Alejandro Zuluaga (29) and Andrea Palacio (27) are sailing the world, visiting sun-drenched islands and documenting their adventures on their Living Hakuna Youtube channel to nearly 30K subscribers — and they’re not looking back. In fact, the couple (originally from Colombia but living in Florida) quit their jobs to sail the world.
How easy was it? Well let’s ask Alejandro and Andrea, a former manager at T-Mobile and a commercial insurance agent at Brown & Brown, who now travel the world full-time with their dogs. It’s a risk many couples dare to explore, and very few make it work successfully, but Alejandro and Andrea are living proof you can quit your job to travel the world without ever setting foot in an office again.
Travelbinger caught up with Alejandro and Andrea (aka: Living Hakuna) via email to see how they quit their jobs to sail the world, the challenges they’ve endured, the goals they set, and what to expect next.
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TB: What were your lives like before you decided to permanently travel?
AP: We had a completely traditional lifestyle. We went to college, got married, bought our house in Florida, and lived there until we decided to permanently travel. I worked every day from 9 to 5, and Alejo worked tough retail schedules, which included late nights, weekends, and holidays. Like many Americans, we commuted 30 minutes to and from work every day so we didn’t get to see each other as often as we wanted.
TB: What was the main thing that motivated you to quit your job and travel the world?
AP: I think I had high expectations out of marriage and life. I thought we were going to spend a lot of time together after getting married and moving in together. This was supposed to make me very happy but after three months into it, I realized we barely got to see each other, and we spent 90% of our time working to pay for a house with cars, and that wasn’t fulfilling at all. And to be honest, the thought of having to wait another 40 years, until I was 65 to do the things that actually made me happy, scared the life out of me. So we rathered risk everything that made us feel safe and comfortable to be truly happy.
TB: Before you bought a sailboat, you started with a camper. How long did you live in the camper and what was a day like?
AP: We lived in the camper for almost one year and absolutely we loved it! Our life revolved around kiteboarding so we would schedule our day based on the time the wind would pick up. We would kite for maybe two hours and work for the rest of the day.
TB: What compelled you to upgrade to a sailboat?
AP: After selling the camper we continued traveling by plane and living in different AirBnBs with our dogs for two to three months at a time. During this time (it was January of 2019), Alejo met a couple living in a sailboat, and he just thought that traveling by sailboat would be a lot easier for us with the dogs. At the end of the day, we were always looking for wind and water, and what better way than by living on a boat.
The boat we wanted was in the $300,000 range and we obviously didn’t have the money to pay for it upfront. At first, we thought about doing a charter business of kiteboarding trips on the boat but after realizing this wasn’t a feasible option due to our lack of sailing experience, we had to get creative. So we ended up financing the largest portion, withdrawing our IRA savings, saving for a few months, and partnering with my parents for money we were missing.
TB: Is it expensive to live on a sailboat? Why/why not?
AP: It depends on how you do it! For us, it’s a lot cheaper than when we used to live in our house in Florida because we don’t pay for marinas (as we anchor all the time), Alejo does all the maintenance on the boat, and we rarely have the opportunity to eat out. Our sailboat is also fully self-sustainable as we move with the wind, we make drinkable water from the ocean using a water maker, and power our entire boat with solar energy.
TB: What are the top 3 places you’ve visited and why?
AP: This is always a tough question because it depends on what you’re looking for, but our favorite place to explore by sea is the Exumas in the Bahamas because the water is incredibly clear and marine life has not been as impacted by humans as it has been in other places. For kiteboarding, it would be Cabarete in the Dominican Republic because you get 18 to 25 knots of wind every day in awesome warm weather, plus watching the pro riders is very motivating. It’s hard to choose the third place but if we’re choosing based on food, then Mexico, based on nature, then Switzerland, and based on culture, then Colombia or Portugal.
TB: What’s the longest you are at sea? What is that like?
AP: The longest we have been at sea has been three days. Overall, it’s very peaceful to be sailing but it also feels a bit scary and unusual at first because you see water everywhere you look, there’s no one around you in case of an emergency, and you have no cellphone signal.
TB: Where were you when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March? Did you find out later? Was it hard for you to get into certain countries because of restrictions?
AP: We were in the Bahamas when the coronavirus hit. For the first few days, we were not aware of the severity of things since we don’t watch the news but then our families started telling us about all the restrictions they were facing in land. Our plan was to continue sailing from the Bahamas to Grenada for hurricane season but after all the countries started closing we had no other option but to come back to the United States for hurricane season.
TB: What is the job you do now while you’re sailing? How does it pay for everything?
AP: We have an online business of health and grooming supplies for pets called ‘Mokai’ and we have a YouTube channel called ‘Living Hakuna’ where we vlog about our lifestyle and our adventures onboard Hakuna. As long as we have internet access, we’re able to work and keep our source of income, which allows us to pay for all our expenses.
TB: Many people want to quit their job to travel the world. What is your one regret for going through with this?
AP: Honestly, there’s nothing we regret about it. I think after deciding to spend our lives together, leaving our jobs has been the best decision of our lives.
TB: What is the hardest thing about living on a sailboat and how do you overcome this?
AP: The hardest thing is that everything breaks all the time and you have to figure out how to fix it without a professional because you’re out at sea or anchored by a remote island so you can’t hire anyone. We’ve been able to overcome this thanks to Alejo, he has taught himself how to be a mechanic, electrician, plumber, and everything else that we have had to fix so far. He reads a lot of manuals, watches a lot of videos, and learns from forums and experienced sailors.
TB: How long do you see yourselves living on a boat? What’s next?
AP: We’ll live on a boat until the day we’re no longer happy doing it, or until Alejo gets tired of fixing things onboard. Our plan is to circumnavigate the world and explore the best and most natural places in the world. We hope to sail the Caribbean during 2021 and maybe take on our first ocean crossing the following year.
TB: What’s the biggest lesson you learned?
AP: Great question. I think the biggest lesson that we’ve learned since taking on this alternative lifestyle is that you can make anything happen and achieve everything you dream about if you’re willing to put in the work and dedication. You’ll have to take risks and go way out of your comfort zone but it’s totally worth it because your heart will be full. There’s this basic phrase that Alejo always says when we have to make a decision that makes us really scared and it’s “you gotta risk it to get the biscuit.” And our thought behind it is you can’t let fear dictate your life.
Did you ever quit your job to sail the world? Let us know in the comments below!
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