- Erin Carey, 40, moved from Australia to Grenada to set sail on a yacht with her family in 2018.
- Since then, the PR firm owner and family have sailed 5,000 nautical miles.
- Their boat life isn’t easy work. Here’s what it’s been like, as told to Perri Ormont Blumberg.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
I’m the founder and CEO of Roam Generation PR, a travel PR company.
Since February 2018, I’ve lived aboard a yacht we bought sight unseen in Grenada with my husband Dave and our three sons: 12-year-old Hamish, 10-year-old Jack, and seven-year-old Christian.
When we arrived in the Caribbean, we didn’t really know what we were doing.
However, we learned as we went, making mistakes along the way before eventually feeling confident enough to sail across the Atlantic Ocean only 18 months later.
Our inspiration was a film by Laura Dekker called “Maidentrip.” Dekker is the youngest person to have sailed solo around the world, and my husband and I watched her documentary quite randomly one night after a long day at work.
To this day, I’m not exactly sure what it was about the documentary that resonated so deeply with us, but as the credits started rolling, we both turned to each other with glints in our eyes.
Whatever it was that inspired us was powerful, because it changed the trajectory of our lives. We moved straight to the computer and Googled “families sailing around the world.” We didn’t even know if it was possible or safe to do so with kids, but the moment we realized it was, our mantra became, “If they can do it, why can’t we?”
Within a month, we told our family and friends we were buying a yacht and heading off on a two-year sabbatical, sailing part-way around the world. They thought we were crazy.
When we came up with the idea, we were not in the financial position to buy a yacht and sail away.
We had an average-size mortgage, credit-card debt, and little savings.
We decided to work backward. We calculated how much money we thought we would need to buy a boat and take two years’ leave without pay from our jobs.
Then we brainstormed ways to make that amount of money. We immediately cut our expenses by curving our spending habits — that meant no more lunches or dinners out, no more designer clothing or bags, shoes, or sunglasses.
We moved our children out of private school and into a public school, rented out a spare bedroom in our house to international university students, sold our belongings, started collecting credit-card points for our flights overseas, then applied for promotions and eventually got them, canceled private health insurance (in Australia, having health insurance isn’t as critical as it is in the US), changed our utility providers, restructured our mortgage, and basically saved every penny that we could to make our dream a reality.
We were amazed at how much we could save when we really put our minds to it. The more we saved, the more determined we became.
We saved for two years and two months and eventually had enough money to buy our boat, which cost $90,000. We never imagined we could save that amount of money in that period of time. My husband is an aircraft technician by trade, so we were confident in his abilities to maintain the yacht.
In the two years leading up to our departure, we bought a little 21-foot trailer sailer to learn how to sail. My dad was a former sailing instructor, so he taught us the basics. We also participated in sea-survival courses, first-aid and seamanship courses, and obtained our boating licenses.
After months of research and scrolling through endless boat listings, I actually found our boat on Facebook.
It was located in Grenada, literally on the opposite side of the world. We had the boat surveyed by two independent people before we made our decision to purchase her. We decided that it wasn’t necessary for my husband to fly to the other side of the world to inspect her, simply because he didn’t feel he could add anything to the process.
We arranged to transfer the money using a foreign transfer company, which held it in escrow for us until the paperwork was finalized.
It was a nerve-wracking experience but relatively easy in hindsight.
The boat sat waiting for us until we flew into the Caribbean on one-way flights three months later. Luckily, she was just as described, and once we saw her, we were extremely happy with our purchase — and have been ever since.
After 12 months of island-hopping, I discovered the need for a PR agency that would promote the inspiring businesses and brands I discovered along the way.
Prior to running my PR agency, I worked for the Australian government as a public servant in a communications role. I was responsible for interviewing and assessing people for their security clearance.
I like to say that I built my company from the cockpit of my yacht, but in reality, it was from our rear cabin, where I worked long hours building a business that would allow us to turn our two-year sabbatical into a full-time lifestyle.
Roam Generation works with travel and lifestyle brands, and we embody the lifestyle we represent. Living on a boat allows us to travel the world while sleeping in our own bed every night. We get to moor in some of the most sought-after locations in the world, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and watching the very same sunset as superyachts and multimillion-dollar waterfront properties.
Running Roam from a boat is very similar to running a business from home, with the exception being quality of the internet in some locations.
There are very few things I’ve been unable to do running Roam Generation from a yacht as opposed to a brick-and-mortar office.
My clients have always been located in various locations all over the world, so we’ve always communicated via email and
, signed contracts via DocuSign, and sent funds via Wise, Stripe, and PayPal. My contractors have also always been remote.
I have a virtual assistant in Australia, copywriters in America and Thailand, and PR consultants in several states throughout the US, for a total of six contractors.
There are benefits for travel and lifestyle brands working with a remote PR agency. We intimately understand the sector because we’re living the very lifestyle we are promoting. We’re always meeting new people, and our reach is truly global because we have remote workers located all over the world — not to mention our overhead expenses are low, meaning we can pass on those savings to our clients.
My tech equipment consists of a 16-inch MacBook Pro and a 24-inch monitor that’s attached to the wall on a pivoting arm.
In each country that we visit, we buy two to three SIM cards with as much data as possible and then hotspot our devices. We place one of those SIM cards into a Digital Yacht 4G Pro Connect 3G/4G Router installed in our boat, which uses the latest MIMO technology for fast, long-range access and incorporates a full-function WiFi router, so multiple devices can connect wirelessly. There’s also a wired LAN port and WAN port for connection.
All of my gear is powered by either solar or wind power because our yacht is self-sustainable, allowing us to cross oceans and stay offshore for weeks or months at a time.
The digital nomad trend is only going to continue to grow, and I’m excited about that.
I want others to experience what we’re experiencing because this lifestyle is life-changing.
I’ve worked in an office and I can tell you that, for me, it was soul-crushing. Out here, I feel free. I’m far more productive, far more inspired, and far happier.
I often worry that advertising the fact that I run my business from a yacht could be perceived as less professional than someone working out of an office block. However, I think the pandemic is helping shift people’s perceptions around this.
One of the biggest challenges is finding the right balance between work and play.
Running an international PR agency with clients across the world means that I go to sleep when the other half of the world is waking, so I always wake up to important emails. It also means that my workday can be really long if I’m not careful to switch off. When America is asleep, I can pitch Australia, and vice versa.
Of course, it also goes the other way. The lure of a new city or a tropical beach is always right outside my cabin, and sometimes it takes all my strength not to shut the computer and head off on an adventure.
Like everything, it’s a juggling act, and I’ve implemented strategies to try and combat it, such as not replying to emails after dinner or before breakfast (there are always exceptions — it’s part of the role of a publicist), heading out into nature every day, exercising a few times a week, and, of course, spending time with my kids each afternoon. And because I run my own company, if we decide to swap things up by sailing to a remote island for a few days of R&R, we can.
Another drawback is things on boats break all the time.
The insurmountable amount of work that’s involved with living on a boat and traveling full time can be extremely challenging. They say that BOAT stands for Bring Out Another Thousand, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
Even deciding where to sail can bring on decision fatigue after a while. Nothing is simple. If we want to sail to a new destination, we have to do that in accordance with the weather, customs regulations, and now coronavirus regulations. It makes for a huge amount of research, which takes a lot of time on top of an already complicated lifestyle.
Lastly, there are the obvious things, like lack of space and sharing a 47-foot yacht with three rambunctious boys.
We also don’t own a car, which means grocery runs take the better part of a day.
When we were sailing in the Caribbean pre-pandemic, the social scene was incredible. There were families on boats in almost every anchorage, and for the kids, it was like one big summer camp. We made close friends with many people, usually through common hardships, commiserating over broken boat parts or seeking help to fix something. Those friendships were formed quickly and are some of the best friends we’ve ever made.
During the pandemic, we were lucky enough to take a visit back home to Australia. We heard stories of families being stuck onboard boats for months on end, unable to step foot on land the entire time. While we were back home, we had the chance to really assess our land lifestyle and decide which we preferred.
In late 2020, we made the decision that boat life was right for us, so we sold our house and all our belongings to make this our permanent lifestyle.
Prior to buying our boat, we lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-living area home close to the beach.
When we set sail the first time, we rented out our home and paid the necessary bills.
While home during the pandemic, we decided to sell our house to go all-in on our adventure. To us, that meant total freedom and the ability to truly wander the world without the stress of a mortgage or tenants.
Selling our home also meant that my husband would no longer have to work. He’s now the captain of our yacht and homeschools the kids. I definitely know whose job is harder (Hint: it’s his!).
Now we are debt-free and own our boat outright, not to mention we have a safety net in the bank should we ever need it. I’m sure we’ll buy a house again one day, who knows where, but for now we’re quite happy to call Roam (our boat) home.
The cost of living on a boat is less than what we spent at home.
Our mortgage alone costs half of our current budget — granted we’re not in an appreciating asset, but we also don’t have vehicle expenses, a range of insurances, utility bills, mortgage interest, or any of the other costs associated with land life.
Plus, we get to live in beautiful locations around the world, and if we don’t like our neighbors, we can pull anchor and move.
We estimate that our budget to live on the boat is about $50,000 to $60,000 a year. This allows us to eat out a couple of times a week, hire a car when we need one, and partake in tours and excursions every so often.
We returned to our boat in early 2021, and this time around it’s definitely been different.
For the last few months, we’ve hardly met any friends or fellow kid boats. That may be due to the pandemic, but we’re also sailing in a different part of the world (the Mediterranean), which is renowned for having fewer families on boats.
This has definitely made our time onboard a little harder, but like everything in boat life, we know good times are coming and our new best friends could be just around the corner.
Luckily, the community is also extremely connected online. That’s how we’ve been able to gather a collection of other families on boats to meet in the Balearic Islands later in the month.
I think the biggest lesson so far is that we’re all so much more capable than we give ourselves credit.
Now that we’ve done this, I really do believe that there are even bigger things in store for us. When you do big scary things, there’s no going back to the person you once were.
As far as I’m concerned, life is meant for living, and this is just the beginning.
I think that digital nomads are often perceived as social-media influencers sitting on the beach with a laptop drinking a cocktail out of a coconut. People still ask me how our “holiday” is going.
If only they knew. Living on a boat and sailing the world, while also running a business and homeschooling three kids, is extremely hard work. Yes, every now and then our life does look like a holiday, but what Instagram doesn’t show are the hours I’ve spent down in my cabin working away or the relentless amount of work Dave does to keep this life afloat.
I honestly believe this is the way of the future. My kids won’t sit in an office all day — not only because they’re being raised on a boat, but because most jobs will be done remotely while people are traveling the world. I hope that my kids will be at an advantage because they’ve watched Mum and Dad make it work.
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