So you want to chuck that 9-to-5, spending your days traveling the world, hiking and scuba diving and popping open a beer at three in the afternoon, forever forgetting the office and those damn soul-sapping fluorescent lights.
Don't hold your breath, right?
VIRTUAL TRAVEL BREAK: 10 luxury hotels in the middle of nowhere
But you don't have to give up on the dream just yet. The Goats are a couple of Canadians who have done what many of us only dream about. The couple is proudly homeless. (Though they prefer the term “location independent.”) They work, because they can do that anywhere, but they call themselves “digital nomads” living a “laptop lifestyle.”
And you know what? The Goats — not their real names — are only too happy to show you how to chuck it all, too.
Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift were in their early 20s, living and working in Calgary, Alberta. They partied with friends. They spent time with their families. They drove nice cars. They had a mortgage. But Nick and Dariece longed to see the world.
In 2008, they took an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico. It was great. They longed for more.
So the two of them scrimped and saved until they had enough for a yearlong trip. They went throughout Southeast Asia, India and Sri Lanka, stretching their time away to 13 months. They loved almost everything about it — though Dariece probably could have done without the near-deadly virus she picked up in Vietnam, and Nick might pass on being sucked out to sea by that riptide in Sri Lanka.
The bigger problem was that they ran out of money. The Goats — we’ll get to why they’re called that soon — headed back to Canada to work and save money for another long trip. Dariece did her daytime bit as a paralegal at a real estate office in a high-rise in Calgary. Nick often toiled the graveyard shift in a printing plant just outside of the city.
Nick put in 60-hour weeks or more. Dariece worked a couple jobs. They barely saw each other.
“You get home, you eat something, you go to bed, basically, and repeat,” Dariece says now.
“In the summertime, it was sooo hot in there,” Nick says about his gig. “And I had to wear pants, so that wasn’t ideal.”
Then, one cold winter night, they mixed some margaritas, got out a map, looked at their bank accounts and moved up their trip.
This time, they had a different goal in mind.
“We just said we’re going to spend this money and do a big world trip and try to see if we can do whatever we can do to stay on the road. That was a priority,” Dariece says.
“That was the priority,” Nick agrees. “Keep traveling. Turn it into a lifestyle.”
That was February 2011 — and they’re still going.
Finding 'location independence'
Nick and Dariece have a website, Goats on the Road, dedicated to “turning travel into a lifestyle.” They spoke to MNN via Skype from the southern Caribbean island of Grenada, where they’ve been house-sitting for the past few months.
Since they left in early 2011, they’ve traveled back to Canada only once or twice for brief visits. They have no home base now.
It took a little panic attack in the Philippines to finally reach that point, though.
“We had some lunch, and I just literally broke down,” Dariece says of her Philippines beach-bar crisis that put them on their path to location independence. “I think we only had a month, month and a half left [before they had to return to Canada]. I said, ‘Nick, what are we going to do? I cannot picture myself back at work in the office under those fluorescent lights. What can we do? Oh my god, Nick.’ He was the rock, for sure.”
A few weeks later, in an almost last-ditch effort to keep from going back to Canada, they sent out resumes to China, offering to teach English. They found some takers. They saved enough money working in China for 15 months that they were able to travel to Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. All of that was great.
More importantly, though, in China they built their website. (Everywhere they go, they explain, there are goats in the road.) And that has grown so much that they now can live how they want to live.
How they do it
When they’re traveling, Nick and Dariece prefer to go to inexpensive countries (that’s one of the reasons they picked Southeast Asia for their first trip), where they often backpack their way around. They camp or shun Western-type hotels for hostels or cheaper, local places. (They stayed in a casa particular in Cuba, for example, that went for about $20 a night, and they stayed in yurts in Kyrgyzstan.)
In their role as travel bloggers, they’ll snag an occasional freebie (they kicked back at a sweet resort in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico). But, usually, it’s someplace cheap and funky. They take ground transportation when they can and opt for the cheapest flights possible otherwise.
The all-out traveling usually takes up to five or so months a year. When they’re not traveling full-time, they rely on house-sits, like the one in Grenada, to save money. Those stopovers are good — necessary, even — to keep up with the blog, which has become their main source of income.
The blog keeps them busy — four-hour days, five days a week while they’re house-sitting — but it generates a few thousand dollars in advertising and other income a month. They supplement that by writing freelance travel articles, working sponsorship deals, and helping people out with blogs and social media.
They not only write, they produce slick videos for their site and their YouTube page. They invested in a fancy selfie-stick and a drone for airborne shots. They try to do a video a week.
“Before we started a blog, I had no idea you could make money from a blog. I just would have laughed,” Nick says. “I didn’t foresee it becoming a full-on business kind of thing.”
The future of the Goats
Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift travel the world permanently, writing a blog to help fund their adventures. (Photo: Goats on the Road)
All of it’s enough not only to fund their lifestyle but put a few bucks away for whatever the future holds. Which, immediately, is a 10-day trip home to Canada in November — Nick has to renew his driver’s license in person — followed by a long trip to South America.
After that, they’re planning house-sitting in different parts of the world, interspersed with more traveling (they're at 46 countries and counting) — for a long, long time.
“I still see this lifestyle. I don’t know where in the world it will be. But it will be four hours a day, maybe three days a week,” Dariece, now 31, says. “Ideally, we can just work less and less and have more passive income coming in. That would be like the ultimate.”
The big payoff, though, has been helping others enjoy a slice of their life. Whether it’s breaking down their income and costs for curious wannabes, suggesting places to find house-sits or pointing out cheap ways to eat and travel, they put it all on the blog. They answer questions. They return emails.
“That’s the best part of our job. Yeah, we make money from it; that’s great,” says Nick, who turns 31 in November. “But literally, I think the most rewarding thing is when people email us and they say, ‘Oh, I’ve been following you guys for a year, and now we’re going to do the exact same thing.’ I love those emails. That’s the best part.”
It’s enough to make you want to chuck it all, don’t you think?