If you were given the chance to throw away your worries, pack your life into a sailboat and take off for the Mediterranean Sea, would you say yes?
That’s what Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu from Australia did in September 2014, and it turned out to be one hell of an amazing decision!
When a freak body-boarding accident in South America left Riley in the hospital with a broken neck, he knew there was no better time than the present to get cracking on his dreams to travel the world. It was then, he made the executive decision to double down and start saving every penny from his laborious fly in/fly out oil rigging job. Shortly after, Riley head off to Italy to purchase a beautiful 2007 Beneteau Cyclades Yacht, which was later named the famous “La Vagabonde”.
Seeing as Riley had literally zero sailing experience, you may wonder…why a yacht? Well, as Riley saw it, he enjoyed the water and loved camping. So logically he thought, why not?!
During his first sailing expedition touring Europe and island-hopping Greece, Riley met a light hearted and fun loving 22-year-old woman. With an extensive travel history and talents as a vlogger, singer and social media superstar, Elayna was working as a musician on the Greek Island of Ios. They formed an instant connection – possibly as Elayna was quite mesmerised by Riley’s handsome moustache!
The pair fell in love and weeks later begun their global adventures as an unstoppable duo. It didn’t matter they’d never sailed before. They simply took off, determined to learn sailing on the go.
Funnily, until he met Elayna, Riley was planning only to blog a little to keep his mum updated and happy, and maybe even make a few bucks to fund his trip with Google advertising. Little did he know their future that lay in store!
After a few adventurous months of travel vlogging, spearfishing and watching gorgeous sunsets on the hull of their boat, the couple soon ran out of money. It’s here you would naturally assume they bid farewell to their short-lived onboard experience, and return home to begin climbing the corporate ladder and settling down into a monotonous lifestyle.
In a plot twist, however, it was the couple’s dedicated online fans who saved the day. After multiple weeks of being privileged with inspirational voyage videos from Elayna, they were understandably devastated to hear it may all be coming to an end.
Their loyal fans requested to send her money in return for more videos. Elayna set up an account on a popular crowdfunding website called Patreon. Subscribers could pledge anywhere from $3 to $50, in return for exclusive fan access, cool prizes and the guarantee of regular sailing videos. This monumental decision was the beginning of the organic growth towards the huge travelling success that La Vagabonde is today.
Of course, their journey hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. They’ve experienced some trialling times aboard that sailboat. Yet Elayna has never hesitated to share it all. The ups, downs and in-betweens.
There’s the video for example, of the excruciating pain Elayna experienced one-night making dinner. A big wave caught them by surprise, and a large pot of boiling water came crashing down all over her body. She relived the terrifying experience for her viewers on YouTube – reminding them it’s not always easy cooking on the high seas!
Another time Riley was left to defend the ship against a terrifying pirate encounter, one dark morning at 1am. He spoke about the ordeal as being one of the few times he seriously feared for his and Elayna’s safety.
Sometimes the videos are educational and sometimes they’re very daring! Elayna even took her viewers on a private, solo adventure one time on an island in Tonga. Testing the theory that she could handle being completely alone for several days, she built herself a warm fire, sourced nutritious food and did a killer job of being deserted with no one for companionship but herself. She learnt a lot and shared her deep secrets and realisations with her compassionate online fans.
Clearly, it hasn’t all been an easy ride. But, it sure as hell has been exciting, adventurous and everything amazing the couple could have dreamed of!
By following their huge aspirations and mixing in a healthy measure of flexibility and willingness to just see where their passion might lead, the couple has achieved extraordinary levels of success. The funny, likeable pair started with a modest 30’000 YouTube subscribers and $2,300 per video of funding on Patreon in 2015.
By 2016 they had reached 90’000 subscribers and $4’000 per video. News outlets around the globe began picking up their story, in a quest to motivate others to also test their limits and see what they can achieve.
Incredibly, today in June 2017, Elayna and Riley share videos to a waiting crowd of over 300’000 subscribers on YouTube, and their fans fund their trip at almost $9’000 per Patreon video.
The couple’s story is a perfect example of the crazy adventures you might find yourself undertaking if you choose to follow your heart and let the kind goodness of the universe guide your way.
La Vagabonde took the travellers through the heart of the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, around the Panama Canal, and then across the Pacific Ocean. She now lies dormant in New Zealand, awaiting sale to new budding explorers to take her on adventures.
In 2016, the wonderful world of social media and great connections led Riley and Elayna to land a million-dollar yacht deal! Soon, their escapades will take place on a stunning 45ft Outremer catamaran currently being built in France.
Elayna explains that sailing allows her to simply live in the moment. She loves practising yoga in the blissful morning sunlight, reading a good book in a hammock on a private island and cooking delicious meals with fresh fish they speared that day. They’re never alone with fans all over the world and a satellite phone handy to call family and friends whenever they need.
The summer of 2017 will see the pair in Europe, with many astonishing videos yet to come!