Genevieve Gillespie always knew her job as a graphic designer was a portable position. As long as she had a laptop, Adobe software, and a solid connection to the internet, her work could be done anywhere, full-stop. And like many millennials, the nomadic lifestyle of traveling while working full-time had always been a bit of a dream for her and her husband, Scott.
Long before a tiny little virus attempted world domination, Genevieve and Scott were wondering if daily stops into the office were necessary, and began making plans to uproot their little family and work remotely for some months. Yet when the pandemic hit, they started wondering: Could we still do this? Can we still be safe? Is this still a good idea?
The answers started to become clearer as the remote worker wasn’t an outliner anymore — but the increasing norm. Moreover, it was apparent that they were going to have to say goodbye to friends and family and normal social interactions anyway, so why not now? They gave their landlord in Kansas City a 60-day notice and started to chart their course through the USA.
I spent some time chatting with this Unfettered Family about their journey thus far, their fresh approach to travel, some tips (FYI: AirBnbs gets a lot cheaper if you stay 28 days or more!), and how others can take on aspects of this nomadic life. Afterall, if they can do it while homeschooling two small children — that next road trip might be closer than you think.
1. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there and ask.
Maybe nomadic living with a family isn’t exactly what our forefathers had planned when they envisioned the happiness of generations to come, but it’s been proven over and over again that travel is good for the soul, and critical to our well-being. (And let’s be real: one-week vacations don’t really give us time to immerse ourselves into the local culture).
But how is this lifestyle possible without having a hefty bit of savings? Scott had the same question: “I asked, ‘What do they have that I don’t? Why not me? If they can do it, we can do it! They’re not rich!’” He adds, “They had a dream, they hustled it… and they found a way to make it work. It made me think, wow… we can do this. It was just putting the logistics around it.”
So he created a media kit and started to reach out to potential partners whom they would feature on social media — be it a blog post, Instagram shot, or even a virtual tour for their website. “My background is in education,” Scott says. “I was really nervous putting myself out there… but once you do, there’s so many opportunities. We’ve had some pretty big-named hotels that want to work with us. And we’re not a big deal yet… we don’t have a crazy following.” He added: “But we do good stuff. We’ve got some good content. We’ve got some cute kids, which helps!”
It’s this kind of growth mindset that’s given his family nearly three weeks in a camper van, or hosted for free in the Sedona area — the kind of mindset that shifts paradigms and makes the seemingly impossible possible.
2. Really, we don’t need much.
Even with the minimalist lifestyle trending, it’s still so easy to get caught up in the rush of consumerism, collecting all the things that make us allegedly happy. And yes, intellectually we may know that things don’t make us happy, but that knowledge sometimes isn’t enough to keep us away from the temptation, as we impulsively buy that one special thing to try to fill our desire.
But when you’re traveling, you’re forced to think critically about your belongings — trunk space is limited when you’re driving all throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Utah. Genevieve finds this sense of freedom is especially apparent with her kids: “They just picked up sticks and suddenly they were phones they used to call friends. Then it was a sword, and a blaster… kids will find joy in everything.”
So, maybe as adults, we can too?
3. Getting out of your bubble is how you really learn.
“What I’ve always wanted the most for my boys is for them to be exposed to the world, other values, other cultures, other ways of life,” Scott explains. “That is one of the greatest gifts I can give my kids.” It’s a dynamic he noticed in the teens he taught in high school: “Then they become informed citizens.They become informed people. I had noticed that kids who had a broader world view, who had a chance to get out of their bubble, were the most well-adjusted.”
Of course, exposing anyone to the world is an ongoing adventure, but baking travel into a young child’s DNA can be transformative. After all, we can only learn so much from a book — our imagination is informed by our experiences. The more experiences we have, the richer our books will become.
4. Routine is critical.
To Genevieve, the biggest lesson she’s learned in her months-on-end of travel during the pandemic is that routine makes all the difference: “As much as I say I hate routine, I need routine. I need to find ways to be self-motivated. Right now the sunrise is my motivation to get up.”
She explains that it’s these little routines that help us measure and appreciate the day. “It doesn’t come natural at first, but we all know how important it is to staying sane,” she says. Even if you’re not traveling, committing to a routine allows us a bit of comfort and also provides a barometer for our lives. The regularity helps us unravel what we’re feeling, and allows us to detect our moods and gives us better insight into understanding ourselves.
5. Sometimes you don’t need a grand plan.
While little routines are important, it’s also critical not to overplan. “I’ve realized that I want it to be all mapped out, I want all the answers… and we’ve learned throughout our travels that it’s okay not to always have them,” explains Scott. “Some of our best days are when we don’t have a plan… some of those unexpected moments are the best. ‘Pivot’ is our word of the year.”