Marysville travelers head south, bring jobs along

Tired of life’s routine and working full time to achieve financial stability, Jessica Mans, Kobus Mans and Jared McCaffree decided to pack their 1997 Toyota 4Runner and leave Seattle to drive as far south as possible.

After 17 countries, 35,500 miles and 1,900 gallons of gas, the trio set foot at the southern tip of Argentina.

Originally from Pennsylvania, brother and sister Jared and Jessica moved to Washington in 1991 and attended Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville. After graduating from college, Jessica Joined Norwegian Cruise Lines as a photographer where she met her husband, Kobus Mans, who was working as the ship’s executive casino host. The two married in 2006 and live in University Place.

With 15 years of traveling, the two couldn’t ignore the desire to return to their adventurous life.

“I had always wanted to go to Patagonia,” Jessica Mans said. “So I suggested we drive to South America. From there it snowballed.”

Jared joined the two in 2011. Their journey began in Seattle and ended in Ushuaia, Argentina. It included touring 17 countries in 19 months and spending more than 350 days camping in 190 different locations.

Along the way they became “digital nomads” — leveraging digital technologies to perform their work duties remotely and offset some of the costs of the trip.

Because McCaffree worked with mobile application development, sister Jessica was a freelance graphic designer and her husband was a web designer, the three were able to transition their businesses to remote status over the course of two years. Preparing for the trip required them to save as much as possible. They saved for one year, rented their house and sold larger items to avoid paying for storage.

At home, the couple worked 40-plus hours multiple days per week. However, when they traveled they designated Tuesdays to always be workdays, whether or not they worked any other days of the week. Some weeks they chose not to work at all. As long as their location was equipped with Internet connectivity, they were able to do business from any environment. They worked from various hotels, campsites and other public spaces. They used ATM cards and online banking to get money out of their accounts and paychecks were deposited electronically.

They also opted for business insurance that covered them worldwide, and personal health and renters insurance that covered medical emergencies and their belongings at home and overseas.

Certain types of jobs are easier to perform remotely. Webmasters, software developers, designers, business owners, writers, bloggers and Internet entrepreneurs may find opportunities to sustain their lifestyle on the road.

Throughout their journey, the three frequented local markets and tasted exotic flavors from South American dishes. In just over a year, they published two books (one was a cookbook) and more than 300 blog posts.

Driving instead of flying or backpacking provided more storage capability and allowed a more flexible travel schedule. “We planned around the seasons,” Jessica Mans said. “We didn’t want to be in Costa Rica for the rainy season, and we wanted to experience a Patagonia summer.”

Over the course of the 19-month trip, Kobus and Jessica Mans earned more than they spent. Their cost savings came largely from camping in tents and shopping at the local markets.

After arriving back to the states a couple of months ago, the three are ready to journey again, this time to South Africa. Kobus Mans was born and raised there but hasn’t been back in more than five years. Jessica Mans also is longing to visit Japan and Asia.

Jessica Mans’ freelance career is still running strong and she plans to take it around the world as much as possible. Kobus Mans is working on building a freelance web design business and McCaffree has accepted a job that will allow him to work remotely as a software developer.

“We all intend to continue to work remotely wherever we want to be. Sometimes that’s Patagonia, Italy or Thailand, but other times it’s right here in Tacoma,” Jessica Mans said.

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