We caught up with Jessica and Stephen Parry-Valentine to learn about their new book, van life, travelling with a baby and the destinations they recommend everyone adds to their bucket list.
If you’re an avid traveller, you might have come across the YouTube channel Flying the Nest at some point.
Created by Jessica and Stephen Parry-Valentine, the channel has documented the couple’s travels for the past seven years. During that time, they visited 80 counties, amassed over 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube, and turned travelling into their full-time job. Even with a toddler in tow and a second baby on the way, the couple has continued their adventures with no plans to slow down anytime soon.
While their love for travel hasn’t faded since they first began vlogging, many other things have changed for the couple. They have gotten married, lived in a van, and – in what might be the most significant change in their lives – become parents. While Jessica and Stephen always knew they would continue to travel once they had kids, they didn’t expect the other ways that their daughter Hunter would inspire them.
Having a child of their own sparked an idea that the Parry-Valentines hadn’t thought about before. They wanted to depart from their usual vlog-style video format and try telling their story in a new way.
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Hoping to share their family’s unique story with their daughter, the idea for their new picture book Our Home on Wheels was born. ‘It sounds so cliché, but you become a parent and you have these books that you love reading to your kids,’ says Stephen. ‘We wanted a story that we could read to little Hunter and it just became about our real-life story which was fun.’
The subject matter came naturally to the couple. They had just spent a year living in a van and travelling across Australia as a family (vlog here), so it only seemed right to centre the story around that experience and the natural beauty of their home country. ‘Australia is amazing, but so many people from overseas come to Sydney, Melbourne, and maybe the Gold Coast. They’re amazing spots, but the real Australia is when you go away from the big cities,’ Stephen said. ‘Going up to Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Western Australia . . . there are so many amazing things to see and we wanted to highlight that in the book and hopefully inspire people to leave the cities a little more because these places are so stunning.’
With gorgeous illustrations and an adorable storyline, Our Home on Wheels is an ode to the Australian landscape and the magic of time spent together as a family. For the Parry-Valentines, travelling in a van for a year was a life-changing experience, and it’s easy to sense the love and fondness that the trip has inspired between the pages of the picture book. ‘Every morning we were waking up in a different location, and I think that was really special,’ shares Jessica. ‘Hunter learned to walk on the trip in front of Uluru which was amazing,’ adds Stephen, reminiscing on some of their favourite moments from the trip.
While Hunter might have been young on the trip – only one year old when they packed up and hit the road – her parents say that it obviously impacted her. Without them explaining that the book was about their family, Hunter immediately noticed that the story was about their adventure. ‘She looked at the book and pointed to each of us, saying “Mummy, Daddy, Cooper” (the name of our van). She straightaway knew the characters. And now she has asked us to read it so many times that she has the first few pages memorised,’ says Jessica.
Just like Hunter, the Flying the Nest community loves the book too. ‘We had our first meet and greet at a bookshop in Perth and it was meant to go on for an hour and a half,’ says Jessica. ‘It went on for four hours! We couldn’t believe the line. . . we were just really overwhelmed by the turnout and so many families came with their kids wanting the book. It was really cool!’
Always keen to interact with their followers, Jessica and Stephen even hand-selected their illustrator from their community. ‘When we first announced that we were pregnant, we posted a photo of me holding up the ultrasound with Stephen, and one of our fans, Ashlee, drew it and sent it to us as a gift for having the baby,’ Jessica explains. ‘We loved it so much that we printed it and hung it in her nursery. When it came to writing the book, we knew it needed illustrations and immediately thought about her.’ Once on board with the project, Ashlee was given creative freedom to add elements that followers of the YouTube channel would recognise – even throwing in Easter eggs, like earrings inspired by ones that Jessica wears in real life.
When the Parry-Valentines travelled to London, they met Ashlee and spent a few days together. ‘She has taken the book to the next level,' Stephen says, 'to the point where we look at the little details and ask each other, did you notice that last time?’
Whether you’re familiar with the couple’s travel videos or not, readers young and old will delight in spotting Bundaberg ginger beer, rainbows, and native Australian animals specific to each region hidden in the illustrations.
Tips on where to travel, from the Parry-Valentines
We couldn’t help but ask the Flying the Nest family for their bucket-list destinations. If you are planning a trip soon, consider visiting one of their must-see holiday spots.
- If you’re going to Asia, they recommend you visit Japan.
- If you’re going to Europe, they recommend you visit Italy.
- If you’re going to North America, they recommend you visit Canada.
- If you’re going to South America, they recommend you visit Peru.
But most importantly, don’t forget to explore Australia!
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