Big article yesterday called “Dad lost his job, so this family lives on the road.” Its about families who have traded their houses for motorhomes in order to ride out (no pun intended) the recession. The article points to a great website called Families on the Road which, if you look carefully on the front page, mentions the Jones family of 7 that is traveling around Europe. Their website is called Jonesberries, because they remind people of the Thornberrys.
Hey – wait a minute . . . thats us!
This is me, waking up this morning in Portugal, in a pre-coffee state, standing next to our overlander truck named Maggie. Its a bit small for a family of 7 [and their friends] but we often find ourselves in tight situations where a larger vehicle wouldn’t make it.
Because my job has me traveling to out-of-the-way mission projects and social enterprises that are often off the grid, I need a 4×4 truck that can get us there and back again. Its pretty slow on the highway – top speed of 90km – but its reliable. It has an air-cooled 6 cyclinder engine that gets about 14 MPG. Its not much but we carry a lot of people and weight. I call it the Great Commission vehicle.
The most frequent question is about schooling and our 5 children. Answer – we home-school our kids and they love it. Well, actually, my wife Debbie does most of the homeschooling. And right now we have a tudor named Donald who is traveling with us and helping to teach.
We have actually done this “families on the road” thing a fair bit. Our first motorhome was in California in the early 90’s. We bought a 1969 Ford based camper van for $2400 and lived in it while I studied at Fuller Seminary in California. In 1998, we traveled around USA in a boring white van, sleeping at National Parks in a tent. A church in Florida took pity on us (Spanish River) and gave us a ten year old Winnebago that was donated to them and all of a sudden we were back to full time life on the road.
Those were great times! In 1999, we covered 25,000 miles around USA, going to almost every state. My job was to help start and encourage new church movements among America’s urban youth so it turned out to be a very efficient and economical way of getting around. We went to all the states except the Dakotas.
By 2003, we were living in Europe. We bought an old Czech camper van for $1000 and used it to get around Europe. It died a sad death in Italy, as some of you blog readers might remember.
The next few years we rented a small apartment in Scotland while I flew out to speak at conferences and train church planters. I was gone a third of the time and I struggled to afford getting out to where I often needed to be. And my family felt disconnected from all these overseas projects. Eventually, we decided to get back on the road. We found Maggie for sale for £3500 but it needed a lot of work. Still does. But we are fixing it up as we go along, and as funds become available.
So here we are, on the road again. We have visited a dozen countries already this year and expect to visit nearly 30 by the end of next year. We get to visit the kind of missional entrepreneurs who, despite doing a fantastic job, would probably never attend the kind of conferences I have been teaching at over the years.
And all of this despite a whopping cut to our funds that would have immobilized us if we hadn’t switched over to the itinerant lifestyle made possible through a home on wheels. Not saying its always cheap, because there are expenses related to traveling (food costs more) that you dont think about. But it certainly working for us. And about half a million Americans who live on the road. And that number includes quite a few families that travel because its an economical way to arrive at and stay for a while in places that have projects needing people to help.
Any other families like us out there? Love to meet up.