Inventor and travel promoter Wally Byam once said, “Keep your eyes on the stars, and the stars in your eyes…see if you can find out what’s over the next hill, and the next one after that.” Perhaps that’s why the travel club established in his name uses a star to indicate membership milestones. Although it has actually been six years since we became members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), we didn’t get around to applying our five-year star until this weekend. Better late than never. We received the star long before the pandemic hit, but like so many pre-COVID plans, affixing it to Cloud 9 kept getting delayed and, eventually, forgotten.
We joined the WBCCI soon after purchasing our first Airstream, in 2014. The club, with more than 12,000 members in 122 chapters worldwide, is named after Wally Byam, who founded the Airstream company and designed the first Airstream travel trailer in the 1930s. By the 1950s, he began promoting group travel via trailer caravans, leading successful events throughout the U.S. and around the world. Eventually, repeat participants formed a club, in 1955, and established local units organized by regions.
Byam died just a few years afterward, but the WBCCI lives on, with members holding hundreds of rallies and caravans throughout the year. Displaying member numbers on the front and rear of the Airstream is part of the club’s esprit de corps. We’ve made lots of friends, especially in our Heart of Texas Camping Unit (HOTC), which is part of Region 9 (Texas and Oklahoma) and in a couple of shared-interest or “theme-specific” intra-clubs that have become popular in recent years. In addition to sharing stories of our adventures, we’ve also benefitted from receiving technical tips, travel advice, and hard-earned wisdom from the road.
The goal of Airstreaming, Byam once declared, was “to place the great wide world at your doorstep for you who yearn to travel with all the comforts of home.”
Travel by Airstream can indeed be liberating–and also limiting. We invested in our silver pod because it enabled us to see our corner of the world accompanied by our five chihuahuas. But it would be impractical and cost-prohibitive to have our land yacht loaded into the hold of a cargo vessel for adventures overseas, as Byam and his wife, Stella, did with their dogs, Penny and Chica, in tow.
Still, like the Byams, what makes us uniquely American is our willingness to go anywhere, tempered only by the simultaneous wish to never leave home.