We know we can’t be alone on this travel fantasy: The one where we head out on the never-ending road, traveling the globe, living and working wherever we please? Well Kaitlyn Reed and Taylor McKnight of Whoa.fm found a way to make our familiar fantasy into their reality. They’ve spent 897 days (and counting) going from one Airbnb listing to another, following only their wanderlusting whims, and staying as long as it feels right, only to move on to the next destination months later. They’ve redefined the meaning of “home” and they’re here to share with us what life is like when you truly live by the motto of “Belong Anywhere.”
Tell us how you two came up with this idea and what made you decide to go for it?
Kaitlyn: We were living in Austin, TX for a while. I had just graduated college and wanted to take the opportunity to travel since it seemed to be the perfect time to do it. I became obsessed with Paris—reading all of these books and watching movies and just daydreaming. These conversations turned into this feeling of, “Let’s just do it… now!” And off we went.
Taylor: We knew we wanted to see Croatia after Paris, but we’d always planned to come back to the states after that. So it wasn’t some big master travel plan that we set out from the beginning. We really kind of figured it out as we went along. We both have jobs that allow us to travel; I own my own company, Sched.org, and it’s always been a conscious decision for us to have a virtual office. So we didn’t really have anything keeping us in Austin. So the thought just became, “Why not live from wherever we want?” It’s now been three years since we started, and we plan to keep doing it. Even still, we don’t have a master plan of where we go next or for how long we’ll stay.
Amazing. Tell us the location where you felt like you most at home?
Kaitlyn: We were most surprised by Bali. We were there only five months ago, and spent two months there in total and it just felt like home for us. I knew nothing about it going into it, but the culture and the people and the beauty of everything was just overwhelming. We truly felt like we belonged there.
Taylor: Living there felt like a festival every day. There is just so much ritual and so many customs that we got to be a part of. We stayed in a smaller “up and coming” area that was a good twenty minute scooter ride from the more touristy scene, so we felt really engrained with the locals and like we were a part of their neighborhood.
There are always funny or unbelievable stories from life on the road. Anything you can share?
Taylor: Off the top of my head, Thanksgiving in Ireland was definitely a crazy experience. It was the first Thanksgiving we’d spent away from family, and we were in this super remote part of the country. The town only had one bar and one school—definitely the most remote place we’ve stayed. And we had no car. Our host lived in the house right next door and she was so sweet, offering to buy our groceries since we couldn’t get really anywhere on foot. We felt bad, but we asked her to get some of the Thanksgiving staples—turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes. While she was gone, we realized we’d need butter for most of the recipes, so we tried to find a neighbor who could lend us some butter. The only problem being that every neighbor was at least a half mile down the road from the next… and it was pouring rain. Like, sideways rain. Finally, by the third home, someone answered the door and without really asking us anything, she brought us in and offered us tea. We told her we needed butter for our Thanksgiving preparation, but she didn’t really understand what Thanksgiving was about. She just knew there were pilgrims involved. So in exchange for butter, we offered her the story of Thanksgiving. Which was kind of a cool–to share the meaning at a moment like that.
Kaitlyn: Our host came back and of course, in Ireland, the markets didn’t really have things like pumpkin pie. So, instead, she got us coffee cake. And instead of sweet potatoes, she got us apples. It was so cute that she tried to get as close as possible to everything we asked for. And it ended up being a very different, very unique Thanksgiving for us.
What an awesome memory to have. Speaking of generous hosts, any particular one that sticks out in your mind?
Kaitlyn: I’d have to say our host in Irago, Japan really sticks out. It was her family’s organic bed & breakfast and Ayae [our host] was our age. The bed & breakfast had been in her family for three generations. It was in this very secluded Japanese town, and the house was a very traditional home—we had to take our shoes off inside the door. Her mom, Mikeko, made us breakfast every morning. We ate our meals sitting on the floor at a table, and of course, we wore robes everywhere. We were there about a month and really got to bond with her; she was really passionate about organic food and healthy living, and claimed this was Japan’s first organic bed & breakfast. She asked us if it would be a good idea to promote their home on MySpace…. So we told her, “Maybe you should try Instagram instead?”
Taylor: Now, it’s great because we helped her set up an account [@OrganicBnBMaruei] and she takes all these gorgeous photos of the house we lived in and the organic foods they share, so we get to reminisce our time there every time she posts.
Do you have a go-to resource or routine when you’re in a new place and trying to familiarize yourself with the area you’re going to call home?
Taylor: Of course. We’re definitely not wealthy—we work every day that we are away—so we first have to find a place with decent internet. Finding the best coffee shop is a go-to, and then we just explore as much as possible. Finding local markets are some of our favorite memories—the outdoor markets in Amsterdam and in the French Alps were just so amazing. So fresh, so good. In France, there was this big, fat Frenchman who sold olives and would sing songs that echoed throughout.
Kaitlyn: You could literally hear him as soon as you walked up. That’s a great memory. Really, just buying food alongside the locals, struggling to find the right words and the right currency for everything and getting these strangers to help us and befriend us—it put us into the everyday culture of a place very quickly. And we’ve been really lucky in that we have had great hosts who would show us where to get coffee and wi-fi and where the best quality markets were located.
Here’s the ultimate travel question: What are you pro packing tips?
Taylor: Oh man! Such a good question! We’ve become such packing snobs. And we’re getting smarter and smarter. Two years ago, we would check our suitcases. But when you start traveling around Europe on things like Ryanair, they charge you a lot per pound. So there was this moment in Milan—we’d already missed our flight the day before, and find out Kaitlyn’s bag is way too heavy… $500 too heavy.
Kaitlyn: So we had this meltdown moment where I had to rip open my suitcase and throw away books I loved and all this other stuff. I was wearing three jackets over maybe three sweaters and was just sweating through the entire flight. So we learned from this, and bought carry-on luggage to go with our backpacks. This was us traveling light.
Taylor: Come January, we can’t wait to cut our load by another 30%. But it’s challenging, you know? If we leave for a year and need a jacket for a few months, that takes up a lot of room if we don’t need them anymore. And when you get back after a long time, it’s the greatest feeling to come back home and wear clothes that weren’t in your suitcase! You have no idea.
Besides a new appreciation for well-curated wardrobes, how has living on Airbnb and traveling the world like this changed you?
Taylor: I think my biggest fear in life is taking things for granted. And traveling like this helps you to just never take things for granted. Ever. Even getting back home, visiting parents, you’re like, “This is definitely the best bed in the whole world.” And finding a new friend in a new city feels so exciting. When things change so drastically so often, you’re excited by the smallest discoveries in life.
Kaitlyn: I think it’s also made us appreciate home and America more. It’s so eye opening. I love learning about other cultures and really getting into it and talking with the locals. And at that moment, that place feels like the best place in the world. Every home and every town always ends up being my most favorite place to be at that time and in that moment. But there is always a big relief to come back home. We’re happy to be back during the holidays, just to reboot… and then be ready to go again!
And where to next?
We have no idea! Maybe Hawaii? We’re in a bad habit of booking last minute. Last summer, we booked a two-month stay in Costa Rica–we thought of the idea, bought our plane tickets, and booking a place on Airbnb within 24 hours. And we came to that decision only because we Googled “best place to learn how to surf”! So really, we never know where the whim will take us.