure, which you can still read online. It has over 800 entries and thousands of photos. See it here.
9. Favorite places you’ve been?
National Parks are our top picks. We have visited over 130 of them at last count, including several in Canada. My daughter has over 50 Junior Ranger badges earned in the parks, and we are on our second National Parks Passport stamp book. We’ve still got over 200 more US national park sites to visit, so we expect to be traveling to them for many years to come.
We have several favorite spots that we return to periodically: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Big Bend National Park, central Florida, northern Vermont, California. We love the desert southwest. We also love camping at the ocean, and we have done that in ten states plus Sonora, Mexico. Another big draw for us is great culinary experiences, meaning local flavors and cuisine, since my wife is a chef and I love to try new food. We find great food everywhere.
10. What is the best way for someone to buy your book?
Right now it is available through the Airstream Life online store and in Kindle format at Amazon.com.
Airstream is now including a free copy of the book with every new Airstream sold, and sells it at their service center in Jackson Center, Ohio. I just heard that Colonial Airstream (the largest Airstream dealer in the US) will have copies in its store in Lakewood, New Jersey in a couple of weeks, and I hope that other Airstream dealers will pick it up as well.
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We finally had some neighbors to chat with a bit, in between child wrangling (3 boys do keep them busy!) Mike & Vesna are on the road full-time having sold the majority of their possessions back home (in Canada) and are now cruising the United States for awhile. As of right now they too are sticking to warmer weather but are headed East versus West. Not having children I wanted to get the lay of the land on what life is like with 3 boys and a pop up. You can read more about their adventures on their blog Mudakiller. Thanks Mike & Vesna for sharing and doing this Q & A for everyone!
1. First things first. You are traveling with three!! kiddos, were you apprehensive about this at all?
Not really. We sort of cocooned after our first big trip with our first born. We took him to visit family in Serbia when he was 18 months old. The toddler and I were both quite sick for the entire two week period. After that, all we did was our annual driving trip to Treasure Island in Florida. Last year (6 years later) we were finally able (financially) to visit my family in Serbia again, and since my family hadn’t met the other two kids, we just bit the bullet and went for three weeks. It was an amazing success and all we needed to know and believe that we *can* do this! I think the fact that we were no longer new to parenthood helped too.
We’re also very used to long road trips with the boys – 24 hour drives to Florida, weekend treks camping, visiting grandparents and family, etc.
The only thing we were a little apprehensive about was them leaving their neighbourhood, school friends, etc. We have that at the front of our minds at all times and are making as much effort as possible to keep them connected (via Skype, email, etc.) to existing friends/family, and meeting as many new ones as possible.
2. Ok, now that you have answered that…. how are you finding it works with three kids on the road?
It’s only been just under 6 weeks, but we (and they) seem to be adjusting well. Just as at home, there are awesome days, and some crazy days. We spend a lot of time assessing our innate reactions (good or bad), keeping our stress in check as pro-actively as we can. The traveling part has been great and has worked well so far. The kids are really taking to it. We love not being tied down to one particular location and being able to up and leave.
3. Can you summarize what made you want to go on the road full-time?
Our 2010 trip to Serbia proved a few things to us 1. We can indeed travel with the kids and 2. Our remote business can actually be more remote than we ever thought. We were able to service our clients whilst overseas. We spent three weeks on a continent that doesn’t do things to excess the way we do here in North America. They buy what they need and use everything they have. We came home to our mortgage (bank ball & chain), a large (for us) house that we used very little of, and a house full of junk that we never use. We realised that we never used the back yard, or a good percentage of the house itself. Ever. We were wasting our time on maintenance, and money on upkeep for a place we barely lived in. We’d also been going through some life changes/paradigm shifts and figuring out how much time we spend sleeping, watching tv (which we’d quit a while ago), and doing all those things that we didn’t find important. I did a big write up of the calculations in my blog recently, but the numbers are scary. Dropping our sleep time from 8 down to 6 hours gave us back 1 ½ months of *awake* time each year. One and a half MONTHS of awake time more every year!! Not watching tv for 2 hours a night gave us back ONE FULL month back – so just by doing those things, we got back 2 ½ months of awake time! Then we counted up house maintenance hours, etc. – another huge number. We’re not talking a few hours here or there….we are talking MONTHS of living. So we started looking at what is important to us. Stuff? Or experiences? No brainer! With the mortgage and house we had stuff and an opportunity to travel 2 to 4 weeks a year. This is not at all what we wanted. We just finally put our life into perspective and decided to make the absolute most of our days for us, for and with our kids. Originally we looked at purchasing condos in key spots, and then the trailer thing hit us. Then we found there are others doing it (and they weren’t all snowbirds either!), so it really nailed it.
4. You’re from Canada… did you camp much before heading into The States?
Yes – pre-kids we did quite a bit of hiking/portaging and ‘real’ camping. I was a skydiver for 5 years and spent that entire time camping on dropzones. When we hooked up, we bought a 1976 Westfalia and camped in style J When the kids came along, we went back to tent camping, but drive up camp sites – again only in Provincial Parks though. Never at rv campgrounds, etc. We wanted to be around nature.
5. Are there RV parks, and Canadian parks similar to the U.S.? Any tips for those of us who plan to travel Canada?
We never camped at RV parks in Canada, so we don’t have a clue. We’ll find out soon enough in the spring however J I’m not sure about tips – I suspect it’s all pretty much the same.
6. You are in a pop-up currently, what would you tell people thinking of traveling in one?
If you are in the least claustrophobic, beware of your limitations and get out into open space as much as you can. Especially on rainy days. If you plan on doing this full time, make sure you have a furnace and running water – especially if you have kids. The small space took a bit of getting used to. We were supposed to have our 5th wheel and were not prepared for this small space. Definitely get a potty for the middle of the night runs (again – especially with kids).
7. You are switching over to a 5th wheel in the fall, what made you decide on this versus a travel trailer, etc.?
We went back and forth for quite a while between 5th wheel and travel trailer. At first we were stuck on travel trailer because we wanted three rows of seating in the tow vehicle. Once we broke out of that paradigm and figured out we could get a truck and all three kids can fit in a large cab, we moved over to looking at 5th wheels. Mike is 6’ 2” and fell in love with the ceiling height and full height showers. He really does take up a lot of space in the tent trailer! The layouts in the 5th wheels with bunk houses and extra space for our office sealed the deal. We also eat raw, so space for a sprouter, dehydrator, and our Vitamix is important.
8. What has been harder than you expected? Easier?
Harder: The claustrophobia and keeping kewl under stress makes it more difficult than before. Sometimes you literally have to just stand in place until the other four people get situated. There literally is no place to move out of anyone’s way. You just have to stand there and wait for people to figure out where they’re going next.
Easier: The kids sleeping together has been easier than I expected. I really thought there would be craziness around that. We have three amazing sleepers, but they have all always had their own rooms, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They’ve been amazing! We have a good 3 – 4 hours of alone time after they go to sleep and hang out at the hot tubs, etc. So, it’s been really nice J
9. Do you have a set game plan for your travels?
Not specific ones, or ones that can’t be changed on the fly. Right now we’re heading east from San Diego. We want to be in Florida for the final Shuttle launch on April 19th. We’ve been getting some awesome ideas from people we’ve met (thank you!) about places to see between here and there. We’ll check those out and write the others down for when we’re back in the fall. We’ll head up the east coast after the launch and back to Canada. We plan on taking off to Europe in June. We’ll spend one week in Germany with a cousin of mine, and spend until mid-August in Kragujevac in Serbija. Then a month in Greece before we head back to the Toronto area for the fall. At that point we’ll get our tow vehicle and 5th wheel and start the trek either south or west again and hit all the places we missed this first time. After that, we plan on repeating that until we’ve seen the things we want to see. At that point (5-ish years?) we’ll look at doing the same on two other continents. Rinse and repeat. For anyone that knows us though – our plans change constantly, so who knows!
10. What do you find to be the biggest differences between Canada and the United States?
Anything we have you wish Canada had and vice/versa?
Biggest differences? Better access to healthy food here for sure – especially in California. I do wish that Canada had California and Hawaii. It would be nice to have that as a choice to move to or live at for part of the year (without worrying about citizenship, etc.). Also – I wish Canada had better technological ‘things’. Hulu, cheaper cell rates, better packages. Canada is, as I understand it, the most expensive on the planet for voice and data packages. It’s pretty sad. The CRTC/Canadian Networks have also done quite a good job at stopping services like Hulu, previously Netflix, and other things that are available just south of the border. We’re forced to pay through the nose for content and internet access. Pretty backwards.
11. Final words of wisdom?
Facing your fears (and overcoming them) is the greatest thing you’ll ever do. Being raw, true and honest with what is truly important in your life. That is huge. Look in the mirror. Look deep in your eyes. Love yourself – like *really* love yourself. Stop running away and embrace who you are. Live your passion. It IS possible. Set your ‘buts’ and fears aside and imagine it being possible. What do you want to remember on your death bed? The big LCD tv? The color you picked for your living room? For us, it’s relationships and experiences. No more, no less. Everything else is just noise. ‘Love is the answer’ – Weezer
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Meet Big Red, Chelsea Ann & her husband Jim…
Chelsea Ann & I met via blogland.. she’s super creative.. (take a looksee at ittybittybirdy)
I love her personal sense of style, her love of Japanese kitschiness and of course…Painted Airstreams!
Thanks Chelsea Ann for sharing your photos and for the great Q & A.
1. The first question HAS to be… the fabulous red!
How did you decide to paint it this color?
You know honestly I don’t think we ever really had much debate about it.
Both my husband and myself loved the idea of a fire engine red trailer.
If we were going to invest in a paint job we wanted it to be flashy.
Since then we have discussed other ideas such as Hello Kitty Pink, baby blue, and yellow.
I for-see that if there is another trailer in our future that choosing the next color wont be quite so easy.
2. What was the process to get it painted?
Lots and Lots of prep work.
My husband paints cars as a hobby but we decided to source out this project just based on the scale.
I didn’t think it would’ve been very good on our marriage to have my husband try to do it in our garage.
The most important thing is you want to choose quality paint.
It’s not an inexpensive endeavor but the maintenance and up keep of an exposed aluminum airstream was just not for us.
We ended up backing the corner of Big Red into a tree branch our first trip out.
If we had a traditional airstream we would have had to replace an entire panel,
but because the trailer is painted we just pulled out the dent just like you would with a car.
3. What made you decide on an Argosy?
It really came down to getting the most bang for our money.
I also didn’t like the idea of paining over a beautiful airstream body,
but I wasn’t up for the task of polishing the aluminum every 6 months.
4. What year is Big Red and although no interior pictures this time around…
do you have specific plans on what you want to do with the inside?
And will you two be doing the restoration?
We have gotten so many requests from people wanting to see the interior.
Big Reds insides are in great shape, that is if you are into the 1978 faux wood look.
However, with each trip it seems to take a toll on the old boy.
Our hope is too completely gut the interior… all the way to the exposed aluminum.
Not sure yet if we will just polish him up or paint the inside much like we did the exterior.
We really haven’t given much thought to the project,
but I think we both like the idea of making it somewhat patriotic with lots of electric blue and red.
5. When you renovate, will you be sticking to the vintage theme or going in a new direction?
We’ve talked about purchasing a wrecked airstream and simply transferring the innards over,
but no matter what it won’t be like anything else out there on the road.
Unlike our home, where I get to make pretty much all the design choices,
Big Red really is more of my husbands domain.
It’s a fun project for him, and if I get too involved with the design..
I don’t think he’ll be quite as passionate about spending his weekends renovating it.
The most important thing is to design in a way that makes every square inch usable space.
I’m by nature not a very utilitarian designer.
I’ll throw away a perfectly good oven mitt just because it’s ugly.
With the trailer I have to realize that some times good practical design has to come before aesthetics.
6. You use your trailer for short getaways, what have you learned on your camping voyages so far?
Pack paper plates.
I know that sounds silly but honesty try making life as easy on yourself as possible.
Instead of bedding use sleeping bags for example.
You want to be out exploring new places, not stuck inside cleaning up after every single meal.
7. What has been your longest trip thus far and where did you go?
Gosh all of our trips have probably been just about on the 4 day mark.
Probably the best trip was late last fall we went to Yellowstone on the last weekend they were open.
It was great because it seemed like no one else was in the park,
it felt like we had the entire park just to ourselves.
It literally started to snow the moment we left the park!
We’ve been planning on going to Mt. Rushmore for about a year,
and I’m really hoping we can finally make that trip a reality this summer.
I love traveling through America and just seeing her natural beauty.
I love meeting new people, and believe me when you drive up in a bright red trailer,
you get a lot of attention.
We get honks and waves, and people stop us and want to know more about our trailer.
It’s exciting to be part of something new and exciting in the eyes of so many people.
8. What do you pull Big Red with?
We have a 1995 Chevy Silverado named Randy.
We would love to get an old Jeep Wagoneer someday,
but they are such gas hogs that we would need to convert the engine to something more efficient.
We are just about to become foster parents and plan on taking in 3 children,
so we will be looking to upgrade to a 7 passenger vehicle in the near future.
9. Do you take your dogs with you when you go and if so how does that work?
Our dogs are like our children, and we take them on all our trips.
They love to travel, although they aren’t always the best road companions.
They get territorial and if fellow campers have a dog we might as well forget sleeping.
We hope with time they will settle down, but it’s understandable that they would be curious
and excited about every new smell and critter that comes along.
10. Any advice for young people thinking of getting a vintage travel trailer?
Do a fair share of research.
Everything from size, make, and condition will really affect
how much enjoyment you will get out of owning your own trailer.
It’s also good to go into it knowing you are going to make a lot of mistakes,
things are going to break, unexpected costs are going to arise,
and tight quarters can wear on the best of us.
But in the end the adventures are what you will most remember,
won’t be so much be the destinations but the road in between.
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Welcome fellow traveler Gabby from Gypsy Diaries. Gabby is way ahead of us on the world map, she’s already lived in 4 countries, 6 cities and has visited 4 continents and 20 plus countries. That is a lot of flying y’all. (And you know me, I like the ground)… pop over and read about her adventures on her blog Gypsy Diaries. A big thank you for sharing with us today!
1. When did your love of travel begin?
Hmm… at birth??? Since I can remember the only thing I wanted to do is travel the world. I used to go to travel shows, collect the info packs, cutout pictures and plan my dream vacations. I spent my first salary on a plane ticket and even these days there is hardly a month when I don’t go somewhere at least for a weekend. It’s also fair to say that most of my friends are abroad and my boyfriend’s family lives in Italy so most of the time I travel to visit someone I know.
2. You have lived in 4 countries.. how has adjusting to cultural differences been?
Different in each country. In the Netherlands I was a student surrounded by other international students, so there was no cultural shock. In Spain it was easy breezy, I love the country, the people, the culture, and I spoke the language when I moved there which helped a lot. Germany was different… much harder.
The people are more reserved and harder to warm up to. I’m just in the process of moving back (from Hungary) and while I was not thrilled at first, I am becoming excited again. Now that I speak the language, have some friends, and a new goal (to become a photographer), things will be easier I hope!
3. When living abroad, what did you find you missed most about “home”?
Food!!!!! Sure I really missed my family as well, but we talk on the phone and skype a lot, while unfortunately there is no substitute for my favorite dishes.
4. Of the 20+ countries you have visited what are some of your favorites and why?
Spain is one of my absolute favorite countries. It’s really hard to define why… I just love the weather, the people, the smell in the air, the easy going attitude… I hope I’ll have the chance to live there one day!
My favorite vacation has been to Zanzibar, Tansania. Untouched paradise!!! While I was fortunate enough to visit some amazing countries like Egypt, Thailand or Tunisia I find that the usual vacation spots are spoiled by scammers and by the abundance of tourists. In Zanzibar I really felt like I had landed in another world and could get a glimpse into a whole different life. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I advise everyone to go before the rest of the world discovers its beauties!
5. Have you found more differences or similarities in people as you travel the world?
Difficult question. I think more similarities! I have danced with masai soldiers to the Macarena, which has highlighted that at the end of the day, we are all the same. We all drink Coke and dance to the same music! Not that I’m crazy for the idea that one day globalization will take over and masai soldiers will dress the same as the Western World. It might sound a bit cliche but the beauty of traveling is seeing different things and meeting different people. I hope that we’ll be able to preserve what’s unique in the different countries and cultures for the next generations. It would be a shame not to.
6. What have you experienced in your foreign travels that you don’t see as being prevalent in the United States?
Well, I don’t live in the States but I guess Western culture can be brought under one umbrella…and my answer is appreciation. People in developing countries can appreciate and be thankful for the smallest of things. Our consumerized world has no appreciation for things anymore, we want more, we want better, and we are never satisfied. One of my new years resolutions is to appreciate the little things!
7. What travel tips can you share that you have learned?
Planning and organization is key. Be prepared, read articles about the place where you’re traveling, and know what you want to see or do, otherwise you can easily get overwhelmed.
Also, book well in advance to save a ton of money!
8. You recently shared on your blog that you took the leap of leaving your job to pursue your love of photography…
Do you plan to travel just as much while pursuing this, or are you taking a break from travel?
The answer is that I’m planning to travel more! I’m hoping to become a photographer without borders! My absolute dream would be to have my own little business where I’d do travel photography all over the world for magazines and websites and I’d do wedding and portrait photography all over Europe.
Plane tickets within Europe are very cheap so I don’t think it would make my services too expensive, in fact I think I’ll be able to offer more affordable rates than if someone would have hired a local photographer in let’s say France, or the UK.
9. What places are on your must-visit list that you haven’t crossed off yet?
Too many to list! The number one on my list is New York right now. I cannot believe that I’ve never been! I’d also love to travel to South America, especially to Brazil and Argentina and I’m really interested in Indonesia and Japan as well.
10. Do you ever plan to travel the U.S. extensively?
I’ve had a road trip with my family for 5 weeks in the US. We started in Phoenix, Arizona and we made our way through San Diego, LA, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone Park, Bryce Canyon and The Grand Canyon. It was truly one of the most exciting trips of my life! However I’m an East Coast virgin which I’m hoping to change soon!
11. A popular question we get asked is how we can afford to take off and travel full-time. Although your travel is not full-time it does require a great deal of airfare, and concentrated spending, do you have tips on how to country hop like you do on a budget?
Traveling within Europe is really cheap these days. With low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet or Wizzair I hardly pay more than 100 euro for my return tickets. I normally stay with friends or family which eliminates the accomodation costs. I usually only have one or two bigger trips in a year for which I save up. What I really want to start doing in the future is home swapping (like in The Holiday) so if anyone is interested in a trip to Berlin, let me know and let’s swap! I have friends who have done it and they had an amazing experience. I really believe home swapping is the future of traveling on a budget, as I’d personally rather stay in nice homes than boring, ugly, hotel rooms.
12. Parting words of wisdom???
Life is not measured by the number of steps we take, but by the places and faces that take our breathe away!
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