Today's post is an interview with the Jones family (A.K.A. The Jonesberries) who are currently travelling around the world in Maggie, a truck which they converted into their home. We find the Jones' to be particularly inspiring for a number of reasons:
- They are minimalist; a family of seven living in a truck (sometimes with guests). You can't get much more minimalist, and that really appeals to us! We have a lot we can learn from them regarding what a family truly needs to thrive in the world (as it turns out, not a lot).
- They are adventurous; travelling the world, mostly avoiding the tourist areas, seeking out community and showing hospitality wherever they go... that appeals to us too! Getting out and exploring the world is more than just nature, there are people and cultures also. We love reading about their interactions with the world as they travel to new places.
- They are doing it together. We consider them to be great role models for shared family vision and togetherness. Kids and family aren't an inconvenient responsibility along the way, it is the core of who they are.
Who are they? Here is a brief introduction:
- Andrew (the dad) is a well known Christian blogger who's blog Tall Skinny Kiwi, covers a wide variety of topics including the Emerging Church, Missions, and Social Enterprise. You can find him on twitter as @tallskinnykiwi.
- Debbie (the mum) chronicles the family travels on the Jonesberries blog. You can find her on twitter as @jonesberries.
- The kids consist of Abi (14), Hannah (12), TJ (7), Liz (17), and Sam (19).
Can you describe, in a nutshell, the purpose of this journey or voyage you are on? I am having difficulty finding the right word to describe what it is you are doing. Is it an adventure, a journey, a pilgrimage, a lifestyle, or something else?
Andrew: A little bit of all of those. Its research, its learning, but definitely a lifestyle that allows us to travel and get to the places we want to be or need to be. My job involves a lot of travel and this is a way for us to stay together as a family.
Does this journey have a pre-defined duration? Is it open-ended? Or is this a lifestyle?
Andrew: Its a lifestyle that we started 15 years ago out of financial necessity but it grew on us. We liked living in small confined, mobile spaces like a tent or a motorhome. Much easier to clean and it keeps collecting junk to a minimum.
Doing something like this requires strong family unity. I would imagine having a family of seven means that there are a lot of different personalities in the mix, each with there own likes/dislikes/visions/goals/dreams. Is everyone pretty much on the same page with regards to this journey? Or are there some of you who are more into it than others?
Andrew: Well, our oldest (Samuel) just left us for university in Scotland so we are one less. And our daughter Elizabeth is spending 4 months in Houston working for a social enterprise. But she will be returning and joining the family again. I would say we are all into it - none of us want to settle down anywhere right now, and we don't really know where that would be. And we usually bring friends with us also so there is occasionally 9 of us in the motorhome. We check in with each other a lot to make sure everyone is on the same page and we are not rushing too much to get to the next place, or lingering too long. We don't seem to have many problems in this area. The real slowdowns happen when we are traveling in a group of vehicles together, like the hippie caravan we were a part of last month in Morocco. Each vehicle has its own pace and its very hard to synchronize them. It usually takes far longer to get anywhere but its a safer and more interesting way to travel so we often do it.
Debbie: I would like to add to this that because we have been doing this from the beginning it seems to be part of our family DNA. We expect to be rubbing shoulders with each other all the time. We have rarely lived in a big house that most people would have for a family our size. When we do have a big house we have almost always invited people to move in with us as well. We also have friends all over the world because we have traveled so much so even when we stay put we are missing friends and family all over the world. Last year TJ was talking about a birthday party and the friends she would want to invite. The list had kids from 5 countries.
Often in a family there are members who are adventurous and visionary and there are others who take comfort in the familiar and routine. Is that the case in your family? If so, how do you reconcile those differences? Do you have any advice for someone in a family who wants more adventure, but is encountering resistance from other family members?
Andrew: We don't really see it as adventurous. Its quite normal, for our kids to be in another country or culture. Yesterday we ate goat stew and there were no complaints. What we have tried to do all along was to build in certain rituals and routines that add stability and familiarity to our life. For example, we ALWAYS eat crepes on Sunday morning, French toast on Saturday morning, and Fridays are always pizza and movie nights. We meet people on the road who have heard of us and they already know our menu because friends have told them.
Also, when we are stationary for a while in a house or an apartment, which happens to us at times, we try to keep the kids ready for adventure by bringing out our sleeping bags and camping in our living room every Friday and Saturday nights. It keeps us in the traveling mode.
Another thing that has helped us is that our daughters have never had their own room, ever, even when we stayed in an apartment. That makes it easier to adjust. I would advise families who want to travel later on to prepare for it by living in a small space and sharing bedrooms as much as possible.
Your family is very inspirational to us. Seeing what you are doing encourages us to think outside the box and step outside our comfort zone. Who are the people (any families?) that inspire and encourage you in that way?
Andrew: We don't know many families like us but we learn a lot from the global nomads and new age travelers about solar power, cooking on the road, getting in and out of countries, surviving on less money.
Debbie: We would love to find families that are traveling. We are looking. I really enjoy meeting families that are valuing their families and celebrating their individuality. Not simply accepting the world's values. Some of the most inspirational families are Paulo and Edna in Portugal who turned away from lots of money to time with family. Sam and Bryce in Switzerland who started Fuse Factory. It is a techno group where mom is the singer and dad is the VJ. Their family is very much part of the venture and one of her best songs is a love song to her daughter. Another family is the Stacey family in Oregon. They wanted to travel but had a child born with spinal bifida. They thought it would be too hard to travel with such a disabled child so they learned how to care for special needs kids and adopted 6 more kids with challenges. They are passionate about helping kids with special needs. Actually, seeing what we have seen, any family that stays together and loves each other are heroes to me. Unfortunately, it is way too rare these days.
Living in such a small space is quite different that what most westerners are used to. Was it difficult to downsize your family belongings to such a small space? Does everything you own fit in the van, or do you have stuff stored somewhere? Have you found the lack of space in the van a challenge for seven (or more) people?
Andrew: When we sold our house in 1994 in Oregon and moved into a tent, our motto was "If you can't carry it, you can't bring it." We thought we would need a big roof-rack for our car but actually, we didnt. We all had one bag and everything fitted in the car. 15 years on, our family is bigger and we have a motorhome which holds a lot more. But we still only have one small locker each and "if it doesn't fit in the locker, you can't bring it." And yes, we have some things stored in Scotland right now but most of it is tools and pottery equipment that we hope will rejoin us one day if we find a place for it.
Do you set limits on the amount of clothing, belongings, etc. that a person can have when traveling with you? Does everyone get a storage area for clothes and belongings? How do you keep the acquisition of "stuff" from getting out of hand?
Andrew: Everyone has 2 lockers, which are located behind and under the couch. The lower one is for clothes and about the size of a suitcase. The upper locker is for books and special things that we access through the day. That one is smaller than a carry-on. I actually prefer the constraints of a locker and the family has no need to go to the mall because they don't have room for any more clothes, unless they are replacing something that is worn out.
Debbie: Sometime in the morning we usually hear "Lockers are open - this is not a drill". This means those sleeping on the lockers are awake, the bedding is away, the big door over the lockers is open and it is time to get clothes for the day. You can get to your clothes later in the day but it normally involves shuffling people and stuff.
Renee asks: How does your family deal with issues of personal privacy? Getting dressed/undressed? What about having the time/space/privacy for marital intimacy? (If you consider that too personal, feel free to not answer!)
Andrew: This is even harder when we have non-family members traveling with us, which is most of the time. Getting dressed is not a big deal. I miss having a soundproof toilet or a closed off bedroom, but sometimes the whole family gets to put up tents for a night or two (hasn't happened for a few weeks now, unfortunately) and then we all get our own space for a short while.
Debbie: For marital intimacy, now that the kids are older, we can leave them for a bit and taking evening walks together can be quite fun. We tell the kids we are going to check out the area or that we are going on a date.
Brienne (our seven year-old) asks: Are you going all the way around the world?
Andrew: Hi Brienne. Eventually, we will have been around the world but not all in one trip. The hard part about going around the world in one trip is the horribly expensive ocean crossings on ships. So we are staying on the land as much as possible. From Europe. Africa is only a 2 hour ferry crossing so thats pretty easy. And also from Europe you can drive east into Turkey and keep going east until you get to Iran and Pakistan and India and before you know it you are in Asia. Thats what we would like to do very soon. But we might just drive back again instead of heading in the same direction because its so much cheaper. And anyway, we have already driven around USA (every state except 2 of them) and spent time in Central/South America and I have driven across Australia a few times.
Laurent (our nine year-old) asks: How do you guys get your money?
Debbie: Mostly through people who sponsor us to make a difference in the world. But we have also made some pottery and Andrew occasionally gets paid for writing or speaking. We just bought some fabric and hope to make some products to sell in Europe over the summer. We actually don't get very much money but then we don't have much to spend it on except for travel and food.
Celine (our 10 year-old) asks: Have you guys seen any castles?
Tamara: We have seen a few.
Andrew: In Portugal we saw a lot of old forts that the Romans built but most of the castles we have seen were in Scotland, France, Germany and Czech Republic. We went inside a castle once in Scotland and saw lots of amour and weapons of castle warfare. Pretty gory stuff. You don't want to know. Really. But you might be interested to hear of the castle toilet which was more like a round stone platform with a hole in the middle and a 100 foot drop. Great view but a little windy and cold in the winter. Better to be on the toilet than below it, thats for sure.
What do you like most about your families travels? What has been the best moment for you so far?
Tamara: I like lots of things, lots of moments, I liked seeing that waterpark (Morocco) I like the moment when we first started traveling and i was thinking of all the things i could do.
Hannah: The waterpark in Morocco that we went to on TJ's birthday.
Abigail: Eating camel couscous in the Sahara or that time in Portugal when we picked olives at our friends community.
What do you dislike the most about your families travels? What has been the worst moment for you?
TJ: When Hannah doesn't want to play with me and our toy animals.
Hannah: Getting caught in a rip tide on the boogie board
Abigail: Leaving Orkney, Scotland, the first time.
Alana (friend who has been with us for 4 months): Worst moment was getting detained at London airport for not having enough money.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! We wish you all the best on your travels, and look forward to following your blogs to see where the journey takes you!