Want to be the ultimate digital nomad? Work from your yacht
A bad day sailing is 100 times better than a good day at work, they say. But what if you can do both? Such is the case for some industrious seafarers who have launched and sustained successful careers while being liveaboards on their boats. Here, meet four of these globe-trotters.
For Darsy, 35 and Ellison, 39, it all started with an angry goose, which landed him in the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder and broken socket. It was here that he stumbled upon an article about a couple who had sold everything to buy a sailboat and travel.
“Although we had never sailed before, we decided then and there that sailing as a lifestyle sounded like a fun idea,” said Darsy.
In June 2018, they set out from their home port in Stockholm, building up their sailing experience. Ellison became a freelance aviation consultant and Darsy worked as a digital marketer before their YouTube channel became her full-time gig.
At first, Ellison had to field a barrage of questions on how he’d get his work done and had to negotiate how much he would be on the boat versus going into an office. Ellison was able to raise capital several times while on the boat, which supported the company through a tremendous growth phase.
They love the “absolute freedom” of organizing their days however they please. “There is this cliche image that our friends have of us, lying in our cockpit with our feet on the table and computers on our lap, surrounded by palm trees and crystal-clear blue waters, and it’s true a lot of the time,” said Darsy, but added that it can be like “two people working from a bathtub,” since finding privacy aboard a 40-foot ship during meetings and facing inclement weather can be tricky.
After three years, the couple has found financial stability, “so who knows how long it will last,” said Darsy. “Moving on a boat has taught us that we should first choose the lifestyle that we want, and then find a way to financially support this lifestyle.”
Eugenie Alder, Deckee
Alder, 44, and her husband Paul, 51, an IT consultant, both grew up boating and sailing.
“Our careers kept us busy, but we raced in regattas and did mile building/skipper certifications. There was always the idea to go sailing someday. We’ve always traveled and relocated multiple times. We like to change scenery,” said Alder. “When we moved to Sydney, we decided that if nothing else, the boat would get plenty of use around the harbor.”
When they ultimately decided to move aboard the ship permanently, the transition was seamless for Alder, since she’d been based in her home office since the early aughts.
She described working from their boat as fairly similar to working on land, but “there is no dedicated office/workspace as such, so you have to be very disciplined and able to focus amidst inevitable distractions.”
The family intends to live on the boat indefinitely circumnavigating the world. Her advice: “If you have a boat, move aboard now. If you plan on buying a boat, move aboard as soon as you have it. Everything else will fall into place.”
Nim and Fabiola Hirschhorn, Sail Luna LLC
This husband-and-wife duo were living in Florida when they decided to quit their corporate careers — 40-something Fabi was an analyst at a wealth management firm and Nim, 50, was the chief technology officer of an IT company — to launch their private sailing vacation company in 2019.
Before they met three years ago, Nim had owned other boats and lived onboard. Once they met, they sailed to Florida together and a few months later got married, living on Nim’s boat.
Feeling stifled by corporate life, Nim suggested the idea of starting their own crewed yacht charter business.
At first, working aboard felt like a big shift.
“We would have meetings, but we could have a cocktail in our hands, enjoy the most amazing views and we could jump into the clear blue water for a break,” Fabi said.
This floating hotel they call home has not been without sacrifice, though. “It is quite different compared to working from a traditional home. It involves a lot of planning. You need to be self-sufficient and an expert in so many things. If something breaks, you need to be able to fix it or improvise,” she said.
The biggest career lesson they’ve learned is that society’s definition of success is not what makes you happy.
“We were both in high-level jobs, working long hours and making decent money. Our roles came with a certain level of prestige, and in the eyes of others, we were successful,” Fabi offered. “Now we work barefoot, catering to other people’s needs, cooking, cleaning and entertaining, yet we are happy and feel far more successful. We have created a lifestyle that fits our definition of success, and that in turn has taught us to always do what makes us happy.”
This 40-year-old mother of three boys (12, 10 and 7 years old) and founder of her own travel and lifestyle PR agency never dreamed she and her husband, Dave, would take to the water for life aboard a yacht in 2018. This is until they saw the documentary “Maidentrip” about Laura Dekker, the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
They began daydreaming. “We didn’t even know if it was possible or safe to do so with kids, but the moment we realized it was, our mantra became, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?’ ” said Carey. “Within a month, we had told our family and friends we were buying a yacht and heading off on an adventure. Two years later, we flew out of Australia on one-way tickets to the Caribbean where we had bought our boat sight unseen.”
After returning home to Adelaide during the pandemic, they moored up in Mallorca, Spain, where they live currently.
“Initially, we were only going for a two-year sabbatical from our government jobs. After 12 months on the boat, I was inspired to start freelance writing. That turned into freelance PR work and eventually when we returned to Australia, I quit my government job and started my own PR agency,” said Carey. “I built my company to be location-independent, and after 12 months of life back in the rat race, we decided to sell our home and return to our boat.”
The family plans to continue living on the yacht “for as long as it’s fun” and based on whether their home-schooled sons want to go back to school during their teen years.
“Life on a boat is not perfect,” said Carey. “It’s often challenging, uncomfortable and isolating, but it’s also exhilarating, wondrous and life-changing. I’m excited to see where it takes us in the future — because we literally don’t know where we’ll be next month, let alone next year, and that makes me feel alive.”