Life By Design —Unscripted
From left, Rachel Carlson, Kemaya (12), Salem (10), Jasper (15) and Lance Carlson. (Photo: Donna Carlson)
by Rachel Carlson
I don’t know where my family will be living in six months. We no longer have a residence and have sold off all our belongings. Everything we own fits into our minivan. But this isn’t a hard-luck story, this is our lifestyle by design.
My family lives and learns on the road, traveling full-time to experience the world together. Honestly, we had no intention to become completely nomadic, we were just looking for a life with a little less routine. However, six years later, this is what naturally unfolded.
Our former life was pretty much perfect. We enjoyed a safe community, a picturesque farmette, an outstanding school, an exceptional single-income job, close proximity to family, and the loveliest group of friends and neighbors anyone could imagine. But something was off. Our lives felt scripted—almost as though we were running on autopilot.
Instead of ignoring that nagging feeling, we questioned ourselves. What was missing in our lives? We realized we wanted more time to travel, less obligation to work, fewer homeowner responsibilities and more quality time with our children. We wanted to experience life more in the moment and to detach from any expectations of what an ideal lifestyle looks like.
Our lives needed a serious catalyst for change, so we decided to create one. Without a formal plan, we got rid of our belongings, sold our house and transitioned to self-employment. Our only intention was to prepare for opportunity and to solidly trust that a new path existed for us.
Giving up the combined security of house, job, benefits and community takes a huge leap of faith—we know. My husband and I have three children, 10, 12, and 15, and our choices directly impact their quality of life, education and well-being. Yet the entire family was willing to step out of the comfort zone and into possibility.
In the beginning, we played it safe. We leased fully furnished vacation rentals in Hawaii and South Carolina and enrolled the kids in public school. We readily became part of our new towns, connected with others, explored nature and embraced cultures that are different than the Midwest. Our lives were abundant with new experiences and warm friendships.
For most people, the story would stop there with a new secure life, but we continued to reevaluate. Living in one specific location made it easy for us to succumb to schedules and expectations—still, we craved more freedom and less attachment to routine.
In May 2018, we ended our lease and officially became “world-schoolers”—families who educate their children by exploring the world. Since then, we’ve crisscrossed the U.S., spent three months in New Zealand and revisited Kauai.
And we have no plans to return to a typical lifestyle.
In our new lifestyle, I’m humbled as I witness the diverse skills my kids learn via direct experience and the huge knowledge base they are building from exposure to different environments, histories, cultures and ideas. They seem to gracefully adapt to new situations. They’re not afraid to pursue something new, ask for help, or engage in meaningful conversation with a stranger. Change is their norm and they effortlessly move with it.
My husband and I have also grown on many levels. We’ve learned to trust our gut instincts, create security while remaining unattached, and be receptive to the ways in which life naturally emerges.
As a family, any challenges we face become family problems we solve together. Each individual’s input is respected as we regularly evaluate our family’s needs, goals, desires and comfort level. Now, when we notice something is missing from our lives, we find a way to fill the gap.
Someday we may shift gears and settle again; we acknowledge that and are not afraid to do so when the time is right. However, right now we are living in the moment. All our needs are met, our children are well prepared for their futures, and we are grateful for our experiences. It’s just so remarkable this all evolved because we were willing to listen to that nagging feeling that something was off.
Rachel Carlson is a registered yoga teacher and co-author of The Paleovation Workbook, a guidebook to restoring health via lifestyle change. She presents a variety of workshops as she travels. Contact her at [email protected]