We've learned about other cultures and where they seek happiness. Good, happy people, I've learned, come from everywhere," Garrett Gee tells PEOPLE
After selling his mobile scanning app to Snapchat last year for $54 million, Garrett Gee was faced with a decision: What to do next?
Then a student at Brigham Young University, where he was captain of the soccer team, Garrett, 25, sat down with his wife, Jessica, 29, at their modest Provo, Utah, apartment to discuss the possibilities.
“A new house and cars didn’t feel right,” the father of two tells PEOPLE exclusively. “We didn’t need that stuff. We were young, healthy and really didn’t need much of anything. So we started joking about putting our money in savings, selling everything and using those funds to travel the world. Where would we go? What would we do? And as we began to add more plans to our bucket list, it just became real.”
That’s why the The Bucket List Family, as Garrett, Jessica, and their two children, Dorothy, 3, and Manilla, 1, now call themselves, held a giant yard sale to sell everything except two boxes of photos and journals. They’re now chilling on a beach in Bali, after four months of traveling throughout the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Indonesia.
After they come home for the holidays, they’ll set out again for two months, but not before crossing off another important item on their bucket list: to give five deserving people the gift of LASIK surgery.
Last year, the Gees gave a family of five going through hard times a surprise trip to Disneyland, “and the feeling Garrett and I received afterwards ensured us that we had to continue this type of service throughout our lives,” Jessica tells PEOPLE. (Although the couple has helped somebody anonymously every month since, they don’t share stories about who they help and why.)
“We try and share and give gifts that we feel have greatly benefited our own lives,” says Jessica, who came up with the idea to give away LASIK surgery after she went through it herself earlier this year.
“Near perfect vision is such a blessing – I was sad I hadn’t made vision a higher priority in my life,” she tells PEOPLE. “Within 24 hours of putting our plan for free [LASIK] surgery out there, more than 200 names and stories were submitted. We plan to tell those who are picked on Christmas Day. Maybe we’ll dress up like ninjas or elves and sneak letters onto their doorsteps with our kids.”
Married since 2009, the Gees met in Russia two years earlier while serving missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
While Garrett attended Brigham Young University after their marriage, he dropped out when his startup, Scan, was funded by Google and several Silicon Valley investors.
“Our company went from almost zero in our bank account to $1.7 million,” he tells PEOPLE. “It changed our lives overnight.”
When his company was acquired by Snapchat for $54 million, he and Jessica decided to stash the money in the bank and continue to live frugally, funding their “bucket list” travels with the $45,000 they’d earned by selling their cars, furniture and other belongings.
Highlights of their adventures so far include diving with humpback whales in Tonga, gardening in New Zealand, running along a pristine beach in Fiji and teaching their son, Manilla, to walk in Tonga.
Other than mosquito bites, transpacific toddler meltdowns, lost luggage and a scare when Dorothy slipped in the shower and split her chin open, requiring stitches, “we’ve loved life on the road,” Garrett tells PEOPLE. “Now we’re not sure when we’ll settle down. We’ve learned a lot about each other and ourselves.”
He and Jessica have also added a few additional wishes to their family bucket list. Jessica wants to someday plant her own vegetable garden, buy Dorothy a prom dress, own a beehive and watch Manilla score a goal in soccer, while Garrett hopes to swim with orca whales, treasure hunt in Bermuda and live in a lighthouse.
Through their travels, “we’ve learned to find happiness with less,” says Garrett, “and we’ve become more open-minded and open-hearted. We’ve learned about other cultures and where they seek happiness. Good, happy people, I’ve learned, come from everywhere.”