Two Years Traveling, and No Return Date: The BodesWell Family Talks About Life On the Road

Almost exactly two years ago, on August 15, 2009, we pulled out of our Piedmont driveway and handed our housekeys to renters to start a round-the-world adventure. A few miles away, another family in the East Bay town of Alameda was doing the same thing: Angela and Jason Rehm, with their then-4-year-old son, leased out their home, pulled out of their driveway, and began a long experiment in nomadic living and roadschooling.

Jason, Angela and Bode Rehm two years ago, getting ready to depart their Alameda home.

One big difference between our families: Whereas we hopped planes and rented cars on different continents, they traveled and lived out of a rebuilt ’71 VW van across the Americas.

More significantly, we came back. And they kept going.

From the Pacific Northwest, up to Canada and across the USA, down through Mexico and Central America, curving around Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, they slowly made their way to their current destination: Cafayete, a town in Northern Argentina. They intend to keep repairing their VW and logging miles until they reach the country’s southern tip.

I have followed the journey Angela and Jason, who are both 40, and Bode, now 6, on since the beginning. Sometimes I lose myself in the “what if” fantasy of asking, What if we had adopted a life on the road and didn’t return? This entire past year as we faced the challenges of re-entry to home and school, I wondered in the back of my mind, Where is Angela now? Could I trade lives with her? Would I want to?

I checked in via email with the family to wish them a happy two-year anniversary on the road and ask how it’s going. It’s the second time we’ve done a Q&A; the first, on my old blog, took place a mere six weeks into the trip. Back then, six weeks away from home felt closer to six months, and as I faced self-doubt about our decision to leave home and work, I took solace in this other crazy family on a parallel track.

I encourage readers to browse the archives on their blog—hundreds of stories and thousands of remarkable photos chronicling the places they’ve been and the always-present threat of mechanical breakdown. Then, if you want to find out more about how to embark on a life-changing, long-term trip, attend the Meet, Plan, Go! event I’m hosting October 18 in San Francisco (or one of the other 16 Meet, Plan, Go! events taking place the same night around the country).

Sarah: Do you two have any desire to return home and settle down?

Jason and Angela: Sometimes, but there are still so many wonderful places in the world that we want to see. Right now, we are still enjoying the adventure. When that changes, we may have a hard time deciding where to settle. We often tell people that we are looking for a new hometown.

BodesWell in Bolivia

Do you have a target end date, or will the road trip continue indefinitely?

We’re two-plus years into our one-year trip. Our original goal was to reach Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina, but there is so much to see on the way down! You just can’t go too slow. We aren’t really sure where we’ll head after we get there or when the trip will end, but for now we’re all happy doing what we’re doing.

Jason, Angela and Bode in Colombia

If you could go back to live in one country you’ve traveled through, which would it be and why?

That’s a question we ask ourselves all the time, and we never come up with the same answer. Every country has something we love about it. You can’t beat the food or beaches in Mexico. The people in Colombia are the nicest we’ve ever met. Peru has so many interesting cultures. We’ve only been in Argentina a few weeks now, but we love it here too.

Angela in Argentina

What have these two years done to your finances and careers, if you don’t mind me asking?

We saved a lot before leaving, but only for a one-year trip. Since we’re traveling on-the-cheap with our own car, we camp, we cook most of our meals, we skip the tours and visit areas ourselves. We’ve been able to travel and live much cheaper than we had originally thought and have been able to make our finances go much farther. We’ve also been lucky in finding some additional online work and have received some generous donations from our blog readers. Every little bit helps! This type of extended travel, without any bills, is far cheaper than living in the Bay Area.

A recent pic of Angela and Bode doing laundry at their campsite. Jason posted it to their blog with the heading, "Long Term Travel Is Glamorous."

How is roadschooling Bode going, and what are the biggest challenges and greatest benefits to it?

Bode would be starting first grade in the fall. We think he’s learning much more than he would be sitting in a classroom at this age. And, with both parents always available, we are always able to answer his questions and guide his interests. Since we tend to move around, scheduling daily “class” or finding the time and materials for formal instruction can be difficult. But, we teach him about where we are, or even use the time waiting at a restaurant to do activity books, practice math, reading, etc. It’s not hard to learn new things when you are always surrounded by new things!

Angela and Bode in Colombia

What’s your essential advice for other families considering a similar nomadic lifestyle?

Pack light, be flexible and go for it! Introducing your kids to different cultures and parts of the world is something that will forever change them for the better. The hardest part is leaving, the rest is amazing.

Jason in Panama

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One Response to Two Years Traveling, and No Return Date: The BodesWell Family Talks About Life On the Road

  1. Luke August 17, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    That very romantic but it have one issue. First of all the boy. I dont know but little kids like to play with other kids dont they ? It a bit hard to find a kid in the desert or on the highway…

    Then the car itself it the last thing i would take for such a journey. I mean cmon! They make their life hard as hell with that old cracker!

    Said that i admire them. Really, this is act of bravery in my eyes.

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