Don’t you wish you could sell all of your possessions and just permanently travel the world? Kelly Hale and Mike Schimanowsky have done just that!
The couple recently celebrated their one year anniversary of living a nomadic, location independent lifestyle. Kelly and Mike travel the world while continuing to do freelance graphic design and flash development. They share their experiences in this interview.
Please tell us about your travels over the last year.
We just wrapped up our first year abroad having spent 6 months in the Visayas region of the Philippines, 3 months hopping around Thailand, 1 month in Bali, and 2 months in Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo.
What made you decide to sell off your possessions and begin a nomadic lifestyle?
Both Kelly and I were looking for a lifestyle change from 9-5 desk duty and we’re both avid travelers. It started off as a joking suggestion that we quit our jobs and go live elsewhere. Once it was out there, we kept coming back to it. There really wasn’t that much tying us to Vancouver beyond some good friends, an apartment, and our jobs. Kelly had moved to the Netherlands for a year previously and had great memories of living overseas. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more we thought about it, why couldn’t we do our jobs virtually anywhere?
What are some of your favorite countries so far and why?
Every country we’ve been in has had fantastic highlights, but I’d have to say my favourite spot was Malaysian Borneo. The world class scuba diving at Sipadan was unbelievable (Video, Blog Post with Pictures). Borneo also has the most insanely awesome roads for motorcycle riding. Most of all, I found the people in general were incredibly hospitable, friendly, and genuine.
How much income or savings does a couple need to comfortably travel like you do?
We haven’t done the math on the entire year yet, but there’s a pretty good portion of it detailed in our travel budgets post. I think we’re on point for around $40-42,000 for the year. We aren’t budget travelers. We’re budget conscious, but we’re not 21 year old backpackers anymore. We have a quality of life standard that’s comparable to the one we left behind.
How do you earn an income?
Both Kelly and I freelance online. Kelly is a graphic designer, and I’m an interactive developer. We’ve been in the website building business for the past 10 or so years. Having worked for a number of advertising agencies and design firms, we have a pretty solid group of contacts that continue to send us work and keep in touch via email, Facebook, Skype, and the odd conference call. We do have an internet dependency, so we tend to limit our travel to locations with reliable and easily accessible connectivity, taking day trips into the more remote regions.
What do you like and don’t like about your lives now?
I love the freedom of working for myself, setting my own hours and choosing where I work. How many people get to say they’re working from the beach? I love that my days off are spent scuba diving in warm 30 degree waters. I love the endless variety of new places, people, and foods that are available to us.
Being away from family is hard. So is constantly putting yourself out there, trying to make new friends. I took for granted being able to just give a buddy a shout and instantly having someone to go out with for a beer and a chat.
I don’t like hauling 70-80kg of bags everywhere. We’re in a constant battle with our possessions. Trying to stay light weight, but having everything we need to be comfortable and work efficient is a challenge.
I miss my motorbike. Kelly misses her wardrobe of shoes.
Is it easier or more difficult to travel as a couple?
Financially, it’s much easier. Sharing the costs and having multiple incomes is a huge benefit. In general, I think that traveling together is a real test of any relationship. Everything is amplified when you’re out of your own element. You’re spending 24/7 together for an extended period of time. Minor irritations could grow into huge issues with that kind of constant contact, so open and honest communication is essential. Lucky for Kelly and I, we’re both super easy going and have never had any issues we couldn’t work out. I’m really glad I have someone with me to share it all with and to support me when things are tough.
Have you had any major problems on your travels?
Well, there was that time in Thailand when they were ripping down the bungalow we were staying in while we were sleeping in it… but other than that, we had surprisingly few major problems this last year. Millions of challenges, but nothing I would call a major problem. We never missed a flight. We were never threatened, scammed, or robbed. We always found an internet connection when we needed one. We never missed a deadline. Does putting on 10 lbs of beer belly count?
Where are you going next?
After southeast Asia, we came back to Canada for a month to visit family, friends, and clients. It’s was great to be back, but it’s getting cold! We just arrived in Central America a couple days ago. We flew into Liberia in Costa Rica and headed west to check out Tamarindo and some other spots on the coast. I’m thinking we’ll rent a house or apartment for a few months. The last six months has been a whirlwind of moving from place to place every couple of weeks and we’d like to settle down for a bit in one spot and unpack the bags for a while. Trips to Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama are likely at some point. Maybe even heading further south. Brazil was awesome when we were there a few years back, and I’d like to see Chile and Buenos Aires.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of living a nomadic lifestyle?
Travel slowly. The longer you stay somewhere, the more cost benefits there are.
Freelancing already? Take advantage of the lower cost of living in a developing country if you can work virtually for a developed country.
Be nice to your parents. You’ll need their basement to keep stuff in until you realize you’ll probably never need it again.
Do you have any plans to settle down and have a more traditional life again?
If a traditional life means moving back and settling into a 9-5 office job again? No. Probably not. We’re more likely to turn into expats. We consider every country we visit a potential future nesting location. Kelly wants a puppy in the not so distant future, so I suppose I’ll need a back yard somewhere, sometime.