Does anyone else remember the Wild Thornberries? They were a cartoon family from the late 90s that lived in Africa, shooting documentaries, getting into adventures and generally living the dream. They even had a talking monkey. Well we may have found their real life equivalent (minus the monkey thing).
Meet the Bartholomews, aka You Can’t be Serious. They’re made up of Hailey (mum), Andrew (dad), Zani (15) and Poppi (12). They don’t quite live on the road full time, but they do make a living by travelling: producing incredible film and photography for companies like Phillips, Nestle, Subway and – we’re happy to say – us. They’re a four person content powerhouse. An incredibly talented one to boot.
We sat down with mother Hailey to ask how her family came to live this amazing life, and why travel provides a better education than classrooms ever could.
How did it all begin?
About 7 years ago we began dreaming of having our business facilitating our family time and us travelling together as a family. It took a few years to get going but it has been an amazing adventure. Our family and lifestyle is one where we try and jam in as much together time as possible. We want our kids to learn via experiences and through their own interests rather then traditional means. We have unschooled our kids for 7 years and it is this philosophy that has helped us create a life we really love.
To begin with we were hired as photographers doing everything to do with people. We enjoyed it but I always thought about working on films and I have about a billion ideas to get through… so films became what I filled up my spare time with. We run our little business around our family and around the things that are important to us. Wherever possible we take our kids along on our travels and while they may not get to go on shoots every other week they do travel to lots of interesting places. Usually one of us takes the kids to cool things while the other works. It has been a great adventure and we are amazed and grateful we get to live this lifestyle.
How many days a year would you say you’re all on the road?
It depends on what is going on… A couple years ago we spent nearly 5 months away… but as the kids have got a little bit older and we have moved to somewhere we LOVE so much…. we have spent a little less time on the road. Last year we spent only two months travelling.
How do you handle the ordinary family stuff: school, friends, home life etc?
To be honest it is really hard work to run a business on the road. When you’re somewhere interesting it is hard to sit at your computer and reply to emails and send quotes. Our kids are pretty good at keeping up with friends via social media. To be honest I find it best to simply be wherever you are. When I am on a job working I am there. When I am home and we are in our life, I’m building my garden and enjoying our friends and hustling for work. It all seems to work out in the end but there is often a few hair-raising days in between.
What’s your background? Did you teach yourself video etc?
I was a photographer first. I started assisting and getting mentoring from photographers many years ago. I always thought about making films but with small kids felt that it was something that needed to be done when they were a bit older. And sure enough I have. I think having the visual background of all the photography has helped immensely. I taught myself to make films by making them. I am not the best at reading manuals or sitting and researching things for long periods of time but I am good at getting in and getting my hands dirty if I am interested.
What are the kids’ specialties? Photography, travel writing, video?
Our girls are now 15 and 12 years old. They are both super into travel. Zali runs her own little blog and shop. She sells her artwork and loves to do travel posts and videos and photography and a little bit of fashion too. She has been blogging since she was nine years old. Poppy is 12 and she’s an aspiring actress and a fantastic writer. They’re both working on building their own audiences for their work and passion.
What’s been your favourite family adventure so far?
Going to India with friends of ours was pretty much the best adventure we have ever been on. We are all in love with India. The food, the people, the colour and the chaos… it is our kind of country! We have done quite a few trips to India but last year we took good friends of ours and that was truly the trip of a lifetime. We stayed in more interesting places than I had previously: friendly villa’s and even a crazy cool palace. Our kids were all so entertained, and us adults got a bit of time for some fun on our own too. That is one of the beauties of travelling with another family. Here’s the film we made from our adventures:
How does an average day on the road work? Do you get together as a family and plan it out, or just see what happens?
Well that depends. On the group tours one of the things I love most is not having to think too much about where we are staying or where to eat or what else we need to be doing or going and how to get there. The details are handled too. It meant so much more time was spent soaking up and enjoying the places we visited.
When we travel without Intrepid we usually have a rough idea of times we will be in each place and then take it day by day. We normally book accommodation beforehand but everything else on the fly. Sometimes I have specific things in mind that must be done… like seeing the Holi festival or getting art lessons or pottery lessons… but usually it is fairly flying by the seat of our pants.
Would you say travel gives your kids a better education than a ‘traditional’ school life could?
I would most definitely say that travel is the most amazing education. From language and exchange rates to understanding politics from different countries, travel gives everyone a bigger view on the world. And to have that from a young age is super important. I think it also helps teenagers see just how amazing and lucky we are to come from the country we do. The everyday stuff we take for granted becomes more special when you travel, when you go without simple things like easy access to clean water. I feel like travel opens up our hearts to be braver and understanding things from another point of view.
On our trip to Cuba, the kids played UNO with our guide but every play had to be played in Spanish! We all learnt songs and the history of Cuba and our guide’s love for his country was contagious. We loved getting a sense of what was safe and ok to do with kids from a very well informed local.