Michael Youngblood, Co-founder, Unsettled
In August of this year, Patrick Elliott and I had just landed in Lima, Peru to embark on Unsettled’s first retreat into the Amazon. We had spent the last several months researching this trip. Our team spent hundreds of hours in conversation with our local partners, conducting desktop research, and holding experience design meetings that led up to this trip. We’d seen countless photos, itineraries, and maps. In short, we were prepared as hell.
Yet, on the morning of our flight from Lima into the Amazon, I looked at Patrick and I asked, “Do you have any idea what any of this is going to look like when we get there? Our guides? The river? The lodges?” We knew every imaginable detail, but we hadn’t connected physically or emotionally with this place yet. We laughed about how we were literally embracing the unknown, our favorite tagline at Unsettled, and had no idea what we were getting into.
Our tagline isn’t about travel. It’s personal. When we show up with no expectations, when we don’t have anticipated outcomes, we open up a space for magic in our lives. We acknowledge the importance of mystery and we let curiosity guide us on our journey. This is the source of our personal unlimited capacity for creativity.
It is here, in embracing the unknown that we connect with our intuition. We stop listening to everyone else’s expectations. We stop living through other people’s projections and we truly start being ourselves.
Neuroscientists have recently found that people who detach themselves from having a fixed idea of how something is going to go — when we’re open to uncertainty — that our brains physically change and open up to new possibilities.
By embracing the unknown we are expanding our thinking, we psychologically orient our minds and our journey towards discovery and the active creation of new opportunities in our lives.
Uncertainty takes us to what the brain scientists are referring to as “intellectual humility,” which opens us to new perspectives, even when they risk completely shattering our currently held worldviews. This act of openness gets to the heart of how we perceive value amid the chaos, such as having a life-defining moment in our most challenging times. It allows us to engage with and support a colleague’s ideas even when they are counter to our own at work. We open ourselves up for new people to enter our lives, and we give ourselves permission to make memorable moments in the most unexpected ways.
At Unsettled, we see this in our retreats, and we see it in ourselves. Here are a few of our teams’ most memorable moments from 2018.
Clari Mastronardi, Experience Leader:
I was 15 when I recited the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I recited it over and over again, like a teenage parrot, not actually knowing what the words meant. Almost 15 years later, in a beautiful and serendipitous moment, I ran into the poem again. 2018 was the year when I decided to take that road less traveled and to define my life through adventure. My most memorable adventure of the year was my first solo hike in Patagonia. Four hours of hiking a challenging and steep trail on my own is my interpretation of, “I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference”.
Shitika Anand, Social Media Manager:
Sydney used to be home. In my early 20s, this city taught me what it meant to be an adult. Pay bills, make new friends, cope with a broken heart, lose jobs, get new jobs. In 2018, I went back to the same neighborhood I used to live in and got a lesson in growth and acceptance. My personal, professional, emotional, and moral understanding of the world around me had a dramatic shift – right from knowing my value in the workplace to absorbing what representation means, for a brown woman like me, in 2018 and beyond. I went back to Sydney with a more confident view of love, life, and friendships…and I do believe I taught her a little something as I said my goodbye, too.
Jonathan Kalan, Co-founder:
2018 was a year of incredible uncertainty and unparalleled growth for me. Through all of it, the moment that stood out most was on the first day of our Cape Town retreat, standing on one of the most beautiful coasts I’d ever seen watching the sunset over the ocean casting a brilliant light across the mountains. I’d been in intense motion for three weeks – Tuscany, Slovenia, Beirut, Bahrain – but at this moment I felt like the world simply stopped. I’d stepped off a plane, met two of our team members for the first time in real life, and met a truly incredible group of strangers who would soon become like family, in a location where I’d never been on an Unsettled retreat. I felt lifted, relieved, connected, and more deeply aligned with the people, place, and purpose in my life than I had all year. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Lala Franklin-Apted, VP of Experience:
At Unsettled we push people to take down the boundaries between what we traditionally see as separate “parts of their lives.” We help you understand the blurring boundaries between working and living, travel and home, strangers and family. I see how rewarding this is all the time for our participants. After 11 months on the road this year, I finally had my own personal moment of “holistic living” when I got to bring my work home with me in a new way…On a boat in Thailand, as my work life and the place I consider home came together for the first time letting my past and my present fuse together into one beautiful moment.
Taylor Floeck, Head of Community:
2018 was a year of climbing obstacles: both physical and mental. Going through grief in the most drastic loss of my life, it was easy to be lost. On a 10-day backpacking trek in the Andes, through health complications and physically painful efforts, I summited a 17,550-foot mountain in Peru, equipped with an ice axe, helmet, ropes, and guides. At the top, I buried a letter to my dad. It is not only my proudest moment of this year but one of the most triumphant in my lifetime. It will live on as a reflection for years to come, and one I am beaming with excitement over for 2018.
Liza Schmidt, Experience Leader:
I was visiting my brother in Ecuador this past July, and we visited the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall in Baños, Ecuador. The immensity of the waterfall totally overwhelmed me, but as I stood there getting soaked in the spray and saw individual drops catching sunlight and beading on my raincoat, I thought about how much power there is in the collective, how much strength there is in community, how much I treasure being a part of the giving, engaging and supportive communities in my life.
Patrick Elliott, Experience Leader:
Despite all my travel in 2018, there is one place that has shaped this amazing year more than any other – Brazil. It has given me incredible people, boundless adventures, and an inspiring oasis. As the year concludes, so too does my time here. If my Unsettled experiences have taught me one thing, it is to use this time for gratitude. To embrace the joy. To stay in the moment. For whatever the future holds, Brazil has impacted me in ways I can’t yet appreciate.
Christy Melinioti, Experience Leader:
My 2018 was a year of consciousness, practicing being present and being aware of all my senses in the moment, experiencing the now for what it is, for all its highs and lows. It’s a challenge for the mind to reach that level of consciousness, and there were moments that it was working against me, but on some days I gave it permission to just be. Be in the state of being. Towards the end of my 2018, I took on a journey to Nusa Penida island just off the coast of Bali, where I wanted to reconnect with the idea of conscious living. I rode a scooter for almost five hours around the island: exploring, connecting with locals, their lifestyles, the island life. I saw beauty everywhere. When I reached the top of the island and sat on a rock, I took everything in with all my senses and experienced the beauty of simplicity…I could do this over and over again!
When I read these stories, I see a common thread. At Unsettled and for people who embrace the unknown everywhere, when we say ‘yes’ to the unexpected, we are saying yes to a life of adventure, growth, and meaning. We are accepting the uncertainty inherent in the universe, and we are also giving it notice:
“I am at the helm; I am captain of this journey into the unknown. Try if you might to surprise me, but by choosing this path consciously, anything that comes my way will help me grow and be exactly who I need to be.
Back in Peru, eight hours after observing that Patrick and I had no idea what the Amazon would look like, I had my most memorable moment from this year.
Just 10 days before this trip, I was not planning on being in Peru. I was resistant to the idea of going, but in the end, I gave myself permission. We talk a lot about giving ourselves permission at Unsettled. When I gave myself permission to go on this particular adventure, I was acknowledging years, maybe decades of my intuition calling me to the Amazon. In order to get there, I had to take a 4-hour motorcycle ride, multiple flights, taxis, buses, and a 3-hour boat ride to arrive in Peru’s Madre De Dios Basin.
When we finally arrived at our destination, hours from the closest road or town, I watched the most beautiful sunset of my life. I walked out to a cliffside view of the sunset sweeping across the Amazon.
I really do believe that sunset was a lifetime in the making, and it all came as the result of giving myself permission — permission to follow my intuition into the unknown, which is exactly where I needed to be in that moment.
Are you ready to embrace the unknown? Join us in 2019 on one of our upcoming retreats…