Photojournalists Peter and Kathy Holcombe were constantly on the road. They’d leave their hometown of Boulder, Colo., for a few days at a time to photograph dramatic landscapes: mountains, deserts, oceans. They’d return home to spend a day or two mowing the grass or doing laundry, only to take off again.
“Frankly, home got to be kind of a chore,” Peter said. “We’d get done shooting and then basically charge home and get things done there and take off again on the next trip. The idea that we could slow it down a bit and spend more time in these beautiful places was appealing.”
So when Kathy suggested they pack up their home into a used Winnebago RV, with their now 13-year-old daughter in tow, it didn’t take long to transition to life on the road. They put their house on the market in the summer of 2014 and sold it within three hours. Within a month, they had bought an RV, packed up and hit the road.
Over the past three years, the trio has traveled more than 150,000 miles (241,400 km) through 49 states, bringing their adventures to life through photos, short films and narratives. “Our work has become our play and our play is our work, and those two have come together in the most extraordinary way,” Kathy said. They’ve traveled to nearly every major city in the United States, gone rock climbing in the Sierra Nevada mountains and discovered gold where the California gold rush started.
They’ve learned a lot over the years, addressing issues with space, electricity, and work-life balance as they come. “But it’s not nearly as hard as we thought it was going to be. We work eight hours, we play eight hours, we drive a few hours — so we’re busy. We still have deadlines. We have to base where we are and what we’re doing on the ability to connect and communications. Electricity used to be a problem, but now we’ve put a bunch of solar power in our RV. It’s not a vacation; it’s a lifestyle.”
Their daughter, Abby, took everything in stride. “We travel to kayak, chasing white water all across North America,” Kathy told us. “Other families do the same thing, so we run into the same kids at different rivers across the country, and they compete together. During competition season we’ll see them for three to four months straight, and then we catch up with them again someplace else. So she has a great group of friends all over the country.”
Initially, the Holcombes worried about how their trip would affect Abby — but these concerns proved to be unfounded. “What we’ve seen is our shy little 10-year-old turning into this outgoing, amazing, extraordinary teenager. She’s gained a lot of confidence from this, and she understands how the world works.”
Abby dreams of following her parents in her own Winnebago, kayaking, working remotely and continuing the nomadic lifestyle. Recently she kayaked the entire Grand Canyon in her own kayak; she is the youngest person to have done so.
It’s a vision the whole family shares, the Holcombes say. “More than anything, we’re hoping that what we’re doing just inspires people to chase their dreams,” Peter said. “We have a lot of friends who are rock climbers, then they had kids, and they quit rock climbing. They didn’t quite figure out how to do it with their kids. But you can take your kids and go have adventures and have an amazing experience as a family. So we just want to inspire people to get out there and just try it.”
So far, there’s no end in sight to the Holcombes’ family adventure. “There’s no expiration date,” Kathy says. “We’re going to keep doing it as long as it feels right and it’s working for our family.” Next in store for the Holcombes is a photography project for Winnebago in Colorado, followed by a road tour through Utah and Colorado, and an East Coast trip from Canada to Florida. They stay busy!
Follow their adventures at www.famagogo.com.