Do me a favor and think back to what it was like to be nine years old. Maybe you had a favorite teacher or a favorite memory on the playground during recess.
What if we replaced your schoolteachers with your parents and the playground was actually anywhere you could drive to between North and South America?
That's what it's like to be Bode, who has already visited 22 countries with his two parents, Angela and Jason, in a 1971 VW bus.
For Bode, school and home are both on the road.
Square Feet: 80
Currently Living: Somewhere south of Alaska
This summer we drove to the northernmost point in the Americas—completing our trip from Alameda, California, to Ushuaia, Argentina, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Now Jason, Bode and I are heading south from Alaska.
Make, Model, Year: 1971 VW Westfalia Bus
Bode immediately named her Red Beard, so the Chianti Red paint job had to stay.
Years Living Mobile: 6
For the first four years, we traveled nonstop and drove through 22 countries. After the South American loop, we were pretty exhausted. So we decided to return to the United States and linger until we figured out the next steps.
We were in Texas helping out some family members for a few months, and then we spent a winter in Colorado being ski bums (another lifelong dream). Then we went to Mexico for a season to volunteer at a sea turtle rescue center, back to Colorado for another ski season, and then camping all over Alaska this summer.
We'll spend the next few months in the Pacific Northwest and California and then head back to Colorado for another ski season. So I don't know if we're technically "full time" anywhere anymore, but we don't exactly have a "home" either.
What were you doing before you went mobile?
We were living and working in the San Francisco area. We had the house, good jobs and everything most Americans seem to aspire to.
Why did you make the change?
We were sick of the rat race and realized we would never get to just take off and do all the things we dreamed about unless we just took off and did them.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
We got it from a guy who is a local VW collector. Some would say junk man, but since he’s focused on old VWs, he’s more of a curator of sorts. He bought it from the City of Oakland at an impound auction. It sat at impound for nine months, and there’s absolutely no telling why it got picked up.
We paid 800 bucks. Delivered.
What our neighbors would think about this sitting in our driveway only briefly crossed Jason's mind. Jason likes projects, and he could see beauty underneath.
Most everything had to be fixed or replaced. First thing’s first, Jason striped it down to the metal and power washed everything. Then he took a look at the mechanics (engine, brakes, anything else important), which had to go. And the interior—forget about it. Jason did a lot of welding, woodwork, bodywork, painting, etc.
Jason was still working on the car when new tenants moved into our house. The first time I ever rode in Red Beard was the day we left.
How do you get Internet?
We're constantly on the lookout for free Wi-Fi. In the United States, libraries have been a great resource to us. We do everything online. Outside of the United States, we used unlocked phones and bought local SIM cards in each country—usually a bargain compared to U.S. phone rates.
Where do you receive mail?
We have used general delivery at post offices on our route for the occasional package. We've also used the tight-knit VW community to find someone in the area who can accept a package for us. But really, we don't get much mail.
Where do you shower?
If we're going to stay at an organized campsite, we'll choose one with a shower. Canada and Alaska had quite a few laundromats with pay showers.
And there's always the occasional lake or ocean swim. In Central and South America, hostels will often let you use their showers for a small fee.
Mud-diving on top of a volcano in northern Colombia
How did your family and friends react to your decision?
It was polarizing. People either thought it was amazing or stupid. It's an interesting way to see how your friends and family think and where their priorities are.
Ultimately, people were just concerned for our safety and futures—they just had different ways of showing it.
At the time, we thought it would only be a one-year trip, so we saw it more as a sabbatical. Six years later, we're still going and happier than ever to continue.
How do you balance work and living in a small space?
It is necessary to be flexible, as we never know if we're in a place where we can sit and work. Jason sometimes has conference calls and needs Wi-Fi as well as a quiet place.
What are your hobbies on the road?
We love winter sports. Bode skis and Jason and I snowboard. When driving, we are usually watching for wildlife.
Photography and music are pretty important to us as well.
What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?
Engel 12-Volt Fridge: Ice isn't available in Central and most of South America.
Solar Panels: This keeps the fridge running and powers the interior lights and stereo at night or when we're camping for days at a time.
Lodge Dutch Oven Pans: We use one or both of these pans for every meal we cook. It's great on a campstove or fire. We can even use them in an oven if we ever have access to one!
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
Being so close with my family.
What is the most challenging thing?
Being so close with my family. ;)
If you could change one thing about your lifestyle, what would it be?
There are some modern conveniences that would make our lives easier (dishwasher, constant access to Internet, hot showers, etc.), but we don't really miss them. We just appreciate them even more when we finally do have access to them.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
It's not our plan, but we are open to the wishes of each family member. Everyone gets an equal vote.
We talk about shipping the bus to Europe, Africa or Asia. A sailing adventure comes up on occasion.
We know exactly what we're missing "back home" so when we're ready to return, it will just be the next adventure.
What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?
Go for it! Start getting rid of your stuff immediately. It takes far longer than you think, and you won't miss any of it.
We found simplifying our lives, spending more time together as a family and exploring the world are so much more fulfilling than we'd ever imagined.
What's next for you? Any news you want to share?
We're thinking of hitting Europe, although Bode is pushing for a Japan trip.