Traveling is a big part of who Dan and I are as a couple. It’s been that way even before we found out that full-time travel existed! We took three trips together in our first six months of dating. Dan even proposed to me on a surprise trip to Italy! (Ladies, check out that story here!)
Throughout our 18-month engagement, we were fortunate enough to take a few trips as well. We were aggressively paying off all our consumer debt and saving up for the wedding.
In order to do that, Dan and I each moved in with our parents a year before the wedding to help hit these big, crazy money goals of ours.
So when we got married on November 13, 2015, we moved in together for the first time! We opened our wedding gifts in our new home together, taking turns reading the cards out loud to each other while we ate Lou Malnati’s pizza on our living room floor! That’s right, we had no furniture yet!
Thanks to some of the gift money we received from the wedding, we quickly filled our new place with new furniture and decor on the walls!
Discovering full-time travel
Our plan was to throw ¼ of our total income into savings. Within two years, we’d have enough cash for a down payment on our first home! In fact, our townhouse lease was set for two full years for a reason. We didn’t have to move again until we were ready to move into a house!
Not even two months after we got married, I stumbled upon a Facebook post that would change our lives!
It was an interview on a popular radio station I listened to in the Chicagoland area. They interviewed a couple who had quit their jobs, sold all of their belongings, and were taking one year to travel the world together.
This was the first time I had ever heard of anybody doing ANYTHING like this in my entire life. And I was unbelievably envious! All of these questions started running through my head. How are they doing this? Can we do something like that? How much money would we need to do that? Are other people doing this?!?
The dreaming phase
I told Dan about their story, and he was equally impressed and interested in finding out more. It turns out, there’s a CRAZY amount of people living this nomadic lifestyle! We had no idea!
This is when we were introduced to the world of travel bloggers. We saw and read blogs where people were doing full-time travel internationally, who called themselves digital nomads. They worked remotely from their laptops while they traveled and lived all over the world.
Then we found people who were living full-time in an RV, who would travel around the country. We knew about people doing this in retirement. What we didn’t know, is that there’s a whole bunch of people our age who were making this lifestyle work! The key being able to work remotely from their laptops, just like the international digital nomads.
Then we found professional house sitting websites. House sitting wasn’t new to us. In fact, we had done quite a few house sits for friends and family while we were engaged and living at home with our parents.
However, we didn’t know that house sitting websites existed until we started really digging into travel lifestyles. Dan came up with the *brilliant* idea that if we were able to secure a few long-term house sits back to back, we could have housing covered for the year and wouldn’t even need to lease an apartment/townhouse anymore.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
All while this research and brainstorming was going on, in mid-February 2016 (only three months after we got married and moved in together), I found out my department was being laid off at the beginning of May.
This was a huge shock, to say the least. A flooding of emotions came over me. I was shocked, overwhelmed, angry, upset, embarrassed, sad, disappointed. The job itself I wouldn’t miss, but I loved a lot of things about it. My boss, the people I worked with, the vacation time (hello 4.5 weeks to start!), and the paycheck were all incredible things that came with the job.
Dan was the best. When I got home that day, he was waiting at the top of the stairs for me with his arms wide open for a hug. I’ll never forget that. For the next hour or so, I cried on the couch to him about exactly what happened and how I was feeling. He listened to everything I had to say and assured me that financially we were fine!
Always a Silver Lining
After the initial shock of things, I was angry about two things. (1) We were living in a townhouse about 30-45 minutes from our family/friends because it was only 2 miles from my work (and I didn’t want a long commute). And now I wouldn’t even be working there anymore! (2) We signed a two-year lease. So we were stuck in a two-year contract that we no longer wanted to be in that was further away from family than we wanted to be.
But then we found our silver lining. Dan was already working his 9-5 job from home and I was going to be without a job come May. If we could get out of our lease, then we could pursue one of these travel lifestyles we had been obsessing over in those past few months!
Making it happen
There are several things, though, that need to get ironed about before committing to or being prepared to go travel full-time. But it’s not as complicated as you might think! Ask yourself the following questions and you’ll be ready to hit the road.
How will we travel?
The first thing we needed to do was decide on was which travel lifestyle made the most sense for us at that stage in our lives.
We really liked the idea of traveling abroad, but we didn’t think it was realistic long-term with Dan’s (then) employer’s work hours. Then we debated between the RV lifestyle and house sitting. We loved both ideas and could accomplish the same goals with either one.
Our biggest deciding factor? Money. In order to travel in an RV, we’d (obviously) have to buy one. Or if we wanted to go the fifth wheel or travel trailer route, we’d have to buy that plus something to tow it with.
And remember, I had just lost my job, so we had just taken a 40% cut in pay. And even though we were already living well below our means, we didn’t feel like taking out loans to buy a home on wheels was a good idea for us at this point.
That’s when we decided on house sitting!
What we loved about the house sitting idea was it didn’t require us to purchase anything or take out loans to pursue it. All we needed was a vehicle to get us from place to place (which we already had). We also liked the fact that we would have a whole house to make ourselves at home in and wifi and other utilities would be taken care of.
Don’t get me wrong, house sitting has its limitations, too, but we felt this was our best option at the time for our situation and we were excited to go for it!
We joined a couple of house sitting websites, set up a profile, and started applying to appealing house sits. After a couple months, we landed our first house sit in Durango, CO, to start in January 2017.
How will we make money?
Like I mentioned earlier, Dan was already working from home at the time we decided we wanted to pursue this.
His department actually worked out of an office in Springfield, IL, which was about 3 hours from where we lived. Over the years, he would make trips down there to meet with his team, but in 2016, the company actually put a freeze on travel and he was no longer required (or wanted) to make it down to Springfield.
Since it was no longer required, there was no reason why he couldn’t do the same job from any other state. For all they knew, he could’ve already been working in a different state!
Dan ran it past his employer anyway and they agreed there was no reason why he couldn’t continue to work from home, in other states.
As for me, I would continue to apply for remote opportunities and until then, we could definitely live off of Dan’s income alone since we wouldn’t have to pay for rent or utilities anymore with house sitting.
This part of our journey sounds simple and to be honest, it was! The hard decision of leaving a job was already made for me when I was laid off. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
But even if you and your significant other hold location dependent jobs, that doesn’t mean you can’t become full-time travelers. It just means it might take you a little bit longer to get there because you need to find a remote source of income.
There are so many companies hiring remote workers now and there are also so many ways of making money online as an entrepreneur… but that’s a whole other blog post we’ll have to write 😉
What will we use for health insurance?
Since Dan was going to continue working remotely with his employer, our answer was simple. We would stay on his employer’s health insurance while we travel.
Not everyone has that opportunity, though. We’re both now currently self-employed, and we use Liberty HealthShare. It’s pretty inexpensive and has worked out really well for us so far.
If you’re looking for other options, check out RVer Insurance Exchange. It’s a company started by full-time RVers to help other full-timers with their insurance needs. A good resource!
How/when will we get out of our current living situation?
Breaking our lease was something we were super nervous about. After we landed our first house sit, we talked with our landlords and asked them to end the lease early. They were fine with it as long as we forfeited our security deposit, which was one month’s rent.
Since breaking the lease was allowing us to save 10 months’ worth of rent, it was such a good deal for us.
We were so relieved when that conversation was over with our landlords. We had a firm date for when we’d be leaving for our full-time adventure. It was feeling real at that point!!!
What will we do with all of our belongings?
The next thing was, what the heck were we going to do with all our belongings?! Most people who transition into this lifestyle sell, donate, or get rid of all of their things.
Our dilemma was that we had just bought ALL new furniture for the house! The stuff wasn’t even a year old yet!
Our plan was to travel full-time for a couple years and then move back home. Therefore, we decided it made sense for us to keep the brand-new furniture and pay to store it.
A monthly storage payment is less than $200/month. Even if we pay $200 for storage, but weren’t having to pay our $2000 per month in rent+utilities anymore, it was still a huge cost savings for us.
We decided to keep most of our furniture, the décor, and the other gifts we received from the wedding. Then we did a HUGE audit of everything we owned.
If we didn’t wear it, use it, or love it, we got rid of it.
If it was old and worn out, we got rid of it.
If it was something we could easily replace, we got rid of it.
Storage won’t make sense for everyone going into full-time travel, but it did for us. If it doesn’t make sense for your situation, get ready to sell a lot of things and make some extra money!
How will we get our mail?
The last critical piece of figuring out how to become a full-time traveler is figuring out a mailing address.
Dan wrote a whole post about how to set up a mailing address when you’re not actually in one physical location. Good news: it’s more common than you may think!
Hope you enjoyed our story!
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