The little traveler Crusoe Newby is less than two years old, but he has already traveled 24 different countries.
Crusoe has been adventuring since he was seven weeks old and has visited four continents with his parents Tara and John, traveling in a converted van.
Named after the fictional castaway Robinson Crusoe, the hero of Daniel Defoe’s 18th-century novel, he had traveled to 11 countries while still in the womb. But the official count of 24 of him has been accumulated since his birth. Their adventure began when Tara and John decided to sell their Bristol home and convert a £3,000 van to travel the world in May 2020.
Tara, 35, says: “Everything we’ve done is beyond my wildest dreams of what life would be like.
“Robinson Crusoe is John’s favorite book of all time because it inspired him as a child to think about a life of adventure. Now we are living that. Knowing that these have been the first years of Crusoe’s life means everything.
John, 45, from Oxfordshire, started traveling when he was 19, and has been to 163 of the world’s 197 countries. He says: “As soon as I left school, I knew I wanted more out of life.
“I have slept in the doorways and on the benches and I have gone weeks without eating to see the world. I’ve worked everywhere from Burger King to being a scuba instructor, jobs that have taken me to Antarctica, Madagascar and Tanzania.”
He and Tara, who hails from Zimbabwe in southern Africa, met in 2012 when they both worked for a holiday company in Witney, Oxfordshire, that sold safaris. But it was another seven years before they got together as a couple.
Says Tara, “I think John lasted about 18 months at that job before he went back on the road. I also followed my own path, through Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
“We reconnected through a group of friends when they invited us to a weekend in Spain at a wine throwing festival, where you walk up a hill and bathe in red wine.
“We were covered in wine in the middle of a Spanish square, surrounded by beautiful buildings, music and fireworks. It all happened so fast after that, it just felt right right away.”
They married the following year, in February 2020, marrying in Antarctica, where John had been working for a firm of polar specialists.
Says Tara: “We traveled and found some very cheap and nasty rings at the local market for $10 each and got on a boat with the expedition team.
“We had no wedding clothes or dress, but we found this beautiful place to say our vows. We turned around and our expedition leader, who had been ordered, was dressed in a penguin costume.
Returning to the UK just as the country went into lockdown at the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t long before the restless couple hit upon the idea of living life on the road.
They quit their jobs and sold their house, bought a white Toyota van for £3,000, and then spent £2,000 converting it into a house on wheels, complete with bed, kitchen and bookshelves.
With travel restrictions beginning to ease in July 2020, they decided it was time to go. Then Tara found out that she was pregnant. But the couple was not intimidated.
Tara says, “Just as we were about to leave, we found out she was pregnant. We were so excited, but I was also terrified. People said we were crazy for quitting our jobs and selling our house.
“We headed straight for Germany, then Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Norway and Finland.
“It was the most remarkable time to travel. We had the Acropolis of Athens to ourselves, we were alone in Pompeii, and we climbed mountains with no one on top of us. It all felt like a ‘pinch me’ experience.”
But traveling while pregnant wasn’t always easy for Tara.
She recalls: “In the first three months I struggled a bit with nausea. I slept through all the road trips because I was so tired. But I loved that I didn’t have time to worry. Instead of sitting behind a laptop, I would walk the sides of waterfalls and stay fit and active.”
Returning to Bristol to stay with the family for Crusoe’s arrival at the end of February last year, Tara and John realized they were going to need a bigger van.
Selling the old one for £9,000, they bought and rebuilt a newer one for £15,000 in total, fully equipped with a double bed, gas oven, running water, toilet and cooker.
And in May, when Crusoe was seven weeks old, they dated again. Says Tara: “We went to Scotland and it was really cold, so we ended up checking into an Airbnb for a few nights.
“Then we settled in and went down to England, Wales and, as soon as he was on the green list to travel, Portugal. I remember being in the Outer Hebrides and sitting with the door open, looking out at the beautiful Scottish features with the turquoise waters and white sand behind us.
“I just thought, ‘This is amazing. Look at the life this little boy is already experiencing and what we are creating for our family.’”
Taking the occasional flight to add destinations that would not have been practical in the van, Crusoe traveled with his parents to countries including the US, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Hungary, Slovakia, Monaco, and Italy.
But despite the exotic settings, the couple still experienced all the ups and downs that come with being part of the territory with a newborn baby.
Tara recalls: “I remember we were watching one of the most beautiful sunsets in France and Crusoe was only a couple of months old and he threw up in John’s face.
“Then there was also a time when we were camping in Africa in a rooftop tent with an eight-month-old baby… and you can see the stars and hear lions and elephants outside.”
Documenting their travels early on on YouTube via their channel @TheNewbys, John and Tara now have a loyal fan base of over 75,000, which funds their lifestyle. And those followers are watching as they write the next chapter in Crusoe’s adventures.
Tara, who gave birth to her little brother Sawyer just 11 weeks ago, explains: “We had a long-term dream that one day it would be really nice to own a property in Europe and live off the grid. Then we fell in love with Portugal: we found this piece of land at the end of 2021 and everything felt right.”
In November of last year, she and John sold their truck so they could start work on a new home for their growing family. So far, they have renovated half of their house.
Despite being busy working at home offline, the family has still found time to travel. The new baby Sawyer arrived in September and has already been to four countries: England, Spain, Portugal and Zimbabwe. She also visited six others while still in the womb.
After spending Christmas in Zimbabwe with Tara’s family, John adds: “Our first rule in our family is if it’s not fun then we don’t do it, and we’ve stuck to that.
“It is a true privilege that I spend every day with my two children and my wife. How many people get to do that? It means everything. We have traveled to 35 countries in the last two years for around £12,000 a year.
“If you think about rent and bills, that’s next to nothing, and now we’re building a house that we’ll be very proud of one day. But we don’t know what we could do in the future. There are so many opportunities.”