Meet Ben, Kelly, Liesel, and Mason, who call themselves The FUNemployed Family!
Here’s how their journey started: Originally from Michigan, they moved to the Bay Area in 2008 and spent the next 10 years climbing the corporate ladder. They spent every spare weekend at Lake Tahoe to reconnect with nature and try to forget about the next mundane, stressful work week. Their daughter was born in 2016, and by 2018 they realized the “American Dream” wasn’t for them. They had successful careers but weren’t fulfilled by working their life away to be able to afford the things they THOUGHT they needed as a family. Due to the stress and work burnout they didn’t end up spending much quality time together. It was neither healthy nor sustainable. They decided to quit their jobs, sell their home and most of their belongings and hit the “reset button” on life.
Over the next two years, they traveled full time around the world to 28 countries taking back all the lost time, bonding with their daughter, and planning future careers. They welcomed Mason to the travel crew in 2020 and since then have moved into remote careers in financial consulting and brand content creation. They also own and operate two Airbnbs in their home state of Michigan, in addition to managing their family travel and adventure blog, Instagram and TikTok channels.
Their goal is to live with intention and inspire other families to think outside the box, push back on society’s “norms” and truly live the life you want. They’ve grown so much as a family and experienced more than they ever thought possible, and it’s all thanks to making that 1st decision to change their lives. After their world travels they settled in Michigan for 3 years, but Tahoe was constantly calling. They moved to South Lake Tahoe full time in February 2022.
We were so excited to interview them for our blog. Read on to hear about their travels and adventures, success in creating and sharing content, and advice they would give to people looking to pursue their dreams.
It seems like you guys are living quite the life in Lake Tahoe! What inspired you to make the move to Lake Tahoe, and what are some of your favorite local places so far?
We’ve always been drawn to Tahoe’s natural beauty and opportunities for an active lifestyle. Endless outdoor activities, plenty of days of sunshine and laidback mountain town vibes are what made us feel at home. When we were contemplating our next home base after traveling the world, we were considering some amazing places in Europe and SE Asia, but our love for Tahoe just couldn’t be denied.
As far as favorite places so far, we’ve always been a fan of hiking down to the many coves along the East shore, especially Thunderbird cove. For sunset we often pop over to Pope beach and of course, hiking along the Rubicon trail on a non-crowded spring or fall day is fantastic. But, we clearly have a lot more to explore now that we’re here full time.
Tahoe has so many places to explore! From world-class ski resorts, hiking trails for all levels, and an iconic lake to enjoy year-round, there is no shortage of opportunities for adventure. What places in the region are you excited about visiting the most?
We’re most excited about hiking some of the peaks that we’ve never had a chance to tackle. We’d love to hike Tallac, as well as some of the peaks on the SW edge of the lake, like Maggies. We’ve also never hiked the Flume Trail (Monkey Rock). I know it’s popular, but with 2 kids under 5 years old we may have to start small. We’re also super excited to get our kids out on the mountains this coming winter.
You have some incredible content that documents your adventures and everyday stories. What inspired you to begin creating content and sharing it on social media?
Thank you! We started it all as a way to document our world travels after we quit our jobs and sold everything. Originally, it was an easy way to share what we were up to with friends and family. As it turns out, the whole “quitting your careers and selling everything to travel” narrative hit a note with a lot of people and we began building a nice little community on social media. The full time travel lifestyle has recently become somewhat of a trend for solo, couple and family travel addicts looking for an alternate lifestyle, especially now that the pandemic has shown us that long term remote work is a real possibility. Our growing audience (and lots of practice with the camera) has in turn, led to some brand deals and spawned our content creation business.
What have you learned from your content and social media community thus far, and what tips would you give to aspiring family content creators and bloggers?
First, we learned that our idea to leave behind successful careers and traditional suburban home life to take a chance on living the life we truly wanted isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The community we’ve found on social media doing similar things is huge and extremely inspirational.
Our advice to anyone planning a similar route is to make sure you have a plan and communicate openly and frequently with everyone involved in the family, especially if you have older kids/teens. The financial aspect of quitting our jobs for a period is not a decision we jumped into. We saved and made the conscious decision to use some of our savings to travel. These days, many people may be able to take their work with them as digital nomad style, which is great.
When dealing with brands as content creators, be prepared to hear “no” a lot. It’s OK and all part of the journey. Not every brand is looking for influencers or user generated content, so when you pitch brands on what you can offer, you can’t get offended if they’re not interested. From our experience, it’s much better to have fewer brand partners that truly value your contributions versus working with a bunch of brands that don’t value what you can bring to the table.
Enjoying the outdoors and going outside our comfort zones benefits us greatly. What positive impacts do you see from encouraging a life of curiosity, creativity and adventures?
We’ve seen it the most in our kids. When we started traveling full time our daughter was only 18 months old. We traveled all over the world and she was exposed to different people, cultures, food, languages and religious beliefs from a very early age. We also changed locations often and were staying in different AirBnBs or hotels each week for over a year. We like to think that she’s much more adaptable and able to go with the flow than she would have been if we were still in our very mundane and predictable routine. We’ve since been to 28 countries with the kids and they are “travel pros.” A 14 hour flight with young kids would scare the crap out of many parents, but we’re oddly comfortable in that situation.
The sense of joy we all get from adventuring together and learning about new places and people can’t be understated.
What are some of your most memorable stories from your travels and adventures thus far?
Oh man, there are so many. Honestly, the little everyday moments that we are fortunate to experience with the kids are the ones we treasure the most, since in our old lifestyle we would miss so many of those precious little moments. But, if we each had to pick a couple experiences that are most memorable it would be:
Kelly: Sunset kayaking with 2 year old Liesel along the reef in Aitutaki and stepping on a sea urchin in the Philippines and having the hotel staff help remedy the situation.
-Ben: Swimming with group of manta rays in Rangiroa and eating all the tapas in Spain (all of them).
Liesel: Petting koalas and kangaroos in Australia and swimming with sharks and stingrays in Bora Bora.
Mason: Splashing around at Elafonisi beach in Crete, Greece and searching for fish in tide pools in Costa Rica.
What would your advice be to people who are interested in traveling and going on adventures with their kids?
Take it slow, stay calm and be positive. Traveling with kids can be an emotional rollercoaster, but as soon as they see negativity or frustration from parents it will instantly rub off on them. So, when the gate agent says your flight has been canceled, don’t freak out. Just say, “well, I guess we’ll catch the next one!” I know, it’s easier said than done. But, when your kids see that you can roll with it and go with the flow, they’re more likely to emulate you and learn those behaviors.
Also, don’t over pack your days. Tired kids make for a miserable experience. Our rule of thumb is one day of adventures followed by a “down day” of just hanging around with no major plans. It helps everyone stay sane and actually enjoy the experiences you do plan.
What are some of your goals in sharing your adventures and building an online community?
Our main goal is to show others that you don’t have to follow the so-called “right path” that society pushes us all towards. Our biggest fear was that we would have worked our lives away trying to provide society’s version of success for our family only to pop out at 65 and wonder where our lives went and wonder how our kids are 30 years old already. We get such little time with them while they’re young (and actually think we’re cool!) and for us, it was worth taking the time now, working a bit less and making a bit less money in order to enjoy these years we have with them.
Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so we hope to inspire others to take a look at their lives and determine if they’re truly happy with their life prioritizations.
Where is your next big adventure?
Honestly, with the move to Tahoe and summer upon us, we’re hunkering down here for a while to fully enjoy our new home! We’re going to spend lots of time on the trails, beaches and out on the water this summer. But, we’re currently contemplating a trip to Thailand before the upcoming ski season kicks off. We miss SE Asia in general and haven’t been since before the pandemic, plus we have to show Mason what it’s all about!
Make sure to follow The FUNemployed Family and their adventures:
At This Adventure Life we celebrate the lives and stories of the people who live life fearlessly. #livefearlessly