"Footloose and fancy free" - wisdom from Wally Byam

This post is the complete Chapter Two from Fifth Avenue on Wheels, written by Airstream founder Wally Byam in 1953. The photo, taken in 1956, shows Wally and his wife Stella in their famous white Airstream.

Trailering is a whole new approach to traveling. By trailering, you relax and enjoy your travels to the full. You don‘t have to worry about reservations in the next town. You have them with you. You don‘t have to fuss and fume about making the next town in time for dinner. You have your own home-cooked meals with you. You don‘t have to put up with the greasy grub of some roadside stand. You can go back to the trailer and mix up a fresh salad out of your own ice-box. 

There is no uncomfortable waiting for trains and planes and buses. There is no uncomfortable anything. If a construction crew temporarily stops your road – so what. Go back into your trailer and brew up a cup of coffee, or a spot of tea, or take a snooze. Your home is wherever your wheels come to a stop. They don‘t even have to stop. Many a night I have slept soundly and peacefully the whole night through in the trailer while someone drove the car. Moreover in trailering you are not burdened with a bunch of suitcases, traveling bags and paraphernalia that has to be checked in and out, carried in and out, packed and unpacked every time you sleep. If you want to change a suit or a dress, you just go to the clothes closet and select what you want. If you want a fresh handkerchief, go and take it out of the top drawer. You can stop any night and be in bed in ten minutes if you want to. For ease and comfort, lack of work and genuine luxury, you can‘t beat trailering. It is truly and honestly ―Fifth Avenue on Wheels.

This does not mean that you may not stay at hotels occasionally. I always keep one or two suitcases in my trailer, and in fact, the newer models have them built in as drawers so that I can go into a hotel if I want to. Or even use them on short trips away from the trailer. Many times you can park your trailer in a hotel parking ground and go inside and stay for a night if you want to. Sometimes an interesting inn is a pleasant experience, but don‘t be surprised if you find yourself getting up about midnight to go out and get in your own good beds in your own good trailer. And because you have your own kitchen with you doesn‘t mean that you always have to use it. Often you may eat out one main meal a day, or wherever you find an interesting place to eat. The point is that you are not dependent upon what you may or may not find. You take the sweet without the bitter, and life rolls merrily on. 

But the most unusual thing about trailering is the fact that you lose yourself mentally on your trip. You begin to enjoy the countryside and the land you are traveling through, without worrying or thinking about the physical self. If you come to a particularly beautiful place that you like real well, you just stay there until you get it out of your system. You are not hurrying to get any place. But you find that you are making very good time without realizing it. You are not wasting valuable hours packing, unpacking and checking in and out of hotels, motels and what not. Hours and days go by. You lose track of yourself and the calendar. Many times people have asked me where I stayed on such and such a night. My answer is ―darned if I know, but I know that I had a wonderful time.  

Of course, you have a general plan as to where you are going, and roughly when you are supposed to arrive there, and in general what direction and roads you will take. But you are so footloose and carefree that you find yourself stopping to explore this landmark or that view or this interesting old house much more than you ever thought of doing without a trailer. Even familiar roads and places take on a new light. You find yourself seeing much more than you ever saw before. And in traveling through new and strange lands, because you are freed from the fetters of schedules and reservations and where to sleep and eat, you find yourself in a mood to see and to absorb and to enjoy the new land and the new people to the full. 

If you want to get the low-down on any country, go trailering through it. You will get down to the grass roots of the people. You will meet them on their own ground. You may park in a farmyard tonight, and you get acquainted with the farmer and his wife and his children. Maybe you visit them this evening. Maybe they visit you. You talk and talk. You are their neighbor. You would never meet them in the city, and they would never meet you. And when you have finished your leisurely journey through that land, you know more about the real thoughts and conditions of the people than any congressional junket that ever went on an investigating mission. And you have done it all so easily, so comfortably, and with such little effort. Your own home, your own hotel, all the things that you are used to, have been with you all the time. 

When you stop to think of it, it is downright fantastic. And the big thought that arises in your mind is ―why didn‘t we think of this before? And the expense, or rather the lack of expense, of trailering is something to consider. It doesn‘t cost any more to eat in your trailer than it does in your home – and usually a lot less, because often you are buying your supplies from the man who produces them. Food is usually cheaper in foreign countries. And you eat more simply in a trailer, if only because you don‘t want to go to the trouble of preparing elaborate meals when there are so many wonderful sights to see. The only additional expense is the gasoline your car uses, and with the light weight trailer you should have, you won‘t use much more gas than with your car alone. And in trailering you travel from one place to another. You don‘t shuttle back and forth as you do in your own home town in your daily life. On the whole you find that probably you haven‘t traveled much more in a month than you do at home. Figured on a mileage basis the gas for the car and the trailer doesn‘t really amount to very much. Moreover it doesn‘t take any more gas for mama and the kids to go along than for one person to ride alone. Trailering is unquestionably the ideal way to travel with children. They can live their normal life and have their normal schedule of food and sleep and play and get a most wonderful education without even realizing it. 

If you own your own trailer and your car, it doesn‘t cost any more to go trailering than it does to stay home. It is much less expensive than staying at hotels, And much less work. And eating in your trailer is much less expensive than eating out. I have heard some people say, ―Well, I could pay for a lot of cabins and motels, and hotels for what a trailer costs. Yes, that is true, but they wouldn‘t have half the fun nor half the comfort and relaxation, nor see half as much, and they couldn‘t enjoy many of the most beautiful places where you can park your trailer but where there are no hotels or motels. 

When the money is spent, all they have is a fistful of receipts – but you still have your trailer. And a good well built trailer will last for years and years and years, much longer than automobiles and probably as long as you will. Even if trailers cost twice as much as they do now, even if trailering were twice as expensive as it is, it would still beat any other method of traveling known to man. In my opinion the only reason that trailering has not become more popular is that more people just don‘t know about it, don‘t know how much fun they can have, or how to use their own trailers. They don‘t know how to get adjusted mentally to this great new freedom. They don‘t know how to overcome the little problems of where to park, and how, and light and water and sanitation and the fear of the unknown away from home. 

Read on, MacDuff, and we will tell you how. And while you are reading you will be unconsciously preparing for the biggest adventure and the most fun you have ever had in all your life. 

Get the complete book, Fifth Avenue on Wheels, in The Byam Books.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published