Voices from the Road

From Barbie RV to Airstream: My journey toward appreciating every sunrise

I have always been a planner and an organizer, sometimes bordering on being a control freak. This mentality has served me well from a professional standpoint because I’ve been able to stay ahead of the game. But in my personal life, I’ve often struggled with being in the moment and staying silent long enough to reflect on what I have now versus what may be around the corner. 

In 2013, I bought an Airstream trailer. Traveling in a trailer has changed my perspective on how I live my life—I finally learned how to be in the moment.

There are many ways to travel. My reason for getting an Airstream was to fulfill a childhood dream. As a new immigrant to this country, my first impression of what it meant to be an American was through the eyes of a Barbie doll. One Christmas, I got an RV made just for Barbie. The idea of long road trips in a self-contained unit became deeply rooted in my mind. From then on, roadtripping across the U.S. and visiting small town Main Streets became my way to integrate into American culture. 

A woman holding a dog and a camera on a tripod, standing in front of an Airstream trailer

I inherited the notion of exploring from my dad. Being immigrants, my parents struggled financially for most of their lives. They rarely went on vacation, but when they could take a few days off, it was to take a road trip—as far as their car could take them. My dad dreamed of traveling by RV one day, and when I was financially in a position to buy my own trailer, in some ways, I was helping my dad realize his dream as well.

Preparing for long-distance travel

When I first purchased my 19-foot trailer, I had never traveled in an RV before. But the desire to explore unknown territories with my dog, Butters, inspired me to learn about hitching, towing, trailer maintenance, and how to find remote boondocking locations. While I was teaching myself how to travel in an Airstream, I had the opportunity to take my parents on two camping trips in 2013. For the remaining part of the year, I continued to take short trips around California to reflect on the beauty of being on the road while working on my self-development.

After a year, I gained the courage to venture out on a 28-day road trip. This trip was significant for many reasons because a few months before I left, my dad passed away due to congestive heart failure. While I was nervous about setting out for a long trip, the calming image of my mom and dad sitting across from me at the Airstream dinette eating breakfast fueled the courage to move forward.

An Airstream in the desert

Unexpected traveling companions

When I bought my small trailer, it hadn’t occurred to me at the time that it was best suited for one person and a dog. In fact, I never imagined having a long-term travel companion. I had been happily single for 4 years, and the thought of meeting a significant other seemed unrealistic.

But then fate intervened. My friend dared me to go on a blind date with a man described as someone with a “wicked sense of humor” and a dog. My friend thought it was important for me to see if there was anyone out there for me. Given that this was positioned as a dare, I said, “Why not?” Within 2 months of meeting Jay, I wanted to spend every minute with him. So my solo road trip turned out to be a larger party.

The four of us—two humans and two dogs—made our way down toward the Salton Sea in California’s Colorado Desert, as the first part of our 28-day journey. I carried a small notebook with directions for a free campsite deep in the canyons of a town called Mecca. I learned about this place from other RVers who had traveled to it years before me. Following the directions, we ended up on a very primitive road with lots of bumps and grooves that violently shook our rig. I took great care to not go above 5 miles per hour but felt the pressure to get to our spot as soon as possible since the sunlight was quickly fading behind us.

A man and a woman seated in the doorway to an Airstream trailer, each holding a dog

Throughout the drive, so many worst-case scenarios flew through my head. Would we get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere without cell service? Would we drive off a cliff? Would a boulder roll off the hills, Indiana Jones-style, and crush us all? It was easy to start panicking, and as my hands gripped the wheel, I tried to stay in the moment and think positive thoughts. Whoever camped in this location before was not trying to cause any harm. On the contrary, I was sure they had the best interest of others in mind. 

We drove for 30 minutes along the rugged washboard roads until, finally, we reached an opening, deep in the canyon. The dusty air parted, and I saw in front of me a moon-like landscape. We stepped out of the car and landed in Mecca, a sacred place true to its name.

Two dogs playing in the desert

Every sunrise

I woke up early the next day. The sun was just inching its way over the top of the canyons. While making coffee, I took a minute to reflect on where I was, and what I was feeling. I was reminded that each moment in life is indeed temporary. As much as we make plans and try to control our environment, nothing ever stays the same. Nor should it. I thought back to the scenarios I had imagined when I first bought the trailer: I would be traveling on my own with Butters and taking my parents on a trip here and there. But neither scenario played out exactly the way I had thought. Instead, I lost my dad and gained a partner. Life is fleeting; moments turn into days, weeks, and years. Before you realize it, life ends.  

That morning, as the sun made its way above the rim of the canyon, I made a commitment to myself. I wanted to appreciate each time the sun rises and, if at all possible, watch them with Jay. But, I recognized that the only constant would be the rising of the sun. I am unsure where Jay and I will be each time the sun rises, and how many times we will be able to watch it together remains unknown. And that is precisely the way things should be.

Disclaimer: Roadtrippers is part of a joint venture, partially owned by Thor Industries, Inc., of which Airstream is a subsidiary.

Meet the Roadtripper

Yon Na