Please stop saying (and believing) this money lie.

Dear friends, family and/or anybody who has talked or interacted with me at all since we started traveling full time nearly four years ago,

I apologize.

I meant well when I said it, but I was wrong and I am sorry.

I just didn’t want to be the kind of person who cares about stuff like that. The kind of person who needs money to be happy. I mean, what kind of person needs money to be happy?! ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, FRIEND! All you need is to get outside, breathe in some fresh air, spend time with your kids! Go pet a dog! THAT DOESN’T COST ANYTHING! Climb a mountain! Swim in the ocean! THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE, YOU MATERIALISTIC FOOL!

“Money can’t buy happiness.”

Everybody knows that!


Of all the inspirational, well-meaning (but total garbage) things I’ve ever said in my life, “money can’t buy happiness” sits right at the top of the trash can, like a flowery pink diaper, full of stank green baby shit.

I don’t know who coined that phrase, but if I’m guessing it was somebody with PLENTY of money who was unhappy and bored with their easy life of paying bills on time and buying groceries without having to check their bank balance first. They probably looked around their comfortable, clean house one day and were like WHY AM I SO UNHAPPY? LOOK AT ALL THESE EXPENSIVE THROW PILLOWS!

Why do I assume it was somebody with money?

Because being poor is the. fucking. worst.

When we set out to travel full time, I knew finances were going to be tight. My plan was to do family portraits all over the country, but when we drove off into the sunset on our very first travel day, I had ZERO sessions booked. All we had was the money we’d saved from selling all our stuff, and that wasn’t even enough to pay for one month of tent camping.

Was I worried? Honestly, not really. I had spent the last ten years of my life as a wedding photographer, making thousands of dollars per week, and was burned out, bored and desperate for some kind of adventure. Having money wasn’t making me happy, so I figured NOT having it for a while wouldn’t really be that big of a deal. (PLOT TWIST! I WAS THE LADY WITH THE THROW PILLOWS!) So off we went, broke but excited, ready to experience some REAL happiness.

And for a while, real happiness was exactly what we found. We hiked up mountains, swam in every body of water we could get to and camped out under the stars all over the United States. I booked just enough sessions to get us from city to city and we made barely enough money for food and gas, but the excitement of being in a beautiful, new place every week was enough to convince us that it was true : money really couldn’t buy happiness. We made less money in that first six months than we ever had before, but we were happier than we’d ever been.

That was in 2015.

Since then, we’ve visited nearly every state in the US, converted two old school buses into RVs and traveled internationally down to Mexico and up into Canada! We road tripped from Alaska all the way down to Cancun and have driven through scenes that looked more like postcards than real life. We’ve also camped out in a LOT of Walmart parking lots, been wearing the same broken old pairs of glasses for four years now, maxed out all our credit cards, paid hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees, tearfully borrowed money from family members and fallen behind on every single bill.

The thrill of full-time travel hasn’t worn off for us, but the romantic ideal of money not being important definitely has.

Money is important. And not having enough of it makes life incredibly difficult.

We’ve hustled and scrambled to make ends meet for nearly four years now and as much as I love this nomadic lifestyle of ours, I’m so sick of being poor. I’m sick of the constant worry and the nonstop stress. I’m sick of the helpless feelings, the guilt, the exhaustion. But most of all, I’m sick of the doubt I feel in myself.

I used to be fearless.

I used to be confident.

I used to think I was a badass who could do anything.

Being broke has broken me.

It’s hard to feel like a badass when you’re crying on the side of the road with a flat tire because you can’t afford to buy a new one. It’s hard to feel confident when you’re emailing every client you’ve ever worked with, praying that somebody books you soon because if not, you don’t know how you’ll buy groceries. Fearless? Yeah, right. I can’t even remember the last time I wasn’t worried about something money-related.

So why don’t we give it all up and go back to having regular jobs with regular paychecks? This past summer, a job opportunity opened up in our hometown that would have been PERFECT for me if we weren’t still traveling. The pay was good and the benefits sounded amazing. When I read the description out loud to my husband, he agreed it sounded like something I would love to do. I downloaded the application and for about ten minutes, I sat there thinking about how nice it would be to put all our bills back on auto-pay.

Then I started crying.

Traveling full time has been a dream come true for me. I didn’t want to give it up. I didn’t want a regular job. I wanted THIS job, my dream job. I didn’t want to live in one city. I wanted to live in ALL the cities. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to show my kids the world. I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else that I can do hard things. I wanted to be a confident badass again. And the only thing stopping me from feeling that way was MONEY.

At that moment, I knew money could absolutely buy me happiness, because making more money would allow me to keep living my dream life. Not having money almost forced me to give it all up. It almost forced me to settle.

But I don’t settle.

No, money doesn’t guarantee happiness. But not having money DOES guarantee a life of stress, worry, self-doubt and frustration. So, friends, can we please stop spreading the bullshit fantasy that you don’t need money to live a happy life. YOU DO. Exactly how much you need depends on what you want to do, but EVERYBODY’S life is easier and more fulfilling with money in the bank and it doesn’t make you a materialistic asshole to admit it.

I want to drive our bus across the country. I want to camp in actual campgrounds instead of parking lots. I want to take my kids to the fair and let them ride all the rides they want. I want to buy them new shoes before their old ones completely fall apart. I want to pay off my credit cards. I want to re-open my savings account. I want to pay my mom and sister back the money I owe them. I want to never ask them for money again.

I don’t want to feel broken anymore.

So this year, I’m changing the way I think about money, the way I talk about money and the way I feel about money. Time to be a fearless, confident badass again. Because I’m not ready to give up.

If you can relate, leave me a comment below telling me what you plan to do this year to make more money. My plan? Charge what I’m worth. Learn how to market. Blog more. Finally accept that I need to embrace social media to be successful. And of course, stop believing quotes from Pinterest. 😂

Can’t wait to hear from you, friends. LET’S DO THIS.

xo, Sarah Q

PS … this post received some pretty strong criticisms. Read my response here : How to be a good mother, according to the internet.


(Photo below of my looking like a fearless, confident badass while working on our second bus conversion while eight months pregnant with baby number four!)

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  • AmyJanuary 3, 2019 - 12:16 am

    I hear you.loud and clear. Same for me. Asking and charging what I am worth!!! Market myself and self promote. Super excited about this. P.S my family of 4 bought a bus one year ago and still trying to get into it. Thanks for the inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • AmyJanuary 3, 2019 - 12:20 am

    I plan on maxing out my student loans and going to Mental Health Nurse Practitioner school…as a mother of 4 including a newborn. Might do some photography again along the way 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Mary BethJanuary 3, 2019 - 12:24 am

    I love your transparency and your will to keep bus-ing on!   May your positive attitude bring forth all the lovely people that value you and your amazing photography!    Your clients that you book need to push their friends to book you while you are in the area!!    You definitely need to charge what you are worth, because you are so worth it!    I love following your work and your adventures with your family!     If you ever come near Pittsburgh I will share your name far and wide and try to help get you booked with a few families, and maybe even book a sesh for my family!  ReplyCancel

  • JenJanuary 3, 2019 - 12:27 am

    You are my spirit animal ❤️ReplyCancel

  • DebJanuary 3, 2019 - 12:55 am

    Awesome post Sarah.   I walked away from a VERY successful business as a wedding and portrait photographer, making 6 figures a year because I too was burnt out.  Very burnt out.  It’s been 4 years for me since I walked away and now I’m getting back into portraits.  Not weddings . .  I just can’t.even.think.about.them.   I’m blogging and Facebooking and Instagraming with the kind of work I want to do, not the kind of work I sold my soul to do previously.  I’m relearning how to market using Social Media and I’m not giving up my day job (which I truly love) until I’m convinced that I’m not going to hate the sight of my camera ever again.   Thank you for your post.  I feel a little more normal and encouraged for reading it.ReplyCancel

  • gus@roshoyphoto.comJanuary 3, 2019 - 1:10 am

    i am a portrait photographer who had the world by the tale using FB notariety to generate business. 

    Business died for a number of reasons including my disinterest in 20 hrs of marketing per gig. 

    I started a youtube channel called Gusinabus and expect it to supplement my retirement income – which is tiny compared to previous income streams. 
    Money does not guarantee happiness, especially because everything it buys is additional stress and worry.  But a minimum is required for good life balance

  • Emma SmallboneJanuary 3, 2019 - 2:05 am

    I have lived both sides of the coin. And I retired from photography becasue I didn’t want to be stressed and over worked and not always knowing when the next shoot will happen. But I also stepped into a career that gives me WAY more freedom and WAY more security. I completely agree with you. Money certainly does not buy happiness. But it also makes me smile when I can on a whim decide to go to Morocco or England with my son. I LOVE travel……I can’t imagine ever giving it up and to do that I need MONEY.So I hustle two businesses on Social Media… speaking engagements….wrote a book ( Which you totally need to do!) Passive income is KEY!!!! You can make good money just for being you…..sharing the knowledge that you think is easy. Like converting a bus…..or Homeschooling/unschooling….or living in tight quarters with 4 kids. I would highly recommend YouTube and Instagram. I have a couple friends that make thousands per/post. Just pick one and go for it! You have amazing imagery and have so much content and ideas to share. You’ve got this!!!! ReplyCancel

  • BiklJanuary 3, 2019 - 4:42 pm

    We are retired, and in the last 2.5 years we have travelled from Vancouver to Europe three times, South America, Florida, Atlanta, Texas, Arizona, California, Washington state, and several places in Canada.  We are leaving for Greece in the Spring.  Travel is big part of our life, and love it.ReplyCancel

  • KristenJanuary 3, 2019 - 11:42 pm

    I gave up photography in order to make more money. I thought I’d be sad, but instead, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Having money has allowed me to provide experiences for my family that I hadn’t been able to before; Having money means that we donate to others more often, and can help out those who are in the shoes we used to be in; Having money means being able to fulfill dreams that we’ve envisioned for year but been unable to materialize. So eff those who say that money doesn’t buy happiness, because it might cause damage to those who don’t know how to handle it but it absolute-fricken-lutely makes life easier. Fund the life of your dreams!! You can do this!! <3 ReplyCancel

  • Chad BrownJanuary 3, 2019 - 11:47 pm

    I have noticed a pattern in my life. When I convinced myself that money was not important, it somehow became insanely important because it was hard to find and I STRESSED!! When I decided it was important for me, and my families happiness, it seemed to flow, become peripheral and less important. Its not easy and feels counterintuitive to me, but I cant ignore the past evidence.ReplyCancel

  • Amoya KnudsonJanuary 4, 2019 - 1:02 am

    Yes! This is so true. We have been traveling full-time for two years now. Money does not buy happiness but you absolutely do need money! The broke life isn’t very fun either. We just moved back to Mexico and our staying put so I can build my income more. Have you thought of filing for bankruptcy to get rid of the credit card debt? It is definitely an option that some don’t consider because society wants to make people feel bad about it. Also, can you add some more affiliate links in the blog to get some cash flow there?ReplyCancel


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