Amy Board and Pat Johnston travel America

by | May 11, 2017 | Travel | 0 comments

Tauranga locals, Amy Board and Pat Johnston, take their three daughters Ellie (10), Celia (8) and Molly (4) on a year-long trip around America, the country of Pat’s birth. 


  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • LAX, California
  • Redwoods, California
  • Sebastopol, California
  • Bodega Bay, California
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Bear Creek, Wyoming
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Mt Rainier, Washington
  • Fidalgo Island, Washington
  • Port Townsend, Washington
  • Makah Indian Reservation, Washington
  • Hoh Rainforest, Washington
  • Quinault Rainforest, Washington
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Pacific City, Oregon
  • Tillamook forest, Oregon
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Crater Lake, Oregon
  • Smith Rock, Oregon
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Summer Lake, Oregon
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Florence, Oregon


  • Nevada City, California
  • Yosemite, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Anza borrego, California
  • Joshua Tree, California
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico

Travelling around America in a bus has always been a dream for us. I wanted the freedom of long-term travel and the experience of camping alongside other travelling families. My husband, Pat, was drawn to exploring national parks and teaching the kids wilderness skills, as well as showing them that the country of his birth has so much more to offer than the negative clichés they often heard.

LAST YEAR WE RECEIVED AN INVITATION TOFAMILY WEDDING IN AMERICA. It seemed a pretty big expense for just two weeks. We reasoned that the children were the ideal age for full-time travel and we had a family base (Pat’s parents) in the middle of America to launch from, so we decided this was the ideal time to travel for a year.

WE MOVED OUT OF OUR HOME ON OCEANBEACH ROAD IN THE MOUNT, gave away or sold most of our belongings, and bought five, one-way tickets to Los Angeles. Pat’s uncle picked us up in his luxurious 33foot, class-A RV. He drove us the 2,500 km back to Pat’s home town in style, with us thinking, “Don’t get used to this, kids!”

WHILE STAYING WITH PAT’S PARENTS IN OMAHA, WE QUICKLY BOUGHT A 1985 CONVERTED SHORT BUS FROMSELFPROCLAIMED REDNECK. He had built it as a ‘bug-out bus’ for the impending apocalypse and had installed a new Chevy hot rod engine, new tyres and brakes, and a ridiculously powerful sound system; Pat was happy. There was also a flushing toilet, small kitchenette, water tank, and bunkbeds; I was happy. It was nothing like the uncle’s fancy RV monster; the girls were crestfallen. We now had our new, tiny home. We named her Shelby, installed solar panels, and hit the road.

TEN YEARS AGO, PATHAD WITNESSED THE EXTRAORDINARY BEAUTY OF THE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK IN MONTANA. That was the kind of wilderness we wanted our girls to experience, so we headed west and have been travelling through the Pacific Northwest for the last three months, camping and exploring the immense wilderness of Oregon and Washington. We always go on hikes when we are staying in national parks and are often surprised at the stamina of the girls. In Crater Lake National Park, little Molly walked 7 km with a 350 m elevation change and refused to be picked up once. Torrential downpours in the rainforest or recent sightings of bears have yet to stop them from going out into the wild. We have found that the long stretches of time walking out in nature lend themselves to deep discussions and we have been surprised by some of the topics that come up during these walks: Trump versus Clinton, American history, the Civil War and slavery, World War II, and the oil pipeline protests.

Celia foraging for native blackberries for her porridge Tillamook Forest, Oregon.

TO KEEP UP WITH THEIR SCHOOLING, THE GIRLS DO OBSERVATIONAL DRAWINGS AND WRITE TRAVEL JOURNALS. Ellie and Celia each have large workbooks that cover all subjects for their year level: proper nouns, long division and so on. But the bigger curriculum they are following at the moment is the one I’m really enjoying helping them with. It involves walking along South Beach in Oregon finding fossils, observing erosion and the weather, identifying animal footprints and semi-precious gemstones, and guessing how fresh bear poo is.

IT HAS BEEN HARD ADJUSTING TO THE SMALL SPACE IN THE BUS. Each area has multiple uses; our dinner table converts to our third bed, for example. Something simple like getting your swimming bag out is a three-step-process with two people in your way. And when it’s pouring with rain, the chaos is intensified. We like to settle at one spot for more than a few days, but we are restricted by our holding tanks. Several times we would have liked to have stayed at certain places longer, but have had to go into town to empty our black water and fill up with fresh water, and ended up moving onto the next spot. We also have had to change the way we normally hike and camp because of potentially dangerous animals, such as bears, cougars and rattlesnakes. We can’t let the kids run ahead on hikes like in New Zealand, and have to be very conscious about storing food and cleaning up.

TO FUND OUR TRIP WE HAVE BEEN WORKING ONLINE OR STOPPING TO WORK WHEN NEEDED. We wanted to keep our route very flexible, so if we met people we wanted to travel with, we could change direction at a moment’s notice. Some of the best moments on our travels have come about from changing our plans, and making new friends with other travelling families. After surviving a typhoon in the Oregon High Desert, we went with two other families to Summer Lake Hot Springs. That night the tail end of the typhoon hit hard, so all the kids and animals piled into our bus. We lit candles and played the ukulele, while very strong winds swept through camp. It’s been wonderful to savour what feels like old world moments: cooking on an open fire and eating outside every night, fishing and foraging for wild fruit and berries, and reading to the kids by candlelight.

Pat and Amy fireside camping just outside of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

AND NOW WE ARE HEADING SOUTH FOR WINTER, WE WILL STOP AND WORK FOR THE HOLIDAYS, then perhaps head for the East Coast and Canada next year. Ultimately, we want to bring Shelby back to New Zealand and continue this adventure.

You might also like:

The Long and Winding Flow

With a shared passion for all things motor, Brent Devcich, Paul Pedersen and Gavin Feast embark on the ultimate boys’ trip: MOTORCYCLING ALONG THE MEKONG RIVER — a winding journey through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. Brent breaks the golden rule, and tells us what happened on tour.

Read Article+

Amy writes travel letters from the road to her friends and family at her blog OCEANFAMILYROADTRIP.COM

Amy and Pat have started a Patreon page to fundraise to help get the bus back to New Zealand, and make videos of their trip. If you’d like to support them, go to PATREON.COM (Ocean Family Roadtrip)

UNO. on Facebook

UNO. on Instagram

INSTAGRAM: @unomagnz


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This


Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from UNO. Magazine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!