What would you do if, all of a sudden, you had millions of dollars?? No really, think about it… What would you actually, really do??
It’s a hypothetical question people sometimes joke about or discuss more seriously. But there we were, both Jessica and I still in our 20s, with this hypothetical situation becoming our reality...
Important sidenote: I’m an obsessive journal keeper.
One of the many benefits of being an avid journal keeper is the special ability to REMEMBER. I remember things as they happened, but more importantly, I remember things as they FELT. I truly believe it's a superpower. This superpower helps me be a better parent, more understanding of others, slower to judge and react, and more open with my feelings.. All because I REMEMBER how these situations have made me FEEL in the past.
When Snapchat acquired our iPhone app, more money came into our lives than we ever imagined. I’m going to be fully transparent and do my best to explain what that felt like. Because it’s a FEELING that I REMEMBER perfectly :)
IS MONEY A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
The stress of money can be fatal. There’s a space in your mind where that stress festers. The more stress that lives in that space the more it cripples and pushes out other things like love, creativity, freedom and more… The weight of stress lives in your brain but it is felt through your entire body and soul. However, equal to the painful feeling that comes from carrying such a heavy stress, is the feeling of relief that comes when that stress is removed from your life.
I’ve heard so many people say, “Money actually brings more stress than it relieves”. NO WAY! People who say that are either really terrible at having money OR have simply forgotten how debilitatingly stressful it is to NOT have money. I think if you can mentally imagine a bar graph that shows your different categories of life’s stresses, for most people, finances will be one of the tallest pillars on your graph. Take that away and fill that space with the fresh air of freedom, and yeah, it feels truly amazing.
So why do some people often say money causes more stress than it takes away?? I’ve seen firsthand the true devastation and heartbreak that can come from money being used the wrong way. Unfortunately, most of these examples have come from my own family and loved ones. It’s a lesson I wish I wasn’t able to learn on repeat throughout my life watching people I love, allow money to wreck their lives. Sometimes, REMEMBERING how things FEEL can also be a curse :(
So, when money came into our lives, two important conversations were had:
MY CONVERSATION WITH MY COFOUNDER, KIRK OUIMET
My business co-founder, Kirk, and I talked about resetting our priorities. We asked ourselves the important question: “Now that we have money, what other things in life, if we lose them, will make us poorer than someone who is broke??” We made a list:
If we don’t have loving marriages, then the money is all for nothing. If we don’t have our health, then the money is all for nothing. True friendships, strong families, selfless service, passions and skills, and FREEDOM?? Otherwise, the money is all for nothing.
I’m grateful to have gone through this experience together with Kirk. He has been a true friend and a great example to me, always. The journey of life is better when you can share it with people you fully trust and love. Speaking of..
MY CONVERSATION WITH MY LOVE, JESSICA
That led to my conversation with Jessica. We were now millionaires with ultimate freedom and choice and above all, I wanted to return to school so I could finish playing my senior season of collegiate soccer. Jessica (barely) agreed to support that decision, even though she felt like it was a major step backwards for our family. But Jessica’s agreement came at a negotiated price: “If you get to do that, then I get to choose whatever I want as the next chapter in our lives!”
I was eternally grateful to Jessica for allowing me to savor every moment of my “youth” and play my final year of college soccer. It will forever be a special era getting to play the sport I love with my wife and kids in the stands cheering for me. I was forever grateful to Jessica and ready to give her the world… literally ;)
Jessica was afraid if we went back to Utah that we’d get “stuck.” We have such great family and friends there, but she didn’t like the idea of spending our entire lives in 1 place and never getting outside that bubble of a culture. The plan she came up with to make sure that didn’t happen, was to do “just a little bit of traveling.” LOL - by this time we’d been married for 5 years and Jessica should have known that I don’t do “just a little bit” of anything ;) I understand that I can be extreme. I love Jessica so much but she might be the most moderate human I have even known. That ying yang in our relationship has always been a struggle but it has also been our source of balance. So when Jessica voiced that she wanted to take 6 months and do just a little bit of traveling, my extremely entrepreneurial mind couldn’t help but turn it into something much, much more..
LET’S SELL EVERYTHING AND TRAVEL THE WORLD
“Let’s sell everything!!” - Garrett
“Why does it need to be everything?” - Jessica
“Why sell 80% of our stuff?? When else in our lives will we have this opportunity?? What will it do to our minds to completely start over?? Let’s go for it!!” - Garrett
I painted a vision in Jessica’s mind of a full reset on life. “It doesn’t feel right to settle down yet or buy a fancy car or spend all the money. So let’s do the opposite! Let’s put all the money aside except for charitable purposes. Let’s mentally start over. We will sell everything and travel the world to expand our minds and hopefully learn lessons that will give us a better understanding of life and inspiration for what kind of future we want for our family!”
YARD SALE - There was a bit of sadness every time we placed a price tag on our belongings, but each time an item sold there was a little bit of money added to our “bucket” and a little bit of stress taken off of our shoulders. Jessica even said to me, “It actually felt so great to offload everything. I was sad at first but now I have this feeling of stress just leaving my body.”
Sure enough, we sold EVERYTHING and made about $45k. That became our budget to travel the world together as long as we could make that $45k last. We promised ourselves not to touch any money from the acquisition unless it was for humanitarian purposes. Not to spoil the ending, but I’m very proud that we successfully stuck to that promise.
BUCKET LIST = OUR FAMILY JOURNAL
To Jessica, this trip was always meant to be just that, purely a trip. But for the journal keeper and entrepreneur in me, I couldn’t help but envision something much more grand. I started an Instagram as a photo diary and a YouTube channel as a video log. The vision was a family journal we could forever treasure. FOREVER TREASURED MEMORIES = my vision of success, my “something grand”. You see, if you start a YouTube channel with the goal of riches and fame then you might succeed but you might fail. But the beauty of starting a YouTube channel with the one and only pure intention of keeping a family journal is that there’s only one outcome: a successful archive of priceless treasured memories.
The only way to truly guarantee success in your life is to align your priorities with your heart.
We called our channel The Bucket List Family. Traditionally the term “bucket list” means everything you want to do before you die. But for us, this had nothing to do with dying and EVERYTHING to do with LIVING! I designed our logo to be vibrant and full of color, representing the many experiences and tastes and smells and lessons that would come into our lives from different cultures around the world. I made a symbol of 3 stripes that were red, blue, and green, to represent our 3 focuses while traveling,ADVENTURE,CULTURE,SERVICE.
I remember the feeling of setting up our YouTube channel and Instagram page. I had zero photography, video, or editing skills, yet. For me, I loved to see the blank canvas of 0 posts and 0 followers and wonder WHAT MIGHT BECOME OF THIS?? So, I made our first ever video explaining, “these videos will be our family journal and hopefully our friends and fam back home and maybe IF anyone else wants to watch, can follow along on our 6 month journey around the world”.
6 months turned into 1 year. 6 YouTube subscribers turned into 1 million. 1 country visited turned into 50 and counting.. It’s amazing to look at the 7 goals we created as a family before we left home and years later see just how well they manifested into our lives.
WE NEVER WANTED TO BE INFLUENCERS BECAUSE THAT WASN’T EVEN A THING YET
There were so many factors that led to our success on social media.
First off, our timing couldn’t have been better. “Influencers” weren’t a thing yet. I think we were amongst the first to come along as family travelers and do it fully on social media. Every post, every video came with a STORY. I didn’t just want to share cool postcard-esque pics of our travels, I wanted to document our family story/journey. Maybe my complete lack of experience with photography and video editing was to our benefit as it forced me to focus less on polished professional content, and more on family stories full of heart and soul.
“Influencers” and social media marketing started to grow and the stars of the universe aligned just in time for us to continue onward on our family travels. As our social media audience grew, so did companies' interest in working with us to show off their products, services, destinations, and more. Just as it seemed the $45k budget from selling all of our belongings was about to run out, our work as “social media influencers” began to make a profit. From the beginning, I hated the title, “Social Media Influencer”. That’s when I made up the term, “Family Travel Journalists”. Anytime somebody would call us an Influencer I was pretty quick to correct them and let them know we work as Family Travel Journalists. We work really hard to share meaningful stories and only promote companies that we truly support so I wanted a title that better reflected that level of mindfulness.
I think had we done this all from home, perhaps we would have felt the growth of “internet fame”. But the truth is we didn’t. We have always just felt like a small ordinary family exploring our extraordinary planet together. I feel it’s perhaps because we were always on the road, continuously exploring far off locations. So for a person to stop us in a remote and random village in Greece and ask for a picture with us as a fan of The Bucket List Family, it definitely felt surprising and friendly, but it didn’t feel like fame. When someone stops us on the street, it doesn’t feel like a fan screaming for a celebrity, it feels like a friend meeting a new friend that already feels kinda like an old friend :) That’s the difference between FAME and FRIENDSHIP and we love the FRIENDSHIPS that we have fostered around the world as The Bucket List Family.
After the first 6 months of travels we had initially planned, we were surprised that we both loved life on the road so much, especially Jessica. She was doing something completely outside her comfort zone and she was thriving!!
SERVICE BIG AND SMALL
We never touched our acquisition money for these family travels except for some humanitarian projects and service opportunities. Some of those humanitarian projects were big, like building a school during our time in Nepal, and some were small, like meeting a young waitress in need in Dominica. We have felt massive gratitude for the opportunity to explore new countries together as a family, while hopefully doing much good along the way. But the truth is, most of the time it felt as though the people of these countries were doing more good for our family than we were for them. They were teaching us such priceless lessons about life.
A good example was our visit to Bali where we volunteered to teach in an orphanage for a few weeks. By traditional American standards these “poor” kids had nothing. They didn’t have trendy clothes or the newest toys or gadgets. Yet they were some of the happiest humans we’ve been around. Their days were filled with learning, friends, singing, dancing, and games. They taught us so much about where to find TRUE JOY in life.
Money has played an interesting role in all of this. On the outside we might have the reputation as “traveling millionaires.”. But to those who really know us, we are obnoxiously cheap and frugal. We would often receive messages from internet strangers saying things like, “You are only able to travel because you sold your business for millions” or “You were only able to take such a risk because you had millions of dollars to fall back on”. There’s definite truth to these statements. Nonetheless, I will always be deeply proud of the difficult decision we made to start back at zero, both financially and mentally, and work our way back up from there. We could have chosen COMFORT, but we chose to be BRAVE.
3 YEARS OF FULL TIME TRAVEL AND THEN WE FOUND HOME
So, for 3 years we lived our lives on the road, traveling from country to country, experiencing the best (and sometimes less than best) that the world had to offer. We had two kids when we left home, Dorothy (3) and Manilla (11months). Manilla took his first steps the week we left home. He was ready to explore ;) Our first stops were Tonga, New Zealand and Australia. 3 years later we had our third child, Calihan, and the first country he visited was Cuba.
Sometime during our travels, we stumbled upon a darling, rundown beach bungalow right on the shoreline of Hawaii. A place so special, we decided to “settle down” and make it our home, a place for us to live the lessons we learned from the world like being good neighbors, part of a community, enjoy schools, sports, consistent friendships, gardening, and other healthy hobbies. We had found in Hawaii everything we had witnessed amongst the happiest people around the world and longed for, for ourselves, someday.
A MESSAGE TO OTHER PARENTS
On the chance that there’s a young father or really any parent out there reading this I want to share something close to my heart: I hope the takeaway message of The Bucket List Family is less about traveling and more about crafting the best life for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. Society is set up in a way that encourages people to live within a prearranged system. But the problem with any system, well intentioned or not, is there is NOT a “one size fits all” for any family. Your family is unique and as a parent it is your challenge to think, work, and live uniquely to best serve them. Don’t be afraid to simply take a step back, think of your family’s unique needs, and then wonder which alternate options you may consider outside the traditional norms of society. It never hurts to simply wonder ;)
So what next? Life seems to be changing fast. The world seems to be changing even faster! Do we continue to travel? Do I continue to make videos?
Before we had a home, I would travel with a fanny pack strapped to my chest to keep my most valuable items safe. It wasn’t my wallet. It didn’t have my passport. It had external hard drives where I saved all our family videos! These videos are forever my most treasured keepsakes. Now, they live in a safe in my closet. (Don’t even bother, I also have them backed up at my in-law’s house, my sister’s house, my co-founder’s bunker, and online in the cloud.. :) They are my treasure and I protect them as such.
WHY do these videos mean so much to me? A fool might say, this has all been about the travels. A wise man might think it’s about the lessons we’ve learned from cultures around the world. But the wisest of them all will realize it’s about the priceless time we’ve been able to spend together as a family during these few golden years together, regardless of location.
You see, I have a grand plan for these videos. Something that will take time, LOTS OF TIME, and I’m okay with that. Time can be a ruthless slow gradual killer that is impossible to escape, OR if you figure it out, time can become your ally. I think I’ve got it figured out.