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the long family: making memories in the vacation machine
by Audrey Hanes, photos submitted by Amy Long

When the Long family began thinking about purchasing an Airstream for traveling and camping, they didn’t wait for someday. Two years ago, they purchased “The Vacation Machine” and have been exploring the United States ever since.

“I often hear people talking about someday, but purchasing the Airstream has been one of the best decisions we have ever made as a family,” said Amy Long. “I am so glad we did not wait for someday. We get to enjoy it while our son is young, and we know that nurturing a love of the outdoors, travel and adventure will be one of the greatest influences on his future. Being on a trip brings us even closer together; kayaking, hiking, biking and family game time happen often, technology happens less. There are also great lessons to be learned when you run into the occasional problem. Things don’t always go as planned, but sometimes those are your favorite stories in the years to come. Trade comfort for memories, and learn to go with the flow.”

Nathan and Amy, along with their 9-year-old son, Wally, and Havanese named Biscuit, frequently tent camped and had been looking for the perfect fit for many years. After finding their Airstream, they renovated the camper to make it work for their family.

“We painted all of the cabinet work white, re-covered the couch in gray, removed the bulky curtains and installed roller blinds to let more light in and open up the space,” said Amy. “We replaced the countertop in the bath and living area with new white ones from Reddick Marble and Granite, replaced the kitchen countertop with a butcher-block countertop with a new black sink and tall faucet, painted the bathroom cabinets and added a new vessel sink and faucet, removed several cabinets in the bedroom to open it up and installed a bracket to hold a guitar. We also got a new mattress, plus lots of pictures, plants, pillows, bedding, etc. to warm up the space. It is very cozy. We have done all of the work ourselves; I never knew I could plumb, with the exception of the kitchen. Our friends at Joe’s RV did an exceptional job installing the counter and sink.

“… Some would say why worry about decorating or renovating a camper, but it is my vacation home – it’s my lake house, my beach house, my little cabin in the woods. Aesthetics are important to me, and when you have 200 square feet of space, every inch matters, so why not make it something you love?”

Once the Longs’ airstream was ready to go, they wasted no time hitting the road to explore Arkansas and many other beautiful destinations across the country. This summer, Amy is spending time camping on the beach in Florida for work, and the family has plans for a trip to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. 

“We have been on so many weekend adventures in Arkansas; we have such an amazing state just waiting to be explored,” said Amy. “Petit Jean, the Buffalo National River, Lake Ouachita, Degray Lake and Eureka Springs are some of our favorite places.  

“Two of our favorite trips were the week we spent on Jekyll Island, Georgia, last year during Thanksgiving and our trip to Glacier National Park in Montana and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming last summer. Jekyll Island is a perfect low-key family getaway. The bike trail around the island is amazing with oak trees, Spanish moss and marshes on the west side and palms and ocean on the east. Our trip to Glacier National Park was ‘epic’ as my son would say. It has become my favorite place in America. We kayaked on clear blue glacial lakes, hiked alpine trails and saw more wildlife than you can imagine. Grizzly bears, black and brown bears, moose, mountain goats, chipmunks, marmots, eagles, osprey, elk and big horn sheep to name a few.”

Amy, who owns Amy Long Photography, and Nathan, a farmer, both have unpredictable schedules since they are self-employed. They keep The Vacation Machine stocked and ready to go on a moment’s notice, which allows them to take last-minute trips whenever time allows.

“We wanted a getaway but couldn’t decide where or what type, so a camper was the perfect choice,” said Amy. “We stumbled upon the moniker ‘The Vacation Machine’ on a trip when we were basically making fun of ourselves for having kayaks on top of the truck, bikes in the bed and the camper behind. I started the Instagram page as a sort of photo journal for myself and to connect with other Airstreamers; there is quite a community. Our name is now officially registered with Airstream. No matter what hands our camper passes through in years to come, it will carry a small silver badge with its official name.”

No matter the destination or length of their trip, Amy says that being able to spend time together while enjoying nature is incredibly important to them as a family.

“I think in this day and age when the word ‘busy’ has become a badge of honor and we are inundated with technology and social media, time spent unplugged in nature is more important than ever,” said Amy. “I always come back feeling recharged. One of the best lessons I have learned on the road is that getting up early and staying up late are worth it. My favorite time to get out on the trail or water is at first light. There is a stillness at that time of day; the animals are out and the people mostly aren’t. At night, sitting under the stars surrounded by dark skies is so amazing, too.”

Editor’s note: To see more travel photos and enjoy future adventures with the Long family, follow The Vacation Machine on Instagram at @thevacationmachine.