Meet the Nomads – The Atkins Family – Around the World in a Bus with 4 Kids!
About a year ago when I began this blog and was planning our time in Europe with 3 children, I ran into Manny Atkins on a travel forum and have been fascinated by her family ever since. The Atkins family are a departure from our traditional NuNomad profile in that they are not taking their careers with them on the journey. In contrast, the journey has become their career. This family has a truly adventurous heart. They have sold their home, given up their jobs, and devoted themselves to a worldwide journey in a bus with their 4 children. I strongly recommend you visit their web site Welcome to the World and look at the progress of their bus conversion as well as their planned round the world route. And because I like them so much – I’m giving them a plug. The Atkins currently need some help raising funds for fuel along the way. Pitch in and be a part of the adventure!
I understand you have begun a project in which you and your 4 children are converting a bus so that you can travel around the world as a family. Tell me what inspired this idea?
Joe has traveled internationally through his work as a lighting designer for theatre, film and conferences. For years he was the one seeing the world, but unable to share it with the family. A few years ago, Harry (now 12) suggested it was time we all saw the world together?and the dream was set in motion.
How long had you been planning this before you actually took the first steps to make it happen?
For me, I’d say it came as a bit of a thunderbolt decision when we sold our house. For Joe, it has been something he has wanted to do for many years. With four young children,I hit a turning point when Arthur (now 7)hit four. His maturity then made everything seem possible, the years (deliciously happy ones!) of pregnancy, babies, nappies, pushchairs, had come to an end, and I felt that our family, and indeed our marriage, entered a whole new phase. It became easy to go and join Joe for a few days while he was working away, and family holidays became much more adventurous. (We all skied for the first time)
How have you funded your project so far?
Basically we sold our house, cleared our mortgage and all outstanding debts, and the remainder has financed the bus; the build; and the trip. We are on an incredibly tight budget with no safety net, but so far everything has costed out much as we expected it to.
The advantages of needing to do as much of the work on the bus ourselves as we possibly can, have been plentiful. The fact that we know how and where and why everything is where it is will be a huge plus to repairs along the way; but more important by far is the amazing sense of achievement for us and for the children. They really will be living in a home they have built with their own hands.
What kind of backgrounds do the two of you have that have prepared you to do this?
A huge amount of optimism!
Joe has worked all over the world, and is very practical and resourceful. I am fearless in asking for help from anyone, and as a family we tend to try and see the good in all situations however challenging. (Easy to say before the trip!)
Have you always home schooled or is this also new for your family?
No home schooling is new to us. Harry has come out of school already to establish a rhythm of home schooling, and to decide what we want to take in terms of resources. It is working so well; he’s the right kind of self- motivated personality to take it on board. In fact they all have a thirsty love of learning, so I can’t wait to be on the road where traveling will be our lessons.
How are the kids doing with the project?
They are truly a magnificent bunch; I am in awe of their dedication; maturity; and team spirit. We have all worked so hard on this project, right from its early planning nearly two years ago, to the intense build period from last November.
I believe you have plans to communicate with schools during your trip. Tell me about that.
We want to share as much of the experiences we have with as many people as we can. It seemed sensible with the ages of our children to link up with classrooms of compatible ages via email, skype and through the website.
What technology will you use to do this?
We think we will use a BGAN system used by journalists and the military to keep online whenever we need. It seems the most appropriate for our needs, but is fairly expensive, especially in tariff terms, so if anyone has any better suggestions or can put us in touch with anyone who may want to get involved in our project financially, we would be keen to hear!
Do you have any particular brands you are choosing?
The BGAN terminal we have been looking into is made by a company called Thrane and Thrane
So far, what have been your biggest challenges?
We had a period of time just before and after Christmas when the workshop which we had been kindly lent the use of by a friend started letting in so much rain water that we spent days trying to secure huge tarpaulins over the roof, only to have them blown off again in the gales and storms that just kept on coming! The workshop was about 45 minutes drive away, so whenever it blew here we were just imagining the damage there! Very stressful! In the end when the leaking roof took the power out, we knew we had to move. We were then unbelievably lucky, as our neighbour offered us the use of the field behind both our houses. We have been able to use our own workshop, and we’ve had nothing but sunshine for weeks now? very different experience!
How about your biggest success?
There have been a few big success moments? but nothing can quite top turning on the power, and running water through the system?and everything working! We felt triumphant!
You?ve done a beautiful job with your bus conversion. Still ? this will be pretty tight quarters for 6 people. Do you have any thoughts on how you might get private time while you’re on the road?
I think Joe’s design of the bus has meant there will be places to call our own, and I think that will prove valuable. The ?pods? will be little sanctuaries for the kids, and having their own workstations will work well too. We are buying a big bell tent for shady outside living when space allows, and I imagine we will be living outside a lot of the time.
In planning your trip, what have you found to be a good source of information for acquiring road maps for different countries?
I haven?t yet detailed the route by roads, it is an imminent stage of planning, any useful suggestions?
I have, however, just bought the Camperstop 2007 guide to all the motorhome stopovers through Europe which I think will be invaluable. I bought it through Vicarious Books
Do you have any re-fueling concerns as you travel? How many kilometers/miles per gallon does the bus get? How much fuel does it hold?
The 2 tanks hold just over 200 litres of fuel each, and we hope that that will take us about 1,500 miles. (Of course that is an informed guess at the moment, we will have a much more accurate idea in a few months.) My theory is that coaches go everywhere in every country we will be traveling through, and that re-fueling will not be too much of an issue. We have just set up an easy sponsorship opportunity for people or businesses who want to support us: SPONSOR A TANK OF FUEL!
And join our Hall of Fame! £200 just about fills one of our tanks here in the UK, so far the campaign has proved successful in our eternal search for funding.
Do you plan to sleep in the bus 100% of the trip? If so ? any safety concerns?
We will make ourselves as secure as we can, and then trust our instincts and try to make sure we don\’t take unnecessary risks. We certainly plan to be with the bus whenever it is possible, and really hope to be able to travel with it when it has to moved as freight across the sea.
Do you have any advice for others who might like to drive around the globe?
Watch the website, and learn from our mistakes and triumphs! I’ll have to answer that one properly when we?re on the road!