Airstreaming Across Alaska & Beyond | Part VII: Three’s a Crowd

Airstreaming Across Alaska & Beyond | Part VII: Three’s a Crowd
Hey reader, thanks for tuning in. You’re about to embark on part 7 of a blog series following the adventures of a couple of Airstream dwellers living off-grid in Alaska. Start reading at part 1 here. TL;DR: Collin and Kendal buy an Airstream, risk everything on a photography business, get bored of California, and drive to Alaska(?) fly around on helicopters, climb the sickest ice on glaciers, then decide that having a baby would be the perfect addition to their life(??). Read on.

We left off “Part VI” waxing poetic about how we danced to The Greatest Showman’s “Walking the Tightrope” at our wedding and how, whether or not we recognized it at the time, the act was a bit prophetic. Then out of nowhere we were like “Hey, we decided to have a baby and give him a rad life of adventure!”

Well, here’s how it’s going. Milo Wilder Strachan (pronounced “Strawn”) was born on August 8th, 2023. We’re not gonna be the typical parents who are like OMG my baby is the cutest, you want to see pictures?

Sike! I mean have you seen a cuter baby? Also we’re photographers so the only thing we do is pictures.

It’s inevitable that literally bringing a new life into the world is going to impact your day-to-day life, especially if that life is lived off-grid in one of the most intense and variable environments on the planet. We expected a change of pace, not being able to drive as far in a day, some sleep loss, and having to figure out how to make adventures like hiking and glacier treks baby friendly. As a matter of fact, we put months of time and effort into preparing ourselves for those changes and, more or less, we were ready for those things.

What we did not expect, however, was to be totally shaken to the core the first time we looked into the little guy’s eyes. I’m not sure what many parents experience, but just a week before standing there and looking at his eyes, we were in a helicopter flying through a field of icebergs and chasing the craziest drone shots we could get (yes, very pregnant. I mean you can just fly back and land at the hospital, right?) then, blink, and you’re a parent. This life is literally an extension of your own, and in an instant, NOTHING else matters. It was unsettling, exciting, brand new, and also incredibly familiar and natural, all at once.

So, now we’re in this new chapter of life. Partly just what we expected, and partly so foreign to us that it was almost unrecognizable. It’s a chapter defined not only by how to do all of this with a baby, but also this discovery of what really matters to us. And what doesn’t.

Let’s dive into the how. How has Milo affected our day to day lives? What is it like living off-grid, in an Airstream, with a baby? What has changed? 

Milo has, obviously, affected our day to day life in a number of ways. We’re SUPER lucky because he’s overall a very chill baby. He started sleeping through the night at 5 weeks, and he is so content to sit and play with his toys or watch us cook or sit and edit without needing to be held or entertained much. He’s a pretty awesome kid.

That being said, he is still a baby. We’ve learned that babies are not fragile (they’re pretty tough), but they are certainly delicate, and there is a distinction there. Milo needs multiple naps per day and really enjoys the simple, slow rhythms of being at home and having gentle, connected wake times with us (or sometimes banging the crap out of the table with a spoon because that’s also fun). So we have had to slow down a bit, figure out how to latch the Airstream door without making a loud clicking noise while he’s sleeping, get chores done while he’s awake, things of that nature.

But we’ve also been able to integrate Milo into our rhythm. No matter the temperature (we typically see as low as -20 in the winter and as high as 75 in the summer), we love to go out for a daily afternoon walk, if not a big hike. For Milo, this time has actually become one of his best nap times. He sleeps snuggled up in his carrier with Kendal and has come to know the rhythm of our movement across the land. This has the added benefit of being able to take on bigger treks as well, since he can keep his sleep routine during a longer adventure.

While we’re still not able to bag peaks and tackle technical mountaineering routes, we have been able to head out for some pretty awesome adventures! Milo’s first helicopter ride was at 3 weeks old, and he has seen mountains, glaciers, open ocean, ice caves, ice-fields, and more.

 We have a lot of munchkin layers to keep Milo warm, including wool base layers, fleeces, beanies, and his (enviable) puff suit.

When we’re not out on an adventure, we’re still pretty much out on an adventure. We live off-grid in our Airstream for most of the year, which means we’re kind of on a perpetual camping trip. We filter almost all of our water out of lakes and rivers, we power the Airstream with solar and we heat with a wood stove. Not much has changed there, except for the slightly weird contrasts between being outside with a chainsaw and ax splitting firewood (a relatively not-delicate task) to coming inside to feed a baby, which is such a quiet, intimate experience. We have a little sleeping area set up for Milo with a slumber pod and a bassinet, so we definitely have to be more quiet during nap time, but it’s more or less life as usual at home.

We won’t dive too much into the how-to’s and nitty gritty of all things baby and Airstream, but if you’re interested, follow along on instagram at @kendal.strachan.

What we will go into, however, is how all these changes of pace, new ways to go on adventures, and seeing life from Milo’s little awe-filled perspective has impacted where we’re headed, and what’s valuable to us day-to-day and long-term.

We both had relatively suburban childhoods. Kendal grew up near Philadelphia and Collin grew up near San Antonio, Texas. While we enjoyed walks on nice days and playing in the backyard, a deeper connection to the world around us came later in life. For Milo, we’re re-writing that story a bit. While we’d love for him to grow up with a love for the outdoors and this style of life we’ve chosen, we don’t expect him to follow in our footsteps. Instead, what we’d like him to learn is that his way of life is his choice. We hope to model to him that there’s not one “normal” or even “right” way to call a place home, earn a living, make friends, whatever. Rather, he should explore, try new things, travel, and find what fuels him. 

Because that’s what we’re doing.

On the day-to-day, our activities may look a bit different, but our life mission is no different at all. We believe that life is worth living. We believe that if it’s raining here and sunny there, you can hop in the car and go! Who cares about a 6 hour drive? We believe that entrepreneurship and building wealth can have nothing to do with greed, and everything to do with owning your days and calling your shots, all while participating in something bigger than you.

That is why we chose to bring the little guy along for our adventure. It just wasn’t worth keeping to ourselves.

One of the reasons why we’ve connected with PARKIT over the years is their mission to #EnjoyTheExploration. When life becomes a means to an end - work all week for the weekend, save up to retire well, go to school for 20 years so that you can be a useful member of society, we stop living in the moment. We stop enjoying the exploration and begin to idolize the end result.

The only end is right here, and we want to be here for it, not just turn it into a means for “something better.” More importantly, we believe that teaching Milo to be here for it is one of the best life lessons we can impart to him.

So we’re here for this journey together. Some days, even weeks, are incredibly mundane. It’s chores and computer work (I’m currently sitting in the rain, and the most exciting thing I’ve done today is fill the Airstream with water - woohoo) and as winter sets in, 9:30 sunrises and 4pm sunsets. But it also all so real. Milo decided he could roll over today and did so 9 times in a row. For a parent, that’s like…huge.

I’m pretty sure we’ll look back and, while the big hikes and the ice caves and cool flights will be great memories, we’ll sit around the table with family one day and talk with even bigger smiles and more laughs about the little moments that we were able to soak up because we chose just to be here.

Maybe picking up and driving north and chainsawing through frozen lakes and childbirth and all that craziness isn’t for you. Wouldn’t blame you. But being present, enjoying the exploration - that is for you. I’m sure of it. 

See ya out there.

-Collin, Kendal, and Milo (and Bailey 🐾)


Follow @kendal.strachan on Instagram to keep up with their journey as the take on the true wilderness of North America.