America’s World Traveler
by Patrick Foster
Your private luxury vacation on wheels? My parents sure thought so. And, apparently so do my neighbors 50 years later. Yep. There’s an Airstream in their driveway. I wish I had one too — a classy, classic aluminum Airstream travel trailer is pretty darn special and very desirable. It reminds me of an airplane with its graceful, aerodynamic design sans wings.
Did you know Airstream has been around for 85 years? Don’t believe me? Just flip through the pages of this great new book, Airstream: America’s World Traveler by Patrick R. Foster. “Travel trailers were all the rage during the 1930’s, with scores of new companies producing them for a travel-hungry public. Magazines offered plans for building your own, one of which influenced Wally to enter the business with his design.” (p.15). Wally who? Wally Byam, the man responsible for this iconic travel trailer and leader of world-wide travel in Airstreams!
Wally and his wife, Stella went all over the world in their Airstream and lead caravans “promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.” This phrase is taken from “The Wally Byam Creed” (p. 41) which perfectly presents his ‘set of beliefs or aims that guide someone's actions’ and could easily be adopted by every person who loves to travel, especially those who love road-trips. You will enjoy the nostalgic photos and travel stories. As I read more about Wally, his company and vision, I was reminded of another dream-maker, Walt Disney. “He was well liked by many of his employees. Many saw him as inspirational, driving them to accomplish more than they thought they could.” (p. 49)
Airstreams have been used as mobile hospitals, minibuses, even funeral coaches, plus their motorhome model was modified by NASA as a transfer unit for carrying astronauts to the space shuttle and one was made for quarantining astronauts after returning from the moon! (p. 45) Today, preowned Airstreams are being repurposed as food-trucks and tiny-homes. The idea of parking your ‘Land Yacht’ home-away-from-home, then separately using your vehicle to explore each new destination still carries great appeal.
There’s no doubt, a vintage Airstream is intriguing - check Pinterest for a taste of their charm and versatility. Better yet, own this superb book — there’s nothing like hands-on turning pages to learn the story of how this American company has survived and thrived under the guidance of visionary leaders who today bring us “a combination of work space and living area… aimed at people whose jobs allow them to live and work anywhere…” (p. 181).
This is the perfect book for all of us who turn our heads every time an Airstream passes by. It is a thoughtful gift for grandparents and a must-have for anyone who owns, or has owned a ‘Silver Bullet’. Those who travel the world today will enjoy the history and pictures while imagining their own travels differently — as it might have been on an Airstream Caravan.