“Two years ago, my day would start just like any other, with a tap of the snooze button. The morning would follow a predictable sequence of events. My husband would kiss me and the kids goodbye before driving off to his job as an Air Force engineer. My day would consist of managing the chaotic schedule-juggling routine of playgroups, doctor appointments, laundry, groceries, and tons of therapy that my son needed at the time. At night, my husband and I would put the kids to bed, and afterward, we would talk about the things we would do after we retired. The places we would see. The items we would check off our ‘bucket list.’ After all, we had been systematically raised to believe that freedom only comes when the kids have gone off to college, and you’ve worked to achieve ‘financial freedom’ at retirement age.
That all changed one day with one simple conversation. That year, we were sad to learn that many of our friends and family were being struck by cancer. My dear neighbor, after he told me about his diagnosis, said to me, ‘Jess, everyone asks me how long I have to live. But instead of answering their question, I ask back, ‘I don’t know, how long do YOU have left to live?’ Because ultimately, tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone.’
That statement made me realize just how precious time really is and how easily we take our health and life for granted. That night, I asked my husband, ‘If you knew you only had 6 months left to live, what would you decide to do with your remaining time?’
We pondered that question for hours that night, and it became clear to us that we would not be living life the way we currently were. When we really stopped to think about it, we felt like we were living in Groundhog Day, repeating the same loop over and over again. Waking up, getting through our to-do list, hoping for the next promotion and despite a lack of passion, we were chipping away the years to retirement. By the time we’d retire and have freedom, our kids would be gone and out of the house. We were ready to step away from the pressures of timelines and career paths, and wanted to start measuring our success in happiness, not job titles. We wanted to spend more time together as a family and take a more active role in our two young children’s most formative years. We wanted to experience the world first hand and learn about life and culture in other countries. We wanted to stop putting off our dreams for 20 years in the future and start living them today.
Today’s society will have you believe that those dreams are only possible if you’re wealthy, or after you’ve finished raising your children and retired. I was determined, however, to find another way. The rise of the digital economy has created many opportunities to earn a location-independent income, so we put our butts to work to improve our photography and digital marketing skills. We saved up for months, sold most of our stuff, rented out our home, quit our jobs, and embarked on a full-time family adventure around the world, finding remote work in photography and social media marketing along the way.
It has now been 18 months since we left home, and I’m happy to say we are thriving! We have substituted our mortgage with Airbnb and other short-term lease fees. Our car payment has turned into funds for plane tickets. We live out of our suitcases, so naturally we can’t make unnecessary purchases, and we spend our funds on new adventures. Ultimately, we have learned that there is a lot of joy in having less and living more!
Throughout this time, we have visited more than 40 countries, making more memories in such a short duration than we thought was possible. Our kids may not have a toy room, but they have days filled with new adventures. Their classroom is now the world, and we, along with the many people we meet along the way, are their teachers. An elephant sanctuary encounter in Thailand has become a lesson in veterinary care and animal science, while a busy day in Angkor Wat has led to discussions on religion and Cambodian history.
My kids have learned firsthand that kindness exists worldwide, despite differences in religion, culture, or beliefs. And while they may not remember each destination we visit, they are learning lifelong skills of compassion, resilience, and open-mindedness as they are immersed in new cultures each week.
I’m not going to lie, making this transition has been the hardest thing we have ever done. Taking this leap of faith was terrifying, as chasing an unconventional dream is, but I am proud to say it has been worth it every step of the way. While we walked away from a safe, traditional path, I am so glad that we didn’t wait until later in life to collect these experiences and memories. Is this lifestyle a fit for everyone? The simple answer is no. But I strongly believe that chasing dreams, from small ones to big, life-changing, intimidating ones, is for everyone. Don’t let the pressure of today’s society push you along a path or timeline that doesn’t bring you joy, because as my neighbor noted, tomorrow is not guaranteed!
Today, I woke up hearing the sound of the waves outside my cruise ship stateroom window, with no snooze button necessary. This morning I will prepare for another day working on a photography project with the cruise company that hired my family for this 23-night adventure across the Suez Canal from Rome to Dubai. My mornings don’t really follow a predictable sequence of events anymore, and that freedom from a rigid schedule and forced life path is everything I have wanted and more.”
This story was written by Jessica Sanchez of Colorado Springs, CO. You can follow her family’s journey on Instagram here. You can also view their website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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