It is possible to lose sight of your roots, to let go of the reasons, and in order to not let emotions get in the way of running a business, you focus and hone in on the tasks. The monotony, the smart decisions, the buckling down, the detachment. These things are proven to work. As they say, business isn’t personal.
But maybe that shouldn’t pertain to everyone. Maybe that's not for businesses like ours.
The Modern Caravan, as a name, can be broken down by definition:
mod·ern | adjective
relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past "the pace of modern life”
car·a·van | kerəˌvan/ | noun
a vehicle equipped for living in, typically towed by a car and used for vacations.
a group of people, especially traders or pilgrims, traveling together
Though there are more expansive definitions, these are the most relevant to why we decided to name our story and work. Adding ‘the’ to the beginning was simple: we are defining the current full-time traveler. When we’re referred to as ‘Modern Caravan’, I cringe. That’s not our name. It relegates us to simply ‘the renovator’, the maker of the caravans, not who we are as a whole. We are more than Airstream renovators.
Just four years ago, when we made the decision to travel and began to wholeheartedly work toward that goal, it wasn’t as commonplace to travel full-time as it has become in such a short amount of time. So much so that when we told friends and family, the majority of them thought we were crazy, not inspired. It wasn’t interesting, what we were doing, it was absolutely insane to give up our comfortable home and job security for the unknown. Yet now, the new travelers who are on the road or getting ready to be were inspired by someone else already doing it. It’s easier to get on the road now, because it’s not seen as crazy, alternative, or radical. It’s seen as inspirational, beautiful, dreamy, aspirational. It's accepted, and normal. The name of our business was inspired by this shift in thinking, in the acceptance of this way of life being another way of living (modern), no longer relegated to only gypsies or hobos (caravan).
We are travelers, first and foremost. Though our business as you may know it has only been around for fifteen months, our story as travelers began four years and three months ago. Our story as a couple started six years ago. Our story overall started as college freshman, thirteen years ago. We are more than builder and designer. We are more than beautiful interiors and vintage Airstreams, or a pretty Instagram, we're more than our follower count, we are more than just a brand. This work started from an honest and vulnerable place. This isn’t a ploy for a bigger following, notoriety, popularity, or sponsorship, though we see so many playing that game now. It isn’t about financial success. We grew this business from our lives and our hearts and our circumstances, and though it may look one way from the outside, we can assure you, on the other side of the screen, there are two hard-working people who are doing their taxes and wondering how the fuck we got food on the table this past year, and why we’re pulling eighty-hour work weeks to not cut ourselves salaries and give other people their dreams while our dreams and goals sit on the sidelines, waiting (im)patiently to be given due time and love.
The definition of success:
suc·cess | noun
noun: success; plural noun: successes the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. "the president had some success in restoring confidence"
the attainment of popularity or profit."the success of his play"
a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity."I must make a success of my business"
The all-encompassing definition of success is an accomplishment of an aim or purpose. The secondary definitions are the ones we're not interested in, but are given so much importance. We are told we have to keep renovating, because we’re good at it, because we’re such a success, because we're Insta-famous (what?).
But what about our definition of success? What about our aim, our purpose? What about the things beyond the work and all that is seen from the outside? What if our passion lies outside of prosperity, affluence, profits, popularity? What if, instead of being only defined as successful by what we do, and how popular it is, we are defined instead as successful because we put love first? What might that look like for us, and many others, if success was defined by the love we had for one another? What if instead of defining our success by being popular Airstream renovators, you saw us instead as wonderful, invested parents to our daughter, ones not so painstakingly preoccupied by the work and the goals of others? What if you defined success by two women who have to defend their love, their life, their work, their family, who have a story so complicated because life has given them a beating again and again and they still manage to get through, they make it, they still love one another deeply and choose one another, choose their family, above all, every day?
What has been lost is where all of this began. Separately, what has been lost in translation is the meaning, the story, the reasons for any of it.
We’ve been so busy with the work of making others’ dreams come true that we have lost our own. We nearly lost our marriage this past winter because the demands of others were so great, that all we could do was work our fingers to the bone. The only time we had to speak to one another was about work, and work alone. Marriages need more than that. This isn't a business partnership, Ellen and I. We're real. We love one another deeply and thank goodness for that, because that was enough to save what we were losing.
We let it happen because we had no choice. It was do or die.
Do or no food on the table at all.
What you see on the outside is a far fucking cry from what it’s like to be in it.
There will be those of you who are scoffing at this truth and sincere vulnerability we’re sharing with you. There will be those of you who will call us ungrateful. Those of you who do are the folks are up in the cheap seats, hurling mean-spirited criticisms and put downs from a safe distance, from behind your screens and/or if you know us, from behind the illusion you’ve crafted of what our life actually is.
“For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” | Brene Brown
Are you down here with us? Are you putting in the work? Do you really know what we’ve gone through to make that Airstream look so beautiful? Do you really get it? Were you there? Were you pulling those late nights? Were you sacrificing your health, your family, your marriage, time with your child, time with your parents and siblings and friends and nephew, your dreams, your time, your very life?
Do you know why we travel to our renovation work? Why our business isn’t like other businesses in this niche market?
It’s to be on the road at all, even just a little. It’s to have a tiny little bit of who we are. It’s to breathe in deep and see the mountains out the window. It is to be in that place where you’re so far west that the sky just opens up and you’re hours and miles from where the land meets the sea but it’s there, and you’re closer to it, and the sunsets are so big and bold and beautiful because of it.
There’s more to every story than what you see on the outside. You can keep telling us how good we have it, and we’ll keep on trudging through to the other side, knowing the truth.
This is beyond sustainability, profit, and the definitions of success held by so many.
If this business is going to continue, it will be on our terms. Then again, maybe we’ll walk away from it all, and either way, we’ll just get to be those people who aren’t living to work, but working to live, and who are out really living and dancing and smiling and loving in those big and bold and beautiful sunsets.
Because try as we might, we just can’t accept the definition of success we’re told we should have. It’s not who we are. We don’t see the point. It’s a goddamn waste of a life.