Have you ever dreamt of taking your family and travel the world together with them? Well, that’s exactly what Emily and Adam are doing. In October 2012, they and their 21-month-old little daughter packed up a 1990 VW Westfalia and started a one-year trip. Now, more than four years and another baby girl later they are still traveling and there’s no end in sight. We got the chance to talk to Emily about this life on the road, their 24 Hour Bazaar project and their future plans and after hearing more about their story we want to pack up our stuff even more!
Emily, I’m so very happy to get the chance to do this interview! Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and how it came to be.
Well, my husband Adam and I met in 1998 at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, California, where Adam studied Fine Arts and I studied Fashion Design. We started dating in 2000 and have been through many evolutions both personally and as a couple (hello 20’s!).
Pre-departure, we were living in Los Angeles, juggling a balance of city and escape. Continually seeking new places, camping, hiking and exploring. That was mixed with the city business of art-shows, concerts, dinner out or hanging with friends at a home. Adam made art and surfed, avoided working for anybody else whenever possible, and I toiled inside every corner of the fashion world.
When Coco was 6 months old, Adam and I shook hands and agreed to leave in 1 years time for a 1 year overland adventure. Now 4 years later and 1 new kiddo, we are still traveling overland in our VW Westfalia throughout South America, but have adopted a much slower schedule. Our traveling foursome is Our Open Road.
This is so different to a ‘normal’ family life. What inspired you to hit the road and live this nomad life and how long did it take to make it happen?
Adam grew up traveling California and the Pacific North-West, living in a converted school bus from 2 until 5. Then his family settled at the tree line of the Angeles National Forest where his father built their cabin and they lived off the grid until he was age 15. Living with the mountains as his backyard, they had no electricity and used kerosene lanterns for light, and warmth from a wood burning stove. I spent summers traveling the Western US packed into the back of my family caravan, exploring National Parks and small towns. The ‘family road trip’ is very much in both our blood and these early experiences are essential to who we are.
Traveling around California on our limited college budgets, we dreamed of seeing the world at large. Our first international trip together was to Thailand in 2003, which lit an insatiable desire to see more of this magical planet. We are nomads at heart, and have always found a way to travel within our means… we never had credit cards, cable tv or car payments, investing in our present instead of paying into a system that does not serve us. Pre-departure our lives were filled with adventuring into our own great backyard. California has small corners and wide expanses that are a natural paradise and fed our wanderlust and fueled our dreams of life unplugged.
Adam and I have traveled together for 15 years, always scheming and dreaming our next adventure. It was formed from pieces we gathered along the way and dreamed we would share with our ‘future family’, like the passing smile of a mother carrying her infant in a front pack on a remote hike in New Zealand, and on a tiny island in the Andaman Sea – two gregarious children that told us of how they were sailing around the world with their parents. When I was pregnant with Colette, Adam was working on a project that would have put us, in India and Nepal for 6+ months. When that fell through, we knew the time had come for us to plan our own grand voyage.
A few years ago you created the 24 Hour Bazaar. How does it work and what makes it so successful?
When 5 months into what we planned to be our 1-year long voyage, as we were departing Colombia entering Ecuador, we had 8 weeks to reach Tierra del Fuego before the weather would make it improbable to safely reach the tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina. We knew we were (are!) on the journey of a lifetime and rushing to check off places visited seemed very unlike the purpose of our departure. So, we opened to the possibilities set before us, decided to embrace a future unknown and the rewards of slow travel. That was the decision that changed it all! We did not have the finances to stay on the road longer, but felt confident that with our hearts open and heads together, we could figure out some way to support our life on the road, so when we mulled over the idea for 24 Hour Bazaar – we knew we had found our winner!
It is a beautiful combination of our combined passions – Adam and I work together to develop products with artisans and select works that move us. Every purchase requires an emotional response. Living on the road away from trends we connect to pieces that tell a story. To host fair-trade flash sales has allowed us to support the local traditions of craft that we encounter, while allowing us to remain nomadic. After 3.5 years of this richly rewarding work, we have seen the direct impact purchase make in these rural communities. 24 Hour Bazaar is a flash sale of curated, fair trade, artisan goods that we gather along the roads less travelled, and host when in craft rich regions. Items include rugs, textiles, blankets, clothing, hats, jewelry, ceramics and vary according to our location. We have worked with communities in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – from highland communities in the Andes, to rural Amazonian villages, our one-of-a-kind offerings available for a limited time, from the incredible makers’ hands, and ship worldwide directly to our customers’ door.
I imagine that raising your children on the road can be challenging at times. How is parenting for you, and what positives are your kids getting from it?
Raising a family anywhere will have its challenges – whether it be in a Tokyo high-rise, a Mongolian yurt, or a van traveling around South America. We choose to appreciate all the positive aspects that this life affords us like watching Colette lay on her belly to drink deeply directly from a fresh Patagonian stream and rise exclaiming “THAT is the best water I have ever tasted!” There are too many moments that Adam and I simply look at each other and nod knowingly that this life is exactly right for us. Colette and Sierra have learned to trust their intuition and have respect for the natural world, other people, and for animals. That the courtesy of ‚gracias‘ and ‚de nada‘ always bring a smile. To meet each person as a potential new friend, regardless of where or how they live. That having compassion for others will always exceed judgement. Perseverance is power. To trade expectation for experience. To be responsible and accountable when we make mistakes, even when it is hard. To always be honest, and that those that lie can be taught the truth is always the most powerful. And most of all, that LOVE is the answer.
What tips can you give other families wanting to be more adventurous?
Families do not need to step completely outside civilization to tap into the wildness that is within arms reach. Adventure is usually less than 30 minutes away. The US for example has such amazing infrastructures, it is a shame more folks don’t take advantage of it. The State and National Parks offer curated trails, and a quick google search of your area will offer a litany of wild spaces. Start small and with a well-stocked backpack.
What is the most difficult thing about being a mother?
In the early dawn hours of May 3, 2009 our son Aaro was stillborn after a long and arduous labor. Every hope and dream we had for him, gone. Each circumstance we envisioned, would never come to be. There is no pain so grave as the loss of a child.
From the depths of despair, we decided to grow together, not apart. It was a very conscious decision and one that ultimately made our family. The year following was only survived through the immense support of our loved ones. And on Aaro’s first birthday, we conceived Colette. From the depths of that sorrow, any ‘difficulty’ about parenting a strong-willed child is viewed through the lens that life is a gift, so we count ourselves blessed even in the face of adversity.
And what is the best thing about being a mother?
Parenting on the road (and in life) gives Adam and I the deepest joy. Having lost Aaro, we know and intensely rejoice in the gift that is life. From this darkness, we have dedicated our lives to living as fully as we can. We want to spend every possible moment with our daughters and what we have created on the road, sharing nearly all our time with them, teaching them of the wonders of the world through experience in which their total wellness: mind, body, and spirit all, is our top priority. Our life on the road as a full-time family honors our past and celebrates our present!
Can you imagine settling down somewhere in the future? If so, where might that be and why?
Our goal in the next few years will be to overland other continents – Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia – in a larger vehicle. We have a few creative projects in the pipeline which we envision helping propel the purchase of a larger house-on-wheels. Perhaps someday we may be less nomadic – one dream situation is to open an eco-lodge with an organic garden, small restaurant, art studio and a perfect wave out front… But that requires being in one place and for now our hearts and life is on the road. California will always be a place to which we return – it is where most of our friends and nearly all our family is. But for now, life for us is on the road, each day is still a thrill.
Thank you so much for this wonderful interview dear Emily! We wish you and your family all the best and are looking forward to see and read more about all your adventures!