- Updated: 17 May 2015
Early Airstream owners were passionate travelers with a strong desire to tour the world, but many were daunted to set out solo on an adventure to destinations unknown. Wally Byam found a thrilling solution.
In 1951, Byam organized a group of 50 Airstream-owning friends for a caravan together through Central America. Though the route was always challenging and the roads often impassable, the group safely and successfully completed the trip.
The exotic Central American caravan was a hit. Another Airstream trip to Mexico was organized a year later, then another to Eastern Canada in 1955. While Byam was busy scouting the 1956 caravan to Europe he enlisted his cousin Helen, who had never towed a trailer, to lead the Eastern Canadian trip. It was during this caravan that Airstreamers envisioned a formal organization, and the Wally Byam Caravan Club was founded on August 3, 1955 in Kentville, Nova Scotia.
As one of the founding members of the WBCCI, Helen Byam Schwamborn—WBCCI member #2—established the first WBCC headquarters office and served as the first editor of the club newsletter, the Blue Beret.
In the coming years, caravans became even more daring and spectacular. In 1956, Caravan #8 toured Europe; news and photos of the Airstreams and their owners appeared in the June 1957 National Geographic magazine. Caravan #20 made history when the fleet of Airstreams traveled 9,000 miles in 1959 to traverse the length of Africa from Capetown to Cairo. In 1963, Caravan #35 took a full year to go around the world.
Wally Byam caravans have traveled the globe, including stops near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Great Pyramids of Egypt; in 1985, a group of WBCCI members traveled in 11 trailers through China.
Today, WBCCI members continue to travel in style with their Airstreams each year on dozens of national and international caravans, and enjoy camping with new and old friends at the hundreds of local, regional, and special event rallies.