It all started about eleven years ago when we were in a surfboard building class together. John was new in town and Amy offered to show him a few surf spots.
We quickly became surf-buds and, after five years of being best friends and hundreds of hours of searching for waves together, an awkward courtship ensued - and we discovered we wanted the same things for our future: experiences over things, location-independence, travel, winters away and more time for the things that make us happy - like spending time together and surfing.
So we decided to go steady.
After a couple of years together it was time to test out our dream lifestyle of being in warm places with waves for the winter. But it wasn't all rainbows and roses to start.
John had to have excellent wifi and a baseline of creature comforts wherever he went and Amy's 15+ years of travelling solo on a budget made for some entrenched habits. Amy was on an insatiable search for unusual street-food, artisan markets and post-surf pedicures and John wanted to bring more boards, stay in nicer accommodation and enjoy post-surf pizza + Netflix.
These differences might seem minor and reconcilable - but they were challenging tests of our compatibility as a couple. Turns out it was exactly what we needed to figure out how to compromise and focus on things that matter.
We learned how to communicate better and adjust to each other's wants and limits. By experiencing new things and difficult situations together we really got to know each other's personalities. We grew together, created memories together, experienced freedom together, shared humour and inside jokes about the same unrepeatable moments.
As we travelled we developed new skills together, figured out how to forgive each-other's quirks, found more time and energy for sex and learned how to live in the moment together. We grew a flexible, but unbreakable, bond and became the best of friends.
We got caught up in the daily grind of 9-5, suffering through Canadian winters and too-many responsibilities to make major-life decisions.
We had an unexpected pregnancy that ended in an awful miscarriage. Within the course of a couple of weeks our plans to be blissfully childless turned into elation at the idea of being parents - and then that was ripped from us in the most painful way. We were sad, angry and confused about many things.
In a haze of hurt a few things became abundantly clear: We needed to get away, we needed space to heal and to be together. We needed sun, not grey cold slush. We needed to release from the daily grind and rediscover our priorities in life.
Amy took a 4-month sabbatical from her job as public health senior policy analyst for government and John carefully packed up his big-screen computer and took his successful web-design company on the road.
Amy had lived surf-side in Peru while doing a Masters in community-led disaster management and wanted to reconnect with the lifestyle of exploring new places, walking everywhere, eating well and scheduling surf in as easily as going to the gym. So we picked Huanchaco, Peru - where we could hit all those marks - and also have solid wifi 24-7.
Turns out Huanchaco has giant lemon-meringue pies and romantic sunsets. So we spent many an evening - surf-tired but full of happy energy - eating an excess of meringue, drinking wine by the beach and thinking deeply about life.
After five years of being best friends and hundreds of hours of searching for waves together we discovered we wanted the same things for our future: more time for the things that make us happy - like spending time together and surfing.
We had only a handful of new friends in Huanchaco, no work colleagues and no volunteer gigs (yet). All our extra-curricular time was spent on the things we really wanted to do - which were healing, being creative and imagining ways we could live, surf and work like this permanently.
This imagining started wistfully. We didn't consider ourselves so naive as to try to start a business centered around our favourite surf-spots.
The more we thought about it though, and what this time did for us as a couple, the more we started to feel like we were onto something.
Our skills were complementary: Amy had run just about every aspect of big and small travel companies, John had created businesses, buildings and surfboards from scratch. Amy had a talent for finding the best food, wine and adventure experiences that most travellers overlook and John was obsessive about finding the best places to surf at the best times and the right boards to use. Amy was accustomed to making contingency plans, dealing with bureaucracies in other languages and staying safe while travelling, while John could fix anything from a car to an internet connection to a crappy design.
We came up with all kinds of crazy ideas for shared ventures. Most crashed and burned before we finished our pie. So we tried a new tactic:
We can make it easy for other people to do the same thing that we're doing. Time and space to pursue passion for surfing, reconnect with their best self, recharge their souls so they can rediscover their creativity and strength, and travel in ways that are fulfilling and benefit local communities.
A few days and many a scratched napkin later, Unleash was born. And we were beside ourselves with excitement to build it.
We would make it easy for excellent people to release from their busy lives and patterns and live, work and surf in non-touristy places with fun, consistent surf.
We would provide them with all the things we would want to have a great travel, work, surf experience:
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