* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Other Travels

Life After Peace Corps: Returning to Post As RPCVs

Sunrise from a friend's apartment in Kingston
Sunrise from a friend’s apartment in Kingston

What is it like to go back to Jamaica after Peace Corps? Many have asked us this, and we are still trying to figure it out ourselves.

Let me start by saying that going between Jamaica and the U.S. feels like two separate worlds. Continue reading “Life After Peace Corps: Returning to Post As RPCVs”

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels

Back in Jamaica (and How to Save on Travel)

Jamaica

We are back on the rock!

Saturday morning we landed in Jamaica, exactly 7 months after completing our service with Peace Corps. This time around, we’re taking the opportunity to experience Jamaica on our own terms (read: with a car and no longer getting approvals or reporting whereabouts to Peace Corps).  Continue reading “Back in Jamaica (and How to Save on Travel)”

* Michelle Thoughts, Intentional Living, Other Travels

These Photos Brought to You By Uncertainty | Intentional Travelers

We recently took a quick trip up to Jedd’s alma mater where he spoke about Peace Corps on an alumni panel for students interested in volunteer service after graduation. It gave us the opportunity to meet up with a number of people from Jedd’s college days. Over breakfast with one of Jedd’s former mentors at PLU, we had a great discussion about what we’re doing (or not doing) with our lives.

We had found ourselves losing enthusiasm and struggling in the absence of a real focus or direction for our lives. Thankfully, he reminded us why we chose our particular way of life in the first place and that choosing our own path naturally comes with its own set of challenges, including uncertainty. We left very grateful for his insights and re-motivated to carry on.

I reflected on our situation, feeling the need to remind myself what we have to be thankful for, and I shared a series of photos from our recent nomadic life on the travel blog. Here’s a quick excerpt and link to that post: Continue reading “These Photos Brought to You By Uncertainty | Intentional Travelers”

* Michelle Thoughts, Intentional Living, Things We Love

Things We Love – “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”

A Book Worth Reading

7-mutiny-against-excessSometimes when I read a book, I wish I had the power to make it required reading for a certain population. This is one of those books, and the chosen population is: America.

When my friend shared 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess with me, I could see why she thought I’d be interested. But for some reason, I put off reading it. It sounded like work. Was I ever wrong. Now that I’ve finished the last page, I’m ready to read it again. That never happens.

There is something about the way this Texas-pastor’s-wife writes that is both hilarious and inspirational. Author, Jen Hatmaker, is witty, authentic, and bold as she takes you and her family along on a 7-month “experimental mutiny against excess.”

About the 7 Experiment

For one month each, Jen and her young family of five creatively fasted from: Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, and Stress. For example, in month one they could only eat 7 foods (spinach, sweet potatoes, wheat bread, eggs, avocados, apples, and chicken). Month two, she kept a rotation of only 7 items of clothing. Month three, they gave away 7 things from their home every day. For Waste, they recycled everything possible and started eating unpackaged goods from their new backyard garden. Spending involved limiting their purchases to only 7 locations for the month; and Stress month led them to take 7 daily pauses for prayer and start practicing Sabbath.

In each chapter, I literally laughed out loud. Then I’d turn the page and become either passionately fired up or emotionally choked up. As she shares her struggles to “walk the walk,” you can’t help but feel a fire under your butt to make some changes of your own.

ThingsWeLove-Simply-IntentionalIf anything, this book is a call for American Christians to wake up and shape up. But it’s also addressing the needs of our society at large, which applies to anyone. Our lives are getting excessive – more busy and more cluttered – but it’s not making us happier, and it’s affecting our ability to be Christ’s hands and feet among the suffering of our world.

This book is not about making you feel guilty. I wish I could explain, but you’ll just have to give it a try for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a quick promo video for a corresponding Bible study where the author gives a brief overview of the 7 Project:

* Michelle Thoughts

Home and A Different Kind of Homesick

I wrote this post in February 2012, before we left for Peace Corps, and for some reason I left it in the draft queue. My thoughts are still incredibly relevant to our situation today as we move from place to place…


House-Mountain-Switzerland

Have you ever tried to imagine the perfect place to live? When you see yourself in that city or town (or in the middle of nowhere), in that house, is everything as it should be? If you could just live there, would you never need to move or remodel or change the furniture or improve the yard?

Would you be completely satisfied?

I’ve gone through this “exercise” more than once in my head, each time running through many places I’ve thought would be cool to live. A condo in the city with a great view! (Too much traffic, expensive parking, claustrophobic busyness…) Four acres of farmland with big sky and fresh produce! (Too far from the city, neighbors aren’t close enough, endless work to be done…) A colorful hut on a tropical island! (Too far from family, mosquitos, difficult to travel…)

Even if I truly enjoyed the place I was imagining, there were always other things that wouldn’t let me be totally overwhelmed with satisfaction and endless joy. There was still poverty in the world. There was still my own shortcomings and failures. There was still reality.

No matter where, the image of that picture-perfect place was always more enjoyable to imagine than to actually live in or own. There was always something missing.

According to the TV series/documentary “This Emotional Life,” human beings tend to expect that what makes us happy for a day will make us happy for a lifetime. There’s a fancy term called “Hedonic adaptation”- which means that human beings are good at getting accustomed to, or adapting to, positive changes in our lives. On the other hand, people find ways to like things when they’re stuck with them.

The few times I’ve gone through this thought process I’ve described above, I mourn a little. I have the overwhelming feeling that I will never truly feel “at home.” I will never find a place where I can be perfectly at peace. I will never truly rest. I will never arrive somewhere where I won’t need something else, something more. I will always be just a little bit restless. Do you ever feel that, too?

Maybe this is why I’m addicted to travel and I put off settling down. Maybe subconsciously I avoid finding a home because I know it won’t make me feel “at home-” I’ll get my hopes up and then have to mourn that loss of a dream. Instead, being a nomad is closer to my true nature. I do love to travel.

But why do I long to feel at home in the first place? Why do I try to imagine the perfect place, where I can stop searching for something more, if it doesn’t exist? Why do I have this life-long restlessness and the unshakeable urge to keep searching? The answer, I think, is theological.

I believe there actually is a home where I will finally feel at peace- it’s just not of this world. For any fears of dying I might conjure, this consolation is greater and I put my faith in it. I believe I was created for a heavenly home, and all the longing and dissatisfaction I encounter in this life are a result of not yet being there. The dissatisfaction is a reminder that something remains unfinished, something I have to look forward to.

All the same…

I suspect that some day we will settle down somewhere. It likely won’t be a typical set up, since we’ve sort of outgrown our ability to fit into anything cookie cutter. Perhaps we’ll try a tiny house. Perhaps we’ll still travel a few months out of the year. But we do value community highly, and I think that will eventually pull us back out of orbit.

Whenever that happens, it will be interesting to see how much I’ll still feel that existential homesickness. Will I ever be content to stay in one place? I don’t know. I know now that no place can ever be perfect, but I still hope to find somewhere that’s right for us. Whatever that means…

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts

For Everything There Is A Season

Sunset-view-plane

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?

* Jedd Thoughts, * Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, Intentional Living

Announcement: Our New Business

Though we’ve actually been in business for several months now (some of you may or may not have known that) and have several clients, we wanted to officially introduce our new company:

JandM-Logo-01
special thank you to Becca at RSJ Creative for our awesome identity

A Conventional Solution for Unconventional Living

A lot of people have asked us how we afford to live unconventionally. “You have to make some sort of income, right?”  Yes. One of the things we discussed prior to returning from Peace Corps was the idea of starting our own company, one where our services could be done from a computer connected to the internet, to allow us the most flexibility and mobility.

What Kind of Company?

Consulting was the best word we could think of that could hold all the ideas we had of services we could provide. It allows us to do a wide variety of things, which is what we wanted. We don’t want to be known for one specific thing. We want people to hire us because of who we are, our skills and experiences, our values and passions. We are branding and marketing ourselves.  We both believe that this is not a long-term career company, but a conventional way (having a job, so to speak) for the time being to live unconventionally. Since we also know that being very vague is not the best way to market ourselves, we narrowed it down to:

Project Management

  • Brand & Identity Development
  • Website Development
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Event Coordination

Michelle and I love being in charge of projects. We love to coordinate and implement programs. Projects can range from helping a small business owner get their business online to helping coordinate events and conventions. If there’s something we can’t do ourselves, we have a big network of talented folks who we can contract.

Social Media & Website Management
Because of our experience in blogging and managing websites, we were contacted by a few people to help them with their social media accounts and manage their online presence (websites).  We do everything from creating original content, uploading blog posts, engaging with an organization’s audience on facebook, etc.. We also have a lot of experience teaching people the basics of how to use online tools for themselves.

This is mutually beneficial for us and clients as we can do this kind of work anywhere we have internet.

There are tons of things we can also do that we didn’t list which is the beauty of why we started our own consulting company. The most important thing we want to get across, though, is that we want people to see that, as individuals and as a team, we can provide a lot. We have a range of professional and personal skills, and now, the time and flexibility to work on a wide range of projects.

We’d love if you would help us and connect us to people who might need our help. You might have a conversation with a family member, friend, or co-worker and be like, “I know a couple that could help you out.”

We want to be that couple.

Our Company Websitehttp://www.j-and-m.org/

Side Note: Housesitting

We still have available housesitting dates for late October to Thanksgiving for 2014 and beginning of 2015 from January to May. If you or someone you know needs housesitters, let us know. Here’s the link: https://jeddandmichelle.com/house-sitting/

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, Other Travels

On the Road Through Canada

Our first (of what we hope will be many) road trip through Canada took us from Vancouver B.C. to hidden gem Kelowna B.C., and then finally to Banff. Check out pics and information from our travels by clicking on the pictures below. The pictures take you to our travel blog – Intentional Travelers


kelowna


KelownatoBanff


banff


* Michelle Thoughts

Three Awesome Things to Do with 24 Hours in Vancouver, BC | Intentional Travelers

NOTE – this is Michelle’s post from our travel blog “Intentional Travelers”. 

THREE AWESOME THINGS TO DO WITH 24 HOURS IN VANCOUVER, BC

Vancouver, BC is one of our favorite cities to visit in the summer. Although we would have loved to stay longer, our schedule for this current road trip didn’t allow for more than a one-night stay.

So how did we make the most of our limited time in Vancouver? We prioritized our three absolute favorite things to do that are unique to the area. Continue reading “Three Awesome Things to Do with 24 Hours in Vancouver, BC | Intentional Travelers”

* Michelle Thoughts, Intentional Living

The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win

We have essentially started our month-long road trip, and we’re off to a great start in the state of Washington!

Back in January, we announced to family and friends that we’d be continuing our “mid-life sabbatical” for the year. We actually created a SoKind Registry with some of the creative ways people could help us out (like lending us camping gear or recommending us for house-sitting gigs).

We were really excited when our friends, Stephanie and Jon, proposed an “unofficial help exchange.” Help Exchange is a network of hosts around the world who accept traveling helpers at their farms, B&B’s, or households for various periods of time in exchange for room and board and the chance to explore a new place. Our friends’ suggestion involved hosting us for a week and letting us borrow their camping gear in exchange for some help in their backyard. It’s an unofficial help exchange! And, since we also get to spend quality time with our friends, it’s a win-win-win!

Here's some of the work we accomplished in just a few days
Here’s some of the work we accomplished in just a few days

Simply Intentional: Home Edition

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Stephanie and Jon are great examples of intentional living. Continue reading “The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win”