Back in 1991, Kay and Tom Seliskar started figuring out how they could combine their exploration of America's natural beauty with earning a living as they traveled. When they set 1998 as their target date to fulltime RV, they both held regular jobs. "We had no clue as to how we were going to accomplish our goal or how we were going to afford it," Kay says. "But we knew it was something we wanted--and something we were supposed to do."
Not unlike many people in the traditional workforce, the Seliskars nurtured a lofty dream. Comparing themselves to the legendary Johnny Appleseed, the professional couple felt a call to change the world. But instead of planting apple seeds for future harvests, they envisioned a ripple effect of positive thinking that counters the negative purported by the media in today's society.
To make their idealistic mission a reality, the Seliskars built on a firm foundation of education, preparation, and careful planning. Best friends since high school, Kay and Tom had kept in touch through the first years of college, their individual weddings, and the births of their children. Finding themselves single after Kay was widowed and Tom divorced, they concluded simultaneously: "We've been best friends for over 13 years. Maybe there's more in our relationship." "It's the best thing we ever did," Kay states, looking back over their fifteen-year marriage. "And it keeps getting better. Tom is definitely my soul mate." But one week after their wedding, Tom was laid off from his job. "We said, 'What next?'" Kay remembers. "And at ages 32 and 33, respectively, we put the house up for sale, packed up our blended family, and returned to college full-time."
Kay completed an undergraduate degree in business administration with concentrations in computer information systems management, and international business. Back in the working world, she landed a job as a computer consultant in the Minneapolis area. Tom finished college a year later and joined Kay.
In Minnesota, Tom worked for a natural gas pipeline company. Basically, he kept things running, first, as a control technician, and later as a compressor station operator. His strong mechanical, electrical and plumbing background is an asset for maintaining their own rig as well as attracting Workamping jobs.
Looking ahead to earning an income on the road, Tom took classes and bought books to develop his interest in photography. He began purchasing camera equipment to enable him to capture scenes of nature. "We are hoping that, over the next two to three years, I can build my photography business to a profitable level," Tom says.
While Kay continued with jobs in the computer field in Minnesota's Twin Cities, she earned a masters degree. As her career with consulting companies progressed, she honed her speaking and teaching skills with volunteer projects. She won a number of "Toastmaster" contests.
In 1991, Kay made the leap to her own company, all the while moving her career toward mobility. "I gradually replaced consultations in one place with ones requiring short trips or phone calls to work with project teams and set them up for success," she explains. "On assignment, I go into companies and evaluate where they are and give advice on management of projects. I'm very fortunate to have American Express as my cornerstone client."
Kay started out primarily consulting. "But in my heart of hearts, I've always been a teacher" she says. "I deliberately changed the focus of my services to include more training. It seemed a natural addition to my business. I want to do more motivational and inspirational speaking, as well."
Kay joined the Minnesota Speaker's Association and the National Speaker's Association and began to travel to conferences and conventions for keynote addresses. "1 have never minded speaking to large groups and I love making a connection with people," Kay says.
She goes on to describe her three businesses under one corporate umbrella based in Minnesota. "Kay Seliskar Associates, Inc. handles all the corporate and project management consultations and training. Through Brain Trainers, Inc., I work with people to tap into more of their magic brain power. With that business, I have two audio tape products titled, "Learn Anything Faster,"and "Your Magic Brain."
"The third business is Appleseed Enterprises and that's the one we are focusing on in our travels and for our future," Kay continues. "Our heart is into making a difference in the world and a positive change in lives."
She outlines her plan for compiling stories of inspiring people and finding a way to spread the word through speaking engagements and writing, hopefully, illustrated with Tom's photography. The sign with apples on the front of their 31-foot Horizon proclaims their calling to plant seeds for positive thinking. "Sometimes, we take our fifth-wheel to areas where I have workshops and classes," Kay says, explaining the logistics of their lifestyle. "Other times, I find an airport and fly to engagements. Once I flew out of Portland to Phoenix for a week, then to New York for four days, and on to Fort Lauderdale for four days. Then I flew back into Seattle and caught up with Tom on the road."
Kay's schedule varies, because she blocks off parts of the year in order to have free time. In 1998, she worked almost continuously from January into May. "I'm committed to one week a month for American Express Corporation," she explains. "But early in 1998, I worked extra weeks in order to reserve September for writing and fall photography with Tom. I also blocked off July to attend the Life On Wheels RV Conference at the University of Idaho. I have that kind of flexibility."
For her clients, Kay teaches management skills to build success in strategic projects. She does technology training with people working on computers and software projects. For American Express, Kay works in Minneapolis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Houston, and in Greensboro, North Carolina, on occasion. Before their actual full-time launch date, when the Seliskars were trying to pay off their rig, Kay worked in Phoenix for almost 20 weeks, making the city a second home.
On the road, the Seliskars maintain a cell phone. "I also communicate through E-mail," she goes on, noting she recently received an E-mail from a graphic artist on the changes she had made on some of her new materials. "We do the routine of plugging in at campground offices, truck stops, and airports. When she travels to a training or speaking engagement, Kay ships her class materials ahead, but takes transparencies along in her briefcase. If the Seliskars need to receive materials in a particular area, they plan ahead for general delivery in a small town or at the address of a relative along their route. Kay says that some campgrounds accept mail and some do not.
Tom projects the hope that their leap of faith into a new lifestyle will motivate others to consider their assets and come up with a plan to fulfill their dreams. Kay reflects, "One of my friends said, 'It's a good thing you didn't win the lottery to finance your dream. Because you are regular folks, you are much more of an inspiration to people. You didn't have anything perfect, yet you took the risk to do what you believed in.'"
With a chuckle, Tom admits that many people, including his parents, thought they were "nuts." "They wish us well, but they are skeptical--and frightened about our future security," he goes on. Kay picks up the details, adding, "One day Tom's mother asked, 'When do you two plan to retire?'" I replied, "When most people retire, they want something different from their present life--more freedom, flexibility, and time to do the things they want to do. We're trying to create a lifestyle we can enjoy every day by producing some income while doing things we love," she continued relating to her mother-in-law. "I wouldn't be me unless I was speaking in a classroom. And I intend to do that until the day that I can't!"
"Tom loves sharing interest in nature and the outdoors through his photography," she goes on. "Again, nature photography is something he visualizes doing as long as he's physically fit. We don't look toward some magic retirement day when we can 'quit.' And we have confidence we will be able to make a living. If we need to stay in one place for awhile, we have skills which we can utilize to earn income."
Tom adds, "We want to share with others what we are seeing in God's glorious world. We want people to understand there is a lot of hope for the future. The connections of the heart are there--one heart bound to the next." Kay relates that someone asked if she wants to become the female Charles Kuralt. "No, I want to be the female Kay Seliskar," she says. "...writing and speaking stories of real and ordinary people who are making a difference in their own corner of the world. I want to start a positive ripple."