Families — Parents — Kids

Bodes Well: A Lesson Learned from a Family Traveling in a 1971 VW Bus

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family campervan VW bus, bodeswell

"A little about the van. He got it for a steal, but I soon found out why . . . A little electrical work here, reupholstering some seats there . . . But, the restoration wasn’t enough. The van was just the beginning, just a taste of the possibilities. Soon he was talking about traveling around the world. Yes, of course I thought he was crazy at first." - Angela Rehm

Launching a drive through South America by way of a loop around The United States in a camper van with your family - even with little ones you love so much that you ache at the idea of them growing up - is both easy and hard. Easy in this sense: all you have to do is decide, pack your junk, and go. You don't even need a plan or a map. But it's harder on the emotional side, and that's really the part that puts the brakes on for most of us. Once you start thinking about the consequences of your big trip, such as the hit to your savings account, an uncertain financial future, time away from your friends, guilt trips (lovable) from family, and all of that, out come the joyous mid-day nightmares. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is.

Jason and Angela of Bodes Well (Bode is their 5-year-old son) know both sides of the conflict very well and chronicled it on their blog for the rest of us to chew on. And I'm feasting. They left in August 2009 in a 1971 Volkswagen Bus with a Westfalia camper conversion and haven't stopped yet. Their son was 4 years old when they began with a loop around the U.S. Then they crossed into Mexico and just kept on driving. They're in Peru right now, and their entire trip is - more or less - played by ear. It gives me a big stoke to see that they went from big doubts to bigger decisions; it's inspiring.

I'd be a liar if I told you that extended travel as a family is easy, non-stop fun, and always drama free - not that you'd believe that anyway. You've taken a trip to the grocery store with your children, haven't you? That's enough stress for a week sometimes. So naturally, at first, the big trip you're planning seems insurmountable; at first you think it's crazy. May as well be honest about it. A dig into the archives at bodeswell.org, some eight months before they left on their trip when they were still making decisions, I found all kinds of honest gems.  Things that we all go through:

...I know that Jason has always wanted to spend more time with Bode, and soon he’ll be in school. He wants some time off, and supposing I could get a job in this economy (I’m in marketing, a field most likely to be cut during tough times), I don’t think I could support the family in California. We discussed our other options, move back to Texas near our families, both of us getting a job here in Cali, etc etc. But it kept coming back to doing something we both love, travel and adventure. Why not take advantage of the time we have before Bode is in school, wait for the job market to open more possibilities for both of us….and get the fuck out of here for a while?

So after all my initial hesitation, I am starting to come around to this idea. Jason, on the other hand is having second thoughts. He’s worried about all the things I worried about at the beginning; our retirement, our savings, being homeless and jobless upon our return, health care and getting the van running.

Knowing that, then seeing that they're not only pulling it off but also having a killer time, doesn't that stoke you?

Spending more time together was their motivation. It's simple, honest and admirable. It really makes the point that whether you choose to raise a family in the suburbs or in a van on the road has nothing to do with either one being superior to the other. Just spend time together, and make it good. For some, traveling in a kick ass camper van for a while has the most appeal.

Follow their adventure. It's really fun: http://bodeswell.org/


Nick Romaniello
+5 / 0
# Nick Romaniello 2011-03-10 18:21
I have been following their blog on a daily basis since they were about half way through Mexico. They are my heros
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+1 / 0
# dave 2011-03-11 15:12
so kick ass. my wife would never do that.
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Sarah Lavender Smith
+5 / 0
# Sarah Lavender Smith 2011-03-11 18:45
I have huge respect for Angela & Jason, and thank you for sharing their story. I got to know Angela online because our family left the same month they did on a round-the-world 10-month journey, and we corresponded. (Our 2 kids were 8 and 11 at the time, and we chronicled it on Away Together. Transitioning back to regular life has been tough, and when I wish our family was back on the road, sometimes I muse, "I wonder what Angela is doing and where they're at now?" They're rock stars in my book.
If you'd like to read more about their trip and the ups and downs of long-term travel, here's a Q&A Angela and I did way back in Sept '09: Home on the Road.
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Sarah Lavender Smith
+1 / 0
# Sarah Lavender Smith 2011-03-11 18:47
oops, looks like the hyperlink above didn't work; here's the link to the Home on the Road piece: away-together.com/2009/09/28/home-on-the-road/
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0 / 0
# Mark 2011-03-11 20:23
Great article. Thanks for linking that Sarah.
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0 / 0
# Shelly 2016-07-02 09:50
Sarah, we are picking up our '68 VW camper bus in a few weeks and traveling with 4 of our kids from Washington state back to NC. I would love to know what your must haves for children on the road are.
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Chuck Hathcock
+2 / 0
# Chuck Hathcock 2011-03-18 09:00
Hey Mark, I ran into Jayson and Angela in Feb 2010 down in Baja and chatted with them a while. I was most impressed with their trip. Here is a picture from Coco's corner: chucksweb.net/.../...

Thanks for the article about them, it has prompted me to start watching their site again.
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