The dream of homesteading and “getting off the grid” is more alive today than ever. Returning to the great outdoors was probably the most popular way people escaped the pandemic. The trend’s resurgence is perfect timing for Eric Bricker’s documentary Alumination — a historical tale about the popular Airstream trailer.
Airstream’s founder Wally Byam built his first trailer in 1929, so he and his wife could go on camping trips. Realizing that he had a viable design, he founded the Airstream company in 1931, and production of the trailer continues to this day. If you check out their website, you’ll see that Airstream still boasts Byam’s iconic silver-bullet shape. The trailer is built upon a sturdy steel foundation, giving it a solid ride and the ability to travel over most terrain. The walls are made of light, yet durable aluminum, giving it an aerodynamic design.
In the present day, the Airstream’s exterior design has not changed. What has changed is the interior. Nowadays, it is made out of more durable materials than when it was initially made. It also boasts more efficient amenities while, most importantly, maintaining its spacious interior.
But Alumination is not an 86-minute infomercial for Airstream. Instead, Bricker’s documentary is about the movement Byam started with his first trailer. He was able to tap into a person’s need to get out of the city and experience the freedom of travel and experience all that nature had to offer… while living comfortably in a home-like setting. Byam was described as a pied piper, as his spirit and enthusiasm were contagious and led to the creation of the famous “caravan.”
“…about the unyielding spirit of not only Byam’s Airstream company but the community of adventurers he originated.”
Narrated by Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, the film is about the unyielding spirit of not only Byam’s Airstream company but the community of adventurers he originated. As the initial Airstreams were being sold, Byam began organizing multi-day caravans across the United States into Mexico and eventually taking it worldwide. The man even had the foresight to capture it on film.
I don’t think this story could have been told as well if not for the large amounts of footage from the caravans. It not only contains your typical vacation scenarios but also some incredible aerial shots of the hundred or so Airstream trailers parked in a circular starburst pattern. Even more astonishing is the footage taken through the Ethiopian segment of the African caravan, ending in yet another overhead shot of the fleet parked at the pyramids in Egypt.
In Alumination, these Airstream trailers represent the spirit of adventure lying within all of us. Hell, in the end, several “content creators” have remodeled their trailers into YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok studios. However, the most dangerous part of Bricker’s film is that getting off the grid seems so easy to do… and it is.
According to the film’s website, Airstream did not finance Alumination other than provide current Airstream promotional footage and access to the archive. But, honestly, they should have because now I want to buy one.
For more information, visit Alumination‘s official website.
"…represent[s] the spirit of adventure lying within all of us."