Van Life with the Hockings

van life with the hocking family

The Hocking Family was your conventional American family until July 2021, when they decided to revolutionize how they experienced life. The Hocking Family – made up of Jim, Cara, and their four children – made the decision to stand apart from the traditional way of living and hit the road to explore new places and gain priceless experiences in their converted 2005 Thomas school bus, which they affectionately call ‘The Hocking Adventure Bus’. The Hockings traded their large house, glitzy vehicles, and all the other, should we say, unnecessary junk that comes with being a large family for a simpler, more adventurous life.

This decision to hit the road in converted buses, vans, and other types of mobile homes has become an increasingly popular movement, with many people breaking free from traditional living to explore new environments. We sat down and had a chat with BOTE Ambassadors, the Hockings, about their experiences on the road, any challenges they’ve faced, and any wisdom they’ve gained from their journey. Without further ado, let’s rip it!

The Hocking Adventure Bus
Hocking Adventure Bus

So, tell us what motivated you to want to live and travel as a family of six on a bus?

We had always played around with the idea of pursuing this type of journey. Even before having our youngest child, we would have conversations about it but life and stuff always seemed to be in the way. Then, after we welcomed our youngest, we took the opposite route, and instead of buying a bus, we bought our dream house in Iowa. But, we still were not content and could not stop thinking about the what-ifs. We always found ourselves either working at our jobs, shuttling our kids to and from activities, or completing time-consuming updates to our house. We truly felt that our time was getting wasted on things we did not want and that we needed to make a major change to how we were living our lives. It was not until our oldest daughter was 12 years old that it finally dawned on us that it was now or never.

Hocking kids in van window

Therefore, it is safe to say that time was the main motivator for us to want to live and travel on a bus. We just knew we would never get back the time to make cool memories with our kids who were growing up so fast. Another motivator that helped lead us to this decision was the idea of “mini-retirements” from a book called, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. This book introduced the idea of “mini-retirements” and pointed out that everyone works until they are around 65 years old. But, whenever you can retire, not only are your kids all grown, but you may not be physically able to do the same things you want anymore. So we thought to ourselves, what is the harm in taking a “mini-retirement” off from our lives to gain more experiences together as a family.

Girl climbing tree over a spring
Aero Lounge
Water Hammock

Since you guys have taken a leap of faith into this nomad type of lifestyle, what would you say has been the most memorable experience on the road?

About a year ago when we had just started reaching out to different brands and were trying to get partnerships, we got lucky with a collaboration with ACE Adventures Resort in West Virginia. This white-water rafting company brought our family out and filled our schedule with a series of really amazing adventures in turn for being a talent for their shoot. We did rock climbing, zip-lining, and a ton of other cool things as a family.

Going from a big house for a family of six to a bus requires some noticeable downsizing. How has your family embraced this minimalistic lifestyle and do you experience any freedom or flexibility from it?

Whenever we started the process of downsizing and selling our belongings, other people would often react like something horrible was happening to us. It was obvious that they felt bad for us like we were losing something significant. However, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Little did they know but every time we listed another thing or sold another item that was just simply taking up space, we felt an exhilarating sense of liberation. We used to be huge consumers, we had a huge house with tons of stuff in it, and yes, even storage units filled with even more stuff. It was truly overwhelming the amount of stuff we had. Through adopting a minimalist lifestyle, our family has gained several valuable lessons. First, it’s taught us that we are not tied to our possessions and that none of the stuff we own will ever give us fulfillment. Another great thing we’ve gained from this experience is that the less money we spend on random stuff that we honestly don’t need, the more money we have to spend on adventures together as a family. The bus forces us to stick to buying only what we need due to the strict space constraints. This lifestyle has also allowed us to be more intentional with how we spend our money.

On that same note, you guys are constantly on the move and adapting to new environments. In what ways do you think your family’s adaptability and resilience can inspire others to try this lifestyle?

We’ve just learned to be flexible in our plans and pivot whenever necessary. There are definitely going to be some ‘bumps in the road’ along the way but it really comes down to how you perceive the issue. Because once you’re aware of those challenges you can adapt to the situation and everything works out just fine. We’ve learned during this journey that it’s more about living and less about worrying.

How do you balance work and travel while living on the road?

One of our biggest challenges in bus life has been balancing work and travel. We struggle with finding the happy medium in delegating time for the things we want to do, work days, and rest days. Mainly just because there is so much that we want to do. Also though living on a bus and in such a small space means that we are constantly going to be dealing with interruptions. While we have learned to make adjustments and found solutions, having a healthy work-life balance for us has been tricky.

How have our products benefited you while traveling on a bus?

We love how storable and portable our BOTEs are. They’ve allowed us to be able to venture out onto the water more. While we had to add a whole new storage onto the top of our car to store our boards, it has completely changed how we can explore. We used to always do hikes at the national parks and state parks, but this got old for our kids. So we love how our boards allow us to venture more into the water and explore different areas as a family. Also, we love how versatile our BOTE products are too. For instance, we use our KULA 5 as a seat on our bus which is a quirky multi-function.

Enjoying Water Hammock pushed by kids
Flow Aero Kids
Three people paddling
Kids hanging in an Aero Chair

What has been the most challenging aspect of living and traveling on a bus as a family?

The most challenging aspect of living on a converted bus is that the buses are old and sometimes need repairs. But the problem with these repairs is that they can quickly add up to be expensive. It would be great if we were more mechanically inclined and could do some of the work ourselves but our skills only go so far. Another challenge associated with bus repairs is that it means we are often without our home on wheels and have to stay in a hotel or go camping until everything gets fixed.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start their van life journey, what would it be?

We say just try it out. You’ll never know if you never try, right? Yes, the unknown is scary, but so is living a life of regrets and what-ifs. We’ve been on this journey for 21 months, and it's been a life-changing and exciting whirlwind of an adventure. We wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything.

The Hocking Family represents the epitome of why we create badass products at BOTE:

to stand apart through industry-shaping innovation, fresh ideas and simplicity to create a product that defines a lifestyle.

It’s all about the lifestyle and we love helping people get out and explore. If you’d like to follow the Hocking Family along on their journey you can follow @thehockingadventurebus.

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