Summer is a time for family road trips, but Matt Webb and his wife Eva have taken the idea to a whole new level.
In September 2014, the Webbs, along with their kids, 11-year-old Jack, 8-year-old Evie and 9-year-old Solveig, left their home in Pasadena, California, on a year-long trip of a lifetime. Their goal is to visit all 50 states and along the way, meet young people who are making a difference in their communities.
Webb and his wife are filming the entire project, called Driving a Generation of Generosity, with the hope of turning it into a television series and a documentary.
Matt and Eva said they both were shaped by the family vacations they took as kids. Their moms and dads were doctors and nurses, and often turned family trips into journeys to Haiti or Mexico to conduct clinical work in villages.
“We wanted to create the same transformative experience for our kids,” Webb said.
Several years ago, being overworked on film projects in California meant Webb rarely saw the rest of his family. The issue eventually led to marriage counseling for the couple. At the end of the process, the counselor asked them what was the dream for their family. Matt Webb’s answer was a year-long road trip to see the country. By early 2012, that dream started to take shape, and the family began a two-year planning process on how to make it a reality.
The Webb family decided the best lens to shape their trip through was meeting kids across the country who are working to make lasting changes in their communities, and assembled a production team to help design the film project aspect of the trip.
“You speak your dreams and sometimes they happen,” Eva Webb said.
The kids the Webb family have found and their projects run the gamut. In Miami, they talked to Joshua Williams, who at the age of four received $20 from his grandmother for a birthday. On the drive home, Williams saw a homeless man with a sign asking for food, and decided to spend his money to buy something for the man to eat.
“Then Joshua said all right, what’s next?” Webb said.
What’s next is that more than a decade later Williams, now 15, runs a nonprofit with more than 2,500 volunteers and a board of directors made up entirely of other kids, which in 2014 donated almost one million pounds of food in its community.
Montana’s entry in the project, as the family’s 43rd state, came from right here in Missoula, where the Webb family interviewed 19-year-old Nina Gamell. While she was in high school, Gamell started a program at a local senior center pairing residents with members of another senior living facility in Japan.
“This pen pal project she put together is still going today,” Webb said.
Most of the kids they have talked to share some common traits. They each chose their project by seeing something in the world, or having something happen to them or someone close to them. Webb said in almost all of the cases, the other similarity is when they came up with a solution, their parents didn't stand in the way.
"We see a lot of kids who come up with a good idea and parents say oh, that won't work," he said.
The Webb children are the ones asking the questions in the interviews, some of which were designed by child development specialists from California as part of a study in what turns young people into what their dad calls “change makers.”
“It’s about what are the factors that make kids want to make changes, and to see if we can foster these environments in kids across the country,” Webb said.
On top of the video they have captured at their stops, Webb said they will also be making a pair of books to go along with the travel. One for children, about the road trip itself, and the other a book about the impact and influence the journey had on their family.
The entire voyage around the country has taken place in the family’s 15-foot cargo van, pulling a 17-foot travel trailer behind it. Along the way, the Webb family has stayed with family, friends and even strangers who have heard about their trip and offered to help out. As for the kids, they are receiving what their mom Eva calls “road schooling,” visiting museums, libraries and national parks along the route.
Webb said the biggest element of his kids’ education is the interviews themselves, which has taught them everything from sociology and problem solving to public speaking.
“Now we’re all road scholars,” 9-year-old Solveig said.
To learn more about the Webb family’s project, or make a tax-deductible donation supporting the Driving a Generation of Generosity project, visit oneyearroadtrip.com.