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Issue Four / Profiles
“We can’t just go to Europe and live in a car—you’re crazy”

Adam and Chelsea James

Words by Jessica Baucom Photographs by Britt Chudleigh

A portrait of a young couple in search of home while traveling all over. 

From the moment Chelsea and Adam met, the concept of home had a whole new meaning. “The first thing we did (after we were married) was go on a six-month honeymoon,” Adam explains. “We went to London, bought a van and took it across the continent. We drove everywhere. Chelsea had never been to Europe, which was like a sin in my eyes, so we had to go right away.” Chelsea says, “I thought, We can’t just go to Europe and live in a car; you’re crazy. But then we went over there, and we did it. We didn’t have any plans whatsoever, and it all worked out, and it was such an adventure.” She adds candidly, “We got to know each other really fast.”

This European road trip was only the beginning of the unconventional traveling ahead for the Jameses. Since their marriage in the summer of 2004, Chelsea and Adam have been to five different continents, more than 50 countries, and taken endless amounts of flights, train rides, and road trips.

Living on the road suited the young couple. As an artist, Chelsea was flexible about where and when she could work, and Adam could run his online business from any location with wifi. “Home” became an ever-evolving combination of new destinations. The couple rarely looked at their travels as a vacation—there was always a motivating factor. “For us, it’s less about ‘Let’s go on vacation.’ It’s more like, ‘Let’s go get inspiration.'” Chelsea adds, “We work from home, so we get burnt out; when I need a break, we go take a break; then I am ready to work again.”

Chelsea and Adam’s life in the States mirrored their transient lifestyle abroad for a while—living in multiple states and in multiple homes seemed like a natural way of life—but eventually the reality of moving furniture and belongings became exhausting. They had an added incentive to settle down when they learned they were expecting–they found the perfect place to settle, and Lulu arrived in February 2010.

Having a new baby brought many of the typical lifestyle changes for these two, but it did not bring Chelsea and Adam’s need to travel to a halt—not even close. They knew; however, that something would have to change. “…Living in a car with Lulu? It wouldn’t be fun; it would be hard,” Chelsea says. The solution? A home exchange, something Adam heard about from another traveler. People swap homes for an agreed amount of time, each using the other’s spaces like their own.

Adam admits he was skeptical at first. “I think everyone, when they first hear about it, is kind of nervous. Someone living in my house—how do you trust them?” But as they did their research, they realized the participants were just like them: people looking for a unique trip that would give them an inside perspective on how others live across the world.

“We’re at a new stage. I like to be able to stay somewhere and be able to get to know it really well. I like to ride my bike around and get to know the shops and the bakeries—something a bit more intimate,” Chelsea explains. Adam goes on, “People in this program take a lot of pride in telling you about their favorite restaurant or their favorite places around town. We’ve had experiences where their friends even come over and want to take us around and have us over for dinner. It’s really remarkable.”

Since participating in home exchanges through a program called HomeLink, the Jameses have stayed in France, the Netherlands, Sweden and New York City. “Amsterdam was my favorite.” Chelsea remembers. “It was a five-story apartment on the canal.” They receive requests for home exchanges “at least once a week,” Adam explains. “I just responded to one in Paris. I had to say no of course, with the twins coming.” (Yes, you heard right—Chelsea and Adam are now expecting twins!). When asked if the twins’ arrival would slow down travel plans for a while, you can guess the answer: not a chance.

So what advice does this adventurous couple have for all of us who long to travel? “Do it and do it now. Don’t wait because the inspiration and the way it changes your life from the moment you get back is so important. Get that inspiration and change yourself for the better now, instead of waiting and going when you really don’t have the ability to change your life in such a drastic manner.”

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