WILD HEART FEATURE ➳ Quinn & Ben // SV Wanderlust
I recently got home from a 2-week yacht trip around the Bahamas, which is when I stumbled across your blog! It looks like you’ve been on quite the unexpected adventure the past few years. From pursuing the corporate American dream to a freedom lifestyle living on a sailing yacht in the Caribbean… How did this come about?
Yes, from land life in the Midwest to two years at sea, and counting…and it all started with youtube if you can believe it! We were a couple of ordinary Midwesterners in the US. We were spending hours stuck in city traffic, working all day in our cubicles, paying a never-ending cycle of bills, and spending evenings in front of the television. Then, randomly we caught on to a few life-changing youtube channels run by full-time travelers, namely SV Delos and Sailing La Vagabonde. Until that moment, we didn’t even understand there was another WAY of living except the one society expected of us (house, cars, jobs, children, and 2 weeks of vacation per year). These bloggers and vloggers showed us that people can travel full time, and have loads of success… a peek into the world that had never even shown up on our radar.
When was the turning point for you… the moment when you realized that life is too short to stay stuck in an unfulfilling office job?
The change began when we started experiencing some serious corporate burnout. We were working 80 hour weeks, at the office long into the evenings sometimes, spending very little time at home. In fact, our dog, Ruca, was diagnosed with “doggy depression” due to being home alone too much! There was a breaking point when Ben and I had a serious conversation about our futures. Yes, we enjoyed working in successful careers and certainly liked the paychecks, but to what end? Get promoted until we’re working 100 hour weeks for a couple thousand dollars more per month? Sell our futures for a salary? Get a bigger house so we can go further into debt? We felt like we weren’t in control of the trajectory of our lives, and needed an intervention. We wanted to reset the expectations for our lives, not based on what society expected from us, but on what made us happiest. We wanted something completely new, different, something that would fulfill our sense of wanderlust. That’s the moment we decided to sell everything, quit our jobs, buy a sailboat, and figure out exactly what we wanted out of life.
Did you know how to sail when you bought your yacht?
Absolutely not! The first sail we ever lifted was on our sailboat! It was quite a learning curve, but we fell in love immediately with sailing and the open ocean. Everyone, everywhere, started from zero experience.
Did you sell your home to buy the yacht?
Yes, in fact, we flipped our house. Ben’s a talented handyman, so we renovated our lovely 1930s Tudor dream house ourselves, and sold it. The cash from the sale, plus a year of intense savings, is what allowed us to buy the boat and have a monthly budget for two years. Plus, no house meant no expenses, like insurance, utilities, and maintenance costs, something we had been spending hundreds of dollars on each month. Our budget was down to the bare bones. Although we loved the house, selling it freed us from debt and left us unrestricted to roam the world.
So awesome!!! Top 5 destinations or islands you’ve explored thus far?
St. John, US Virgin Islands – This island feels like home! A US territory, and 70% national park, St. John is one of the only places left in the Caribbean with palm tree forests lining the beaches instead of high rise hotels.
St. Martin – A French territory in the Leeward Islands, with a special euro-Caribbean vibe. Think fresh pain au chocolat, escargot, and fine wine, with sandy bare feet at romantic candle-lit beachfront cafes.
Georgetown, the Bahamas – Called “Cruisers’ Paradise” on the island of Great Exuma, Georgetown has it all. Lovely beaches, good diving and fishing, friendly locals and a huge mash-up community of expat and international travelers who live aboard their boats in the harbor. There’s never a shortage of BBQs, happy hours or jam sessions, but it’s also common to have an entire beach to yourself.
Punta Rucia, Dominican Republic – An off the beaten path treasure and a glimpse into the real Dominican Republic. In a country filled with all-inclusive resorts, Punta Rucia has remained gorgeous, slow paced and traditionally Dominican. The beaches are untouched, the bars and hotels are all owned by local proprietors (likely the same guy tending the bar), and the roads are made of dirt with the occasional goat or herd of cows passing by. Very little English is spoken, and you might be the only tourist in town. You could find us at the beach bar, a cold Presidente in hand, playing dominoes in the shade for hours.
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands – Our favorite beach bar destination! Home to Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar and the Soggy Dollar Bar, known worldwide for their rum packed “painkillers” and insane white sand.
How do you afford to continuously travel?
We’ve lived totally off savings for two years. By keeping expenses low, and saying no to debt, our monthly budget is cut down to the very basics. The budget required support a full-time traveling lifestyle needs to be only a fraction of a land-based budget. In fact, our spending is just 1/6 of what was spent on a house, wardrobes, cars, and utilities. That means when we do go back to work, we can be selective about gigs because our income doesn’t have too high to support our lifestyle. People think that full-time travel is expensive, but we’ve realized land life is exponentially more costly in retrospect.
What’s one money saving hack you can recommend trying for those wanting to travel but can’t seem to save enough?
There were a few things that worked for us, but I would recommend first, don’t buy anything new, unless it supports your goal in some way. If it won’t help you travel the world, don’t buy it. The truth is you probably already have enough stuff (clothes, furniture, gadgets) to last a lifetime if trends and social pressure are disregarded. Also, it’s hard, but learn to say no to expensive events like weddings. Although we can be happy for others and support their achievements, it’s also ok to put a priority on our own life’s commitments without feeling guilty.
What are some struggles you’ve encountered along your journey, and how did you overcome them?
We have certainly learned that sailing full time is not all sunshine and sundowners.
Emotionally this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. From loneliness to marital problems, to the learning curve of sailing, we’ve sometimes been left feeling frustrated instead of fulfilled. We’ve had to learn to “go with the flow” instead of fighting the weather and the wind. Slowing down is hard for type As like us, who constantly like to be in control. We’ve learned not to mess with Mother Nature, and when she says “jump,” we say, “how high?” Our schedule is not our own anymore, but we’re often rewarded with mind-blowing sunsets, peaceful beam reaches and secluded beaches.
Also, the reality is that sailing a boat in the open ocean is dangerous sometimes. It’s just the nature of traveling to far-off destinations and is part of what lured us in. If there was no risk, would “sailing away” be such an attractive notion? Recently, we had a rigging failure which caused our mast to snap in two while under full sail. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but it took three whole months of repair. Through hours of hard work, some tears, and moments of doubt, we learned how to re-rig our boat, and built her back to sea-ready. Now, we couldn’t be prouder of our boat, and we feel saltier than ever. Every time we watch a sunset and cheers to a beautiful day at sea, we’re thankful that we overcame instead of throwing in the towel.
The point is you must be willing to take the bad with the good, the balance that exists in all things. You can’t let the challenges end the beautiful journey. As they say, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor!
How do you think you’ve changed as a person since your office days living in Kansas City? Has your mindset evolved, if so, how?
In some ways, we’re still Ben and Quinn, from Missouri. We still love a weekend boating in the Ozarks, an old-fashioned fish fry, and a homemade batch of deer jerky. We’re proud of our home, where I think we learned to be genuine, kind, and friendly people. It’s also where we hiked the hills and creeks as children and first sparked our love for the outdoors. Missouri is a wonderful place.
But what we don’t miss is the rat race which consumed our days; the fundamental difference between “living to work” and “working to live.” Our understanding of a meaningful life has transformed from generating money, to generating happiness, and intentionally choosing how to spend each valuable day we have on this planet.
What does a day look like in your life right now? How does it compare with 2 years ago when you first set out on your adventure?
Two years ago, my day would have been spent largely at the office, on the phone with my face in Excel spreadsheets. I probably wouldn’t have taken my lunch break, and only looked up from my screen to see the sun had gone down without my noticing. I’d go home to Ben, where I’d throw together something to eat and watch television until falling asleep where I would literally dream about issues waiting for me at work. I had no hobbies, no interest, and no extra time for them anyway. I personally, was consumed by work. I found a large part of my personal value in my job, no matter the consequences. I thought I was satisfying my need for success but didn’t realize I was too heavily burdened, overworked, stressed, and unhappy.
Fast forward two years and things are quite different. Our days are filled with whatever sets our souls on fire. I’ve worked on our website, looked online for short term jobs, brainstormed about future business endeavors, cooked a lovely breakfast, and did yoga while Ben practiced playing guitar, on which he’s gotten quite good. I keep telling him he should think about getting a gig at the beach bars on weekends. Later we’ll go to the beach with our dog, and play until she falls asleep exhausted in the shade. We might work on our boat (I’m staring at the chipping varnish now), which is hard work, but a labor of pure love, with no set deadlines. We’ll watch the sunset, which we try to never miss, and clink our glasses to another beautiful day at sea. We’ll be present in the moment and go to bed without fretting about tomorrow’s obligations.
What advice can you give to someone who doesn’t have the means to travel right now but would like to pursue a freedom lifestyle?
Research and read as much as you can (books, blogs, and vlogs), to educate yourself on the reality of full-time travel, and keep you inspired. Here are some of our favorite resources and wanderlust inspiration:
– S/V Delos Vlog: Computer engineer turned full-time sailor, with seven years at sea: www.svdelos.com
– Sailing La Vagabonde Vlog – lovely Aussie couple who sail full time and make over $7k/month from their youtube channel www.salinglavagabonde.com
– Windtraveler Blog – Family of five who traveled for three years full time, and now live aboard their sailboat and run a successful business out of the British Virgin Islands. www.windtraveler.net
– The Four Hour Workweek, By Timothy Ferriss – This book, although fantastical (and borderline ridiculous), is a good introduction to the possibilities of a fulfilling traveling lifestyle and minimizing work commitments. Take it with a grain of salt and decide for yourself how his ideas apply to your life. http://amzn.to/2rQXTBx
– The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo – This book helped us let go of the idea that “stuff” is important. Minimizing your belongings and commitments, and freeing yourself from “stuff” can help persuade us to make the big leaps in life. http://amzn.to/2t9QjG2
Quinn, I loved your articles about DIY products with natural ingredients! What’s been your favorite homemade concoction?
Thanks! It has helped so much to minimize the products we tote around in our sailboat and the problem of finding toiletries abroad. Not to mention, it helps reduce the amount of plastic waste we create. My absolute favorite has been my shampoo, made from tea tree oil, raw honey, coconut oil and castile soap.
What’s install for SV Wanderlust in the years to come?
Nothing applies to us more than the old salty saying, “a sailor’s plans are written in the sand, at low tide.” No sooner do we make a plan that it morphs into something new and different. For instance, we originally planned to travel for one year, but here we sit, aboard our boat in the US Virgin Islands after two whole years at sea. Whoops!
What you can expect is conscious decisions, living intentionally, and continuing to share our story as it develops in this big beautiful journey that is our life!
Love your attitude! Where can we follow your journey on social?
Last, but not least… What is your definition of success?
Success, for us, is an ever changing concept. Right now, it’s about finding out what makes us happy, and doing more of it, every day!