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The Quick and Dirty: How I Changed My life

This is me…

I always hear, “I wish I could have your life!”. At first I would just laugh and say thank you, but I got to the point where I had to start saying, “YOU CAN!”. Friends and strangers who follow my adventures always think that I come from wealth or won some kind of lottery, neither of which are true.
I was raised in a low income household, there were no lavish vacations to the Caribbean or Europe. We didn’t take our boat out sailing in Cape Cod. Not to say my parents didn’t give me everything they could, I had a very happy childhood. The point is, I am not rich. There isn’t some sugar daddy/mommy funding my trips! Instead I have found a way to travel and make money at the same time.

Where it all started…

Let’s rewind. Here I was, new college grad with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nuclear Medicine. I was ready to enter the work force with my shiny new diploma and white lab coat. My professors were proud, I was proud, and most importantly my parents were proud. I did everything right. I got the job and starting doing what I had trained so hard for. The only problem was that five months in I was totally miserable. I loved working with people and being a part of someones road to recovery, but doing the same thing everyday was driving me crazy. There was not much room for advancement in my field, I was stuck. The thought of having to show up to the hospital 5 days a week from 8:30-5 made my head spin, do that sound familiar?

The beginning of it all…

After working for almost a year I got the chance to join some friends on a two week sailing trip to the Greek Islands. The trip cost me just under $1500 for two weeks on a private yacht, which was no problem for me at the time since I was working full time and living at home. I realized a few things during those two weeks. I loved sailing. I did not get sea sick while cooking under sail. I was a lot more miserable back home than I thought. At the time I was 22 and dreading the though of going home. It dawned on me that I had been living my life for everyone else. I was accomplishing the dreams of my professors and parents, but not my own. I was living a successful life by the standards society has put in place, but I did not feel successful. I wanted more. To feel more, experience more, see more.
With trembling fingers I emailed my boss and told her that I was not coming back. With a trembling voice I called my parents and told them I was not coming back. Their reactions were more than I could have ever hoped for. They said go and explore, live your life so you are happy and healthy. To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone back even if they had said no. I was doing this for myself. I had enough money to get me three months of living a simple lifestyle in Europe and then I would figure out the rest.

Figuring it all out…

When the sailing trip was over I was put in contact with a captain who needed crew to help sail a boat from Portsmouth, England to Stockholm, Sweden. The trip would take about two weeks with travel, accommodation, and food paid for. It was perfect. I got sailing experience and two free weeks of living! I was hired along as the cook. I learned a lot about sailing and that I never want to cross the North Sea in a 39 foot boat again!
During this trip I learned about a travel/work opportunity with European Travel Ventures. The Yacht Week is a flotilla of yachts that sail together and party at amazing venues all around Europe. They have routes in Croatia, Greece, Italy, Thailand, Spain, British Virgin Islands, and counting. I applied and was hired as a hostess. My duties were to cook breakfast and lunch, keep the boat tidy, and make sure my guests had the best week ever. I did not make much money, but it meant I was not spending money on living expenses since we lived and ate on the yachts. Once the boat was safely delivered to Sweden I was off to Croatia (my flight was covered by the yacht delivery). I worked for The Yacht Week for two months. I made amazing memories and even more amazing friends. I took a recovery week in Amsterdam, I stayed at a new friends house.

Making it work…

I didn’t have a plan after my stint in Croatia so I thought it would be best to fly home and reorganize myself and make some cash waitressing at the local restaurant. I was home for a little over a month before I was off again. The Mediterranean sailing season was over, but the Caribbean sailing season was just beginning. The travel bug had taken a huge bite and I could not stop. I packed a bag and moved down to St. Thomas without a job. This was a risky move but I had learned that the sailing industry is all about who you know. It took me about 3 weeks to land a job on a 47 foot private catamaran. During those jobless weeks I freelanced as a chef and stayed on friends boats to keep costs low.
The only certification I needed to work on a private yacht as a “chef” was an STCW-95. It is a week long safety course that all crew must have. This certificate can range in price from $500 to $2000. It is a bit expensive but the payout is totally worth it. Once the job was locked down I had zero living expenses! I lived on the boat, ate on the boat, had wifi, water, and electricity! The captain and I would do week long charters with a maximum of 6 guests. I went to school for science not cooking so there was a lot of experimentation with food! Luckily, my mother is a chef so it was not a skill I had to battle to learn. I made $1000 a week in base pay and then worked my butt off for a tip! I was able to save a good chunk of money, which I intended to put towards travel. The season ran from November to August. At the end of August I returned home to once again reorganize and pack my bag for another trip!

Can’t stop won’t stop…

While I was busy chartering, my good friend was busy launching Roam, a travel pr company. She put together a two month press trip all around South East Asia starting in September. All she needed was her Media Director and a lifestyle model. I didn’t even skip a beat when she asked if i would like to join. At this point I had opened a Capital One Travel Venture card and received $500 in travel miles just for opening! We found a $414 flight from Vancouver, British Colombia to the Philippines, my flight was covered! My flight from Vermont to Vancouver was just under $200. SE Asia is very cheap, my dollars went a long way. Roam Travel Pr did media jobs for luxury hotels. This meant that I got to stay in places like The Shangri-La for free! Now I know this is not something that everyone can easily do, but staying in fancy hotels was not the best part of traveling in SE Asia. The people, the food, the landscape, it was all beautiful and I would have been just as happy paying $10 a night for a hostel, which we did many times when we were in-between jobs.

Two and a half months in SE Asia cost me roughly $5000. I was not traveling in the most economical way, you can do it for less and still have the time of your life. The last two week of the trip I spent in Bali. That is where I met the love of my life. We fell hard and decided to give our relationship a chance. We moved from opposite ends of world to be together. There was only one problem, how were we going to be together and make money? This is where my sailing connections came back into play.

Mobile home…

The Moorings is one of the largest charter companies in the world, with its biggest fleet in the British Virgin Islands. I had plenty of friends who had worked for them so I knew it was as simple as submitting our CV’s (resume’s) and seeing if they were interested. Luckily we scored a job interview and a spot on a 58 foot catamaran based in Tortola! The 58 foot cat’s are all three crewed vessels, therefore he was to be the chef (since he is classically trained) and I the stewardess. It took us three months to get through the visa process. We stayed with my parents in Vermont during that time to save money. We knew that once we got down to the BVI we would be living expense free on a luxury catamaran! The dream.
It has been three months now and we could not be happier. We get to explore the BVI’s without taking a penny from our pockets. On our off time we are encouraged to take the boat off base and enjoy ourselves. We are traveling, making money, and most importantly truly happy.
I do not regret breaking free from the “social mold”. I am not telling you to quite your job and move to a remote island, but I would encourage you to take a step back and think about what your ideal life would look like. You do not have to work until you’re 65 just so you can retire and finally have the time to travel and do the things you enjoy. You can live the life you want now, you just need the courage to do it. I drastically changed my path, and you can too.

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