In celebration of the launch of Moleskine | Unsettled Retreats, Unsettled Co-founder, Michael Youngblood and VP of Experience, Lala Franklin-Apted were featured in this week’s Fold Magazine. Fold Magazine’s Zosia Swidlicka takes us back to when embracing the unknown (with leather-bound notebook in hand – perhaps a prophecy of sorts?) began.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
Let’s start from the beginning. Michael, how did your childhood influence your professional path and views on the world today?
(Michael) I was actually the first person in my immediate family to have a passport. I didn’t grow up in an international context, but my family always spent our free time in shared experiences. I was one of seven, and we’d go on these big weekend camping trips with one friend per child on these mini retreats to the lake, beach or on a road trip somewhere. As soon as I graduated I took off. I grabbed my road bike, my camping gear and a leather-bound notebook and traveled 3,000 km around Europe.
I spent the entire time writing in my leather-bound notebook. About all these cultures that were so different to my upbringing, about how I would start a business the minute I got back home. To have that image still preserved on my bookshelf at home continuing to impact my life every day, it’s pretty incredible.
And that’s when my world opened up to travel, to how travel can have such a big impact in your life. That trip was 15 years ago and I know with no doubt that it set me off on the road to where I am today.
What can people expect to get out of an Unsettled experience?
(Michael) When you come on a retreat with us, you bring your whole life with you. Whatever challenges you have in your life, whether it’s a fear of bugs or something deeper, those challenges will follow you to the retreat. You get out of it what you put in it. The kinds of people who join us on the retreats are those asking big questions about their lives. The same questions I was asking in that leather-bound notebook. We don’t care if you’re working remotely, or you’re taking a sabbatical, or you’ve worked in a bakery for 20 years or you’ve never worked in your life. What we ask is that you show up with intention and openness to gain this perspective in your life and see what taking your creative self out of the office for a month and into a new environment with a new group of people can do for you.
(Lala) We trust in the creative process. It’s what the community needs; they are the ultimate creators of their own experiences. We want to help them access that, but they will create what they want. We’re not trying to give people answers or tell them how it’s done. All we’re really doing is asking questions. Michael was already asking himself these questions and invited people into the community to ask them together. This is really ingrained in our fundamental approach on the ground: people from all different nationalities or ages don’t all have to be asking the same questions to find common ground. We’re not trying to say this is perfect; what we are saying is that we are there going through this too.
Is it hard for people to embrace the uncertainty and face their individual challenges in a shared setting?
(Lala) People bond over the uniqueness of the experience. The first thing they have in common is the fact that they’ve been brave enough to sign up to this, to take the risk and embrace the unknown. We talk about unsettling people in a good way; we don’t want people to be too comfortable because that’s where the growth is (although there’s always wifi and a comfy bed to retire to). We facilitate a living programme they go through that they also built themselves. It’s a bit counterintuitive: a shared experience that’s very personal. It’s pioneering a new normal.
Check out the rest of the interview at Fold Magazine and come pioneer a new normal with us on a Moleskine | Unsettled retreat.