Interview 015 – Swag Family Hughes | Bike Touring With Children on Tandem Bikes

 Kids are the best adventures because they don’t have a lot of preconditions and ideas about what it should be like. They adapt very quickly to whatever the situation is. And, honestly, I think I’d probably rather take a 3 and 5 year old than some of the adults I’ve worked with over the years.

The meaning of swag to North Americans means free stuff you get in a bag before an event such as a marathon, etc. In Australia, it means something quite different. A swag is a person that carries all their belongings with them, similar to a Hobo in North America. The Hughes family decided to call themselves the Swag Family as they are carrying all their belongings with themselves for this one year family tour.

Nicola, an elementary school outdoor education teacher in Tasmania, and Andrew, who runs an adventure learning company that goes on adventures and creates educational content that schools can purchase so that their students can follow along on the adventures, all the while learning science.

 If we were to give our kids to someone else and give them an experience like this as a paid education product…you couldn’t find anyone to do it for you, but they would charge an awful lot. 

Andrew and Nicola decided that this was the right time to do this adventure as a family. not only because they are still small enough that cycling with them is relatively easy, but young children are more adaptable. Throughout the journey, the children haven’t been averse to riding on the bike and Andrew and Nicola feel that they complain much much less than they would on a tour that involved driving in a car day-after-day.

Although it is quite expensive to travel for an entire year, the Swag Family feel that they have been fortunate that they received so much funding by the Department of Education of Tasmania, and other private organization, through which they are doing research, creating video content and other educational materials that children in schools around the country can use to learn about Australia and its environment. Even though their funding doesn’t cover all their costs, Andrew and Nicola feel that it has been an investment worth making.

At the core of it, humans can be very generous, caring, wonderful and interesting people regardless of where you live and how you live your life. That has been a really huge thing for our kids and for us to experience.

Cycling around Australia has allowed the Swag Family to really see all the best that the people have to offer. Travelling with kids brings out a kindness in people that has been shown time and again, and allowed their children to develop their sense of curiosity, allowed them to take risks and be more open to differences in people and places.

That was their first big step into breaking down that fear of strangers and the unknown.

Next year, life will be back to normal with Nicola back to work in elementary school. Andrew will be working on creating more content for school kids, exploring the idea of creating an educational documentary about the trip and possibly even writing a book. The kids will be back to school, but we can be fairly certain that their experiences over the previous year will have changed them greatly. The Swag Family has a plan for 2021 but are still being tight-lipped about it and we can only wait and see what it will be.

Cheers to the Swag Family. Keep on pedalling.


Follow the Swag Family Hughes on their adventures at:

Show Notes

~ 30 sec       Intro to the Swag Family Hughes
~ 1m 30s     What is swag in Aussie talk? Who are the Swag Family? Previous bike touring experience
~ 7 min        Why they decided to do a bike tour with their children while they are still so young.
~ 10 min      What route they have taken thus far. How they designed and planned their trip and make a timeline
~ 15m 30s    Riding terrible roads, daily distances, types of bikes they are using.
~ 21m 30s    What types of toys the kids have with them, how the children handle being on the bike so often.
~ 24 min       How much they listen to their children on the road, challenges of cycling with children, advice for parents thinking of doing a bike tour with kids
~ 28m 30s    Dealing with sickness and injury
~ 32 min      Where the Swag Family stays at night.
~ 34 min      Budgeting and getting sponsors
~ 37 min      What educational goals and developmental goals Andrew and Nicola have for the kids through doing this tour, adventure learning
~ 42 min      Narragunnawali and the Swag Family Reconciliation Action Plan
~ 47 min      How dangerous Australia is….if you’re stupid, greatest memories of the trip so far, what they would do differently
~ 54 min      What they miss most from home, what’s next for the Swag Family and where to find them
~ 58m 30s   End credits and next week with Onion Adventures


About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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