Interview with Jessica Mans of Life Remotely

the crew from Life Remotely sitting at a table with black laptops open, enacting the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil idea with their hands


The following is our complete interview with Jessica Mans of Life Remotely who is about halfway through a trip from Seattle, Washington to Antarctica via South America. She and her crew were featured in our How to Make a Living on the Road article.

First, can you give us the basics – name and ages of people in your family?
Jessica Mans, 30; Kobus Mans, 34; Jared McCaffree, 31 Just to put this together for you. Kobus and Jessica are married. Jessica and Jared are brother and sister.
How do you make a living while traveling?
Jared is a software engineer. Kobus is a web design/developer. He does freelance work, but most of his income is from teaching. He works part time for Lake Washington Institute of Technology teaching web design and programming classes.

I am a freelance graphic designer, specializing in PowerPoint design. I have several clients back in the Seattle area that contact me for small projects and I have one client where I work as a contract designer with their in house team. I am essentially the overflow designer. Where there is too much work for the team to handle, they push the extra to me.

Is that what you did before you began traveling, or did your career change when you began?
For all of us, this is what we did before we started traveling, although we had to change the type of projects we could take on and the amount of work we could accept.

For example, more than half of my business used to be working backstage at business conferences operating the graphics. I no longer have the ability (or the desire rather), to travel to large events. And furthermore, most of my clients don’t want to pay the extra cost of flying me

Before you began traveling, what kind of preplanning did you do to get
ready to make income on the road?
Budgeting: We did tons of budgeting, mostly to estimate the cost of our trip to drive from Seattle to Argentina. After we need the cost of the
trip we divided by the number of months we intended to take and then set a goal for how much we needed to earn to offset the costs.

Internet and phones: Because all of our jobs require internet at least a few times a week, we researched all the options for staying connected.
From USB modems, to internet cafes, to satellite connections.

Told our clients and bosses: There was quite a long nervous period while we all broke the news to our clients and bosses. Most of them were excited and even jealous, but not without some doubts and lots of questions. It was a big part of getting ready to go, organizing the work and downsizing our business.

With regards to your work, what can you tell us about the transition period, the first few months after you hit the road?
It was rough, but not unbearable. The issues that arose were more between us as a travel team than for our bosses and clients. We struggled with finding a balance between working and traveling. Eventually we set designated “work days” which helped us to keep things on schedule. Also,
we set strict limits about the number of hours each person could work. Putting the entire trip on hold because one person over committed to a
project was messing up our travel style.

The working part though, was easy. Our research on phones and internet connections paid off and we were easily able to get stuff done on time and
keep the people back home happy. It did take a little while for my freelance projects to wind down. I should have started cutting my hours
earlier than the week before we left. It took a few weeks to get my clients to understand that I’m now on a 15 hour work week.

Did you hit the road with a nest egg or a safety net of some type, or did you just trust you’d figure it out as you went?
Because we had time before our trip started, we were able to save almost enough money to do the trip without working. At the time we were all working full time, and sharing a house we had signed a lease on. We didn’t want to break the lease, and the timing for reaching Patagonia worked out better if we started the trip about 18 months from when we decided to go. We lived super cheap and saved everything we could. The extra time alsoallowed us to do most of our vehicle mods ourselves and shop around for the right gear (on sale) and not pay premiums.

We consider the work we are doing now the savings for our next trip.