Welcome to our blog series “The FAQs of Life” where we highlight amazing kids and parents in our Primary community who have stories to tell! Today, we have a traveling family of 7, sharing the most frequently asked questions about their van life expedition.
Hi! We’re the Roberts family! Michael (36), Anna (35), Elise (11), Micah (10) Elijah (7), Jude (5) and Nora (5 months). We recently moved into our self-converted skoolie (school bus turned tiny home) and are traveling the USA with a goal to explore parts of all 50 states and all 63 National Parks. More than that, we have a goal of serving those around us, growing closer as a family, being good friends, inspiring others, and doing hard things. It’s definitely not easy living in 300 square feet with 7 people and we’re thankful for Primary clothing making part of our journey a whole lot smoother.
Q: How do you make money?
This has been quite a journey for us as we didn’t have remote work when we started. We took a huge leap at the beginning, not quite knowing how we would make the travel part work. I want to acknowledge both how fortunate we are and also how normal we are. Like many people, we desired to try this life but had no idea how we would afford it/make it work.
Long story short, it has taken us many months of hard work and we have begun to fund our travels with our photography/videography, creating content for brands/companies. Prior to that we were using some savings we had as well as home remodeling work (what Michael did full time) that Michael would have periodically, back at our “home base” (we still do some of this). We have some other plans in the works as well!
Q: How much do you spend on gas for the bus per month?
That depends on how often we’re moving. We usually move to a new spot every couple of weeks. It costs us about $200 to completely fill the tank. If we’re moving around in the same area all month, we’ll only fill up 1-2 times. If we’re driving longer distances, we’ll fill up several more times per month.
Q: Where do the kids sit while driving?
When I’m driving behind the bus, they are all usually in the car with me. When our car is on the trailer, they sit on the couches. We can secure the baby’s car seat. We have had plans to put seat belts for the big kids in, but haven’t done it. We feel good about it and feel very safe riding in the bus.
Q: How do you manage with seven people and such a small sink?
It can be tricky figuring out the layout of your bus with so many people and weighing what is the most important. After going back and forth and deciding what space was most important to us, we kept coming back to that smaller sink. Sure, it’s not ideal, but we’re working with 7 people living in a 40 foot bus on a tight budget! Sometimes we get a little envious of the large sinks we see, but as long as we wash the dishes after every meal, we’re good. That doesn’t always happen but we try our best. If we could do it again, we would probably push harder for a big farmhouse sink... though it would probably just end up full of dirty dishes most of the time, because with all the space in there we wouldn’t HAVE to wash the dishes right away ha!
Q: How do you manage clothing for seven people in such a small space?
Everyone has two small drawers and we all have capsule wardrobes. We are very mindful of not having more than we need. We lived the same way even when we had more space. It makes life easier when it comes to laundry and choosing what to wear. Almost all of the kids' clothes are from Primary, probably 90%. We mostly purchase the solid color clothing and love how well everything complements each other. It’s important for everything to pair with everything else in our capsule wardrobes. We have a master list (in my phone) for every season. Anything not being currently used goes in our storage under our king size bed. Here is a breakdown of what each kid would have in their drawers during the summer:
- 6-8 everyday tops (plus 5-6 onesies for Nora)
- 6-8 everyday bottoms
- 1-2 nice outfits (depending on your needs)
- 8-10 underwear
- 6 socks (rarely used in the summer)
- 2 pairs pajamas
- 2 swimsuits
- 1 light jacket or hoodie (also rarely used in the summer)
We have a washer/dryer combo that I can do small loads in. It takes all day for me to wash and dry two small loads. If we are hooked up to water I will run it twice a day every day. If we are boondocking/without hookups we have enough clothes to get through one week and then we wash everything at a laundromat on the weekend.
Even on a bus, we have the same struggles with getting the clothes folded and put away, but we are VERY motivated to get it done as there isn’t a ton of space to have it sitting around. Often our weekend schedule involves an entire day of picking up our groceries (after ordering them a few days prior), meal prepping in a laundromat parking lot while waiting for our laundry, folding and putting away laundry, and cleaning the bus (we do the largest amounts of our work, school, and chores on the weekend and our exploring during the week).
Q: Do you homeschool?
Yes, we do! We will soon have a 6th, a 5th and a 2nd grader, as well as one in Kindergarten. And the baby! We do school year round. Our kids thought that sounded horrible until they realized it doesn’t mean they are doing school 12 months out of the year. It means we take a lot more breaks throughout the year instead of all at once in the summer.
We are free to make our own schedule. We can adjust depending on life events (like having a baby) or places we’re going (like planning a big backpacking trip). Or sometimes we just need a break. In the winter we would often do school work in the morning and head outside when it warmed up. Some summer months we’ll head out exploring early and come back and do school work inside during the hottest part of the day. Or when it’s SUPER hot, we might hit the pool (or lake or ocean... depending where we are) and do school work in the evening. And of course, school is often the activities/exploring we are doing.
We have one main cabinet for our books, above our washer/dryer combo and a couple more smaller cabinets we also use. We take out what we need and try to get it all done and put back, because having things out and laying around in such a small space is not too pleasant. We either set up a table between our couches, go outside or spread everything out on the back bed.
It’s a lot of work, but the most rewarding things often are, right? Some days are easier than others. Some days it doesn’t get done and others we do extra. We have to work around a baby and a five year old and it can be really stressful in such tight quarters. We never thought it would be easy. The good outweighs the hard, the rewards are plentiful, character is being grown, and sweet memories are being made.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Living like this is challenging. There is a lot of uncertainty, adapting to new situations, and learning to be calm under pressure. I’m a firm believer that we grow and become better through the hard times in life. So, not only are we experiencing an incredible and unforgettable adventure traveling the country with our kids, we’re also hopefully coming out of this better people. :)
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Do you know an awesome kid or family we should highlight in this series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “FAQs of Life” in the subject line!