My wife and I picked up our 2007 Airstream 684 in January 2008 and, apart from a handful of occasions, we’ve spent every night in it since. That’s six years under an aluminium roof.
We lived in London and didn’t really like it or our jobs, so we decided to search the country for somewhere we did like. We moved to Cumbria and the contrast was novel at first, but not really for us in the long term. So we quit our jobs, sold our home, bought an Airstream and hit the road.
We initially thought a year would be enough, but after a year, we still hadn’t found anywhere we wanted to settle. After 18 months, we decided not to put a time limit on the trip.
Without doubt, the best part of our ‘big trip’ was the four months we spent travelling the coast of Scotland, visiting the Hebrides and the Orkneys. It was utterly beautiful. As far as places left on our ‘must-visit’ list, we managed to miss the Peak District but I’m sure we’ll make amends soon.
We still have to move regularly. There are restrictions on how long you can stay on sites, which can get frustrating when you find somewhere that you like. When deciding where to go next, we pick somewhere we want to visit and look for sites nearby. We prefer CLs and CSs since we have all the facilities we need on board. The internet is a great resource, with so many websites listing campsites. New adventures on the ‘big trip’ will be more sporadic now that I’m running Airstream’s southern base in Andoversford.
Much of our travelling over the last few years has been to Airstream gatherings in the UK and Europe, including a convoy to Ghent in the Netherlands. We were at the rear of the convoy, and the sight of all the Airstreams ahead of us was exhilarating.
It’s hard to say what I love about Airstream as it’s very much something in the gut – I love them and that’s that. The design has barely changed over its 80-year history, which is fascinating. I also love the fact they’re all hand-built and such good quality. And we’ve met some amazing people in the Airstream community. There’s a real fellowship among owners around the world.
We regard every aspect of the trip as part of our adventure. My wife and I work well as a team, but sometimes you’re in someone else’s hands, such as when you’re getting on or off a ferry. We learnt the hard way that in these situations you must be sure to follow the right guy.
On our trip to the Hebrides, someone put chocks down for us to drive over because the angle between the ferry and the on-shore ramp was so acute that we had started to bottom out. We assumed he worked for the ferry company, but it turned out he was just a bloke sitting on the dock. He put the chock in upside-down, it tipped up and jammed into our spare wheel carrier and dislodged it before we knew what was happening.
We’ve also learned that whatever happens or is said during pitching or manoeuvring, stays there. It doesn’t always go smoothly, and you’re often tired from the journey, so leave any disagreement at the door and start enjoying your new location as soon as possible.
Before we began full-timing we had a rusty old VW campervan. We loved it, but it wasn’t built for long-term occupation. Our Airstream, on the other hand, is perfect. The Airstream has become a huge part of our lives. We don’t feel that we lack or miss anything by living in it – in fact it’s the opposite.
We had a feeling that the experience of being the first full-timers in a European Airstream would be integral to our road trip. We knew it would be a talking point, and it has initiated many conversations and friendships along the way.
We tow with a Land Rover Discovery 3 – a superb tow car, but with high maintenance costs. Having adjustable suspension on the Land Rover has been handy as the Airstream sits pretty low. Other essentials for full-timing include comfortable outdoor chairs because when the weather is good the outdoors becomes part of your space. Indoors, a stove-top espresso pot gets every single day off to a great start and, obviously, we have a Wi-Fi dongle.
Despite living on the move, you need an address. Banks, mobile phone companies, insurance companies, and so on love addresses. You’re not legally obliged to have an address, but it makes life so much easier.
When preparing for living in our van full time we began with essentials and picked up luxuries as we went. The best thing about living in our Airstream is the freedom. If you get bored with the view or your neighbours – move! People comment on the lack of space, but if you open the door you have the whole world!