The Family Travelers Behind 30 Day Locals


From Texas, to California, to Iowa, to Chicago, to Boulder, Deanna and I have never been content in one place for too long. We love the excitement that comes with change: new places, new people, new experiences. Throughout this time, we have been working toward the freedom to own our time. It isn’t that we don’t want to work (ok, maybe that’s a little of it :), it’s that we want to work on our own terms. In the past, what little vacation time we had was used to visit family. We’ve had little adventures here and there, working extra hours and using holidays to extend international trips. But we love to travel, and we want to travel for longer.

So we’ve decided to embark on our most ambitious adventure yet. We will live in a different country every 30 days. We will immerse ourselves in the culture: meet the people, eat the food, maybe even learn the language (at least as much as can be learned in 30 days). Instead of hotels, we’ll find apartments on AirBnB. Instead of eating out, we’ll go to the grocery store and fix our own meals. Instead of rushing to see the sights, we’ll take our time exploring the neighborhoods and talking to the people.

How Will You Pay For This? There is a movement that has been building for the past 10 years of people calling themselves “digital nomads“. The idea is that with the right skill set it is possible to work from anywhere with a computer and an Internet connection. Deanna and I run a business we started a few years ago doing online rent collection. In addition to that, we both do freelance work; Deanna does social media consulting while I do software development for the web. Given that we currently work from home and a small office we rent, we decided there is no reason we can’t do exactly what we’re doing now from anywhere in the world.

What About Your Home? For whatever reason, Deanna and I have never purchased a home. Ok, that’s not entirely true. We purchased a home in 2004 in my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. But we sold it within a year and moved to Chicago. Maybe having that home, albeit briefly, helped us to see that we weren’t ready to buy a home. Deanna and I have been committed to each other for over 14 years, but interestingly, we are scared of commitment. Purchasing a home is a big commitment. It locks you into a very specific space, usually for a long period of time. So we continue to rent apartments wherever we live.

What About Your Stuff? We’ll get rid of most of it. We’ll keep the family heirlooms and a few sentimental items, but most of what we own is just stuff. Furniture, electronics, books, DVDs, kitchen utensils, clothes, shoes, tools, and on and on. Have you ever taken a step back and noticed how much stuff you have? Of course, having some stuff is necessary, but we don’t need so much of it to enjoy our lives. It’s just weighing us down and making it difficult to make a change when we want to. We’re embracing minimalism because we’d rather have experiences than stuff. Plenty more on this to come.

You Just Had a Baby! Eleanor will be just over a year old when we set off on this journey. Though she may not remember large portions of it, she will get to experience the flavor of the cultures we visit. She will hear other languages, taste other foods, and meet children who don’t look like her. We hope, however romantically, these experiences will instill in her a desire to be more worldly and to think about the world in different ways. Our American culture can be very insulating, closing us off from ideas and opportunities that exist elsewhere. We want to open these opportunities for her.

Part of our purpose is also to see how children are raised in other cultures. In each place we visit, we hope to connect with local parents and learn how they do things. Maybe the methods and daily routines aren’t that much different. But maybe they are. That’s what we want to find out and write about on this blog.

We also realized that in the not too distant future we may not be able to do this. Or, at the very least, this will be much more difficult and impractical. Eventually we may want to provide a more stable and predictable life for our children. So the time to do it is now.

Why 30 Days? Anyone is willing to try something for 30 days, right? We think 30 days is a good amount of time to be more than tourists but less than residents. Thirty days will allow us to visit many different places in a year’s time while not feeling rushed in each place.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late My father passed away a few years ago from melanoma. He had worked hard his entire life to provide a very comfortable living for his family and less than 3 years into his retirement he was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma (I don’t capitalize melanoma on purpose; it doesn’t deserve that kind of respect). He died just 3 months later at the age of 63. Since then I’ve heard of much younger people – seemingly healthy people in their 30s and 40s – dying of melanoma and other cancers. I don’t know if the occurrence is greater now or if we’re just more exposed to it in our hyper-connected world, but it’s unnerving to say the least.

The journalist Christopher Hitchens said as he was dying of cancer, “It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse; the party’s going on, but you have to leave, and it’s going on without you.” We never know when we’ll be told to leave this party, and we can’t be sure what’s on the other side. Why wait to do the things you love?

So, with our heads full of brains and our shoes full of feet, we’re off to where boom bands are playing. We will be minimalists. We will be digital nomads. We will be locals for 30 days. We will be 30 Day Locals.

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