Our Open Road

Emily, Adam, and their young daughter Colette set off in October 2012 for a year long Pan American journey in their VW Westfalia. Nineteen months later, they are still on the road and their family has grown to include a year old daughter, Sierra. Along the way, they are refining their definition of modern family, sharing their experiences with a growing audience, and finding beauty everywhere. Learn more – interview with Emily after the jump.

Emily and Adam also sell artisan goods in curated 24 hour flash sales, sign up for the email blast here.

All photos above and below (C) 2015 Our Open Road



How did you trip/family lifestyle come to be?

Adam and I have traveled together for over a decade, always scheming our next adventure. It was formed from pieces we gathered along the way and dreamed we would share with our ‘future family’, like the passing smile of a mother carrying her infant in a front pack on a remote hike in New Zealand, and on a tiny island in Thailand- two gregarious children that told us of how they were sailing around the world with their parents. When I was pregnant with Colette, Adam was working on a project that would have put us in India and Nepal for 6+ months.  When that fell through, we knew the time had come for us to plan our own grand voyage.

(C) 2015 Our Open Road
(C) 2015 Our Open Road

Five months into what we planned to be a year long voyage, we were departing Colombia, entering Ecuador, and we had approximately 8 weeks to reach Tierra del Fuego before the weather would make it improbable to safely reach our Southernmost destination. So we opened to the possibilities of the unknown and the decision to slow down was made. We knew we were (are!) on the journey of a lifetime and rushing to check off places visited seemed very unlike the purpose of our departure.

Adam, Emily, Colette, and Sierra (C) 2015 Our Open Road
Adam, Emily, Colette, and Sierra (C) 2015 Our Open Road

What drives your travel?  Does the curation of your store influence your location?

My travel is driven by the desire to learn through experience, to live in the present, to see new places, and to taste new things. When we first started 24 Hour Bazaar two years ago, we would incorporate the potential locations of artisan communities into our route planning. Now, we have diversified our finances a bit, so we have flexibility to head into more remote regions that perhaps do not have a strong artisan community, but other areas of interest.

Photo (C) 2015 Our Open Road
Photo (C) 2015 Our Open Road

24 Hour Bazaar is a flash sale, not a permanent store, as we only offer the goods for sale while we are in the artisan towns. We are so pleased that it has created a circle, which connects the artisans, an international audience and us. All the craftspeople we work with are stoked to share their goods with a wider audience and make a fair wage doing so; to support tradition and process in the arts is infinitely rewarding to us as artists. This flow of finance, art and inspiration is a pairing that we could only have dreamed of before our departure.

What are your favorite areas to travel to? 

I am in love with the breadth and diversity we have encountered on the road. I adore high mountains and warm oceans, the cultural delights in big cities and the slow charm of small towns, deep forests and vast deserts – so life on the road suits me quite well.

Emily, Colette, and Sierra (C) 2015 Our Open Road
Emily, Colette, and Sierra (C) 2015 Our Open Road

 What have you learned about Adam that you might not have if you weren’t living in a Westy together?

Adam and I have been together for 14 years and have spent a lot of time traveling, including overland journeys in New Zealand, Southern Africa and the US, so there haven’t been many surprises revealed through van life. Two and a half years of any relationship will naturally progress and in our growth together, we also allow and challenge each other in personal evolution.

The Family (C) 2015 Our Open Road
The Family (C) 2015 Our Open Road

Are you able to find “alone” time while on the road?

Alone? As a family of four living in a van, I am not familiar with that word. I did an anagram because perhaps you misspelled what you meant to say and I think you meant to say “a Noel” and yes, we love to sing together! But seriously, there will be a day when the girls don’t need me the way they do now, and I am happy to be with them, sharing the delights of life on the road.

If your van roles were a Venn diagram, how would they overlap and how would they differ?

Adam drives, I navigate. He handles the van maintenance, I do the grocery shopping and cooking. I nurse Sierra, he plays rough with Coco (Colette has a boundless energy that thrives with physical activity). We both do dishes and set up camp. I cannot pop the top without Adam, who usually does that himself. He takes most of the photos and edits them all; I handle almost all the writing and email correspondences. We both route plan and daydream and keep each other happy and laughing and engaged with our darling girls.

(C) 2015 Our Open Road
(C) 2015 Our Open Road
Emily with her Five "Must Have's" for Life on the Road
Emily with her Five “Must Have’s” for Life on the Road

Snap a shot of your 5 “must have” objects for life on the road.

Adam, Emily, Colette, Sierra, our van.

Your family is growing – what’s next?  A bigger vehicle?  Kindergarten for Colette?

We are heading in the general direction of North, although we imagine it will be as long or longer before we return to the States with our van.  We are already engaging Colette in learning experiences, and envision continuing world-schooling her as we continue to overland.  Eventually a bigger vehicle will be purchased, we keep eyeing ones we see on the road and taking notes…

What’s been your most inspiring experience?  What’s been your most sketchy experience?

Well, that is a pretty heavy question in my case, my deepest joy has come from my greatest sorrow. In 2009 our first child, a son we named Aaro, was stillborn after a long & difficult labor. Heartbreak just seems too small a word to describe this sad reality.  Colette was conceived on his 1st birthday and to hear her first victory cry was overwhelmingly beautiful. Coco’s birth, though a ‘normal’ delivery, was highly mechanized. To have an un-medicated natural birth with Sierra (at a hospital in Brazil) was a truly fulfilling and inspiring experience for me as a mother.

Emily and Sierra, (C) 2015 Our Open Road
Emily and Sierra, (C) 2015 Our Open Road

At a remote wild camp in the Peruvian highlands, we were awoken one night not by the light of the bright full moon, but by the sound of someone knocking on the front passenger window. It was a strong, urgent knock- the kind you know means business.  Adam rolled over and looked out of the top triangle tent window to three machine guns with lights on the end pointed at him. After we gained enough composure to communicate, we quickly discovered it was some police that were highly confused that we were just tourists, not the drug smugglers with rocket launchers on the top of the van that they thought us to be. Needless to say, our attempts to go back to sleep that night were in vain and we celebrated when the sun rose.

 Where are you now [April 30, 2015] and where will you be in one month?

We have just crossed back into southern Argentine Patagonia and are back near Fitz Roy in El Chalten. In a month Colette, Sierra and I will fly to Houston, Texas for my cousins wedding, then head to Los Angeles where we will rendezvous with Adam who will meet us via the Sacred Valley of Peru for some work with an array of local artisans. From there we will all be heading up to Monterrey, Calif. for my brothers wedding, then onto Hawaii for a couple weeks, and return back to Bariloche, Argentina and our van, where we plan to enjoy the South American winter in the snow.

The Family (C) 2015 Our Open Road
The Family (C) 2015 Our Open Road