Amazing Nomads: Jason and Nikki - Gone with the Wynns

Jason and Nikki Wynn have been hustled in Panama, survived lighting strikes, and negotiated currents of plastic as they travel the world in their catamaran.

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As well as delivering our fortnightly World Nomads destination podcast, we can now share bonus episodes shining the spotlight on amazing people doing amazing things. Jason and Nikki Wynn are a couple of perpetual travelers who have traded a conventional life for a great adventure, kicking off with seven years in an RV and now two years in their catamaran, sailing the high seas.

What’s in the Episode

00:11 Welcome

00:28 Our guests

01:39 Phil's careful eye

03:19 What motivates you to live this lifestyle?

07:05 Where they've been so far

08:18 The country that blew Jason & Nikki away

09:19 Hussled in Panama

10:59 Sailing on a Cat with cats

12:12 Thunderbolts and lightning

13:59 How many pairs of sunglasses do you own? #randomquestion

15:00 The problem with plastic

16:36 Next episode

Who is on the Show

Jason and Nikki Wynn have traded in everyday life to satisfy their sense of adventure. Currently in the Pacific Ocean on their catamaran, exploring the world “…like it's 1492, sailing across oceans, weather storms, and discovering adventures we don't know exist."

Jason and Nikki enjoying the sunset

Prior to living on a boat, they went off-grid, spending seven years traveling in an RV. You can follow their journey including videos here.

Resources & Links

American Sailing Association has 300 sailing schools worldwide and half a million ASA-certified sailors

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

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Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides. The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

Speaker 1: The World Nomads Podcast bonus episode. Here are amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories, and experience of world travel.

Phil: Welcome to another episode of Amazing Nomads. In past episodes, we've heard the story of Claire and Tenny walking the US-Mexico border, Sarah Davis, who is currently paddling the length of the Nile, and adventurer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis, as an example. This is the first time we feature a couple.

Speaker 3: Yeah. Jason and Nikki Wynn. They've traded in everyday life to satisfy their sense of adventure. Now, they're currently in the Pacific Ocean on their catamaran, exploring the world, they say, like it's 1492, "Sailing across oceans, weather storms, and discovering adventures we don't know exist." But prior to living on a boat, they went off-grid, traveling in an RV.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. About seven years in the RV, and we've just hit two years as boat owners.

Speaker 3: Are you planning to sail around the world?

Jason Wynn: Well, we say we're sailing about the world. The around-the-world route is pretty specific, and we just kind of go where the wind takes us and wherever ... You talk to somebody, you find out about some location, and we think it sounds cool, and then we go there. So it's kind of like an about-the-world.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. [inaudible 00:01:15] like a five-year-old with a crayon. I don't think it'll be a very straight route.

Speaker 3: Well, when Allyson first mentioned that she wanted to do this, Phil is a sailor, and he swung straight around in his chair, and he's going, "Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? Have you thought about" ... So, how do two novices like yourselves ... Well, you're not now; you're two years in. But how did you learn how to sail? And Phil was watching your videos looking at technical stuff.

Phil: Yeah. I was lifting up all the benches and checking out your watermaker and see what sort of diesel you had.

Nikki Wynn: Yes. We didn't know diddly-squat about sailing.

Jason Wynn: We grew up in Dallas ... well, we lived in Dallas, Texas before we left on our RV adventure. And there's no ocean, so ... we have a tiny lake near us that we could've learned how to sail on, but we weren't interested in sailing on a lake, so I thought ... we had zero. When she says, "Zero experience," we think ... I think we hoisted a mainsail like twice in our life before we bought the boat.

Nikki Wynn: But we didn't actually know what we were doing. Somebody else just instructed us, and if you would've asked us to do it again, there's no way we could've repeated it. So our skills were definitely zero, and we knew that, and we didn't want to, I guess, make a bunch of mistakes. And then also, because we were documenting our journey and sharing it with the world of YouTube, we certainly didn't want to be bad examples, I guess. So we felt like it was our duty and responsibility to sign up for proper classes, so we did.

We signed up for the ASA class, which in America is the American Sailing Association. Signed up for a full class, which is where we got three or four different certifications in the process of a week. So it's super fast and intense, but it teaches us all the basics, and we got to learn on our own boat. So we learned our own boat very well and a lot of little ins and outs and quirks. So it was, yeah, we needed the education to say the least.

Phil: Look, can we go back to the beginning, before you started the RV journey as well? What was it that motivated you to live this sort of lifestyle?

Jason Wynn: Well, we were living in Dallas, Texas, and we had both started our own companies. Nikki is a makeup and stylist, and me as a photographer. And we kind of were at these crossroads. We were pretty successful, and it was going to only be more and more difficult to leave as we stayed in Dallas. And, I don't know, we had this wild idea that we don't want to live in Dallas for the rest of our lives. It's a concrete city. It's a beautiful city that's easy to live in, but we wanted to be near the mountains or the ocean. Then we thought, "Well, let's go find a new place to live." And, "Well, how do we take our house with us? How do we take our cats with us? Oh, well, let's buy an RV and take a road trip and find this perfect place." That was, what, nine years ago?

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. But what happened was three, four months in maybe, it didn't take long, and then we thought, "Well, why would you live in any one place when you could live everywhere kind of all at once? Just always potentially moving?" We started realizing that what we were doing didn't have to be temporary. It was something that could very well be viable all the time. It was a lifestyle in itself. We just never thought of it that way.

Speaker 3: They say they're "suffering from Sedentary Lifeaphobia," Phil.

Phil: There you go.

Jason Wynn: Yeah.

Phil: Around America, where are some of the best places you saw? What really sticks in your memory from that first part of the journey?

Nikki Wynn: Especially our first year on the road, we had this absolutely ridiculous bucket list of all these places we wanted to go and these festivals we wanted to attend, and we did them all. We traveled so much that first year, it was absolutely incredible. But we visited a lot of the state National Parks, and I love our entire country, but the West, oh, the West holds so many glorious places. You've got the Redwood forest is where I always say fairies and gnomes live because if they do exist in the world, they certainly live in a Redwood forest. Yeah, I think that's probably one of my personal favorites, yeah.

Jason Wynn: The Redwood forest, yeah. Right on the border of Oregon and California, she's talking about, just absolutely stunning. If you hit it at the right time of year before it's too sunny and before it's too cold, it's just magical. And there's ... I don't know. We traveled for seven years across North America, and we still have-

Nikki Wynn: Didn't see it all.

Jason Wynn: ... a hundred places on our bucket list that we never got to. It's just unbelievable.

Speaker 3: When you compare an RV trip to being on a boat, in an RV, there's something to look at all the time, but you guys are crossing the Pacific at the moment. There must be massive stretches of time where you don't see anything but water.

Nikki Wynn: Yes. Yes and no. I guess you start to notice lots of other things. If you're really lucky, you might catch some whales, which we did. Only for a short bit, but-

Jason Wynn: Not physically caught them.

Nikki Wynn: No, no. We got to see them. We see lots of dolphins and, of course, lots of flying fish like to land on our deck. Flying squid, who will leave ink stains on your deck. And-

Jason Wynn: Stars and moonrises like you've never seen before and just uninterrupted ... Most people have seen The Life of Pi, and we have experienced many of the [inaudible 00:06:36] that are shown in that movie that just seem so fantastical and imagined that are actually true and real, and when that stuff happens, that's when you're like, "Wow."

Nikki Wynn: [crosstalk 00:06:48].

Jason Wynn: Yes. Nature is amazing.

Phil: All right. Let's get on a bit more about the sailing part of the journey. You've been down the East Coast and then through the Panama Canal, so you've seen a fair few ... You went through the Caribbean first off

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. When we first started, we started off in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jason Wynn: Again, we knew nothing, so we learned how to sail, and we started outfitting our boat with solar and lithium batteries, a few upgrades that we had brought over from the RV.

Nikki Wynn: Right. Like our composting toilets and stuff. Yeah, so we did all of that in Florida, sailed through The Bahamas, kind of got used to the boat, kind of learning what worked and what didn't, and then finished up our outfitting, so everything's totally blue water ready.

Jason Wynn: Pretty much. We were in Florida for two months just totally nailing the work, and then we sailed for Panama straight away.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. We sailed through The Bahamas and then right to Panama, spent some time in Panama. Transited the canal, which was fantastic. And then sailed over to Ecuador and then from Ecuador to French Polynesia.

Phil: In a previous episode of the podcast, we've spoken about Panama, and it was a surprising destination for us. You said you spent a little bit of time there. Were you surprised by it?

Jason Wynn: We landed in a town called Bocas del Toro, which is this little surf village, and it sort of blew us away right off the bat. And we scuba dived in these locations, and the coral is just unbelievably different than anything we'd ever seen in our lives, so that was kind of a great intro into Panama that we thought, "Man, this is" ... Who would've thought? Panama. All I know is the Panama Canal. I don't know anything else.

Nikki Wynn: Right. But it was absolutely ... Yeah, the natives and the culture that goes on in Panama is absolutely incredible. And then we went inland even and visited Boquete and the surrounding area, and the cloud forests are just incredible, and the coffee growers, and we just visited coffee farms, and yeah.

Jason Wynn: Tasted some of the most expensive coffee in the world. We're super coffee, I don't know, nerds, geeks, whatever, you want to call us snobs. But, oh, man, Panama is amazing for those coffee experiences, if you love coffee. And some of the most expensive coffee in the world is actually sold to Australia and Taiwan, which we thought was crazy.

Nikki Wynn: So yes. Yeah, Panama was definitely a big surprise for us.

Speaker 3: You got hustled in Panama apparently.

Jason Wynn: Yes.

Nikki Wynn: Oh. Yeah.

Jason Wynn: This is a tricky subject. People really get fired up.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. Even our fellow sailors, so there's very divided feelings on all of that. And it's very easy to see kind of both sides of the spectrum, I guess, both sides of the argument, which is you do have locals or natives, whatever you want to call them, that feel that that is kind of their territory and that it is their right to take a fee from you if you want to come and visit their area, whether you want to anchor outside of their island or whatever the case may be.

And so there are certain designated areas, there are certainly bio marine areas, and you pay a fee to anchor there, and that's all fine and dandy, and then there are just areas where if somebody wants to come out and basically if you want to stay, you're going to have to pay. And we had one of those situations. And we had been told from a couple of other sailors, they're like, "Yeah, sometimes we'll come, and they'll try to hustle you, and other times they won't. It just depends."

When we first got there, we bought lobster from the local fisherman and everything else, trying to think, "Maybe if we help support them, they'll be nice to us." And then they still came back for more anyway. And it's not a lot of money, but it's the principle. And then on one side of the spectrum, sailors who say, "You can't pay them because then you're encouraging the behavior, and now everybody's going to get hustled every time they show up." And then on the other spectrum, people are saying, "No-"

Jason Wynn: [crosstalk 00:10:46].

Nikki Wynn: Or, "Yes, you should pay them. It is their land. If you want to stay there, then-"

Jason Wynn: "You should pay them."

Nikki Wynn: Yeah, "You should support them. It's not a lot of money. These people don't have much. Give it to them."

Phil: Tell us, how are the cats adapting to life onboard?

Nikki Wynn: The cats are definitely better sailors than we are, I'll say that.

Speaker 3: I'm seriously worried about one of the cats that likes to sit up on top of the mainsail, and I'm so concerned that you're going to wrap it up in there accidentally one day. Have you had any near misses with two cats?

Jason Wynn: We had to add 'check for cat' in the checklist before raising the mainsail.

Speaker 3: Seriously.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah, seriously. Yeah. No, he does like to go in there, but he-

Jason Wynn: But it's on the checklist.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. You'd notice him pretty quickly. No, we always kind of do a little check, but when we're underway, they're typically pretty good about just staying no further than the cockpit. Their sea legs are absolutely incredible. Cats are fantastic swimmers, which you may not know unless you need to put them in the water. But they are very good swimmers, so if they fall off, it's easy for them to get back on. We've only had that happen a couple of times, and it's always either been at a dock or at anchor, and it's usually because they're chasing a bird or a fish.

Phil: What about bad weather? Have you had any storms come over you?

Jason Wynn: Well, we've definitely had our lightning scares. On a boat, you're the only thing out there, and there's lightning striking within a hundred feet, straight to the water. You're thinking, "Oh, crap. I'm this tall, 40-something-foot mast that's 12 meters." I don't know how many meters it is. I'm American, I'm sorry. But you're out there, and there's this pole sticking up, and you're thinking, "Okay, please don't strike us, please don't strike us." But other than lightning scares and a couple-

Nikki Wynn: We've had a couple of squalls, so you'll get-

Jason Wynn: It was about 40 knots.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah, 40, 45 knots, kind of come at you quickly. But it always happens, and it seems like a half an hour, and it's over. And so it was kind of this quick and dirty thing that happened, and it was like, "React." And then by the time you've even absorbed what all has happened, your sails are down, and you're back to kind of calm. It's over, and you're back to 15, 18 knots of wind again, and it seems like no big deal.

Jason Wynn: And probably the biggest sea we've seen is, I think about five meters, so not massive seas by any means. And we know Mother Nature can turn on a dime at any point and give us 50 knots of wind and 20-meter seas-

Phil: 20-meter waves, yeah.

Jason Wynn: ... and that's ... Yeah, I'm not looking forward to having to ... Yeah.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. We try to absolutely keep a very close eye on the weather, and we try to pick our weather windows and steer clear of that stuff. Yeah, so we haven't gotten hit by it yet, and I keep saying "yet" just in case. I feel like it's a knock-on-wood kind of thing because it can happen to any of us.

Speaker 3: As we said at the start of the chat, we were inspired to chat to you thanks to our workmate Allyson, so she's compiled some questions because she's absolutely binged on all your videos and your blogs. She's got some questions I'm going to throw at you-

Jason Wynn: Excellent.

Speaker 3: ... if you can answer these. How many pairs of sunglasses do you both own?

Nikki Wynn: These are very important questions, Allyson, yes. Sunglasses are important on a boat. I have a tendency to break them.

Jason Wynn: We have shared glasses, too. Super cheapies, like five- and eight-dollar glasses. We have probably 10 of those five- to eight-dollar glasses, and then we each have five or 10 20- to 30- to 40-dollar glasses for when we want to go into town or-

Nikki Wynn: [inaudible 00:14:13] polarized.

Jason Wynn: Polarizing.

Nikki Wynn: Because the polarized are actually pretty important on the water. It helps you see. You can see the reefs better. You can ... Yeah. Whatever's underneath you.

Jason Wynn: In the grab bag, there are probably 40 pairs of glasses.

Phil: Oh, wow.

Nikki Wynn: That might be a stretch.

Speaker 3: Have you eaten anything weird since the sea snails in the Caribbean?

Phil: Let's see. Well, we accidentally ... In the beginning, we weren't fishermen either. We weren't sailors, we weren't fishermen. And we would catch fish, and we would look it up, and we'd try to identify it, and then we'd end up eating fish that didn't taste very good. That was pretty [inaudible 00:14:47]. The cats wouldn't even eat it, it was so bad.

Speaker 3: Now, one more question to finish off, and it's kind of an important one given this week learned that the size of the plastic in the ocean at the moment is bigger than France in the Pacific, I think, specifically, where you guys are. Have you seen a lot of plastic in the water?

Nikki Wynn: Yes.

Jason Wynn: It's a real struggle, and we have a few different non-profits we're going to try and reach out to because we're not educated enough on everything about the reefs and the quality of the water and what's in it. So we're hoping we can kind of work together with a few non-profits and educate ourselves and then, hopefully, educate our audience on what type of plastic is really not that good or what you do as a boater is not good, what you can do in your home that would help.

Nikki Wynn: Yeah. It is amazing, so much of it. And it's not even intentionally all thrown into, say, the ocean. A lot of it is stuff that is from overflowing trashcans that end up into a river or stream and then flows down into that river and stream and out into the oceans. It is a serious problem. We see little mini rivers of things get caught up in the current, and you will just see a little stream of plastics and Styrofoam and everything else. And it's disheartening, for sure.

Speaker 3: Yeah, that is very disheartening, the state of our rivers and oceans. And every day, there seems to be another horror story surrounding plastic pollution.

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. Terrible.

Speaker 3: You can follow Jason and Nikki's adventures on their blog, Gone With the Wynns, which will be in show notes.

Phil: By the way, I'm doing my bit for reducing plastic. We've gone bamboo toothbrushes at home.

Speaker 3: Nice one.

Phil: Thank you very much.

Speaker 3: Congratulations. That's a start, Phil.

Phil: Snorting and everything. Next week, another destination episode focusing on Ecuador. You'll find The World Nomads Podcast and Amazing Nomads episodes on iTunes and via the Google Podcast app.

Speaker 3: And if you're listening in the air with Virgin International or Domestic, thanks for choosing us to entertain you.

Speaker 1: Amazing Nomads. Be inspired.

 

2 Comments

  • Kevin said

    The best couple ever. Love them both. What a team.

  • Norman Frenk said

    Nikki & Jason are great fun to watch and produce great adventures & videos

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