Written by: Brenda Pomponio
Meet Eric and Grace – together with their son Leo they have renovated a van – aptly named Valour the Van and are travelling full time. Currently in Canada, their journey so far has been incredible and inspiring in equal measures. We shared their story of their journey to full time travel which you can read here.
Welcome Dare List Family!
Heartfelt Travellers – Eric and Grace – Dare List Family
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Sometimes #vanlife looks like this. 👆🏻😍🌲 And sometimes it looks like tying down a tarp on the roof of #valourthevan at 1am in a freezing Walmart parking lot, our hands so numb with cold (it was 3 degrees C ❄️) we had to keep re-tying the knots. 🙄😂 Swipe right to see ➡️. Yes, van life is all the things… 🚐 Adventurous, romantic, scenically stunning, wild, spontaneous and free. But it's often pretty unglamorous too. 😅 #gottakeepitreal 🤙🏻
1. Tell us about your family
We are a full-time travel family of three from Australia, Eric, Grace and (almost!) 3-year-old Leo. We’re digital nomads, cultural enthusiasts and life-experience hunters.
In late 2016, after 9 months of late night contemplation, we made the decision to make a huge change in our lives. Three weeks later (we don’t waste time! haha), we’d rented our house, sold most of our possessions and moved in with our parents to save.
Then, in March 2017 we left on a big adventure and spent 10 months travelling through SE Asia and Europe. But it’s not just one big holiday. We work and travel as we go. And luckily, we love our work so it really does feel like a big holiday! We work to collaborate with brands on photography and videography, and we’re also digital marketers and website builders.
We share the journey from what was an ordinary suburban life (we literally had a house with a white picket fence!), overworked, tired and busy distracted… to travelling the world and learning from culture and life on our blog Dare List Family.
2. Your story about how you took the plunge into full time travel seems like a huge leap. How do you look back on that moment in your life now?
Looking back on it, the craziness of that time fits our current ‘Dare List’ mould exactly. We felt worn down, burned out and had huge analysis paralysis for most of 2016. The what if’s played on our minds constantly… until we finally ‘took the leap’ that October.
20 months later, we don’t regret the decision one bit. In fact, given how much we know about travel now, I’m proud of the Eric and Grace of 2016, for having the courage to explore a path no one around them was taking. We’ve since found huge encouragement from online communities of travel families on Facebook and Instagram, but back then we were flying blind and hoping for the best. Lucky our hunch was bang on!
We have grown so much through the unpredictable nature of travel and freelance work (never knowing where your next client or Airbnb will be) and our lives have been changed forever because of this urge to travel and soak up human experiences on a global scale. We’re leaning in, excited for what’s to come!
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Wow! We were humbled by the overwhelmingly positive and encouraging response to our van renovation in yesterday's post, and all the kind comments! 😊 · When we say we have literally NO renovation experience, we're not kidding. Just your basic woodworking classes in school and the ability to watch lots of YouTube tutorials, plus some pretty awesome people who gave us advice. But our motto is "if you think you can, then you can" (or something more inspiring, but that's the basic gist 😜) · Anyway, you guys are legends and we're so thankful for this online community of people who 'get' this adventurous lifestyle we've chosen. 💗 It's not for everyone, but man do we love it! 🚐🙌🏻😍 · Sidenote: writing this standing on the road outside a gas station because #freewifi #vanlife 🙄😂
3. You are just about to embark on your second long term adventure. Tell us what you plan for or schedule in given you are a travelling family. Do you allow some flexibility or have some elements you like to keep in order?
Yes! We have just arrived in Canada. Rewinding to December 2017, we decided to head home to Australia for 6 months to plan the next stage of our journey. We loved Europe, but could only stay 3 months as tourists, so we settled on a plan to get working holiday visas in Canada. Initially, it looked like we wouldn’t be able to apply as a family, but there are always legal loopholes if you talk to the right people. 😉
We are in Canada for 2 years, and will travel and work during that time. We’d love to do a roadtrip in a van, see the Rockies and drive up into Alaska to see the Kenai fjords. A big USA trip is on the cards too. The list is long, but national parks are a high priority – Mt Rainier, Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Bryce Canyon to name a few. While we’re on this side of the world (Australia is far from almost EVERYWHERE!) we may pop down to Mexico and South America as well. But who knows! (And in answer to your question, this means that at this stage we don’t have set plans and are open to what may come!)
4. Tell us about some of your travel highlights last year through Asia and Europe.
It’s hard to pick only a few highlights because there was honestly nowhere we didn’t enjoy! Until last year, we had spent only a little time in South East Asia, so spending 4 months travelling through Bali, Malaysia and Thailand was a complete surprise. We chose experiences that felt authentic for us and were sustainable for long-term travel – not much lounging by resort pools (though it’s on the list one day in future!).
We stayed in a traditional family compound for a month in Ubud and became close friends with the beautiful Balinese family. They took us to a cleansing temple on our last day, which was an incredible honour. We spent many long evenings cycling around the magical streets of Penang and sampling the plethora of street food from China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. We volunteered on a resort in Thailand and worked on their videography and social media strategy with a team of young people from all around the world. We spent two blissful months in France during summer and fell in love with the city of Grenoble (which feels like our second home – I think of it almost every day). We drank and ate our way through Italy, finding cobblestone streets off the beaten track, and experienced the magic of Croatia during its Christmas festival (Zagreb has the best in Europe!). Eating hotdogs (the best we’ve had before going vegan!) and drinking mulled wine under twinkling lights, before skating on an outdoor ice rink in a 1000-year-old square is a memory we’ll never forget.
5. What are your hopes for Leo and what he takes from the travelling life?
Having a baby changes your perspectives and priorities. For us, it put a rocket under our butt! But it wasn’t so simple, hence the obsessive analysing. Sure, having Leo was the catalyst for us desiring more than our suburban life (at least for this season of our late 20s), and yet the thought of uprooting him in a way that might impact him negatively or seem irresponsible freaked me (Grace) out a lot.
Everything has an opportunity cost though. While Leo won’t have a set home in the first few years of his life, and won’t see his cousins or grandparents often, we truly value family time when we have it, and are showing him the wild possibilities out there in the world. We are his home and we strive to create a sense of familiarity for him wherever we go. At the tender young age of 1, 2 and 3, his cultural perceptions have been and are being shaped by exposure to all kinds of people, shattering the prejudices that might form if he was to stay in one spot his whole childhood. We want him to have a global education, so what better way to do it?
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The past few days have been difficult, with a few van setbacks and series of back to back Leo tantrums. (I'll go into more detail on the van 🚐 stuff in stories soon) · But even on our hardest days, where we parent on the fringes our sanity and self control I try to remind myself that there will be more rainbows soon. 🌈 Just around the corner… Maybe even alleys filled with them. 🌈✨ · And so, if you're doing it tough this week, month or even year i want to say the same for you too. 💗 Just keep looking for the technicolour rainbow magic and hang in there. 🌈 #supercheesybutidontcare #everyoneneedscheesysometimes
6. Your top advice for parents considering a life of family travel?
Probably the number one tip is to do as much research as possible about the realities of full-time travel with kids (we have a handy Q+A video and an article on calculating a budget) and make sure you are both onboard 100% as a couple, knowing all the challenges you might face. Being solid as a couple on the decision is absolutely crucial. If one person is excited and the other ‘goes along with it’, it’s a recipe for disaster. No personal experience here, but I’ve heard of a lot of families that experienced extreme division over travelling and it broke them.
As important as it is to follow other travel family’s journeys and be inspired, keep in mind that they are sharing their highlight reel. We take pride in the photographs we share, every one is lovingly shot and edited for Instagram, so on a quick scroll through our feed (and many others) it could look like our lives are one big perfect holiday.
But, if you read the captions and watch our vlogs, you’ll see we make no pretensions that travel is always easy. We have had some incredible experiences for sure. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. In fact, Eric and I have had some of the biggest fights, lowest moments and late-into-the-night discussions we’ve ever had in the past 15 months since leaving. The difference is that instead of living a life we chose by default (university, jobs, cars, mortgage) because we thought we had to, this is a life we fought hard for. We’ve felt like giving up a lot of times. But there’s a lot more of this world to see and we know this is what we want to do more than anything. So that makes the hardest days worth it.
What we’re now discovering is that while we’re onboard for full-time travel, we’re all really different travellers. Leo likes a slow pace and lots of playgrounds, Eric gets people to dare him to do crazy stuff as an authentic taste of each city, and I love photographing Leo’s reaction to new places, immersing myself in culture and sampling (lots) of the local food and coffee. As long as we’re able to slow down and/or pump up the speed when necessary, everyone is happy.
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