The community of incredibly inspiring overlanding families is extremely tight-knit and growing all the time. This is why when one of our favorite traveling families, Brittney, Eric, and Caspian from Hourless Life, introduced us to their friends, the Harts, a worldschooling family of six with a passion for exploration, we jumped at the opportunity to have them join us in the Showcase & DIY Area at Overland Expo WEST in Flagstaff. The Harts are keen to join us again at Overland Expo Mountain West, where two of the younger members of the family, Elsie and Sylvia, will be teaching other kids in the Kid’s Adventure Area.
Mom and Dad – Anna and Korey – first overlanded as a couple exploring the US, taking caving trips to Mexico and a campervan honeymoon in New Zealand. They then shifted to worldwide travel with their children either via air or in their Sprinter van. They are currently traveling in their self-built GMC C5500 4X4 Topkick, in which they are “embracing tiny space living and getting off the beaten path.” The Hart family says they “find inspiration in the kind and generous people they have met around the world, in being outside, in fostering a love for learning and in local food.” When not on the road, you’ll find them on their farm in Missouri. You can follow their adventures on social media @wehartstravel.
During Overland Expo Mountain West, you can join Korey and Anna’s classes “Overlanding as a Family of 6” and “Worldschooling: Step into the World as Your Classroom” to learn more about how to take your own family out on the road for extended periods of time. If you have kids joining you at the Expo, you’ll be able to find Elsie teaching “Arts & Crafts To Go” and Sylvia teaching “Art Journalling” in the Kids Adventure Area. To learn more about the Hart Family, please continue reading below for our interview with them.
Tell us about your rig.
When deciding to overland, we quickly found what we wanted was not readily available off the shelf for a family of six. We stumbled across our GMC C5500 4×4 former mobile command unit online and, after a few graph paper sketches, decided it was perfect. We stripped the cab and habitat to bare metal and then built it back out to suit our needs. The cab bench seat was modified to seat four across the back, while the habitat was built out to include a kitchen, dinette, wet bath, storage, and a bunk for each of the kids. Additions of 1500W of solar, 840AH lithium battery bank, 50 gallons of water, and a separating toilet allow us to comfortably boondock and remain off the grid.
What is your all-time favorite campsite?
That’s a hard one. Several family members named Playa Santispac, Baja, as their favorite. While it was hot outside in May, the water temperature was perfect. We went snorkeling from the beach, took out the paddleboards, and enjoyed the ice cream bike cart stopping by camp for daily deliveries. An iOverlander site in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, was listed as the top contender by two Harts. There is a dock house over the water with hammocks, an overlander enthusiast owner and a friendly caretaker, and the overall vibe made it an incredible experience. We also should mention almost any forest campsite in a high alpine environment; the last one we stayed at is usually our favorite until the next one takes its place.
What is your go-to overlanding meal?
Our family’s favorite comfort food is homemade ramen. We’ve found key ingredients, like ginger, cilantro, spicy peppers, eggs, and greens, to be readily available throughout our travels. We also enjoy adding local vegetables when available. Spaghetti noodles may get substituted for the traditional ramen variety from time to time, but it always turns out delicious.
What is your best silver lining story?
Shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into Guatemala, driving on a narrow, windy road with no shoulder, our tire went flat. However, it wasn’t just a flat. It was a flat caused by a cracked wheel. This issue had surfaced earlier in the trip, but we believed the problem had been resolved. The reoccurrence of the issue on a different wheel confirmed we were riding on a bad batch of wheels. After changing to the spare in a farmer’s driveway with people passing at what felt like dangerously close speed and range, we made it to a campsite to plan our next steps. We knew we needed to import new wheels. This was an incredibly stressful time with the worry of availability, time to ship, cost, visa length relative to shipping time, how to get to friends who had already booked travel to meet us, where to park the rig if we were still able to meet them, how to get around without the rig, where to stay… so many questions loomed in our minds.
The number of people that surfaced to help us over the next eight weeks and the kindness and generosity they showed will always stand out. We had countless people we had never met before help with importing, driving, translation, and logistics. Months of help culminated with the wheels being transported late at night from Guatemala City to where we were staying in Antigua. The wheels had finally been released from customs, and the person helping us didn’t want to wait another day as he knew we would sleep better having them in hand. It was humbling to experience such kindness from others. It impressed upon us there is always community and always people willing to help.
The other silver lining of this incident, once the acute stress of the situation subsided, is that we were able to settle into Guatemalan life. We met and befriended locals and other travelers, and we developed a wonderful daily routine of Spanish or French school in the morning, followed by soccer and chocolate-covered frozen bananas in the afternoon. We were also in Antigua for Semana Santa, a moving and unforgettable experience.
What is an area of overland travel that you think you have nailed? And what is an area of overland travel that you feel you could use some improvement in?
We’ve nailed the planning part; we’ve hit a stride in how much go versus stay is right for us right now. We seem to have found the right mix of camps sites (alone in the woods and those where we might meet other families and socialize), how many activities, hikes, and hours of driving are ideal, and how to listen and act when it’s time to pivot. We’ve also nailed finding great experiences to support our love of learning and worldschooling approach.
The kids only have a few online classes that are time specific, but we, on more occasions than we’d like to admit, have chased an internet connection, racing against the start of the class. Also, Anna would like to improve her mechanical knowledge and skills.
What does your “division” of labor look like while traveling?
Korey is the driver and does the majority of nuts-and-bolts rig maintenance. Anna meal plans, usually cooks and scours for experiences and location intel.
And along those lines, do the kids have set chores or tasks that they are responsible for while you travel?
When pulling in and out of camp, we’ve developed a routine. Kids tidy the cab and empty trash, set up chairs, and organize our outdoor space. They make sure the rig is neat and help to prep meals. They also curate our audiobook selection.
You can meet the Hart family and learn from their amazing journey at Overland Expo Mountain West!