Unsettle Down: Collecting experiences, not things

In our last post, we met Joychasers – a family that gave up a ‘dream life’ to pursue a journey to chase their joy. Our latest blog takes a look at another family which has chosen to ‘live and work on the road’. Meet Chelsea, Matt & Kai from Unsettle Down on their move to collecting experiences and not things.

Read on as Matt and Chelsea share their experiences from travels across the world in an effort to inspire others, especially families, to break away from the predictable live.

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A continuing journey into Sustainable travel

The more we travel, the more we realize tourism’s impact on the environment and local economies in which we visit. When seeing Venice, Italy for the first time last year, we were especially alarmed by the disruption of the housing market and lack of preservation of authentic culture taking place on the island. Furthermore, rising sea levels and polluted waters are plaguing Venice’s existence. Since we are able to stay for weeks at a time in any place we visit, we immerse ourselves in the culture, talk to locals, and live like the residents there. We quickly realized that in Venice the problem of ethical and sustainable tourism is as bad as gets. Cruise ships not only dump ballast water from all over the world into the Venetian canals but also dump tens of thousands of tourists into the city at one time. These tourists spend very little money in comparison to the havoc they wreak on the communities. Big vacation rental conglomerates have negatively influenced the housing market there, by buying properties, increasing rents, and pushing out long-time residents without putting money into the local economy. Something needs to be done about this. 

When we lived in California, we were forced to live sustainability. We did not have air conditioning, we seldom used our car, we faced water usage restrictions, and we used our electricity sparingly due to high rates. It’s easier to live sustainability when everyone is on board and in California, thinking sustainability is the norm. 

 

Inspiration for Unsettle Down

Our inspiration for Unsettle Down came from our child. We always knew we wanted to see the world but when we got pregnant, everyone told us we only had one choice but to settle down in the suburbs. Matt landed a full-time location independent job the year before and we quickly realized we did not want a mortgage and minivan. Instead, what we wanted was to show our daughter the world. One day it hit us, we could travel AND work full-time. So we started researching how much month-long stays in Italy cost and we never looked back. Since then, our 2-year-old has seen 18 countries and over 100 European cities. 

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In our blog we strive to help people find remote work or, at the very least, find their own version of happiness, whatever that may be. We provide resources and write articles for people to find flexible income streams. Our experience with the blog has been very positive. We don’t push a “quit your job and travel full-time”  message but instead want to help others resist the notion to “settle down” and find a lifestyle that makes you happiest. We have learned most people don’t need more money to be happier. Most people just want more time, more time with their kids or more time to do the things they are passionate about. 

 

Was it difficult and scary to give up the 9-5 routine

We never gave up the 9-5 routine. It’s the best of both worlds actually. Chelsea wakes up early and gets in a few hours of work doing marketing consulting or working on our blog. Then we all go out and explore the city we are in until around 3PM. After that, Matt works 9-5 east coast USA hours, equating to 3PM to 11PM in Europe. He takes his “lunch break” around our dinner time and then another quick break to say goodnight to Kailen. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Matt believes it’s easier than you think to transition to remote work. The key is you need to stay focused on your work, keeping it separated from the fun part of exploring. You have to be flexible, be able to focus, and keep to your obligations. His flexible employment is what is funding our travels after all.  

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Opting for a nomadic life. It is challenging….

We are inspired to be nomadic because we don’t see the value in owning a home quite yet. We are able to afford more and pay down our student debts faster while traveling the world with our toddler. Some months we save 50% on just the rent we paid in California. It’s interesting to hear that some people believe that we’re “always on vacation.” Well, that’s not really true. We work. Really hard actually. Being nomadic allows us to live where other people vacation, immersing ourselves in local cultures and spending more hours in the day together as a family. That is our motivation. 

For an outsider, this way of life may seem challenging and intimidating. The truth is, it is challenging. But nothing good comes easy. It takes a lot of work constantly planning itineraries, packing and unpacking, living out of suitcases, and sustaining a work/life balance. But aspects of any lifestyle are demanding. And while our family may experience different challenges than others, we are all trying to raise kind humans and that in itself takes a lot of work. That’s the most important part though, raising a kind, conscious, and generous human being. And as long as our kid is happy, fed, clothed, and healthy, what else really matters? We are able to teach her about the world through experience instead of through backlit screens. We value this. 

 

But here’s what can help…

Our biggest advice for creating a nomadic or flexible lifestyle is “Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan. Because if you plan it right, you won’t have to dream anymore.” It took months of planning and scheming to create this life. We are constantly reevaluating and budgeting. We don’t live lavishly, like we’re on vacation all the time. We live within our means, go to the grocery store, and live like locals. We are able to travel and invest our income into the local economy and that makes us feel really good about traveling this way. That is a big piece of advice, though. If you want to sustain this lifestyle, don’t live like you’re on vacation. Also, if you’re working while wandering, we can’t emphasize enough how important is to keep your work and travel life separated. You hear stories of digital nomads tapping away on their laptops sitting in a lounge chair on the beach in the middle of the Pacific. This just isn’t a realistic picture of the life of a digital nomad. Plus, bringing an expensive laptop to the beach is just unwise. If we’re able to fully focus on work during work hours, we can also fully focus on exploring during exploration hours. Separate the two and put your all into each aspect of your life, instead of putting half your effort in both. Make sense? 

 

Favorite destination when it comes to sustainability

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Our favorite destinations have been places where we are able to learn from the culture. We are very impressed by the way of life in terms of sustainability in Scandinavia. They don’t try to control nature but instead live within it harmoniously. Norway was a natural wonder. The views are out of this world and the cuisine is exquisite. The food tastes so fresh and with a major focus on regional fare, we were able to experience locally grown and harvested foods in season. While we were in Sweden, we were interested to see their waste management practices. It’s not as hard as you think to thoroughly separate your trash daily. After a few days, this become the norm. We also take public transportation everywhere we go and hardly rent cars. Having an electric car in Sweden was a great experience. Now, we are currently housesitting for an eco-friendly home in the Bavarian Forest in Germany. The house is built through passive design and uses solar thermal, as well as PV. We have been tending to the gardens that grows their food and the chickens that supply their eggs and meat. It’s been a wonderful experience learning how to live off the land responsibly. 

If you’re traveling full-time it’s important to consider your impact on not only the local economies but the environment as well. We aren’t jet-setting from one place to the next, dumping emissions into the air. We are utilizing train travel, living in places for weeks at a time, taking public transportation, shopping for local produce, and supporting local businesses. Even though we don’t have a home, we do consider the places we reside as our temporary residence and aren’t wasteful in their resources. It’s nice to be able to take bits and pieces of sustainable practices from each country we visit. We hope to implement this in our own home one day, whenever that may be. 

 

Finally here’s their message for sustainable tourism

Consider your impact. Do your research on the homes you rent and the products you buy. Are you supporting the local economy? Follow the money. Consider what you’re leaving for the next generation. Ask yourself, what can we learn from the people we meet and the countries we visit? 

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