Karen Akpan grew up in Cameroon and later migrated to the United States when she was 15 years old. She attended both undergrad and graduate school at Cal State Northridge and accrued a student debt of $70,000.
In 2011, she got married to Sylvester who also had student debt of his own. The couple purchased a home and began living what they called their American dream. However, the challenge with the purchase was that it began having a toll on their finances.
According to Karen, they were ‘house poor’ and could not afford their $4,200-per-month house payment on their salaries at the time. After having a hard look at their finances, the couple decided to change course. First, they quit their jobs and then sold their two homes in California. They added $14,000 they realized from selling and renting their homes to purchase an RV off of Facebook Marketplace in early 2020 and started traveling around the U.S.
The family is now making a living from Karen’s blog, The Mom Trotter, and by creating ad campaigns for firms like Camping World, Circle K Stores, Hilton Hotels, and Disney, among others, for Instagram and TikTok, according to CNBC Make It.
Karen launched the blog when she was working full-time as a clinical researcher in 2016 while Sylvester worked as a nurse at a prison. She shares travel tips and a ‘to do things’ list on her blog for potential travelers.
Since taking this route in 2020, the couple has been hitting five and six figures and are on course to double those earnings. Last year, they made around $81,000. “There’s no way we’re going back to a house or careers or anything like that,” Karen told CNBC Make It. “We love the freedom that working for ourselves, being entrepreneurs has given us.”
The couple was inspired by a 2019 RV trip around Arizona, Nevada, and Utah to dispose of their homes and purchase an RV. Since then, Karen, her husband, and their son have visited a dozen states and several countries across the Caribbean. Due to their frequent traveling, their son Aiden is now being homeschooled.
Aside from taking Aiden on their numerous trips, Karen’s niece and nephew, Avery, 6, and Ethan, 8, also join them on some of the trips.
“Living in an RV, for us, has honestly been the most amazing thing for a family,” Karen said. “We’re happier because we just we don’t have the bills … We wake up when we want to. We go out when we want to. We don’t have the pressure on us anymore.”
Also, the decision to purchase an RV was to pay off their student debt and start building wealth for Aiden. Last year, they successfully cleared their $110,000 in student loans with the money they made from the sale of their home.
When Karen first moved to the U.S, she knew little about saving. It was through her hustles that she picked up the culture. She is now teaching Aiden how to save. “I want us to be able to be debt-free because then we can pass on generational wealth to our son,” said Karen. “It’s just been so freeing.”
Most of the money the couple makes goes into investment, including solo 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and their brokerage accounts. “We didn’t have any 401(k) accounts, which honestly, that really stressed me out a lot,” Karen said. “I feel like people at this age already have so much money in 401(k) accounts and we’re starting late.”