Life on the road is just ‘life’ for the Harteau family. We catch up Emily Harteau to find out how she manages the day-to-day logistics of a mobile, micro-household with kids.

I’m a pretty good travel packer and I have been known to ‘pre-pack’ a week in advance. But one time, years ago and pre-kids, I went on a business trip and forgot to pack a bra. Yes, a bra. No idea what I was wearing on the plane ride to get away with forgetting one and no, I didn’t call down to the front desk of the hotel to see if they could send one up. (“Hello, could you send up a hairdryer and a 34B bra? Preferably skin-toned—I did bring that drapey white top.”)
These days there’s a lot of this type of banter on family trips: “I thought you were packing the kid’s toothpaste.”  So when I recently heard a story on PRI catching up with the Harteau family on their no-end-in-sight road trip, I wondered how they managed to keep up with all the family/kid stuff. Their morning routine is like packing up camp every day—while wrangling a 4-year old and 9-month old. And always on the move, they don’t have their go-to spots for the necessities. So I decided to get in touch with Emily Harteau and ask. Here’s how she manages to keep everyone in clean diapers, and fresh crayons while living a life on their open road.

Was it tough hitting the road again when Sierra [their youngest, now 9 months]  was only 4 months old? Were you still up every night nursing? It sounds exhausting…how did you manage?
We actually moved out of our little beach house to travel back stateside for a visit when Sierra was 9 weeks old. Yes, still up every night nursing, but I have grown accustomed to that and relish this short time with my nursling.

“Having a mobile home, we find that it can be sometimes be a mountain cabin, sometimes an oasis in the desert, and often we just find ourselves living in a tiny beach house.” – Emily Harteau

I’m not going to ask any stupid questions about school readiness or any of that nonsense for Colette. Just so you know.
You can if you like. Colette has many workbooks and loves when we ‘do school.’ She knows her alphabet, and enjoys sounding out words or asks us how to spell something, she knows all her numbers, is now working on simple math. We will continue to road-school (aka world-school) her as we travel and do not plan on settling down in one permanent location.

The Harteau’s home. Pretty sure they can’t get a delivery here.

But I will ask a bit about kid-logistics: diapers? Are you making your own baby food on the road, and if so, what’s that like?
Colette was cloth diapered and Sierra was for the first few months, but it was just too time consuming to maintain on the road. We use plastic disposable diapers now. I do make our own baby food, having a mini-chopper and a pressure-cooker are my two indispensable kitchen items for this. An exemplary day would be: grated apple in oatmeal with chia flour for breakfast, broccoli finger-food with polenta for lunch, and perhaps pumpkin soup for dinner. If it’s a busy day, store-bought apple sauce, crackers, avocado and lots of nursing.

Do you find it difficult to find the everyday items like diapers, wipes, etc? I’m guessing you use what’s local, so was that an adjustment?
Ha! YES. In the States, we have about a million options for everything (and deciding can be quite a job in itself), but on the road we have to buy what is available. Certainly an adjustment, and I of course would prefer to buy organic, but that is one of the costs of choosing this life.

An overhead shot of Emily in her mobile kitchen.

An overhead shot of Emily in her mobile kitchen.

What about groceries? Where does the family shop? Is it mainly at grocery stores or smaller, local markets?
When at all possible I shop direct at small farms or farmers markets, but that is only an occasional gift. We usually find a verduleria, green grocer, and stock up there on all our fruit and veg. We go through a lot in a week, as I make pretty produce heavy food. If we are in a bigger town, there is usually a natural health foods store that I can restock on sundries like miso, nori, organic dried legumes and the like. Last stop is the regular grocery store, where to fill in the blanks. Or in many places that is the only option, so I have become well versed in making the best with what’s available.

Besides the mini-chopper and pressure cooker, what are your go-to items that makes life on the road with kids do-able?
For logistics with Sierra (10 mo) we have a BumbleRide Flite stroller for international travel and our Ergo is essential for daily excursions. Coco hikes and walks whatever we do now. For fun, Coco (4yo) loves her art supplies- bag of pens, pencils, crayons for coloring books which she loves to do while we drive and watercolors and paper at camp.

Logistics again: potty training?
Colette potty-trained at the very beginning of the trip, and Sierra is only 9 months old now… so we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Last logistics question: Sleeping?My oldest daughter was really tough if she didn’t to bed at an early hour (and a late hour didn’t mean she slept later). Are you all trying to stick to any regular sleep schedules or is everyone okay just sleeping when they’re tired?
Knock on wood, we have flexible sleepers. Even pre-departure, we are not schedule people. We bring them everywhere, and they sleep when tired. We have the luxury of having our house with us nearly all times, so we can just pop the top when its time for the kiddos to go to bed.

"On a technical front, we do play a bit of ‘musical beds’ with the kids.  Colette & Sierra go down upstairs first, then we transfer Coco downstairs when Adam & I go to bed.  She may climb upstairs for a snuggle in the wee hours, or snooze like a splayed starfish downstairs." -Emily

“On a technical front, we do play a bit of ‘musical beds’ with the kids.  Colette & Sierra go down upstairs first, then we transfer Coco downstairs when Adam & I go to bed.  She may climb upstairs for a snuggle in the wee hours, or snooze like a splayed starfish downstairs.” -Emily

For many families stateside, a Friday movie night after a long week of work/school/daily routines is looked forward to as a treat to both parents and kids? What’s a big indulgence for your family on the road?
Yeah, kind of the same for us. Maybe a nice meal out then pulling up a movie on our laptop and all watching it together. We try to live life on the road like it is just our life, not a vacation, which is a big difference. We don’t eat out that often, certainly far less than we did in LA. What best fits the ‘big indulgence’ category is our annual trip back to the states.

Any advice for parents who want to take a long or off-the-beaten track trip with kids but are afraid to?
A trip unplugged is a greatly rewarding experience. As busy, modern folks, it is easy to feel very far away from nature and the rhythms of the natural world, but most people are only a few hours at most from some place with solitude. Long and off the beaten path trips, you will find everywhere people have and love kids—do not be afraid, you will find your children more hugged and kissed then you thought possible!

Do you meet many other traveling families?
We get really excited when we meet other traveling families, because for every 50 travelers we meet, there is 1 family.

Do you believe that your nomadic lifestyle has affected the way you parent at all?
Our weekend life pre-departure looks very similar to our day to day now, so no—parenting on the road just allows me to invest more time being the type of parent I love to be.


"During the long winter months of rain, it seems locals in Mira Mar have caught wind of the yarn bombing trend that is circulating the globe." -Emily

“During the long winter months of rain, it seems locals in Mira Mar have caught wind of the yarn bombing trend that is circulating the globe.” -Emily


Tranquility on the road.

Tranquility on the road.

Follow the Harteau’s adventures at Our Open Road.

Image credits: All images courtesy Our Open Road.