It’s not unusual for a family with young children to take a road trip and explore the countryside.
But the Martens family is making theirs a year-long adventure that they hope will lead to a new place to call home.
Honor, left, and Avalon explore Multnomah Falls in Oregon during their educational vacation with their parents. The Martens family has been teaching the children during a trip that began in late June in Temecula. (Courtesy of Martens family)
From left, Justin, Honor, Avalon and Jess Martens, seen at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona during their family learning vacation that is still continuing and expected to take about one year. (Courtesy of Martens family)
From left, Justin, Honor, Avalon and Jess Martens, seen while visiting family in Flagstaff, Arizona. The children are learning with the help of online charter school lessons. (Courtesy of Martens family)
Honor, left, and sister Avalon enjoy Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during their family’s learning vacation. (Courtesy of Martens family)
Jess Martens, with daughter, Avalon; and son Honor; are seen at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona during the family’s learning vacation. (Courtesy of Martens family)
Temecula residents Justin and Jess Martens decided to give their two children a hands-on educational experience by exploring various parts of the United States while traveling in an RV.
Since leaving California in late June, they’ve visited 14 states on a journey started with them heading up the West Coast to Oregon, Washington and then to Idaho and Colorado. They celebrated Christmas with a train ride on the Polar Express in Arizona and spent New Year’s Day in New Orleans. The Martens are on the move every two to three days and have traveled from the Redwoods to the Everglades. By the time the trek is over, they hope to visit North and South Carolina and Virginia.
Daughter Avalon, 8 and son Honor, 6, are students at Springs Charter Schools’ Venture Online, which provides curriculum and support for the children’s education while they’re on the road.
“It’s instinctive to want to learn, that’s how kids walk and talk on their own,” Justin Martens said. “We allow them to be kids and take interest in what naturally fascinates them. We are always on the lookout for the next cool science/children’s discovery center.”
Justin Martens said his children constantly ask questions and are curious about their ever-changing environment.
“There’s always something going on in the world classroom,” he said.
Along with daily assignments in reading, writing, vocabulary and math, Avalon and Honor also complete monthly projects. They test and get graded online. The curriculum is adjusted based on progress and students can only move on to the next level or concept when they have shown competency.
The couple has been married for 10 years and works together as professional photographers.
“We also dream together,” said Justin Martens, who moved to Temecula when he was 8. “The seed for this trip was planted a year or so ago but came to life New Year’s Day 2018.”
While discussing what they wanted to put heir energy into professionally and personally, the idea to rent out their home, hit the road and try something new for a year became a reality.
“We wanted to get re-inspired and open ourselves up to new possibilities,” Justin Martens said. “We were going into our 10th year photographing and weddings were becoming all too routine. It really was time for a change and, although this seemed radical, it was exactly what needed to happen.”
The mental preparation was huge, he said. The family spent about six months getting ready for the road and left June 27 — Justin Martens’ 37th birthday.
“It was almost a now-or-never situation with our kids,” he said. “If we waited too much longer to do this they wouldn’t want to leave their city and friends. They are at the perfect age to travel: self-sufficient enough to adventure and explore and they have imaginations that won’t quit.”
Justin Martens said it wasn’t difficult to pick a route.
“Simply put: go up when it’s hot, down when it’s not,” he said.
They plan to visit areas where they have family and friends and some points in between to find the spot where they’ll put down new roots.
“We are looking for a place that has small-town charm but not so small that it cuts off opportunity,” Justin Martens said. “A good family area with nice schools and not over 100 degrees in the summer.”
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Currently living in a 200 square-foot RV day after day won’t rush their decision.
The family trusts they’ll end up with the best experience they are meant to have, he said.
“Honestly, it’s the unplanned places that jump out at us along the way that make some of the best unforgettable experiences,” Justin Martens said. “Follow your heart, do what feels right, listen to that feeling inside that tells you to do something and don’t let your logical brain talk you out of it. Follow through on your gut feeling – that’s how you navigate by heart.”
Follow the Martens at www.navigatebyheart.com or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/navigate.by.heart.