More Smiles Welch and his wife, Space Cadet, live a simple life off the grid with their family in Ohio. What started as a documentary project for photojournalism student Meg Roussos turned into a relationship with a family set on minimalism.
Two years ago, Smiles and Space bought land in Athens, Ohio, and drove a bus onto the wooded property. Once it was parked, the bus was dismantled and converted into the family’s home.
Along with their three sons, the couple eats, sleeps, cooks and lives in the vehicle. The oldest boy is in public school by choice, and the youngest two are home-schooled.
“They realize it’s not ‘normal,’ “ Roussos said. “But in a sense, it is, because it’s their life.”
On a regular basis, Smiles asks his family whether they’re happy, she continued. But they’re content in each other. They have plans to build a house on the land, but for now they like the bus.
“The kids love it. It’s like a little boy going camping, but all the time,” Roussos said. It was difficult shooting in the tight confines of the bus, but she grew accustomed to their lifestyle.
Smiles works at a bar for money and hunts only for food. The family doesn’t use electricity, though they have a generator for emergency purposes. They have a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking, and they use candles and headlamps for lights. They compost their waste and grow herbs.
They live a minimalist lifestyle as born-again Christians and feel that they’re living how God wants them to.
“This isn’t a story about a poor Appalachian country family,” Roussos explained. They have chosen this lifestyle, and “ ‘content’ is a word they use all the time.”