This interview is part of our Love Mondays series, bringing you stories of digital nomad couples from around the world who love their Mondays! You can read more about the series here.
I actually interviewed Betsy and Pete nearly a year ago for a book I’m writing (that’s yet to be finished!) about digital nomads. Their interview was so inspiring I thought it best to share with you sooner rather than later.
How did you become digital nomads?
Betsy: We’re older than the average digital nomad. I’m 61 and Pete’s going to be 59 this year.
We started the online work as a result of what I like to call a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ we had with ourselves after we were married in 2006. We realised that we wouldn’t be able to traditionally retire – and that’s a difficult realisation to have hit you.
The cards were all out on the table and the picture wasn’t the prettiest. We had to figure out what we’d be doing if we were going to be working for the rest of our lives. We knew it had to be something that we like to do and it had to be compatible with the fact that we might now be as active. The only thing we came up with is working online.
We didn’t do anything about it until a couple of years later.
Pete: My boss had come across a site where you could make your own postage stamps. I thought that it might be a good outlet for my photography. So I started making some products online. I made one bumper sticker and put it out there.
When did you quit your day jobs?
Betsy: In 2011 we had the finances and life events occurred that caused us to accelerate our plan. We lost Pete’s parents within six months of each other. While they were dying they both expressed regret about things that they’d wanted to do but had run out of time.
I’d had a similar conversation with my dad years ago when he passed. He advised me to live my life with as little regret as possible. I took that to heart because it occurred a couple of days before he died.
Simultaneously we realised that we weren’t getting any younger. Because we married in our early 50s we realised that there might be a limited time frame to spend together, compared to younger couples.
We thought it’d be fun to go to all the states in the US. We decided that where we’d been separately didn’t count.
In the first couple of years that we were married we didn’t do very well in those because we were still nose to the grindstone and we didn’t get much vacation time.
But when these tragedies happened we had a change in perspective and started to realise what really mattered.
And what really mattered was not for Pete to have to go to that job every day. And what really mattered was for us to get more independence and simplicity in our lives. So we quit our jobs and hit the road.
What do your family and friends think of your adventure?
Betsy: When Pete quit his job, nobody could believe it, they thought that we were retiring. People just couldn’t get their heads around the fact we were working harder than we ever had before.
People really struggled to understand what we were doing. The realisation came to me that we’re so conditioned as a society that work is somewhere where we go, rather than it’s something that we do.
Not having a home and travelling a lot just blows people’s minds.
We have five kids between us and they were more accepting. One of our daughters said we were ‘rad’!
There are lots of people who talk about doing stuff like this but then they don’t do it. Our son just didn’t even believe it until we’d done it.
Surprisingly some of the closest people to us were very negative. One person said, “Oh, you’ll be back in six months.” And we thought – so? Does that mean we’ve failed? We weren’t picking up on the whole process of that until we realised it was about that person, rather than what we were doing.
I know there were people talking behind our backs but you just come to a point where you say, “It’s my plan, it’s not your plan. I’m fine with what your plan is and I’m sorry if you’re not fine with ours.”
What advice would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Betsy: To ignore the fear. I think fear takes many forms. Essentially I think it’s about insecurities. If you think something is in jeopardy then it stops you in your tracks.
You need to ask yourself – is this a pipe dream? Because if it is, that’s okay, just be honest with yourself. Don’t just sit there and dream and don’t take action.
But if it isn’t really a pipe dream then you need to examine what is holding you back and ask yourself what is the worst that is happening?
Pete: The best advice – you don’t have to do it all at once. We slowly moved into it. We developed our online opportunities. Then we’d travel for six weeks at a time. Then we moved to Hawaii for a while and then we got more excited about travelling.
And then we travelled to Europe – so we’ve been slowly building up to the travel.
It’s not necessarily the case that you need an online business – we do some consulting with people who are interested in taking the plunge and a woman was looking for some direction. She happens to have a tidy sum in savings and even though she has some online businesses, she’s not dependent on those.
You don’t have to jump in with both feet, you can just test the waters a little.
Betsy: Keep in mind that the reason you’re thinking about this is that the life you have right now isn’t serving you. So why would you remain in a life that isn’t good for you? Things aren’t working for you, so there’s no harm in trying something new.