Life with No Destinations
By Christine Vaughan
Like many great stories, it began over cocktails.
It was Oct. 9, 2013. Danika Garlotta ’06 can still recall what she was drinking as she and her husband Chris talked about wanting to travel the world but struggling to find the time. Somewhere between a Scotch Egg and an Old Fashioned, Chris turned to Danika and said, “Let’s take a sabbatical.” It was unexpected, unthinkable and completely exhilarating. Within three months, the couple quit their well-paying jobs, sold everything, rented out their house in San Francisco and said goodbye to family and friends as they boarded a one-way flight to Rome.
To ease her mother’s angst and assure her that she was not dead on the side of the road halfway across the world, Danika set up a blog to chronicle their adventures. Their plan was simple.
“We would do what we want, stay where we wanted, and if we didn’t like someplace, we’d move on,” Danika said.
With no itinerary and no end game, she began sharing their adventures in their travel blog aptly named “No Destinations.” Four years and more than 200 destinations later, Danika and Chris have transformed their dream of seeing the world into a profitable, luxury-travel brand.
LIKES LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH
“We’re not the backpack-across-Europe, stay-in-a-youth-hostel type of people,” said Danika, laughing. “We prefer luxury and style and love to explore beautiful beaches and cities. Our focus is not to travel to, but instead experience new places, cultures and people.”
And their experiences run the gamut from eating at questionable alleyway cafes in Hanoi, Vietnam, while sitting on plastic stools to a 12-course meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant in Paris. Along the way, they’ve had some truly once-in-a-lifetime adventures, including swimming with sea turtles in the crystal blue waters of the Maldives, trekking through the dense rain forests of Malaysia, hiking a breathtaking Icelandic glacier and exploring the deserts of the United Arab Emirates on camelback.
Think luxury, but laid back – and that’s No Destinations.
“We’re finally doing something we love, and we get to do it together,” Danika said.
But the two are very different. Danika describes herself as the frantic worrier, while she says her husband always manages to stay cool under pressure. Consider their packing styles, and humor, as shared on their website, nodestinations.com:
Danika: My packing style is chaotic, stuffed and somewhat unrealistic.
Chris: My packing style is simple and organized – basically the complete opposite of Danika; one pair of shoes is enough.
The couple met on Match.com shortly after Danika graduated from CSUSM in 2006 with a degree in communication. Friends at first, it took three years before they would fall in love and later get married on a white sand beach in Cabo San Lucas with a handful of their closest family members in attendance.
A LIFE OF ITS OWN
As Danika will tell you, they didn’t set out to create the world’s best travel blog. They set out for discovery. They set out to experience new cultures and see new things without being confined to two weeks of vacation time.
And for the first year, they did just that. Soon, the blog’s readership expanded beyond family and friends and, in 2016, it caught the attention of Libby Kane, a reporter with Business Insider. Danika and Chris were in China at the time, and although Danika postponed the Skype interview a few times due to a cold, the three finally connected. The article and its accompanying video interview went viral.
“It was wild,” Danika said. “Overnight we saw our following on Instagram and Facebook increase by the hundreds of thousands.”
Thirty million views later, No Destinations was entrenched in the spotlight. Since then, their travels have been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, Travel+Leisure, along with 16 other luxury travel publications
A LIFESTYLE THAT WORKS
Although the Garlottas have banished the stereotypical 9-5 workday, they do work. They call themselves digital nomads – freelancers on the constant move.
“Just because we’re traveling does not mean we are ‘on vacation’ even though sometimes our office is a cabana on the beach in Indonesia,” Danika said.
Before boarding their flight to Italy in 2014, Chris worked for startup tech companies in Silicon Valley, doing graphic design and web and app development. He is the founder of zingsale.com, a service that alerts Amazon users when a particular item drops in price. Danika was the head of marketing for a string of boutique hotels in San Francisco.
Today, Chris continues to work remotely for a few tech companies, while Danika is a marketing and design consultant for a handful of clients, in addition to managing No Destinations full time. Both work 20-40 hours a week, and depending on travel schedules, they decide when to take on new projects or clients.
Because they live in a different city every few weeks and primarily stay in apartment rentals, there is one nonnegotiable amenity must: a desk with a chair that has a back. Being a digital nomad can present its challenges, at times, like staying on top of constantly changing time zones, preparing for periods when WiFi access is limited or nonexistent in some areas, and relying almost exclusively on digital communication methods.
The travel duo recently became a trio with the addition of their son Axel, born in December 2017. Chris and Danika have started a travel bucket list for Axel – and are already putting their little guy’s passport to good use. In the last few months, the Garlotta family has traveled to United Arab Emirates to take in the gorgeous views, went on a safari in Sri Lanka and got up-close with an elephant, and sailed to the Bahamas on a luxury cruise.
Still on their bucket list: Antarctica and Australia.
In traveling the world, Danika discovered something unexpected.
“These experiences have taught me how truly big and open the world is and that there isn’t just one traditional path to happiness,” she said. “The toughest decision we ever made was making the decision to just do it. I never would have imagined that this life was possible, and now I cannot imagine our lives any differently.”