Bentonville entrepreneur Joe Saumweber and his family will spend the next couple of years living on a 65-foot catamaran named Lolalita circumnavigating the globe.
That’s one way to jump into early retirement.
“So much of life is about getting excited enough about a dream to overcome the inertia of status quo,” Saumweber wrote in a social media post in September, announcing the trip. “We’re pumped about this dream.”
Saumweber, his wife Mary, and their five kids departed Northwest Arkansas on Dec. 10 for St. Maarten in the Dutch islands. That’s where their sailboat was waiting and being prepped for long-term voyaging.
The Saumwebers began the westward circumnavigation of some 30,000 nautical miles just before Christmas.
The voyage is expected to take at least two years. From St. Maarten, the Saumwebers will cruise the Caribbean for several months with plans to pass through the Panama Canal in March or April. They’ll continue across the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.
“In our first year, we hope to make it across the Pacific to New Zealand before coming home to visit for the holidays,” Saumweber said in a recent interview with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. He said the family would keep their home in Northwest Arkansas and return to the region to live when the trip is complete.
Saumweber, 38, said the trip comes at a perfect intermission in life to take an adventure and focus on family. Saumweber co-founded Bentonville software firm RevUnit in 2012 with business partner Michael Paladino. RevUnit specializes in software products that help increase productivity, learning, communication and engagement in the workplace. Within its first year, RevUnit became one of Walmart’s critical strategic technology partners.
Saumweber was the CEO until December 2019, when he sold most of his position in the business. Earlier that year, Denver firm Mountaingate Capital completed an undisclosed investment in RevUnit. Saumweber remains a board member.
“It’s been hard to leave my friends and colleagues at RevUnit who are still working diligently to grow that business,” Saumweber said. “It’s been such a fun ride, and I am already missing my regular interactions with them. I became an entrepreneur to, hopefully, compress my working years and have more time for family and service at an earlier age.
“The truth is I love growing businesses, and it’s tempting to continue doing just that, but we’re trying to remember why we started down this path in the first place.”
Saumweber said he has a similar mindset for the trip to starting a business. He and Paladino left jobs with Rockfish Interactive to start RevUnit.
“I don’t want to live a life and have regrets,” he said. “Regrets for me aren’t about things I do, but things I don’t do. Life brings many opportunities, and we may as well jump on them and live life to the fullest.”
Saumweber said aside from the romanticized aspects of “boat life,” there will be everyday life, too. Things like homeschooling the kids, cooking and cleaning, and boat maintenance.
“And of course boat church on Sundays,” he said.
Saumweber and his wife both earned their captain’s license earlier this year. They also completed an intensive medical training course specifically for ocean travelers.
The family took a trial run at sailing the Caribbean seas in the summer to get an idea of what to expect. Saumweber closed on Lolalita’s purchase in October.
“Frankly, it’s been a lot of work, but we don’t take this lightly,” he said. “In the end, there’s not much in life worth doing that doesn’t involve some form of risk. We get the most out of life when we carefully weigh the risks, work to mitigate as best we can, and dare to do anyway.”
Besides professional flexibility, Saumweber said his kids are at a perfect age to enjoy and remember the experience, but still young enough they won’t miss out on high school activities and social lives.
The Saumwebers have two boys and three girls, ages 13, 11, 9, 7 and 5.
“Ultimately, we decided that we had this unique window of time to do something crazy as a family,” he said. “I generally live in fear of having regrets about the paths not taken. This was just too enticing a path to pass up.”
Saumweber said the family will chronicle the journey on Instagram, @sailinglolalita.