Hi! Chris and I created Plan-Pack-Go to document the highs, lows, joys, challenges, and all the nitty-gritty details of our travels. While we both contribute, most of the articles are written by me (Julie). Chris has plenty of other ventures to keep him busy!
Our travel history
I mostly grew up in Las Vegas but lived abroad for two years when I was 5–7 years old; my dad was in the Air Force and we were stationed in Seoul Korea. This remained my only international experience until traveling with Chris and our two sons (Jacob and Matthew) on various trips to Germany, London, Belgium, Paris, the Galapagos Islands, and the Greek Islands.
Chris on the other hand, is extremely well traveled. He calls Indiana home but lived in seven states by the time he left for college. He took his first international trip right after college graduation and backpacked Europe for 11 weeks with an old high school friend. They started in Spain, ended in London, and hit a dizzying number of countries in between. Over the next 15 years or so, Chris’s work travel led him to China, Israel, India, Malaysia, Australia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England.
Life-Interruptus: Our “Travel while you can” experiment
When Jacob was a sophomore in college and Matthew a senior in high school, Chris left his 9 to 5 job and we started our own home-based business. It was a major life change and new adventure. We currently have three websites: WingT-Coach (about the Wing-T offense for youth football), Tech Leader Level Up (training and coaching for technology managers), and this website (our travel blog).
Why the big change? Mainly because we didn’t want to wait until retirement in our 60s or 70s to satiate our travel appetite. Running our own business gives us control of our time and calendar, and allows flexibility for frequent travel. And why now? We feel we are in a unique, relatively untethered zone. We hope to travel our whole lives, but right now our kids are both in college and have yet to settle down so we’re scooping up the time and trying to make the most of it. Case in point, we delivered Matthew to college and promptly took a 6-week trip to Ireland!
Where we’re at and where we’re going
As I write this in May of 2016 (see below for annual updates), I’m 46, Chris is 48, and we are mid-way through Year 2 as self-employed entrepreneurs, trying to find our optimal work/life balance, working to stay fit and healthy, and growing our business while traveling about once a month.
We have yet to create significant income, but have some runway to work with. Make no mistake, we took a hard look at our finances and planned carefully before stepping on this path. While working on the income-side, we are actively dialing down expenses by downsizing (selling the house), buying less stuff, becoming a one-car family (utilizing public transportation more), and financing much of our travel with credit card rewards and other loyalty programs.
How long can we live, work and travel like this? Stick with us and see! I’ll update you as life rolls along. In the meantime, Chris and I agree that this was a great decision. Our relationship has grown stronger (25 years baby!) and we’re the healthiest we’ve ever been. I have to admit, the transition has been rocky for me. I’m much more risk averse than Chris and this has pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways. How do I deal? Long ago I made a conscious decision to view things I’m scared of as “opportunities for growth.” Ha! In real terms, this usually means I put blinders on (so I don’t get overwhelmed), buckle down, and “just keep swimming” like Dory in Finding Nemo.
It’s been a roller coaster, but the hills and valleys are starting to level out, I’m starting to get my feet under me, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished over the past year (yes, I’ve only been writing for one year – it took me six months to find the confidence to take that first baby step). As for Chris, well, he’s a dynamo and the most efficient and productive person I’ve ever met. It’s no wonder that most of his work centers around teaching, coaching, and training – definitely the best use of his superpowers.
In summary, we’re like everyone else on this planet: on a journey in more than one sense of the word. No matter where you’re at, we hope life is fulfilling and your travels eye-opening. Carpe diem!
P.S. Our major trips this past year included Siesta Key (just me and my friend Jill), a road trip out to Keuka Lake with Matthew, three trips to West Point (for R-Day, A-Day and Plebe-Parent Weekend), six weeks in Ireland, a weekend in New Hampshire (to see Matthew compete for West Point Orienteering), Thanksgiving in Florida, Christmas at the Oregon coast, two trips to Pittsburgh (for the Wing-T Conference and the Carnegie Mellon Spring Carnival), Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a week in Las Vegas (my home town), a business trip to Dallas for Chris’s Tech Leader training, and five days in Cancun.
Update June 2017: My goodness, what a difference a year makes! We went from completely untethered and working for ourselves to slightly tethered and working “real” jobs in addition to our online work. Chris has long wanted to teach and when an opportunity presented itself to become an instructor at a local university, he took it. Teaching computer science and coaching football means he has less time for travel from August through March (he only teaches fall and winter terms), but both are fulfilling and scratch an itch.
For my part, this may sound nutty but I really really wanted (and emotionally needed) to work for someone else for pay. I left the work world in 1995 to be a stay-at-home mom and dove deep into kids, community, and volunteer work. When the boys were in high school I started to think about next steps, but had no real passion or direction. I wanted to work, but where? At what? And what could I do that squared with our new “work from anywhere” lifestyle? It was a conundrum and I was floundering, but a precious opportunity landed in my lap in September 2016. Though I was scared to take the leap (again, I hadn’t worked for over 20 years) I now work part time for a company that manufactures heavy-duty electric vehicles. The work is remote – I’ve never even visited the office in Kansas City – and mainly centers around messaging (writing newsletters, etc.). As a result, I’m focusing less on Plan-Pack-Go, but still try to publish an article a week. There tend to be long gaps while traveling since I’ve realized I like to focus on the experience and then write about it later.
It’s been tough to find the balance between life, travel, work, and writing (writing ends up at the bottom of the list every time!) but on the whole, I feel more confident and fulfilled than I was the same time last year. I’m certainly sleeping better which is a good indicator!
Financially we’re doing fine. We still don’t generate significant income from work, but investments have been solid in the long term and fill the gap. More money will be freed up soon since Jacob graduated from college in May and has just one term left to complete his masters degree.
Life continues to be a roller coaster, likely much like yours. If you’d like to share, we’d love to hear your story.
P.S. Since May of 2016, we spent the summer at Keuka Lake in New York, moved into our new townhouse, traveled to Florida for Thanksgiving, went to Pittsburgh twice (once for the Wing-T conference and again for Jacob’s graduation), and out to the Oregon Coast for a week-long board gaming retreat. We spent over a month in Cambodia and Vietnam, a couple days in Los Angeles, and a long weekend in Seattle for the U2 Joshua Tree concert. Chris had a guys’ weekend to Baltimore for the Army-Navy game, and I had two incredible hiking trips, the first backpacking the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park, and the second exploring the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley (for over three weeks!). We are thrilled to be back at Keuka for another summer and are about to depart on a 5-day jaunt to Maine, one of two states that Chris has never visited. The other is Alaska – definitely need to plan that trip!