Personally, we at Pure Wander think we’ve been around the block. I like to consider our crew decent world travelers—but when we hear of the amazing lives of full-time wanderers, we’re taken down a humble notch. Our Pure Wander aim is to always inspire with stories, so we want to show YOU who inspires US too!
Take, for instance, the brood of six behind Wand’rly Magazine. Run by a super duo, three kids, a grandmother and a dog, they’ve been all over the great old U.S.A. via a vintage airstream camper, homestays and other wild adventures. Below is an interview with Editor-In-Chief Nathan who helps lead the fun-loving family travel pack.
If you had to summarize your mission or goals for Wand’rly in three sentences, what would you say?
What Wand’rly is all about is simply showing people how much is possible with their lives. If you want to travel full-time, it’s possible, and we’re happy to show you exactly how we, other travelers, and you can do it. We don’t stop there, though, we also love to show off the best places in the U.S. to go once you’ve made it happen.
Did you and your partner grow up traveling, or is this a new thing for your family?
Renee and I met in college, but went our separate ways after I graduated. She backpacked around Europe for six months or so, and when she came back, I was doing the 9-5 thing for PBS, owned a house, and Tristan was only a couple of years old. Her adventures inspired me, though we still didn’t really get together…she was still traveling around and landed in Nederland, Colorado. Meanwhile, I took a two-week road trip in 2004, which changed me forever. Seeing the Rockies; Flagstaff, Arizona; Lake Tahoe and the west coast, I knew I could never go back to sitting around in an office all day. So I began learning web design (I was a graphic designer & animator at the time), ditched my job and started traveling.
Tristan and I hit the road full-time in 2008. A year later I got an email from Renee, went to Colorado, convinced her to come and live in a 1978 Volkswagen Bus with us, and we’ve been on the move ever since.
But no, as kids neither Renee nor myself did much traveling other than summer vacations.
How do you stay connected (WiFi on the camper, coffee shops, etc.) while on the road?
It’s a multi-pronged approach, really, and one big reality of traveling is that WiFi will very rarely be as fast as it would be if you live in a house and have Comcast or whatever. Personally, we do quite well relying on the following, in the following order.
Campground WiFi is always the first try, and sometimes it’s quite fast…other times it’s non-existent. Then I have a Verizon MiFi through Millenicom. It’s $90 / month for 20GB, and if campground WiFi is lacking any particular month, we’ll burn through that in three weeks. My final backup is my iPhone, which I can tether if needed and there’s a good AT&T signal.
If all else fails, I find a coffee shop to work from.
How do you deal with tantrums or bad behavior with the kids while traveling?
Hah! Our three-year-old, Winter, is a tantrum factory. He’s getting better, but the “terrible twos” for him lasted from about 4 months old to his third birthday. As for how we deal with it while traveling, though, just about the same as we would (and do) when living in houses (we rent vacation houses every now and then for a month or so when we really like a place that doesn’t have an RV park nearby). Time out seems to work, and rewards for good behavior. It’s trying at times, but really no more than it would be in a house. Less so perhaps, as there’s always the promise of a new playground or fun hike or lake to play in while traveling, instead of the same old stuff if we’d live in one location.
Do you all collaborate on where to go next? What motivates you to move to the next destination?
It’s kind of a consensus thing, with me probably figuring out about 80% of where we could go, and Renee picking up the slack and commenting on where she’d prefer out of places I drum up. I’ve been doing this for a while, and we have particular kinds of places we like. National Parks usually work well for beginning a search, from there we try and find a cool small town with few or no chain stores, and once you’re in a location like that tons of stuff begins to surface as far as hiking, kayaking, or whatever.
As for motivation to go somewhere new, it’s changed over the years and still is. The first few years we would spend a month or so in places we loved, just kind of drive down some beautiful road in a general direction and when we ended up in a town we liked, call it home for a while. That was with just Renee, Tristan and myself. He was 7 – 10 years old at the time, and pretty self-sufficient as far as kids go.
With the babies, more planning is needed. We can’t just get lost on some back road for 10 hours because they can’t sit still in the car that long, and we need to be a bit more diligent about making sure there are playgrounds, decent grocery stores, that sort of thing. It’s one thing to break down on a long dirt desert road with a 10 year old who’s willing to hike out of it with you to find rescue, it’s another with two babies on your hip.
This past year we also made a lot of plans. To meet up with other Airstreamers (our house is a 1976 Airstream and there’s kind of a whole club with these things), to meet up with old friends, or get together with family. We also knew about a lot of places in between that we wanted to see, so we’ve been more or less constantly on the move this year, staying places for only a week or two at a time. It was fun, we saw a ton, but that’s not really the best way to travel. Seeing everything means seeing very little, actually, it’s when you stop and really dig into an area, when the girls at the coffee shop know your drink, that’s when you’ve actually experienced a place.
So this next year, after some Thanksgiving plans we’ve got, we’re not making any plans more than a month in advance. The babies are a bit older, and though we’ll still have some of the precautions there, we just won’t have to go anywhere unless we want to. There are some old favorite stops we want to revisit, and hope to discover a bunch of new ones through serendipity.
Can you share with us a recent travel memory you had with your crew of six?
Certainly! We spent the month of June in Nederland, Colorado. Our Airstream needed to have its frame repaired, so we ended up in a couple of different lodges and cabins. It’s a beautiful thing to have three children who essentially live in a new house every week, but are completely comfortable with new beds, new surroundings. Winter says it wonderfully, “Is this our new house, mama?” She nods yes, he looks at his younger brother Wylder, “This is our house now, Wylde.”
I love it.
But even better, in Nederland there were a lot of families with kids the same ages as ours, whether it was Tristan (who’s almost 13) or the babies, and so for the first time ever really we got to make some really great friends and get the kids together to run around while the adults chat up life. That’s something you miss out on as travelers, but there are actually so many of us doing it now, it’s really just all about finding others who are currently in the same state as you and trying to hook up, though.
We’re becoming a little counterculture and there are at least dozens of us doing it, and that’s just families. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are thousands of full-time travelers out there these days.
If a family is looking for travel inspiration to hit the road for the first time, what advice would you give?
Think about your skills, and figure out how to make a business out of them. The Internet is a magical thing, it changed the world like cars and electricity did previously. You can make a living from almost any career path these days, by doing it remotely. Or you can do temporary work, seasonal jobs are available doing everything from building trails in National Parks to filling in the service industry gaps in high tourist seasons.
Once you’ve got that figured out, the rest is pretty easy. If you love your family, love spending time with them, then this is the way to do it. Nearly 90% of my days are spent around my kids all day, I’m not off at some office missing all the little things that happen when kids are growing up.
And finally, don’t be afraid of living in a small space, because though it’s true that your house will only be a couple of hundred square feet at the most, the entire world is your backyard.
Don’t be afraid to go after the life you want, the worst that could happen is it might not work out and you go back to whatever you’re doing now!