This family ditches the HDB for a campervan


Meet the Ong family.

In a time when Singapore’s fertility rate is crashing and where couples do not want to get married, here is a couple whom not only raised 6 adorable children, but also home schools all of them! (Just in case you don’t know what home-schooling is, it is a practice where families don’t send their children to school and educates them personally at home instead)

The husband is a middle-income earner and the wife is not in paid employment. Yes, they get by very well and live in a 5 room HDB apartment.

Of late, they’ve decided to ditch the HDB and travel across the United States for the next 6 months – just for the experience!

In an email interview, I toss them the whys, whens, hows and whos of their trip!



Ok, for the record…how many kids do you have and how old are they?

We have a lovely brood of 6 kids! Asher is 15, then Abigail 13, Isaac 11, Isaiah 9, Magdalena 6, and Michaela 3. Completely Singaporean, born and bred.


In a climate where Singaporeans are getting married very late, or not getting married at all…please tell us: why?

I got married at the age of 23 and became a mom at 24. I never imagined I would have 6 kids. God, we say, has a sense of humour. I tell people that if I knew on my wedding day I would eventually become the mom to SIX, I might not have gotten married! Haha!

But when I had our first born, Asher, I found myself feeling very privileged to have a brand new human being to mould and bring up right and I felt keenly aware of enormity of the task. So I quite my teaching job and became a SAHM (Stay At Home Mother).

Life became very busy with three and then when no. 4 came along…I then began to doubt. How on earth I would handle having 4 kids all under the age of 5?!

But as Christians, it is about learning to lean on God’s strength and not our own. It turned out fine and the next two children just added to all the fun and ruckus.



So let me get this straight – your husband took a sabbatical and both of you decided to say “let’s go to America for a 6 month road trip?”

Well, the sequence of events began first with Dan making the decision to do something different with his job situation. He made the move and resignd from his teaching job.

Since we were between jobs, I asked him (begged actually) please, can we do this trip to America?

It has been my childhood dream to visit America but it just wasn’t possible with the growing family. The cost of the airplane tickets to fly the entire family over there is already such a big expense, we couldn’t go for just a short while. It wouldn’t justify the expense. And we never had the chance to go for a longer period because of Dan’s job commitments. So being between jobs was the best time.

Thankfully, Dan, after much prayer and consideration, decided to take the plunge and do something that most Singaporeans don’t, won’t, maybe can’t do. Other families send their children to school and have school schedules to follow. We homeschool our kids, so we don’t have to worry as much about tests and exams and the schedule/curriculum is up to us to manage. Hence, from June 2015 till December 2015, we are in America on a road trip!

We see this as a grand family adventure that the children and us will look back on as something we did together. Our firstborn is going to either go into NS or poly in a short 3 years’ time and family life will be different for us then. So we really cherish whatever time we have left together, having all the kids with us. And hence, this trip.




What about money? What about the cold? What about being in a strange land with no help?

As for finances, we are using mostly our savings and have some (voluntary) help from the grands. We’ve put the monthly mortgage payments totally on our CPF so that’s taken care of.

We acquired a 16 year old Chevrolet and an old but very comfy pop-up camper that sleeps 8. This will take care of our traveling cost on the road as well as accommodations. These, we will sell at the end of the trip to re-coup some of cost as well. This was the plan that our American friends, the Meyers, taught us.

Our low expense trip is mostly about visiting friends, spending time with them. That is more meaningful to us anyway! We enjoy talking to the locals and learning more about their lifestyle and hearing their stories. As for activities, we are going for the national parks and to enjoy the beauty of the land and the mountains… no Disneyland nor Universal Studios trips for us!

The Cold
It is summer now and scorching hot. We get to ease into the cold weather so hopefully we can adjust. We did bring all our stash of winter clothing and coats (took up a whole luggage bag just on its own.) And whatever we lack, we can find at the second hand shops in the US like Goodwill. We love Goodwill!!!

It will be our first experience with snow. Rather than fear it, we’re looking forward to the wintery cold!

Being in a strange land with no help
Well, we are entirely not without help. On the contrary, we have seen hospitability every step of the way and very, very well taken care of by our American friends.

The blessings of help are mostly from Christian friends we met back in Singapore, and several are new Baptist friends we met online. Our missionary buddies, the Meyers, whom we spent time with when they were in Singapore, are back in the US at this time. They went out of the way to source and acquire a car and also the pop-up for us. It was great help. They had to drive out for hours and hours to check out the car.

Our other Christian friends have taken us out, organised cook outs, and just been so kind to make us feel so at home with them. We are so touched by their love towards us, strangers from afar!

Many people around the world (and not only in Singapore) watch TV and formulate their impression of the American people based on Desperate Housewives or the Simpsons (I’m not very up to date with the latest trash on TV).

American media is doing such an injustice to so much of the general populace. We’ve met many good, polite, honest and, I must add, hardworking American people. I have met many very well mannered (homeschooled) teenagers who will greet me as Ma’am. Their parents are doing a great job! It is just so rare even in Singapore!




Do you think Singaporeans are just too worried about EVERYTHING?
I’m not sure how to answer this question! But I do believe, yes, we have a tendency to be overly cautious. We call it being pragmatic. We are afraid that one mis-step will cost us greatly and there is no way to recover from the mistake.

Do we worry that when we return from our trip with most of our savings drained, what will happen after that? Yes, of course.

But we have learned this precious truth: time is more expensive than money. Money lost can still be earned but time lost will never come back. So we are taking this leap and choosing a very special time with the kids and each other, and work on earning money later.

We have a plan to monetize this trip by writing a travelogue of our travels. We thought the title of the book could be “6 Kids and a Pop-Up Camper”. Do look for us on Facebook as we share about where we have been! Ha,ha.. Please like the page and keep in touch!



Tell us about your approach to life.
It is hard to narrow it all down but if I had a big overarching “approach” it would be:

Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Live life without regrets.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10



Now tell us about your trip: what did you do? Where did you first land? What are you guys gonna do? Anything exciting happened along the way? Most memorable? When are you coming back? Are you gonna stay there for good?

22nd July marks the end of our first month in America. We landed in Chicago on the 22nd of June. What a tremendous time of learning and adapting to and experiencing so many new things!

We have driven through and sometimes across 8 states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. We have travelled approximately 3764km (or the equivalent of driving from Singapore to southern China.)

We have met many American people, heard their stories of life- stories of family, work, coping with health issues, coping with making a living under the heavy burden of taxes and insurance, city life, farm living. Stories of heart break, and waiting for the return of happier times. Stories of joy and fun.

We have camped in state parks out in the middle of pretty much no where, camped under a pecan tree of a friend’s yard, stayed in lovely and posh homes, a log cabin in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, a house that was built just after the civil war.

We have done things that we couldn’t do back home in Singapore – like the 15 yr old shooting a live round from a gun, live on a farm with cows, chickens and miniature horses, (hypnotize chickens and then throwing them into the air, the boys did), swim in a lake, float down a Creek on a rubber donut, see the northern skies at night and the splendor of all the starry hosts.

So many things!

But I think the most memorable is the stars. We sat out on the deck of our friend’s log cabin out in the Blue Ridge Mountains and looked up into the northern sky. The whole sky, sprinkled with stars. It is something we really miss in Singapore because of the light pollution.

Anyway, it’s been a tremendous time.

Join the Facebook page for more updates of where we have been on 6 Kids and a Pop-up Camper! :D




Any National Day messages for us back home?
Singaporeans really have so much to be thankful for. We really sound stupid if we complain about our country because compared to so many others (even, Americans) we have it so much better.

We do not live in fear of personal safety. Where we are currently at, there is a drug related gang activity just around the corner of the street. We were told not to wander out of the property at night.

Our medical costs are so highly subsidized and we have access to good doctors. We have access to good jobs, and we don’t have to travel far at all to get work or school.

Americans have to move to another state sometimes to land a job, so what are we complaining about???

We really cannot complain about our taxes being even up to 60% of our income as many American middle class here are facing.

Cherish Singapore, folks! Work together to make it better! It is but a little red dot but it is our piece of heaven on earth.

We are sad to be away in the year our Singapore celebrates her 50th birthday, but it has taken this journey away to learn how good we have it in Singapore.

Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore!!!

We love you!!!


Follow the Ongs on “6 Kids and a Pop-Up Camper” on Facebook! 


About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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  • You might be interested to know that there is a couple, Aloysius Ng and Franza Lee, ditched their jobs and travel around the world in a tight budget too. They also did the camper van thing around the US, stayed at friend’s and stranger’s houses (they stayed with me in Los Angeles), and have gone on to South America for the last few months. I believe they are onto Europe now with a 47kg backpack on their back. Their instagram is roamisthenewhome. You might like to talk to them someday too. A great story to write. Ying Yuen (a Singaporean living in Los Angeles)

  • We are so excited to get to meet “part of the family we’ve never met”. We’ve “known” Sue in joint internet forum talks and want to help them on their way.

    Only two weeks and we will get a chance to show them the REAL USA – Wyoming, the Rockies, God’s country! Praying for their safety and growth as the learn and bless others like us along the way.

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