If you want to realize your dream of full time travel, the first hurdle is figuring out how to Make Money and Travel. Meet the Blakey’s, Millard and his wife Boo. They have been full time RV’ing for 7 years! They have been making it work thinking outside the box since 2011! In 2014 they became Independent Insurance Adjusters, working for about 3 months at a time and toward a greater goal. Today, Millard and Boo travel the globe as an Adjuster team. Read about their story below.
Tell us about yourselves and how you became nomads
I am a former US Marine and my wife, Boo, is a retired teacher. We also owned a small boutique remodeling company for 10 years. We were burning the candle at both ends. It was straining our relationship and something needed to change, but neither of us talked about it. We had recently
bought a used RV for weekend whitewater trips and discovered a quaint RV park near Balsam, NC. While talking to the owner about possibly staying there in the future, she told us about work camping and that they needed workers in six weeks to finish out the season. Once back in the car Boo asked me if we could sell everything in six weeks. Almost without a second thought, I said yes we can. Let the adventure begin! We sold the house, business, and everything that did not fit into our 29′ class C. Boo did negotiate for a storage unit with plans to store a living room
and bedroom set. She quickly decided that was not necessary since we did not know where we would land or if we would ever stop traveling. She had a few family heirlooms that her three nieces wanted and the rest was sold. We set off 09/01/2011. We traveled quite a bit differently back then than we do now. As an example, we only paid for camping about 27 days during 2012. We work
camped, parked in friends/families driveways, but mostly dry camped out west on BLM land.
Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in
We have been Independent Insurance Adjusters since 2014 and enjoy the intense, focused work followed by down time. Up until this point, we have been desk adjusters working in call centers. The work schedule is grueling at typically 10 hour days six days per week. We like to have a
goal for working and when we reach the goal, we request to leave the assignment. We typically work for about three months. We then go execute the goal. Goals have been to become debt free, travel abroad, etc. Our last big goals included to earn enough to cruise to Europe and stay for
three months, train/complete the US Marine Corps Marathon, and not work for at least one year. Goals achieved! We now are transitioning to working in the field as an adjusting couple/team.
When did you decide you wanted a location independent lifestyle? And when did you discover that you could bring in enough income to fund a location independent lifestyle long term?
The decision to become full-time RVers who travel as previously mentioned was a spur of the moment decision. We had been slow to realize the stress our lifestyle was creating but once identified, we initiated a course correction. The first three years we lived solely on Boo’s teacher
retirement. There were no luxuries other than being on the 3 DVD Netflix plan. At one point we were seven miles from any TV, radio, or cell signal. We passed the time with hikes, books, campfires, and Netflix which we considered “crack” entertainment. For a brief time we tried working for a company that did surveys of malls and other large complexes, but it did not work out. We were required to stay in the parking lot and while they called us independent contractors, we were treated as employees, unless injured. LOL. A friend suggested we learn an estimating program that restoration contractors and insurance carriers use as a possible way to work remotely. We decided to focus on the insurance adjusting route since it would allow us more freedom to travel
to more locations.
How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?
Hours worked can vary greatly in this business. For desk adjusters working in a call center, most work 10 hours per day, six days per week. Should a major storm or event happen the schedule can go to an extreme of 12 hour days, seven days per week. If working in the field as a property
adjuster the hours can vary greatly depending on claim volume and how you schedule. To our knowledge there is no set schedule for field work.
If you are willing to say, what is the average monthly or yearly salary for someone in your line of work?
Ahhhh, this is the reason why many get into this line of work. As a desk adjuster we were making $11,000.00 each per month. Field work can vary greatly but most get paid based on the amount of covered damage per claim worked. Keep this in mind for those who file a property claim. The
carriers want us to find ALL covered damage and get the homeowner paid. With the amount of money we make and our simple lifestyle, we have never needed or wanted to work too long. This year we have had two short assignments of one month each. In 2015 I chose to work 7.5 months and Boo joining me for 3.5 of them.
How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work?
Learning the basics of the trade was relatively easy and fast, but my wife may disagree. She would say the computer software was challenging and the amount of new information was overwhelming at times. The job requires customer service skills and it is helpful but not necessary to know construction basics. Everything else can be taught. We are nowhere near being experts and still have massive amounts of learning ahead. During our third deployment we felt very comfortable handling hail, wind and other residential property claims. As I type this, we are wrapping up a two week class in Delhi, NY learning the basics of field adjusting and have received our certification to handle flood claims through the National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP.
What are the most essential things you need for working while traveling? Equipment, programs, etc.
Cell phones, computer, and internet connections are the only tools we have needed for desk adjusting. We did have to upgrade our wardrobe from t-shirts to collared shirts, shorts to slacks, flip flops to street shoes. We will need more equipment for the field work such as ladders, a second computer, specialized shoes for safer roof walking, etc. We have also invested in a grandfathered unlimited Verizon data plan that will allow us the necessary data that field work might require. For now the unlimited plan is for streaming Netflix. The plan we have works out to about $53 per month and we use between 100-500 gigs per month.
If someone wanted to get into the same line of work, what type of education would they need? College, trade school, nothing?
Customer service skills are the only basic requirements needed, or as I call it, bartending skills. Can you explain a process that you understand to someone who does not? “I’m sorry mam, I can no longer serve you alcohol tonight” Can you still be nice and calm should the insured talk rudely. “Mam, I understand your frustration but the bar’s policy is to not continue serving someone who appears inebriated.” Everything else can be taught. We took an online course to receive our required state adjuster’s license, but there are on site classes for those who prefer that form of learning environment.
Who are your clients? Do you find them or do they find you and how? What is your success rate? Rejection rate?
Independent Adjuster firms are always wanting to place adjusters on their roster. Getting your first break requires networking through attending industry sponsored events/training to get your name out there OR a major storm/hurricane when the firms are scrambling for adjusters. We got our
first deployment soon after attending one firm’s orientation. The Vice President invited attendees to come see him at his office. Out of the 75 people attending, I was the only one to seek him out. I gave him my 30 second elevator pitch and within 6 weeks, we were working as insurance
What is the best thing about your line of work and travel?
We love the ability to work had for short periods of time and then focus on playing. The grind of punching a clock year round is something we hope to never repeat. I occasionally miss owning a remodeling company and wearing the many hats I wore, however, it was mentally exhausting, stressful on our marriage and kept us tied down to one place. Our current life and work styles allow us the freedom to seek out adventures, visit new places and make new friends. Life is soooo much more fun!
What is the hardest thing about your line of work and travel?
It is difficult to make and nurture long term relationships. It’s difficult to maintain a close connection with the friends we left behind 7 years ago. And even though we meet a lot of new friends, we tend to relocate and travel more frequently than they do. We have yet to find a
couple with which we caravan. Another difficult thing we experienced was leaving my youngest son, who was finishing up high school. He made the decision to stay with his birth mother instead of coming with us. I am happy to say, as difficult of a decision this was, the experience allowed him to mature and develop in a way we never thought possible. After graduation he joined us while we were in Portland, Oregon and decided to stay and blaze his own future. We are very proud of his independence and sense of adventure. He teaches paddle sports, bartends and has taken a seasonal job this summer in Denali, Alaska managing a restaurant.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?
I would advise myself to start this line of work earlier, even before we hit the road full time. We have found it fulfilling, a great way to supplement our active and nomadic lifestyle. I would also advise myself to approach each insurance claim decisively and as favorably to the homeowner as possible in order to get them paid and back on their feet. I think we were a bit timid to make decisions in the beginning which may have delayed settlement to the homeowner.
What is the most creative way you’ve heard of for funding a location independent lifestyle?
Several years ago we met some full-timers who traveled around the country and worked the circuits of special events. They had worked sporting events, concerts and trade shows. This would be super fun if you had a special interest that you could follow. My wife was curious about it, so she signed on with a temp agency while we were in Las Vegas. She worked Fashion Week (driving attendees around in a golf cart) and the McDonald’s Annual Convention (passing out goodie bags). She really enjoyed the variety of work and meeting new people. I spent my time assisting an RV Technician in order to learn maintenance tips I could use on our rig.
Anything else you would like to tell us that would be of interest?
Pursue your dreams and the rest will follow. Make goals and work towards your goals. Finally, if your goals, needs, wants, desires change, do not be afraid to change your plans.
So, tell us, did the Blakey’s story touch you? Was it an aha moment? Do you think this is something you could do?
And, if you would like to share your Make Money and Travel story, please email us, we’d love to feature you!!