The Smith Family: An Inspiring Story of the Around the World Caravan
When journalist Mac Smith was hired as a correspondent for Airstream's "Around the World Caravan" in 1963-64, he decided to take his wife and their three young children on this unique adventure. Nearly six decades later, the Smith family looks back on Airstream's most extraordinary adventure and shares how that experience shaped their lives forever.
Airstream's "Around the World Caravan" was truly the adventure of a lifetime: 105 people in more than 40 Airstream caravans covered over 31,000 miles and crossed more than 30 countries. They traveled from Singapore to Portugal for 403 days. Mac Smith was hired by Airstream to document the trip and took his wife, Jackie, and their three children, Scott, Judy, and Lorie, with him. Mac later wrote a book about the caravan called "Thank You, Marco Polo: The Story of the First Around-the-World Trailer Caravan".
Nearly 60 years later, the Smith family shares their incredible travel experience and the indelible impact it left on their lives. Experience the "Around the World Caravan" through the eyes of the Smith family in our new video.
McGregor "Mac" Smith, Jr., then a journalist for the Miami Daily News, applied to Airstream to become a correspondent for "Around the World Caravan." This caravan had long been the dream of Airstream founder Wally Byam, but he passed away in 1962 without seeing his dream come true. Wally's friend and Airstream CEO Andy Charles took charge of the trip in his honour, while the head of Airstream Club International, Helen Byam Schwamborn, planned the trip and worked with local authorities to ensure safe passage. Mac and Jackie were thrilled to learn that Mac had gotten the job and were excited to explore the world with their young son, Scott, and daughter, Judy. However, there have been some delays due to State Department concerns and other complications. Mac and Jackie had welcomed their youngest daughter, Lorie, into their family when the trip was due. Concerned that this might deter him from traveling, Mac reportedly contacted Andy Charles to discuss the situation. Andy asked about Lorie's size, and when it was determined that she could fit in the Airstream's bathtub, it was decided that she could sleep comfortably there during the trip.
As true adventurers, the Smith family set off on the "Around the World Caravan", with Scott under 7 months old, Judy under 5 and Lorie 9 months old. The family traveled in a 26-foot 1963 Airstream Overlander (BRN 8511). They were also accompanied by Jackie's parents, Buz and Millie Cordes (BRN 7305).
The group of 105 caravanners met in Los Angeles in September 1963 for the inaugural banquet. They then toured Hawaii, Japan and Hong Kong with the S.S. President Cleveland before reuniting in Singapore with their Airstreams to officially begin the caravan. From there, they traveled through South Asia, behind the Iron Curtain and across Europe, until the graduation ceremonies on October 31 and November 1, 1964 in Portugal. During the trip, Mac wrote articles documenting the trip for the club's newsletter "The Caravanner," the Miami Daily News, and several other publications. Upon his return, he published a book about the trip in 1966 called "Thank You, Marco Polo: The Story of the First Around-the-World Trailer Caravan".
Sadly, Mac Smith passed away in 2018 at the age of 92 after a long and fulfilling life. In March 2019 we were lucky enough to visit Jackie, Scott, Judy and Lorie. They invited us to their home to share their incredible story. The beautiful photos, home movies and her memories of the caravan inspired us deeply. It was clear that the caravan had shaped their view of the world and brought them closer together as a family.
Their stories were simply breathtaking, revealing the adventurous spirit of the Airstreamers. The caravanners invited locals into their airstreams, explored Angkor Wat, visited the Taj Mahal and Roman ruins. They dragged their Airstreams through the mud, procured fuel, and bought food and clothing at local markets. Along the way, the Smith family and other caravanners fulfilled Wally's dream of "contributing to the promotion of international friendship and understanding among the peoples of the world through personal contact."
Perhaps Scott's words capture it best: "It was the adventure of a lifetime, I'm so glad my parents did it. What I take with me for the rest of my life is respect and care for the people of the world."
Something that made the trip so special for the Smiths was that they were able to experience it as a family. Although it was often asked if it was difficult to travel with such young children, Mac wrote in his book, "And if we had one particular advantage when we traveled 30,000 miles and 31 countries, it was to have our children with us. And if we hadn't played catch with them, how could we have been lying on the ground together and seeing the Taj Mahal through a garden full of flowers?"
The history of the Smith family continues to be a source of inspiration for life-changing adventures, reminding us of the power of personal contact through travel. Although not everyone has the opportunity to take a trip around the world with an Airstream, Airstreamers know that every time they hitch their caravan, they do so with a sense of freedom and adventure. New horizons are waiting to be discovered.
Where will your next exploratory trip take you?