For Everything There Is A Season

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It’s not easy to describe what we’re doing with our lives right now. It’s unconventional. We’re “Digital Nomads,” which is a thing, although most people have never heard of it.

We actually have thousands of examples of other travelers, entrepreneurs, and creative-types who are making a living while being mobile. The more we read their stories and understand that our highly-connected world is shifting in favor of this lifestyle, the more we think that our nomadic journey may last longer than we thought.

Since our return from Peace Corps, we’ve been piecing together an income and trying to keep our costs low (even while traveling). So far, we’ve succeeded in not touching our savings and spending less than we budgeted, all without enduring a commute or sitting through a 9-to-5. That’s not bad, I think.

We’ve got a long way to come, though. Although we’ve prioritized travel and flexibility, we don’t want it to come at the cost of community, meaning, and purpose. We are both big-picture people and we like to be working toward something. We don’t want to just float through life without purpose. We like to do work that makes a difference- which we are, in small ways (like managing social media for a non-profit in Jamaica and revamping a website for another non-profit in DC). But I think we’re both longing to make a bigger impact somewhere, to find a little more focus.

Happiness of Pursuit by Chris GuillebeauThe other day we went to a book signing for The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life; and the author, Chris Guillebeau, fielded a question which was essentially about how someone can determine for themself what quest or purpose they should pursue. He wisely reminded us that life comes in seasons, and sometimes the season doesn’t have a focus. Sometimes the season is just about exploring and trying different things.

We are definitely in the season of exploration. We are trying out this new Digital Nomad life. We are taking up offers to help out on farms or in backyards, we are testing our skills at travel blogging, learning what it’s like to cook in a restaurant, connecting with movers and shakers, training ourselves in new skills, reading, researching, and seeing the world.

We honestly have no idea where all this will lead. Actually, scratch that. We have too many ideas of where it will lead. Running a non-profit. Writing books. Owning a farm. Coordinating meaningful travel experiences. Hosting B&B guests. Travel blogging. Making documentaries. Managing social media accounts. Working with refugees. Working with college students. Teaching in other countries. Hosting service-learning trips. Teaching at Universities. The list goes on…

We would love to settle upon one or two ideas and move into our season of focus. We can only trust that that day will come and keep moving forward. We have to practice embracing the uncertainty.

It’s not always easy in the moment. We doubt ourselves. We get anxious. But we have to remind ourselves that every season has its own value. We try to stay committed to intentionally choosing our own path. Not blindly following the conventional prescription for work. Not settling for less.


If you can relate to this stage of life, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What is your experience with uncertainty or not fitting into cookie-cutter roles?

Work?!

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Recently the hardest question to answer these days is: “What do you do for work?”

When people ask us this question I think they are trying to understand two fundamental things:

1. How are you supporting yourself financially to do the things you love (ie. travel) and

2. What exactly do you do?

Explaining to people where we currently live seems simpler to answer (in case you are wondering: it’s with family in Oregon when we are not house-sitting or traveling). Still complicated, but simpler.

Michelle Chang Travels

Train station in France

Living this unconventional,”digital nomad” lifestyle is difficult to explain. It’s based on core values and principles of wanting to live a life that is simple, intentional, relationship-based, and flexible (regarding time). Whenever we are faced with any decisions about what we want to do with our lives, we use these principles to guide us.

Whereas someone with a more conventional life could say, “I live in __” and “I do ___ for a living” and that might not change for awhile, our lives are lived in a much faster, more fluid pace (which has it’s benefits and challenges). I just spoke to a good friend recently (whom we served with in the Peace Corps) and she told me, “Jedd, I couldn’t do what you guys are doing. I need to be in one place for awhile.” I get it.

Currently our unconventional lifestyle is a better fit for us in regards to where we are and what we want in life. Somedays we do think about having a more “settled” life. But for now, the benefits of travel, discovery, and experience outweigh security and predictability. However, we also realize that earning an income is a necessary part of life. Thanks to technology, the sharing economy, the support of family and friends, we are able to do a couple of things that help support us financially. How do we do it?

It can be broken down into two simple concepts: Expenses and Income.

Ideally you want fewer expenses and more income, and not the other way around (a concept I learned late in life, thanks to Michelle and maturity).

Expenses

We were hanging out with some friends recently (a couple) where one of them said, “I saved a lot of money from this 50% off sale.” Their significant other looked at them and said, “That’s not saving. That’s spending.”

I laughed at this conversation because I would have been the one thinking that I had saved a lot of money. Michelle has the other perspective where money spent is not money saved.

The truth is that life does have a cost, whether we like it or not. There will always be expenses. But one of the best practices I have learned is how to lower and cut out unnecessary expenses. This is important because the more expenses you have, the more income you need to make. When expenses start piling up, it creates a lot of stress and pressure. More importantly, it takes away flexibility and freedom. You may not be able to leave a job that you don’t like. You might not be able to travel as often as you’d like. And what I found was that I was spending more time at work than I was with Michelle.

Here are some of the ways (and I’m sure there are more things we can do) that have lowered or cut out our expenses:

ACTION LEARNED PROS CONS
Sold Our Car Use public transportation, borrow, rent No gas, insurance payments, repairs, etc. Not having one when you really need it?
Housesitting Living from a suitcase, simplicity No lease, housing payments, utility bills. Ability to travel and live in different places (rent free) Constantly on the road, nothing to call your own, always looking for the next opportunity.
 Travel Hacking Using miles instead of cash to travel.  Affordable travel. Takes work to keep track of. Must be responsible with credit cards.
 Help Exchange Finding mutually beneficial arrangements. Work for room and board. Additional benefits of networking, spending time with friends, knowledge and experience in different trades or skills, exploring new places for cheap. Experience depends on your host and if it’s a good fit for both parties.
Family Phone Plans Cheaper than individual plans. Must remember to write a check to the person in charge of the bill.
Living Simply Life without excess stuff. No furniture to purchase or upkeep, less to manage when moving from place to place, easy to find things because there’s less to look through, etc.
Affordable Shopping Shopping at thrift stores  Huge savings on things like clothes. Takes more effort and time to find the things you want or need.
Dining Out Less Cook on our own.  Huge savings on food. Much more fun and rewarding.  Takes effort, planning, and time to cook.

Remember, it would be nice to eliminate all expenses, but we also know that it’s difficult. It’s also important to note that lowering or cutting out expenses does not mean cutting out value or quality. Eliminating unnecessary costs and expenses should be liberating and not a hinderance. It’s also important for everyone to find the right balance for their own lives. Owning a home or a car isn’t a bad thing. Please let us know if you have additional suggestions on how we can lower or cut more of our expenses.

#jumpingjedd

Visiting friends in Boston. #jumpingjedd

Income

Before we left the Peace Corps, Michelle and I did some forecasting regarding our first year back. What did we want to do in that first year? Did we want to travel? Where? How long? Then came the big question, how much would it cost? Additionally, when we weren’t traveling, how much would things cost regarding our monthly expenses? Food? Student loan payments? Phone and internet? We came up with some rough estimates and determined what we would need to make in that year between the two of us to live the lives we wanted. If we didn’t earn enough income, we’d have to tap into savings. Anything extra (the dream) would go into savings and retirement. This is how we determine whether or not the life we want to live is sustainable or not. We are trying it out until the system fails. If we feel that we are not earning enough income to meet our expenses with our unconventional living, then we’ll start to consider more conventional means.

It’s important to note that because we are already trying to live simply with minimal expenses, our income goal is a lot lower than most people. It’s what we think is doable and comfortable for us. This is not the same for everyone. As of right now, here is how we earn income:

J&M Consulting
J&M
Michelle and I started a business as soon as we got back from the Peace Corps. We serve small businesses by providing a wide range of online services that include but are not limited to: social media management, contracting online services, website development, brand and identity development, customer service/client management services, and website management. The key aspect of all of these services is that we can do them from anywhere in the world that has acceptable internet.  Currently we have 6 clients from the west coast to the east coast. As a startup, we are still focusing our services and which clients we can serve best, but it’s been going well so far. This is our business website: J&M Consulting

Odd Jobs
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Every now and then people ask us to help them with some sort of project- farming, yard work, housesitting, computer trouble-shooting, etc.. Most of the time we do these things without any expectation of payment but sometimes people do give us something in exchange.

Just like the expenses section, we of course would be more than happy for any suggestions regarding ways we can increase our income (without compromising our values and principles).

Hope this gives you a better sense of what it is that we are doing for the time being and how we try to live the life that we want. As always, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave any thoughts, comments, or suggestions below.

-J

Fall Travel Review

After six weeks of travel, we have returned to Oregon (just in time for the heavy rain)! We still can’t believe we spent a whole month in Europe. Not only that, we tacked on an additional 10 days to explore Cohasset and Boston, Massachusetts. This is all thanks to our new-found “travel hacking” knowledge, an intentional and unconventional approach, and the generosity of the friends and family who hosted us.

We shared more about our recent travels (with lots of pictures) over on IntentionalTravelers.com:

Nendaz-Swiss-Sunflower Budget-Itinerary-Paris Loire-Chateau-France-Help-Exchange Visiting-Geneva-Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cohasset-Massachusettes

[Excerpt] Our farm stay in Cohasset was a thing of serendipity. It’s the perfect example of the unconventional, intentional travel that we love so much.

We met Michael and Michelle at Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon in Jamaica two years ago…

Read more via Visiting Cohasset (and Boston) | Intentional Travelers.

Swiss Panoramas

How to describe Switzerland?

What makes it special? The chocolate? The cheese? Both great but it’s Switzerland’s natural beauty.

Switzerland is breathtakingly stunning. Unbelievably beautiful (and we only saw part of it).

I made the comment this past week to Michelle and her parents that the whole country should be preserved and considered as a world treasure. No joke. That beautiful. We only visited a couple of major towns and cities and those were ok. The true magic of Switzerland are the pristine rolling green hills, the massive mountains, and the glacier fed lakes. If you hate natural beauty and don’t like the outdoors then this may not be the country you want to visit when traveling to Europe.

But for everyone else, take a train ride through the mountains. Walk through the countless, endless vineyards. Hang out by one of the lakes. Stare at the many snow-capped peaks. Feel like you could almost touch the stars.

You will understand.

(click on any of the pics below for a larger view)

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Nendaz, Switzerland. The view from the balcony or where we were staying.

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We were high up, but only half-way up the mountain. You can see the valley below in the background.

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We took a lift up to a popular hiking area. Tons of trails in the summer for bikers and hikers.

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A typical Swiss chalet on the side of a mountain looking at the valley below.

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The vineyard hike in Martigny. A beautiful 4-mile hike through what seemed like endless vineyards.

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I wish that was me, zip lining across the Martigny valley. It went over the valley/city.

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The city of Sion, from a 10 century Church on the top of a hill overlooking the valley.

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The interesting city of Bern. The river is far below from the city.

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Spiez, overlooking Thon lake. This whole area is crazy beautiful. Wish we had spent more time here on the lakes and in the surrounding mountains.

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The world famous Matterhorn mountain from the town of Zermatt.

Paris in Pictures: Part 2

Last week, Michelle and I got to spend a week in Paris with her family. We visited a lot of great historical sites, museums, and places I think the film “Amelie” was filmed at. There are so many reasons why Paris has become one of my favorite cities in the world. Here are a few:

  • Amazing metro system: buses, trains, and subway systems that are efficient and everywhere.
  • Incredible diversity: Though not all areas of Paris are diverse, it seemed as if it was truly, an international community.
  • Beautiful historical buildings, museums, art: The details in the city are incredible. Everywhere you look you can’t help but wonder how they built/designed everything.
  • Awesome parks: We judge a city based on it’s public parks. Paris has some great ones.
  • Great food: A lot of things taste better in Paris. I think it did.

We had an incredible time in France. Though the issue with our bags was stressful, it didn’t stop us from having an overall, great experience (we ended up getting them on Day 9). Here are some of our posts from our time in France:

Finally, here are some of my favorite pics from our second week in Paris.

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Arc de Triomphe – probably my favorite monument. The details were incredible.

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Centre Pomp Idou – this square contrasts a century old Church with items from the Museum of Contemporary art. To me this is the perfect embodiment of Paris. The old and the modern coexisting together.

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One of a couple HUGE department stores with these incredible and ridiculous decorations. It’s a little too much for me, but you can’t help admire the amount of time and energy spent on the details.

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This is a restaurant at another department stores. Notice the different levels of detail. Crazy. Awesome.

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A street market underneath one of the metro stations. This was an amazing international scene.

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I wish I could have taken pictures inside the Sacré-Cœur. You’ll just have to go to Paris and see it for yourself. It’s beyond impressive.

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A view from a scene in Amelie where her love interest has to look down from this park.

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A beautiful park in Montmartre – a famous neighborhood in north Paris, known as a place where many famous artists used to live.

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Montmartre

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Mother Nature – the original street artist. Just a silhouette of a street light on a home that reminded me of a Banksy work of art.

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Another great example of contemporary vs historical. Street art in Montmartre.

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Crepes are better in France and you can only get butter and sugar crepes in France. Michelle is very happy that she got her beloved crepe.

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Another talented street artist.

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That national opera house. Again, another building with incredible details.