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.
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
1000’s of inspections in people’s homes for all types of natural disasters.
REL: The most
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
Guide to Early Retirement, 3rd Edition
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
For more interviews with Successful Retirees
and Captivating Characters,
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.