Our Story and Life of Travel – Q&A From College Students
Not long ago we started getting the sweetest tweets with #sayYES from Grand Valley State University students in Michigan.
Apparently, we needed to thank Professor Lorie Tuma for sharing our story and encouraging her students to send us some love. She teaches the Introduction to Hospitality & Tourism class and has incorporated our videos and story into her class. I was so surprised I had to ask, why us?
I have been following you both for over a year — just before I purchased my own little travel trailer, Leil@. I was entering the “camping phase” of my life, and found your YouTube channel. I learned SO MANY things from you, so thanks! I thought your message, passion for travel, and dedication to living your dream would be perfect in my class. My mantra (hashtag) is #sayYES and I always want the kids to know they should go after every single opportunity that life presents, so you two were a perfect fit!
Say what?! Never expected that one! Sure, we try to be helpful and encouraging…but a college class room was the last place I ever expected to hear our videos were being played. I was all rosy cheeks as I typed up my message of thanks.
A few tweets later we gladly agreed to a Q&A for her class. She emailed us a list of 28 questions and told us to answer what we could. We quickly realized these were really good questions and perhaps we should answer and share them all.
We selected ten questions to answer on video…because its the least we could do for such an inspirational professor and her tweet flattering bunch of #HTM101 students. Then we sat down and answered all of the questions below.
What has been the most memorable place you’ve been to and why?
That’s an impossible question. The state of Alaska holds a special place for both of us. The adventures there are big and seem unlimited! Then there is anything along Highway 1…we could spend years getting lost in the woods there! We find places we love almost everywhere we go and we love them all for different reasons.
Is there a place you would like to go back to or live?
This is probably our #1 problem. We want to go everywhere, see everything and spend lots of time at all of them. There’s never enough time to see it all or visit everyplace that’s on our list. We try not to look back or travel the same route…the goal is to look forward and search out the places we don’t yet know exist. We did write an article a while back we called Our Held At Gunpoint Top Ten Best Towns in an attempt to answer that question.
What issues have you encountered while traveling?
We’ve come across every typical travel issue imaginable in the past 7 years of full time travel (minus a mugging, yet). I guess the first major issue to overcome was about 6 months into our travels and that was how can we extend this trip, keep going?
What do you miss about living in a house?
Not much to be honest. I guess the one thing that comes to mind is community, you know hanging with friends and family, going to our favorite hole in the wall, the one where everybody knows your name.
Do you have plans to expand your family?
We’ve always said we’d love to have kids, but if life gets in the way we can always adopt. There are so many kids of all ages all over the world that need good homes and we feel when the time comes we’ll make the choice then.
What made you decide to travel?
It was another 100+ degree day in Dallas, a Red Pollution day where it’s not recommended to go outside. We started talking about getting back to nature, find a new place to live that’s less concrete, maybe in the mountains or on the ocean. We couldn’t settle on any one idea so the logical next step was to drive around the country and find the perfect place.
Who’s idea was it to live on the boat and how did that conversation go?
Jason: Nikki’s idea mostly. I’ve always dreamed about sailing around the world, I think life on the open ocean might be woven into the very fabric of our being. We’ve always been drawn to the ocean and it seems most people we know have a similar dream.
Nikki: I have had the dream of traveling about the world by all means available for a long time. Plane, train, automobile, boat, motorcycle, hike, hot air balloon, jet pack…I want to do it all. The sailboat is but one vessel in a very long life of travel in my future.
How does your family feel about you traveling?
Luckily, they are all very supportive of our lifestyle (even when they worry about our safety). Of course we miss family but many of them have been able to visit, and we’ve been able to visit them over the years. Nothing beats a family holiday in a beautiful place! When we are together, we know our time is limited so we focus on each other and building memories we’ll all talk about for years to come.
If you could go back in time is there any advice you would give yourself?
Nikki: I can’t think of any personal regrets as we live by a “go for it, what’s the worst that can happen” mindset.
Jason: Take photos and video of the downsizing, selling off everything, closing the studio doors for good, etc. We were so consumed with the exciting transition of beginning our new life of travel we totally forgot to capture it! We downsized from over 4000 square feet to less than 250 square feet. Now I look back and think: Man, I wish I had a photo of this, or that. We built something to be proud of in Dallas but we have almost no evidence beyond the work itself!
Was there any initial fears you had to overcome?
Of course it was difficult to leave our perfectly good careers and lives in Dallas. It was safe, secure and easy but our hearts weren’t in it. We were yearning for something different and we didn’t want to look back 10 years from now and think “if only we would have…”.
How did you meet and what is your love story?
We met at a coffee shop, the Starbucks at the intersection of Beltline and Marsh Road in Addison, TX to be exact. Not because we loved the coffee but because it was a social spot to hang in our neighborhood. It wasn’t love at first sight and we didn’t get along very well at first. But after a few months of being forced to hang out together (because of mutual friends) we somehow fell in love. It just clicked one day and it’s been a nonstop adventure ever since.
P.S. – The one milkshake two straws reference Jason gave in the video is from our first date…that I didn’t know we were on until he ordered one milkshake with two straws.
Do you ever fight?
Jason: Not very often, and I’d even say almost never. We’re both pretty easy going and we’d like to think we’re understanding and open to change. Also Nikki’s uncle, who is almost like a father to her said: Happy Wife, Happy Life. He’s been happily married since he was in college, so I pretty much live by that motto.
Nikki: It’s not that we don’t have our moments where we get short with one another, because we do! I think we are lucky we learned how to communicate rationally early on. We were both were independent contractors and worked together on jobs a lot. Having to communicate and work out differences on a professional level (in front of clients) transferred over into our personal lives.
Where did your cats come from and how do they do with the traveling?
We adopted Cleo first, then Singa several years later. Cats are incredibly adaptable. It still blows me away how well they do with travel. They don’t require much and as long as we’re nearby and they have a safe place they’re happy.
How long have you gone without showering?
We’ve done some serious trips where running water isn’t anywhere around. Probably the biggest one being in Alaska where we kayaked/camped for 7 days in Glacier Bay. No guides, no amenities, just splash baths in frigid glacier water. But, over the past 7 years we’ve traveled with our home (RV then Sailboat) and we’ve rarely gone a day without a shower. Even during long events like Burning Man where everything is self-contained we still managed to get daily showers. We like being clean so we’ve learned how to conserve water really, really well.
How do you deal with language barriers?
Lot’s of hand gestures, pointing and smiling! Jason is conversational in Spanish, I speak decent Spanglish and everything else we use apps to help translate. There is even a gangsta slang translator called Gizoogle.
Have you ever had a run in with the law?
The police pulled us over a couple times in the RV because they thought it was odd such a young couple was driving a motorhome (because it was mostly retirees, but that is changing now). They told us they weren’t sure if we were running drugs, transporting immigrants or perhaps stole it. Nope, weren’t The Millers. Once we put our logos on the side we didn’t have any more trouble.
Do you have a mantra that keeps you going?
We have used a few sayings along the way such as Search-Explore-Discover-Repeat, Go Outside and Play, and Find Your Adventure. But one of my all-time favorite give you a kick in the pants quotes is from Helen Keller.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
How do you plan your days/weeks/months?
We like to leave lots of room in our lives for spontaneity and serendipity. In the RV our route was generally planned by events, maybe a festival here, a national park there…it was low key planning. With the sailboat, we have a big general plan but only plan day-by-day based on the weather. If the wind is good we sail in whichever direction we can. When the weather outlook seems poor we find a place to hunker down and get some work done.
Have you ever meet someone that creeps you out?
It takes all kinds to make the world go around. We’ve met some interesting characters along the way but none I would say completely creeped us out. But if you want an example of what I call interesting characters, check out our encounter with Cano’s castle.
What do you eat?
Mostly Vegetarian diet with fish and eggs. The technical name for our diet (not that we subscribe to labels in these circumstances) is Pesca-Ovo-Lacto-Tarian…or something like that.
What is the most exotic thing you have eaten?
Exotic is a broad word. I guess what comes to mind recently was this fancy cocktail I ordered in Bend, Oregon with an exploding cherry. The cocktail was good, but the cherry at the bottom of the glass literally exploded, bursting flavor everywhere in my mouth. It was some sort of cooking science and it blew my mind. It was like pop rocks times ten.
What is one thing you can’t travel without?
Food. You don’t want to see either of us hangry.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Living. One of our Patron’s always signs off with “keep living life on your terms” and I feel like that is exactly what we strive to do. With so many amazing people in the world doing incredible things, one day when we’re nothing but dust will anyone remember us? We’re ordinary people who happen to live an extraordinary life. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll write a book, produce a film, or create a product that gets us in the history books.
Did you start filming on day 1 or is it something you started to do after you began your travels?
We decided to start a blog and create videos just a few short weeks before departing from Dallas. We knew nothing about blogging, making videos, social media or any of that stuff. So yes, we did begin filming from the beginning, but not in the way we do today. Sometimes we document in photographs and writing only and that is primarily what we did in the beginning. So, the people following us solely on YouTube miss out on a lot of the story. We also consciously leave the camera behind sometimes to experience life in the now and not behind the lens.
Do you have a contingency plan?
We met this dude that traveled and worked seasonally at National Parks all over North America. Seems like a great backup plan doesn’t it?! There are a few companies that manage most of the national park services which our friend Judy talks about in this Make Money and Travel story.
Does it always feel like vacation or does it get more complacent? If so how do you make it less complacent?
For us it’s a lifestyle, not vacation. We work a lot, way more than our previous companies/life. We clean the house, do laundry, cook, run errands and have the same chores and responsibilities that most people have. The biggest difference is, we rarely do it in the same location, which poses its own set of challenges. There’s no doubt living and working this type of life is challenging, but the rewards are exponential. Everything is always changing and we’re on our toes, alert, and ready. No room for complacency.
Do you have someone you check in with before you leave the docks?
In the past 5 months, we’ve only touched a dock with our Catamaran once. We are either on the move or anchored out. But, we are always connected in one way or another (cell phone, internet, sat phone). When we choose to be without connectivity we send a sail plan (an itinerary) to a few people just in case.
How do you keep the romance alive?
When it’s 100 degrees and 100% humidity it’s almost impossible to be romantic. Other than those rare days, we focus on communication so we’re tuned into each other’s wants and needs. We try to have a few special things that we don’t often have access to, maybe it’s a nice bottle of bubbly or a special type of chocolate. Then of course, a good massage goes a long way!
A big thanks to Lorie for sharing our story and the #HTM class for all the love. Go Lakers!