The road well travelled
A family of six went on a life-changing journey across North America for more than a year
When the Belcher family of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, decided on a road trip, it wasn’t going to be their usual two months in an RV for the summer. This was going to be the road trip: 380 days on the road, 50 American states including Hawaii and Alaska, and eight Canadian provinces.
In late June of 2010; Mom (Kathi), Dad (John), Hannah, Olivia, Aidan and Maxwell Belcher—known collectively on the Internet and in social media as the Hoam Team—steered the family coach north towards their ambitious and historic trip.
A trip of this scope requires planning—something the Belchers have experience with. Due to the summer heat in Florida, the family usually leaves right after the kids get out of school and head to cooler climates for the summer months.
“It was during the '09 trip that we started thinking we could do a whole year, " said John. " We started planning in '09 for leaving in '10."
Many factors had to be considered, including daily driving times, staying the night in each state—so that it counted towards the 50—and a year’s worth of school. Driving days would be only two to four hours.
Learning to be flexible
Home schooling was the biggest challenge, said John. At the beginning, a routine was established that schooling would take place in the morning. After a few days on the road, the Belchers quickly realized that some of the attractions and monuments they might want to see were only open part of the day.
“We wanted to do a tour of the Statue of Liberty and it was only in the mornings,” John said. “So we would switch it up. Once you’re not in a routine, then everything goes out the window.”
The end result was a dedication to compromise. While on the trip, the children finished their schooling successfully and will be attending traditional public school this fall back with their friends.
“We did all the kids' stuff," said John. "We visited every national monument and all that type of stuff for them. That’s what the trip was really for—to show the kids.”
Favourites and highlights
With all the plans that had been made and so many places to see and visit, John said the favourite memory for the children belongs to an event they happened upon outside San Diego, California.
“When I pull into somewhere and we don’t know what to do, we just Google it," said John.
There was a Kid’s Q—a kids hamburger barbecue competition—and the Belcher family came in second place.
“They had the time of their lives—they just loved it and still talk about it,” John said.
Two of the states the Belchers went to required a different approach due to geographical logistics. Alaska was done on a cruise ship that sailed from Vancouver, B.C., to Anchorage. On their return to Vancouver, the Belcher family headed west through British Columbia and Alberta, with stops in Banff and Jasper.
The family flew to Hawaii and visited four of the islands. John said his personal favourite memory is from a hike they did in Hawaii.
“Me and the girls (the boys were too young) went on a hike when we were in Hawaii to the volcano," he said. "It was a night hike and 2 1/2 miles one way over the hard, crusty lava. When we got to the end, the girls got to actually poke the lava with their hiking stick and it was dripping off. That was really neat.”
The weather factor
Though North America has seen ongoing weather-related disasters through the past year, the Belchers' travels were not hampered by poor weather.
“We’ve had phenomenal weather,” John said. “When we left, we went straight from Florida to Nova Scotia, and the weather was beautiful. We’ve had great weather for the past year.”
Perspectives can change after a year on the road with your family.
“I was a probably more so a workaholic before," said John. "(I now know) there is time better spent elsewhere and there’s more important things.”
John’s parting thoughts after more than a year on the road with his family?
“We go around and we're doing all the touristy things in everybody else’s city, and I was guilty myself about not doing them where I live—where home is,” he said. “Just get out there and do it. You don’t have to go days away or travel thousands of miles to do neat stuff; it's out there, it's near you—just do it.”
What is the Belcher family’s next adventure? John said conversations around what next have revolved around Europe—for maybe six months, but not a year.