Traveling Family Spotlight: Walk Slowly Live Wildly
by Alex K
Meet Sara Janssen from www.walkslowlylivewildly.com! Her blog is an amazing blend of fun colors and inspirational stories of traveling, simplicity, and family life. The Janssen family traveled the United States living in RV's full time for 5 years, and now after the birth of their third daughter they have just bought a pop-up camper for smaller trips while living in a house. I asked Sara some basic questions to inspire our Boba readers to follow their dreams like Sara and her family. Enjoy the interview and be sure to get lost in Sarah's blog after!
Why did you decide to travel full time? How did it simplify your life?
In the Summer of 2005, we were staying in a hotel for 4 weeks for business. We had a small suite that had a bedroom and a little kitchen. We realized while we were there that we were EXTREMELY HAPPY living in a smaller space. We liked knowing where Bella was at all times without searching. We liked that cleaning up only took a few minutes instead of an entire afternoon. It just clicked. We talked about that for a long time and when we returned from our trip, we decided to sell our house (that we had just purchased a few months before)…and downsize everything. We spent entire weekends cleaning out our basement, selling things on eBay and Craigslist. Slowly, we came out from under our self-imposed weight of possessions. In that time, we also had a strict budget and paid off all of our consumer debt (credit cards, cars, etc). It took one year…but by the end of that year, we had paid the debt, sold our house, and moved into a smaller apartment. We were also reading a book called "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical" by Shane Claiborne. In it, he talks about what life would look like if Christians actually lived out what Jesus taught. Shane and others live in a community called "The Simple Way"...and they "attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts". This book was a major catalyst in our desire to make a change. It was during that time that we discovered the Compact and also many blogs that were discussing simpler/greener living. We loved the freedom we felt in giving things away, helping others, and feeling the wonderful “light” feeling that comes with getting rid of things that you don’t need. The group of friends we had in Des Moines were also instrumental in our journey…so many wonderful, thoughtful families, encouraging each other to make slow changes. The jobs that we had during that time were great for our pocketbook, but not so great for keeping our sanity. We made the hard decision to resign, move to Bozeman, MT and seek out a slower pace of life. It was a great time of reflection, rejuvenation, and searching out what God had for our lives. Before we sold our house, we had purchased a gorgeous VW Westy and we had planned on traveling the country in it. We ended up selling it before we moved to Bozeman…but the traveling lifestyle was still calling to us. We were always talking about how we wished that we would have "just done it". We decided to follow our hearts. What is the worst that could happen by pursuing our dreams? Failure? No big deal…at least we can say we tried! And in the end, we’ll have no regrets. While we are now settled in Longmont, Colorado for this season of our life, we look forward to continuing this journey and seeing what God has planned for us around each corner!
How old were your children when you started traveling?
Bella was 3 when we started. After about 18 mo, we stopped in Bozeman, MT and lived there until Lucy was born. We hit the road again when she was 2 months old.
What children's items did you decide to bring or leave?
Our first RV didn't have much "open" space for Bella to spread toys out, so we didn't bring many toys that first year. As our RV's grew in size, we brought a few more items. Some of the items we cycled through over the years were: the wooden kitchen, nesting blocks, doll houses, puzzles, a cash register, and dress up clothes. We tried to stick with classic toys that didn't make too much noise :) When you're in such a small space, it's important to have a place to put the toys completely away (in a drawer, box, etc). The key was to not have very many toys...but to keep their very favorites! I've attached some photos of several of our RV's and the toys. When you are living in an RV and so close to the outside world, you tend to play in nature a lot more and it was rare that the kids would play with their toys. It was mostly on rainy days or when we had friends over.
What are your favorite towns or places to go with children?
We loved any big city that was easily walkable or had a subway system. New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. were amazing. It was fantastic to be able to walk all day long with Bella in a sling...nursing as needed along the way. We also loved San Diego, Santa Cruz & the redwoods, and the Oregon/Washington coast.
Do you think natural parenting practices like breasfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing make traveling easier?
Absolutely! There is no other way to do it in my opinion. It made our life so much more enjoyable. There were no bottles, which meant we didn't have to worry about storing them in the RV. Co-sleeping is the perfect solution to small living quarters...we all slept in a king bed and eventually built a small bunk area right off of our bed in several of the RVs. And babywearing! Oh the joys! As a traveler, we were constantly in new situations with new people and places. Wearing my children allowed them to see everything and feel secure and comfortable...even when everything around them was changing.
Would you recommend long term traveling to other families with young children?
Yes! If you are currently dreaming about it, it might seem like an overwhelming and crazy endeavor. However, it is such a rich and rewarding life! Once you become a traveler, you are always a traveler. It's addicting :) Children are so adaptable and love new adventures...we never had any reservations about taking them anywhere. Our four years of full-time travel were the best thing we could have ever done as a family and we will be out there again someday!