Inside A Traveler’s Walls: Traveling family of Guðrún Helga Jóhannsdótti
Bonjour friends! Wednesday magic is here again! Welcome new and long time followers! Every Wednesday we profile another traveling family (whether they’re single, a couple, or a more “traditional” family) and their home. I know you all like peeking in windows as much as I do. Now we can do it with approval. We share homes that have wheels, tents, walls, smaller wheels, legs and so much more.
If my kids are happy in a place I am too. We are not complicated when it comes to where to live, the most important thing is that it is clean and safe. ~ Guðrún
Today I would like to introduce you to the lovely Jóhannsdótti family of Africa and sometimes Iceland and possibly Europe. Can you believe they are our first family on IATW who live in Africa? We have officially represented every continent on this series, except Antarctica. Anyone in Antarctica? I just love the blend of culture, age and gender in this lovely traveling family. And to add the icing on the cake the predominant theme in today’s post is family and how the choices they make all circle back to how much family time it allows them.
If the only thing stopping you from going is fear, just jump! ~ Guðrún
I think we might be at the point in this series where we start doing “where are they now” post or “how it all began.” This family intrigues me beyond their traveling walls. I want to know how they met and how the initial transition from Iceland (cold) to Senegal (hot) went. I want to learn more about the food and what they love and hate about it. I want to learn… Are you with me? Well, I guess you probably need to read it in order to make that decision. The words Guðrún writes have me longing for more, this family is that cool.
They are growing into amazing human beings that see the world in a different perspective than I did as a child. ~ Guðrún
So, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.
Introduce us to the people you live with?
We are a real African family! Eight of us living together under one roof. My oldest son, which is 13, is a real teenager, he is not too fond of his mom’s choice of lifestyle but goes with it. Sometimes he tries to convince us of moving back to our home country Iceland, but magically his mommy always manages to change his mind. My 9-year-old daughter is a butterfly like her mom, very stubborn and independent, but always up for an adventure. She is a real artist, leaving paper and colors all over the house for the rest of us to trip over. My 3-year-old is like any 3-year-old, happy wherever he is, loves playing and teasing the others.
We are so lucky to live with our African family as well, my partner that is amazed by this lifestyle and loves to try it out, his 15-year-old daughter that like a real teenager is very Senegalese and prefers everything senegalese, his 9-year-old boy who plays foot ball all the time, whether it is with a real ball or just some toys that lay around and his 6-year-old that helps the 3-year-old spread toys over the house and play a superhero game.
I also have a 21-year-old that did not come with us this time, but preferred to stay in Iceland with her boyfriend. They did come to visit us in January though and we had the best time together.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are in Senegal, West-Africa and we are living in a house in a nice neighborhood in Dakar, the country’s capital.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
Since we are home schooling and I am writing up my PhD, we spend a lot of time at home and need space around us. Sometimes it is too hot outside to play, so we really wanted the house to be spacious. We found a house that fits most of our needs, but unfortunately our budget does not go with the house we really preferred. We live close by the sea and there is always a nice breeze outside, which is wonderful when it gets too hot.
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Our house is pretty basic and raw, we do not spend money on decorating it since we know we won’t stay for too long. We do however bring printed photos to hang on the walls with blu-tac.
Tell us your favorite and lease favorite room in your space and why?
Our favorite room is the living room where we have large comfortable sofas and a TV. Everyone can sit comfortably and we all fit here together. The living room is where we eat, chill, work and study so it was our number one priority to make it comfortable and to feel at home there. This is the first time we bought a real sofa when living in Senegal.
The least favorite room is the kitchen, it is very “African”, we cook on gas and in a small electrical oven we bought when we got tired of eating the same Senegalese food every day. It is amazing how this oven has changed our menu, now we are back to our tradition of eating a home-made pizza every Friday night and we can cook meat and vegetables without using oil. But those who are familiar with Senegalese cooking, know that the Senegalese LOVE oil. We share our kitchen with unwelcomed guest like lizards and cockroaches.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I do not know if we had any misconceptions about our current living situation. This is the third time we have lived in Senegal, but the first time in a house (before we lived in apartments). Senegalese houses are very dark, the windows are small and there are bars in the front of them. We are finding it difficult to live in such a dark house, we are used to large windows that let in the sunlight.
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
Small handhold mixer and my large pizza cutter. As I mentioned earlier we make pizzas every Friday night and nothing compares to my large pizza cutter. The handhold mixer is essential when whipping cream or baking a cake. I have been using a small one for almost ten years now or since my large Kitchen Aid was stolen. It does the same job and today I would not change back to the large, clumsy, amazing looking Kitchen Aid. I love keeping it simple and cheap and being able to bring things with me.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
We have moved once a year for the past 11 years so the word permanent does not exist in our vocabulary. I am not sure we miss anything, if we stay too long in one place we get itchy and want to move.
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
They bring a few books each, photos of family members in Iceland, their computers and Ipads.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Here in Senegal we find our items online, from other expats and at the traditional market. You can find anything at the market, if it is not there, you will find someone at the market who knows where to find it or will make it for you.
If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
Space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
We all say natural light, we miss that. We have enough space. We have a woman working at the house cleaning, cooking and doing the dishes. We are using below average internet and it works ok, so natural light is the winner for us.
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
This is an easy one, those that know me know that I do not have any specific decorating style and never have. I love simplicity and comfort. What kitchen appliance is simple and comfortable? I am not sure. Maybe a fridge on a hot day!
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
We keep our traditions during birthdays, Christmas and Easter as if we were in Iceland. We had visitors during Christmas that brought us Icelandic food and Easter eggs that I am hiding in my room. We celebrate birthdays with good food and some activity during the day. A good cake is also essential for birthdays.
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
This year we went to the cheap Chinese store in town and bought very bright, but ridiculously cheap Christmas tree and decorations. The first time we spent Christmas in Senegal we decorated our fan instead of buying a Christmas tree.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
I love the freedom it brings. We are not tied down by anything and can go wherever we want whenever we want. I also love being able to spend 24 hours a day with my kids and control what they study.
Some days are better than others, there are days when my kids absolutely hate being home schooled and miss Iceland terribly, but other days they are thankful being home schooled and love exploring Senegal.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
My home is where my kids are. We can make a home wherever we are as long as we are together. We do not need a house to call it a home. We, at least I, would be perfectly happy with an RV or a boat.
What makes you love the place you live?
If my kids are happy in a place I am too. We are not complicated when it comes to where to live, the most important thing is that it is clean and safe.
Where we live now, Dakar, Senegal, we love mostly because of the people, the Senegalese are known for their hospitality and you always feel safe and welcome wherever you go.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Yes it can. For me it is my kids. I am home wherever I am with them, so maybe theoretically it can be a person or an idea.
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Consider why you want it. If you are running away from something it won’t solve you problems, solve your problems before you go!
If the only thing stopping you from going is fear, just jump!
I feel so blessed to have been able to live with my kids in Senegal on three different occasions. To introduce them to a different type of life than we are used to in Iceland.
This morning they started the day trying to catch a lizard in their room. Some days we cannot shower because we do not have water. Other days we cannot watch TV or go online because there is no electricity.
It is not always rainbows and butterflies, but for the time being it is where and how we live and I love the way it is forming my children. They are growing into amazing human beings that see the world in a different perspective than I did as a child.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We will be leaving Senegal soon, but have not decided where we will be settling next. One thing is sure, we will continue to rent houses and go somewhere in Europe! Our first stop will be Iceland where we will spend the summer, but next autumn who knows? Iceland or somewhere else in Europe, time will tell.
If you have children what are your plans for education?
I world school my kids at the moment. We follow an Icelandic curriculum but do it from distance and add and skip some subjects. We will always be following some curriculum because I want my kids to be able to go to university when they get older if they want to. As for world schooling, I think we will continue doing it in sessions, like we have been for the past six years. It suits us well to jump into traditional schooling while in Iceland, but take up world schooling while abroad.
How do you make a living?
I am a PhD candidate and have a research grant. Since I am writing up my thesis I can be anywhere in the world while writing. A part from that I am translating movies online and working on various small online projects, like proof reading and webpage design.
Quote to ponder:
I love the freedom it brings.
Wow! Another amazing family of worldschoolers creating their own path. Have you been to Iceland? I have not been to Senegal, but I can imagine the contrast splitting time between these locations can offer the children some really neat experiences. What a great lesson in adaptability and cultural learning. Good job parents! And who wants to take off to Africa? Me, pick me. I just love anyplace that has kind and honest people! How about you?
Interested in living like the Jóhannsdótti’s? WorldTowning’s services can help make this families story ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there will you every step of the way.
Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.