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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Our Interview with Itchy Nomads Suzanne and John O'Rourke

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Suzanne and John O'Rourke have had one heckuva life filled with world travel and working around the globe. You must take a few moments and read this thoughtful interview with Itchy Nomads Suzanne and John.

Suzanne with 3rd grade students in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

RetireEarlyLifestyle: In your lifestyle of travel and doing business overseas, you have gone through several “incarnations.” Can you tell us the most interesting one?

Suzanne and John: All our means of earning a living along the way have kept our interest, at least for a period of time. We discussed your question and agreed that working as sub-contractors for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was the most interesting. It is primarily a U.S. based deployment but does include disaster deployments to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico (where we lived for 8 months), Guam, and American Samoa etc. As a Disaster Home Inspector we would do a computer report on-site and assess people’s physical damages, work, school, transportation losses, and health or loss of life challenges. As an inspector we are in a position to help people at their most vulnerable and we were honored to bring the appropriate programs and assistance to them in their time of need. We are both registered inspectors and have done 1000’s of inspections in people’s homes for all types of natural disasters. 

REL: The most challenging one? 

S&J: We had to think about this Akaisha and Billy, but we would have to say owning SOLutions, our Solar Electric sales and installation business in Baja, Mexico. It was both very interesting but there were a lot of challenges with getting equipment, logistics and navigating the local opportunistic characters that found our business an attractive enterprise.

 

REL: What do you have to say to someone who is afraid to take that first step out of an ordinary life and live a life of deliberate creation? 

S&J: Life is short, you can’t go back and there are no guarantees with anything. We know this sounds sort of flip, but it’s true and we are reminded of it regularly. In the end, all we have is our own accounting for how we used our limited time on this spinning ball, and our memories. Stuff doesn’t matter, but experiences and people do. We wish to fill our lives up to overflowing with experiences and friendships.

John loved this job as a Harbor Patrolman

REL: Is deliberate creation for everyone?   

S&J: It’s probably not for everyone. Some people cannot get comfortable with the uncertainty of it.      

REL: Can everyone do it?  

The Adventurer's Guide to the Possible Dream

S&J: YES, with focus and belief in themselves. Desire is the driving force with a healthy commitment to being self-reliant. It is this driving force that will carry you through the tough stuff. No one cares more about making your dreams come true, than you do. If you desire to try a different life, do it. If it ends up not suiting you, you can go back to how things were. We tend to not have this fall back attitude but it may help someone contemplating a big change to know that they can go back to the familiar.

REL: What would you say to someone who has children, loves owning pets and likes to garden?

Our Baja work and home truck for the onsite Solar Electric jobs

S&J: We love kids, pets and gardening, so your question struck a chord. When we were younger we had 3 big dogs and then we decided we wanted to go long distance sailing. Taking a pet sailing internationally is very challenging due to quarantine issues in many countries. We found fantastic homes for our dogs, but it took about a year to be sure they would be happy and we felt we had made the right choice for each of them. RVs and living in homes in other countries make pet ownership easy, but a pet on a boat doing international travel is a bit more complicated.   

We know a number of people who have raised their children only on boats, or in RV’s or overseas or in some other unconventional mode, and these children often have grown up having really close bonds with their parents due to the intimate nature and the codependency and exploration these alternative lifestyles foster. The children typically spend a lot more time with their parents; see them in all sorts of life situations. Our interaction with these children has been that they tend to have excellent people skills and are wise beyond their years. I was raised in Asia and knew as a kid that it was special and adventurous, and so did my classmates. The international schools are excellent, albeit expensive.

Gardening is a really flexible hobby and I have had container gardens on our boats with bell peppers, flowers, tomatoes etc., and container gardens in our RVs that have provided herbs and small vegetables. I also like to sprout, and have enjoyed raising Bonsai trees, Orchids and African violets. I always buy fresh flowers which makes us feel a little closer to the community we living in at the time and is a trade-off for not being able to go out pick them from my own garden.  We have been learning how to attract local birds with the right feeders and feed, depending on where we are. 

We have chosen not to have children or pets as long as we traveling full time, and although I personally vacillated on not having children when I was younger, I know it was the right decision for us. We would both still encourage people to live their dreams with their children.

REL:  many years did you live on your boat?  

S&J: We lived on boats for 28 years, buying our first one, a 42’ 1929 wooden classic powerboat in desperate shape as our first home at the age of 23. We then bought a 35’ fiberglass sailboat to go blue water cruising. We lived on that boat for 11 years. The last boat we had was 40’ fiberglass Trawler for living aboard and coastal cruising. They each had different strengths and purposes. Living aboard a boat is a wonderful lifestyle.

Our RV home base for work and exploration

REL: What was the best part of boating life?  

S&J: There are different lifestyles we enjoyed. Living at a dock when we were young, then on a mooring and then cruising from anchorage to anchorage from country to country. The best part is being in sync with the natural environment and the sense of freedom and wonder that comes from being able to pull up the anchor and just chart our own direction. The second best thing was the amazing sense of community that boaters everywhere share.

Taking our sailboat Blew Moon through the Panama Canal

REL: What sort of businesses have you run while funding your lifestyle of liberty?  

S&J: We are going to give you a partial list as it has been varied, over 30 years and with the two of us.

Outfitting cruising boats- reselling and installing gear, SOLutions Solar Electric in Baja, Mexico, taught school in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, North Carolina and California. Did Computer Graphics for local business in Puerto Vallarta, Boat Watching during hurricane season, housesitting, earned our U.S. Coast Guard Captains license for Harbor Patrol and Shore Boat Jobs, did boat refrigeration, travel writing, subcontractor FEMA Disaster Housing Inspectors, cooked in a restaurant, built houses in North Carolina, flipped houses during hurricane season in Florida, lots of boat restoration, event planning for the Marine Industry, consulting for the Marine and IT industries. 

Currently we own a contract Sales companies where we help Tech companies take their products global. This business is run entirely from a laptop and a cell phone, internet connection and Skype. We can work from just about anywhere with this business and have done so in dozens of countries from beaches to boardrooms. We never shy away from learning new skills and adding them to our arsenal. Most recently we learned web development and blogging for the launch of Itchy Nomads.

 

REL: With all your travels, how do you build a sense of community for yourselves? 

S&J: We work hard at building a sense of community, but it takes a commitment to meet new people and stay in touch with our existing friends. We have an attitude that we never know when we will make a new friend. When we were cruising and there was no internet, no cell phones and often the only phone was hours away, we mastered our Ham Radio Operators license so we could do phone patches from the boat to the U.S. to stay in touch with family and friends. As technology has improved, we embraced it as a way to enhance our communications and provide new possibilities for working remotely. I used to write a lot of letters, now its emails, phone, text or Skype. Additionally we make a point of going to see people. We have reconnected with friends, acquaintances, business clients all over the world years, sometimes decades later. We have an attitude that friends still have importance even when they are out of sight. It is common for people to adopt an “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” attitude which is harmful to long term happiness. The times we’ve shared and the importance of people we’ve known is part of our shared history and presents opportunities to reunite to build new memories.

Suzanne installing Solar Panels on a Palapa in Todos Santos, Mexico

REL: How do you contribute to the world? 

S&J: We use our flexibility to react. 

When a friend is very ill or dying we have gone great distances to be with them. We have a multilevel approach to adding value to the world. It starts at home, whatever or wherever home might be (right now it is an RV, but it’s been a rented apartment in Puerto Rico, a long term hotel in Ireland, a boat in a remote and isolated community etc.). At home we strive to live a low-carbon, green existence and be environmentally sensitive. 

The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement, 3rd Edition

If there is a way to participate on a local level, we do that. We’ve planted trees, done beach clean ups, John worked with an organization for a year in Mexico to help the Huichol Indians convert their native designs to screen printed artwork, we went to a shelter in Puerto Rico one Christmas and asked for a list of the kids and their ages so we could buy them Christmas gifts….thinking there might be a few. We came back to a list of 167 kids. So we canvassed our apartment building and set up an adopt-a-child for Christmas program and ended up with 3 gifts for every child donated by amazing people that were grateful to participate. We donated 22 giant bags of toys to that shelter Christmas Eve anonymously. 

We believe in giving our time and talents more than our cash. Our financial donations tend to be towards environmental and wildlife protection programs. At our 30th anniversary we solicited donations instead of gifts to buy a Playpump (playground equipment that pumps water) for a remote African village. We do a lot of business consulting for budding entrepreneurs whom we encounter through our current Sales business. One of these will be featured soon, about a single Mom with two girls who is starting an artisan food company and wants to export it from Mexico. 

Giving back is important to us.

REL: We understand that you are funding travel as you go, living your adventures as a lifestyle. How would “being retired” or “financially independent” alter your lifestyle? 

S&J: Your question was thought provoking. Our goal is to become financially independent to where we don’t have to earn money to live our day-to-day lives. We would continue to work, maybe more with the creative areas that we enjoy like writing and photography. We enjoy the doors business opens. We’ve had amazing experiences because of business. 

We buy into the idea that all life should be a combination of learning, working and playing, rather than compartmental segments to life traditionally laid out of School, then Career, then Retirement for Play.

The proud French Chef and Chef in training

REL: What is your biggest personal success, not financially related?  

S&J: Our love and friendship with each other. 

We’ve been together 35 years living, adventuring and working together. We recognized at a very early period of our dating that we wanted to spend as much time together as possible, but we worked at different jobs most of each week.  We opted to start our first business and give up great jobs at the age of 22. I worked as a Labor Investigator for the State of California and John ran a large printing company. Both very secure and steady. Instead we quit both jobs, built a homemade camper, packed up our 3 dogs and moved to Laguna Beach, California where we put our paltry $1,800 savings as 1st & last month’s rent on a shop space to start Pacific Silk Screening. 

We and the dogs lived in our little camper for a year while building the business. Our families thought we were being reckless, in hindsight, we were too naïve to be scared. That early enterprise built a foundation for wanting more and more freedom. It was hard at first but over time we got more in sync. We have been able to take on bigger and bigger challenges with more confidence and more joy.

REL: When did you realize that you were innately a traveler? 

S&J: We have discussed this off and on for years. We both recognized it independently in our high school years. When I went to College, I told everyone I wanted to be a renaissance person who experiences as much of the world as possible. I majored in Humanities. I had already been traveling extensively growing up. John headed out on his first cross country adventure at age 18…no destination, just off to see the world. On our 2nd date I asked if he’d be willing to live overseas and he asked me if I wanted to live on a boat. I think we both got what we wanted.

Susanne on a client visit to Belize Telemedia

REL: What are the most significant ways that traveling has enriched your life? 

S&J: Traveling and living a nomadic life has afforded us amazing and unique experiences that are irreplaceable. It has caused us to stretch out of our comfort zones, which has helped us grow in unexpected ways as individuals. If nothing else, it has helped us to know what is needed to keep ourselves happy.

REL: What would you say are your most unique talents? 

S&J: Speaking for myself, I think more in terms of skills than talents. Skills are acquired and then I have the hope of adding more as time goes by. John has an unexplainable understanding of how things work, so I would label that as a talent. I think my one talent, would be that I am a positive thinker. We both have cultivated a skill for demystifying norms. We question convention, trying to make sense of what is reality and what we think is honest and true to our way of thinking in simple terms. Consequently, making decisions with confidence has become a skill. 

REL: Where do you consider home to be? 

S&J: Home is where John is, and likewise. We are not material oriented, so it is where we are at the time, with heartstrings with family and friends in many places. Our daily life is our home.

S&J: Billy and Akaisha we want to thank you.  We’ve been admirers of yours for a number of years, and are flattered by your request for this interview.

REL: We at RetireEarlyLifestyle would like to thank Suzanne and John for their thoughtful and practical answers to our many questions. We hope that you, our Readers, have enjoyed this interview, and perhaps have picked up some tips! Feel free to contact Suzanne and John here on their website: Itchy Nomads

For more interviews with Successful Retirees and Captivating Characters, click here  

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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