I’ve been thinking about typing out these incredibly exciting, yet seriously terrifying, life-altering words for literally YEARS now, so here goes- my husband, Justin, and I have officially quit our six-figure corporate jobs to travel the world.
Well, more specifically, we quit our corporate jobs to be digital nomads and focus our time and energy on growing our business, Uprooted Traveler, full-time. Years of planning, saving, and working on our website until the wee hours of each morning have gone into making this decision and yet, it’s still the scariest thing I’ve ever done by SEVERAL factors. Nevertheless, I truly couldn’t be more giddy for the road ahead.
But let’s rewind a bit and explain how we’ve changed from two kids who had barely left the United States and knew literally nothing about blogging to a couple that’s been to almost 20 countries together and has grown a website into a six-figure business during our nights and weekends.
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The Origins of Uprooted Traveler
We have generally led pretty conventional lives. After college, I went to law school and eventually worked my way up to a schmancy corporate law firm, while Justin snagged a role as a business systems analyst at a Fortune 100 company.
Before we got married, you definitely wouldn’t describe either of us as “big travelers”. We both grew up in lower middle class families and our vacations, both with our families when we were kids and also as a broke couple in our 20s, primarily revolved around road trips around the Midwestern United States.
So, when we got married in the fall of 2017, we wanted to step outside our comfort zone and experience something a bit different and off-the-beaten-path than a “typical” honeymoon to the Caribbean or Hawaii (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m literally writing this post as we’re flying back from Kauai!). We chose to go to Japan, a country that had always fascinated both of us, due to its unique combination of ancient history, jaw-dropping nature, and modern and chaotic cities.
By the time we got back from our action-packed honeymoon, it felt like our brain chemistry had been permanently altered by our experiences, from soaking up Japan’s quirky kawaii culture to sitting on the floor of a 300-year old tea house, whilst eating charcoal grilled mochi (HIGHLY recommend). We had fallen completely and irrevocably in love with travel and its ability to expand and shift our perception of the world and how we fit in it- and were hungry to experience more.
Several months after our honeymoon, we started this little blog as a hobby, as a place to highlight our travels together and, more specifically, the awesome vegan food we found along the way. And for the first dozen or so countries we traveled to together, it really was something we just posted on for funsies when we had the time and energy for it. In fact, during a particularly busy time in my legal career, I didn’t touch this blog for well over a year- I just didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to care about it.
By 2019, I had grown tired of life as a private practice attorney (have you ever had to track your workday in six minute increments? I really wouldn’t recommend it!) and after living our entire lives in the Midwestern United States, both Justin and I were ready for a serious change in scenery. I was lucky enough to score a sweet job as an in-house attorney at Amazon and we happily packed our things, sold our house in St. Louis, and moved to Seattle, Washington, to try out a different and more exotic part of the country.
Shortly after moving to Seattle, Justin was able to get another great job designing software for UPS and, thankfully, my work-life balance improved about ten-fold at Amazon. Beyond that, though, our lives were cruising along the same path as they were when we lived in St. Louis- we spent our weekday evenings checking out new restaurants, trying overpriced cocktails with rosemary, thyme, and other hipster nonsense in them, and planned trips abroad around our allotted vacation time and three-day holiday weekends.
Of course, in 2020, the whole world (including things infinitely bigger than our silly travel plans) screeched to a halt. We were all forced to shift our collective plans for that scary virus that, at the time, we thought may or may not kill us and everyone we knew and loved by simply breathing around one another.
Like everyone else, our evenings out exploring our new home’s culinary and cocktail scene quickly morphed into baking way too much banana bread, at-home workouts, and weekend trips to hike and camp in our extraordinarily gorgeous backyard of the Pacific Northwest. And we reverted to traveling how we used to when we were a couple of broke just-out-of-college kids– road trips around the western United States to see and explore some of the most spectacular landscapes on this planet.
I know that first responders and so many folks had an absolutely nightmarish 2020, which, in comparison, dwarf my insignificant problems. But, in my own little mental bubble, I was struggling during this time- a LOT of my identity had been completely wrapped up in travel and now, not only could I not do the activity that brought me the most joy in this world, but I also didn’t know when- or even if- we’d be able to freely travel abroad like we once did. I wondered if I had missed my chance to experience all the things I had longed to see in the world, from the pyramids of Egypt to the goofy lil’ penguins of Antarctica.
In late summer of 2020, I asked my incredibly supportive and awesome manager to use two weeks of my paid time off in October. I was trying to thread the needle between when Justin and I were allowed to take off work (due to different work obligations, Justin could not take any time off in December, nor I in November), while not letting any of Justin’s vacation time, which vanished at the end of each year, go to waste.
My manager, however, said no and gently suggested that taking two weeks off might not be the best thing for my career. To this day, I truly appreciate their candor—while the message wasn’t one I necessarily wanted to hear, I knew they were doing me a favor by telling me how to get ahead (and they were right; I got promoted shortly thereafter).
But I was frustrated. Not with their guidance or my employer, which thankfully had consistently championed the importance of work-life balance, but, more broadly, with American work culture and the way it dictates how we can use our limited time off—that we’re considered extremely lucky to be given a few weeks off each year to travel, explore, recharge, or take care of whatever personal activities need tending to, and even then, how and when we use that time is completely subject to someone else’s approval.
That day, my brained reeled with regrets and worries about what our future held, that I had unknowingly worked my whole life to sign up for a system that I wasn’t fully on board with for the next 30-plus years—if I was limited to taking one week off at a time for the rest of my corporate career, how many experiences around the world would we be missing out on, like hiking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal or trekking around Patagonia, while we were relatively young and in good health? Even if we could get to these far-flung places within a weeklong period, we’d be SO rushed and jet-lagged that it might not even be worth going to in the first place.
And, if we saved these experiences for retirement, what if we didn’t make it to that point? Both Justin and I have unfortunately known many friends, family, and coworkers who have gotten unexpectedly sick or even passed away before they were able to enjoy whatever adventures they had planned for their retirement. And if you’re reading this, I’m sure you do too.
What if we didn’t live to see our “some day”?
Our Original Plan
A couple of days after that conversation with my manager, I was working on painting our office (remember all of the fun home renovations of 2020?) and living vicariously while listening to a podcast by some of my favorite travel bloggers, Lia and Jeremy of Practical Wanderlust. The podcast episode I was listening to was all about their year-long honeymoon, where they saved up for years, quit their jobs, and traveled all over North and South America and Europe. I was incredibly envious of their adventure- could you imagine just having an entire year to do nothing but all of the things that you’ve dreamed about? If only we could do that!
It suddenly occurred to me, as I stood there with a roller in hand and cream-colored paint streaked across my face, that there was really nothing stopping us from doing exactly what Lia and Jeremy did, but for all of (*waves hands around emphatically*) the adult things in our lives, like three fur-children, a house in Seattle with an absolutely ridiculous mortgage, and great jobs that we both genuinely loved and were thankful for. Was giving up our very comfortable lives worth it to travel and see things that we very well may be able to do later in life—just like we’ve been told by society that we should do?
Ultimately, if COVID taught me anything, it’s that life, this world, and the time we have in it are incredibly unpredictable and we have to take advantage of the opportunities we have now- because who really knows what the future has in store (I knoooooow; I’m such a millennial!).
So, that weekend, as Justin and I hiked down a spectacularly lush trail in Mount Rainier National Park, I tried as best I could to oh so casually float the idea of quitting our jobs that we had worked so hard to get so that we could travel for a year. After that, we could return to corporate America, buy a house, maybe have kids… really, just return to “normal” life as we knew it.
And, God bless him, Justin basically was like “Cool, I’m on board. Let’s plan it out!” (have I mentioned how awesome of a partner Justin is?).
Over the next several months, we built countless spreadsheets, trying to figure out how much we needed to save, our basic itinerary around the world, and our monthly savings goals to get where we needed to be.
We completely shifted our spending habits so that we could save more. We drastically reduced the amount we got take-out and other unnecessary expenditures and cut corners everywhere that we could, from shopping at discount grocery stores and taking public transit whenever we could to sharing a 16-year old car between the two of us.
We also realized that we were spending a LOT of time and money, driving for hours around the Pacific Northwest to explore and then immediately zooming back home to take care of our dogs each day of every weekend. During one fateful outing while visiting the Tree of Life in Olympic National Park with our pups, we both kept talking about how fun it would be, instead of driving four hours back home, to just stay overnight in the nearby rainforest, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, looking up at the stars, and waking up to the sound of a river rushing outside our window.
So we decided to tweak our savings plan a teeny bit and invest in an RV—a decision that has brought us so much joy over the last few years and completely changed the way that we think about travel (and our beloved road trips!).
And, finally (and arguably most importantly), we started to focus back on this blog as a potential side hustle, a way that we could possibly bring in some extra cash every month to put towards our little trip fund. So, after a few years of running this blog just for fun, we started to take learning about search engine optimization and how to monetize our blog seriously. We invested literally tens of thousands of hours at improving our website and started to pivot our content towards topics that were more useful to a wider audience of readers, like the national parks or hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest (shockingly, where to find vegan food in a tiny mountain town in Iceland isn’t the most common search term in Google).
And slowly but surely, our website and our business grew- and the growth has been exponential.
Our New Plan
With the growth of our website and the unfortunate passing of all of our senior pets, our plans, once again, started to shift over the last year. What if, instead of just treating this website as a side hustle to help save up for a year of travel, this became our full-time jobs? What if we were able to more deeply explore the destinations we were traveling to and make money by doing exactly what we loved- taking photos and videos and creating content so that others could explore these destinations better as well?
Welp, after three years of a ridiculous amount of effort, I’m proud to say that our website has gotten to that point, a six-figure business with more than 1.5 million annual readers.
So, as of today, we have officially sold our house in Seattle and both put in our notice of resignation to our corporate jobs, with our last days being the beginning of next month. So, like I said- absolutely gut-wrenchingly terrifying but probably the most exciting decision we’ve ever made!
Our plan right now is to live in our RV full-time and travel around the United States and Canada for the next year, as we get our feet wet and figure out this whole self-employment thing. Then eventually, we plan to travel internationally for half of each year and head back to North America to explore in our RV for the other half. And hopefully, do some of the bucket list-worthy things that we want to do, like dive in the Egyptian Red Sea or climb a volcano in Java, Indonesia or drive our RV to Alaska while we’re still willing and able.
But, really, who knows what the future holds- four years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have guessed this is where we’d be, so I’m not even going to begin to speculate what’s on the road ahead. All I can say is that I can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Do you have any questions about our journey- past, present, or future? I know I’ve found hearing about other bloggers’ paths to full-time self-employment incredibly helpful and motivating- so let us hear ‘em! Or is there any place you’d like to see us go? We’re open to anything and everything!
And, if you’re still here, reading this article, we want to say, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you- we wouldn’t be able to be on this incredibly exciting but oh-my-goodness terrifying journey without you. Can’t wait to bring you along for the adventure!