I’m happy to introduce Kiki from Wanderlust Explorers for my very first, brand spankin’ new guest post! If you’ve ever wondered how people manage to travel so much, read up. Kiki and Jen are experts at making this travel thing work.
Hi everyone! Happy to be here guest posting on Caroline Made This. Funny, we only met once or twice for trivia, but from what I have read on her blog, we’re pretty similar in how we are living our lives. The blogging, the love of travel. Samesies. I think what sealed the deal on us being buds was when I made some snarky comment about how a young 20-something girl was being very loud and ridiculous to get some guys’ attention.
A little background for everyone on Wanderlust Explorers. We are Kiki and Jen. Married since 2013. Have known each other since 2001. Dated for, wow, almost 10 years of that. I am a freelance art director/graphic designer. Jen is a Registered Nurse, specializing in ICU or Cardiothoracic ICU patients. We love travel, outdoorsy things (hiking & camping), craft beer and road tripping. We’ve been leading a nomadic lifestyle since 2010. Kiki’s favorite color is blue, Jen’s is green.
I was laid off in October of 2008. You know when all of the banks and housing markets failed. At the time, I had been working at one of those fancy, schmancy advertising agencies on Madison Avenue that had big name clients. My first job and I was laid off! Canned. Adios senorita! I was devastated as anyone would be. The jobs were disappearing. I had no sight of what I should do for the future. I had been dating Jen and decided to jump and hope the net would appear.
What eventually happened was a slow motion- the…net…is…finally…appearing. In May of 2010, I formed my business. My own LLC. Funny that a client made out a check to my business name, so I had to form the business to get my moolah. That was the day that I probably felt the most like an adult, until I bought a house.
I’m guessing everyone is now noticing that gap. October 2008 to May 2010. Yes. The gap. This is that gray period where I was reeducating myself. Homeschooling myself if you will. I was on unemployment, but did whatever work I could get. Logos, flyers, you name it. I was applying anywhere I could. I even worked the U.S. Census. It’s not like I wasn’t trying. The small, Northern Michigan town wasn’t really ready to hire someone who had worked on Madison Avenue.
Jen and I moved in together in April of 2009. She agreed to carry the brunt of what I could not pay. I was a model housewife. Making coffee & breakfast in the morning. Lunch, dinner, cleaning, laundry, you name it. We kept our expenses tight. No cable, just the local channels and PBS. I’d rent movies from the library. We were super savvy about where we would buy what where. Had the pricing down to a T! No that’s cheaper at Meijer. Sam’s Club has that on sale this week. You get the idea. We never went without the things we wanted, we were just smart about where our money went.
Jen graduated with her MSN from Ferris State University in May of 2010. In June of 2010, we sold all of our stuff and we hit the road and left Traverse City. We called it our “Jobless, Homeless Roadtrip Across America” Jen was going to be a travel nurse. (What is a Travel Nurse? Check out her blog: www.wanderlustnurse.com). We set out across the United States, sights set on California.
Since then my freelance work has grown into a respectable business. We’ve lived in 9 different states: Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, Arizona, Washington and recently spent 6 months in New York City. And have visited 45 out of 50 states together.
Pretty close to being able to tick all 50 off of the bucket list – anyone up for a white water rafting trip to West Virginia?
So how do we do it? Jen has been messaged by friends and random nosey people from high school asking if we won the lottery. Nope. We’re just very financially responsible. Trying to save for everything that may come our way. We had a long engagement so that we could save money for the wedding and pay off two engagement rings. I must say that you heteros are very lucky to only have to save for one engagement ring and one wedding dress.
We saved up the full 20% for a down payment on a house so that we didn’t have to end up paying mortgage insurance. C’mon people! It’s not that hard. Just save your money! Find free stuff to do.
- Rent Redbox movies instead of going out to a movie.
- Hit up the thrift store for clothes.
- Shop on eBay (most of time you will get what you are looking for at 30% off!)
- Have friends over for a bbq/potluck instead of going to the fancy restaurant. Odds are the meal will be better and you’ll spend more time together. Double bonus!
- Have a bonfire.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good life.
A lot of how we travel is funded through credit card miles. We put everything on our credit cards, pay it off monthly and then travel with the miles. Another awesome thing we have done recently is get a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account because we had spent a lot of money in ATM fees when we took our 4 month honeymoon in SE Asia back in 2013. The best part about this Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account is that there are no ATM fees…ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! At home in the U.S. we use Ally Bank, again no ATM fees and they have amazing rates for money market savings accounts.
Right now we are in Shanghai – Jen is volunteer teaching nursing at a local university with Project Hope and we flew over here using only 35,000 miles per person one way from Grand Rapids. Such a deal – the flight only cost $75.00 total (we splurged and bought the trip insurance). The miles had been collected on our United Mileage Plus Visa. Bonus with that card is that there is no foreign transaction fee. We also have a Delta Skymiles Amex Platinum card, again no foreign transaction fee. With that card you have a higher annual fee but get a free companion ticket. So we just use miles to book one ticket and use the companion or pay out of pocket. Either way we are covered with Amex & Visa so we will always get miles. We even went so far as to put most of our wedding on our credit cards so that we could get miles and pay it off immediately.
Wondering how are we living in Shanghai? Jen is provided with an apartment and monthly stipend. Ironically, the apartment is the largest that we have lived in since leaving Traverse City back in 2010. We’re loving being full immersed in a city that is so different from any in the U.S. What you may have heard about the Chinese is all true, the pushing, the spitting – that’s not them being rude. That’s just them. But I’ll get more into that in my next post.
(Editor’s note: Bolding done by me.)
Kiki!! Bummed I missed you in Shanghai! I’ll be back in August. Will you be there? Also- are the delta and united cards the only ones you have? C9- goes for you too. I’m an amateur at this Credit card point game! So glad to see you on my fav blog!
Caroline Peterson says
I have the Delta Platinum and just got the United one because they have a 50,000 miles promotion going on. I also have the US Air and American cards (which merged recently, so my accounts did too). I have a post lined up which discusses which cards I utilize most. The points game RULES.
Hey Jennie! Bummed I missed you in Shanghai too. Will be back in MI in August. We have to remodel our duplex so we will be in MI for a few months. We have the Chase MileagePlus and the Amex Delta. Might switch it up when we get back – I’ve heard of this awesome way to use the Chase Sapphire and Chase Freedom to get tons of points on over 60 airlines because it is so flexible + hotel stays. We’ll surely be spending over 3k. Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0PnQ0aTYVU
Caroline Peterson says
Second that, Kiki. I have both those cards and they are awesome. We’re using some of the points for flights on our next trip. I’m hearing the new Citi Prestige is great for 1:1 transfers, but I’m not sold yet on the high annual fee.
Nice. Is that how you got all of those sweet biz class tickets? Was there a lot of availability when searching for flights? I figure we’ve been with Amex & Chase for a bit, maybe they will wave our annual fee.
Caroline Peterson says
That was through our Delta miles and the availability was decent, but we were adjusting dates so we could snag saver level awards. Plus, we got them in February, which isn’t always possible to plan for a vaca that far out. I’d be interested to see how many are available now for the same flight in July.
Kim H. says
I loved reading this – I totally need to start working towards getting more miles in my life.
Caroline Peterson says
I’m happy to hear that! More miles = more travel = 😀 I just posted about the basics of earning miles and points last week: http://carolinemadethis.com/2015/05/19/the-basics-of-earning-miles-and-points/
Thanks Kim! I have to 2nd Caroline’s Miles post. It’s awesome and full of tips to get you started!