My husband, Craig, and I are living in a Grand Experiment (GE), one that we’ve designed intentionally.
The most recent phase of the GE has been a practice of living and working from somewhere in the world, somewhere other than our home, somewhere in Colorado. All experiments have an inception point, and for me, this GE started a long time ago, beginning with my questioning conventions and expectations. Let me take you back there before I tell you about the last, six weeks of living & working away from home.
When I was a child—about 2nd or 3rd grade—a cosmopolitan, exotic, woman moved into my small town in Kentucky, the wife of the new Baptist preacher. Of Asian descent, she worked as a flight attendant, and carried her tall frame with a grace and beauty the likes I’d never seen. I didn’t know much about Asia, or planes, or showing up with grace and beauty. And she drove a Volvo, an old 240 model, the first one I’d ever seen. My father noted it was “foreign,” not like the Oldsmobile brand he preferred. Everything about her sparked a yearning in me to leave my small town and to see the world.
After college in Kentucky, I moved with my first husband to Virginia, the northern part, where I taught students who had lived in countries around the globe before they even arrived in my high school classroom. My colleagues were scholars and artists and poets and thinkers, and while I hadn’t gone far away from my home, the world opened up in another new way. With each corporate move we made over the next 10 years, my world expanded. I saw the unique beauty of America, and I met people who inspired me, taught me, and amped up that urge to go more, explore, see the world.
Alas, my journey took me right back to Kentucky, as all journeys do take us home. There, I divorced while in my second career, a career where travel was a job requirement. I saw the parts of Kentucky I’d never seen, gaining an appreciation for its varied topography—from Appalachia to the Mississippi River—and its varied folks. I worked in states all over the Southeast and, at one time, had responsibility for 23 state departments of education and the school districts in each. I attended meetings in what have become some of my favorite places—Chicago, New York, San Diego, the Oregon coast, Puerto Rico, to name a few. This career quenched some wanderlust and fueled my promise to my kids: I’ll give you four years of tuition, room, and board, and then you’re on your own. I realize the privilege in being able to provide this start in life for them, and both they and I fulfilled that promise. One of my greatest travel adventures ever was with Emily and Alex, to Italy, where my supreme hope was to inspire them to dream even bigger.
My second marriage, another GE crafted by Craig and me, two people who’d married and divorced once, who’d lived a lot of life, who’d learned a lot about who we are, and invited a new experimental design. We both had grown weary of the conventional, career track in corporate America, so Craig stopped working as an engineering, and I resigned a few years later from a global learning company.
It’s unconventional, this new phase of the GE. We moved on with gratitude from building retirement funds, taking paid vacations, sitting in some mind-numbing meetings, and dancing the sometimes-silly, corporate dance—and making big salaries. Our CPA and financial planner must think we’re crazy. They use words like penalties, and we reflect back that it’s our happiness fund. It’s our big, hairy, audacious dream fund. I think our moms worry a little—perfectly their role—and my children watch with curiosity and wonder, as I've never chosen to be so free before.
The GE has been a process of building something new, something that didn’t exist before the experiment started. Craig’s part of the GE has been marked by a fundamental commitment: to follow what feels most joyful. I’ve both admired and resented this commitment at times, which has presented the chance for me to explore my own limited beliefs about what’s possible. You mean you can really live and work joyously? It doesn’t have to be hard? The concept has shaken my sensibilities, and it’s given me permission to be a writer, my biggest, most hairy, most audacious dream.
And that’s where we are now, expanding the experiment to answer the question: "Can we live and work from anywhere in the world? What would happen if we shook up our 'near field,'" we've asked, a term we’ve learned from Jennifer Roth, Craig’s business partner and our coach. How would it feel to leave home, to leave the daily routines we’d fallen into, and to blur the lines between work and play?
Thus, we left home the day before the great, solar eclipse of 2017, a fitting event, a new moon in Leo, the sun sign of my July birth. For Leos, the sun is the center of the universe. I’m not an astrology expert, but I follow it and read what’s happening cosmically enough to know that eclipses of the moon result in supercharged energy and call us to look at our emotions and deepest desires. They force us to look at our shadows, too, and since the shadows of each of us more naturally emerge when we press out of our comfort zones, these 6 weeks on the road—ushered in by the eclipse—have offered highest highs and lowest lows.
I guess it’s obvious that Craig and I aren’t ones who do things normally, so we also left behind some ways of consuming, namely eating refined sugars and drinking alcohol, which eventually turns to sugars in our bodies, anyway. Why not add that big shift to the GE?
As we are nearing the end of this GE, the formal conclusions will be written later, but I’ve learned 3 fundamental things about myself, about behaving unconventionally and unexpectedly, and about what’s possible in this life:
1) There are billions of people in this world, and few of them think like me, believe what I believe about who we are, why we’re here, and what’s next after the ultimate experiment called life, but you will find those who align with you, if you’re willing to be yourself and follow your nudges and intuition. Here are a few examples of magic we experienced in this GE—
Mandy and Rachel, expert rock climbers with whom we watched the eclipse totality, two women who are stepping into big dreams and desires, which include letting corporate jobs go and living a life aligned with their hearts’ desires. They're going to teach us how to climb.
Kate and Michael, owners of an airbnb Craig picked randomly while we were making our way West, who are using the asset of their home to create a future they desire, one away from conventions and corporate paths.
Talai, owner of Herbin Alchemy, maker of magic through her innate connection to and knowledge of plants, and whose hands helped wipe away old energies in my body. This woman has so much to offer to the world, and all I can say is: watch out!
Lori and Scott, whom we met because of Scott’s t-shirt, and Craig’s bravery to walk up to him in a coffee shop and ask, “may I take a picture of your shirt?” They will be our life-long friends and help us expand our impact on the world, I’m sure, all because Scott made a t-shirt, and movement, that said, “say it with gratitude.” And, we connected Scott with our dear friend, Elena Anguita, and the lovely Sam Livermore in the UK, because they are all like-minded and fierce about changing the world.
Our Denver roommate, Anthony. Craig nor I have had a roommate since college, and it totally makes sense that we’ve been sharing Sara Ann’s 1,200 square foot, downtown condo with someone who’s interested in Dr. Joe Dispenza, quantum physics, guitar lessons, and more big, hairy, audacious dreams. Sail on, Anthony.
2) I love all my stuff back home, but I don’t need most of it. We’ve lived with what we packed in our car on this journey, and while it will be blissful to be back in our beautiful, 1920’s bungalow in Kentucky, it’s full of stuff that we don’t use very much. It’ll be a good opportunity to reflect, to declutter even more, and to consider the role of home in our experimental conclusions.
3) I’m at my best, no matter where I live on this planet, when I rest well, practice yoga, put my feet in the grass every day, eat mainly plants, love my body, meditate daily, write what’s in my heart, and show up always in the inquiry of, “what is it that I can learn from this experience?”
May you be purposeful in the experimental design of the next phase of your own Grand Experiment, and may each step be guided by your heart.