By Alyce Collins
THIS COUPLE quit their corporate lives after growing exhausted of the same routine before selling their belongings and TRAVELLING THE WORLD with their three-year-old daughter across TWENTY-TWO countries in eight months, and now they’re ‘FUNemployed’.
Former accountant and finance manager, Ben and Kelly Lutz (37 and 36 respectively) from San Francisco, USA, met in 2005 after finding a connection through a love for travel, and their first date was a trip to Niagara Falls in Canada.
Their lives became even busier after welcoming their daughter, Liesel (3), in 2016 but having to return to work after taking paternity and maternity leave made them relish time as a family. On top of working eight hours a day, three hours of commuting, trying to get Liesel in bed at a set time and then preparing for the next day left the couple with no time for each other.
Ben and Kelly realised that their routine wasn’t sustainable for their family and they grew increasingly disengaged from their work, all the while feeling hesitant to take a leap outside of corporate life. This was until a trip to Hawaii in October 2017 reignited the couple’s love for travel which made returning to work even harder. Upon returning, the couple worked out how they could escape their jobs and get to cherish their time with Liesel.
By March 2018, Ben and Kelly handed in their notices and began planning where they were going to travel as well as selling many of their belongings in advance of moving. Ben left his job in April and drove the remainder of the family’s belongings to Michigan, where himself and Kelly are originally from, taking four days.
On June 2, 2018, the family of three started their eight-month adventure in Lake Tahoe before heading to France, Switzerland, Croatia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, among many other locations.
By sharing their travels on social media, @thefunemplyedfamily, Ben and Kelly hope to encourage others to make decisions which make them happiest, rather than making decisions based on what society believes they should do.
“We both started our careers at a large international accounting firm,” they said.
“Our first conversation when we started dating was about our love of travel and it was only natural that one of our first dates was a weekend trip to Niagara Falls.
“Once Liesel was born, we quickly realised that between the grind of the nine-to-five job, the three hours each day spent commuting, rushing home to get Liesel to bed on time, and then staying up late to prepare Liesel’s lunch for the next day, we weren’t living our best lives.
“Over the years, Ben had become a bit disengaged in his corporate job and realised his passions had changed. He had known for a while that he was ready for something new but was hesitant to take a leap because we had a comfortable life.
“Kelly loved being a mother and she knew that transitioning back to work after Liesel was born would be hard. Once we both went back to work after maternity and paternity leave, we quickly realised that the demanding jobs, long commutes, day-care costs and the lack of quality time with Liesel weren’t going to work long-term. More importantly, we were not the best versions of ourselves or best parents to Liesel.
“The turning point was a trip to Hawaii in October 2017. It was an incredible week that helped us realise that Liesel was easy to travel with. We sat on the beach one night we were there, watching the sunset, and we realised that our jobs weren’t going to work for us in the long-term.
“Once we got back to California, we started openly discussing ways to get out of the corporate grind and be able to enjoy our time with Liesel more. We kept the discussion going and by Christmas we started telling family and friends our plan to quit our jobs, sell our house and travel for a gap year.
“Deciding to leave the comfort of our steady income and familiar surroundings was definitely difficult. But we knew that if we didn’t make a change, Liesel would be 18 and off to university in the blink of an eye, and we would have missed most of her life while sitting behind our desks. We weren’t going to let ourselves regret not living a full life.
“Ben quit his job on April 20, 2018 to have extra time to sell most of our things and pack the remaining items. Kelly’s last day was June 1 then we left our house the next day and headed to Lake Tahoe, California to start our adventure.
“We hit 22 countries in eight months. We started in Europe, hitting France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Spain, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro. We then moved to Asia and went to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines.
“Then we visited Australia and New Zealand before visiting the Pacific islands of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. We wrapped up our trip in Mexico and now we’re in the US to spend the summer with family before heading off again in autumn.”
The couple, who married in 2008, hope to show their daughter that the typical ‘American dream’ didn’t suit them so they quit their jobs to follow their passion, despite living with less money.
Ben, Kelly and Liesel spend a week on average in each location, but remain in some places for longer, including one of their favourites, Koh Lanta, Thailand, where they stayed a month. They hope not to return to their former careers, with Ben starting his own business in digital marketing, and Kelly doing a remote consultant job in finance, helping to fund their travels.
“Travelling has made us better at communicating with each other. It’s also helped us realise that when we are all focused and excited about a goal, we work together really well,” they said.
“For example, Ben’s new business – theradnomad.com. It’s been so fun to see him develop his vision from the ground up and work with him on ideas. We both have a vested interest in his business doing well because it will help fund future travels. The plan right now is that we won’t return to corporate work.
“After a year on the road, Liesel is extremely adaptable and a great communicator. She makes friends everywhere she goes and she’s open to new experiences – she’s not afraid to go on gondolas, or of eating exotic food or climbing things. We hope that the experiences from this trip stay with her forever and she continues to foster a love of travel as she grows.
“We are so grateful we got to experience this trip around the world and truly feel like we were living our best lives. We saw and did so many things and it changed us in ways that are hard to describe. It’s given us a huge appreciation for how big and diverse the world is, but also how connected and similar we all are.
“Through this year-long adventure, we’ve found new career paths that will give us more flexibility to live the lives we want to live and be present for Liesel. None of that would have happened if we hadn’t taken this leap. We want to encourage everyone to live the life that makes them happiest and not to settle for what they feel is expected or required by society.”
To see more, visit instagram.com/thefunemployedfamily