Steph Stepan

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A little bit of everywhere. I’ve spent the past six years based in Europe (mainly Amsterdam) and came to Unsettled while looking for a new homebase. I’m still trying to perfect the balance between adventure and having roots somewhere. I moved to Portugal earlier this year and am heading to Australia for a little while. I really don’t know where I’ll be this time next year (sorry, mum and dad).

Unsettled destination:
Buenos Aires, Argentina

What do you do for work?
I help brands better understand and connect with their audience using words and pictures.

Reason for joining Unsettled?
I’m one of those lucky sods who works remotely. What people don’t mention is that it’s awfully lonely when it’s just you and your computer. I loved the idea of arriving somewhere and having a community of people to go exploring with.

What do you value most about the Unsettled community?
I actually learnt about the Chaos Monkey on the way to the wedding of two Unsettled friends. The bride is a rare book art dealer so it didn’t seem at all strange that just to the right of the ceremony, behind a typewriter, sat a Serge Gainsbourg-esque poet named Jo.

After the ceremony, my friend and I made a request. Could we have a poem about a road trip we took through Uruguay during Unsettled last year?

We explain how I’d missed the boat, went on a wild chase to find everyone and ended up slumped over my backpack at a McDonalds in Montevideo. It had been a long year and I was sure I would never see a soul I knew again.

When we’re out of earshot my friend says, “I don’t think he got it.”

I’m not sure he did either. How could he? He wasn’t there. Also, I think we rambled.

As someone who has had to do a lot of things on my own recently, what I value most about my Unsettled friends is our shared experience together. I think you need someone to bear witness to you living your life (awkwardly at best), otherwise it sometimes feels like you could be making the whole lot up.

P.S. Later in the night, Jo hands me our poem and takes a little bow. A girl who has requested a poem about her cat reads it over my shoulder and says, “Wow, that’s intense”. It really is. I wonder if I overstated things. But mostly I’m just glad Jo had a stab at writing it all down.

What are you most passionate about?
Learning. I think we do a rubbish job of teaching most of the time, so I’m interested in how you can learn and smile at the same time. Because if have fun you’ll forget to be stressed about everything you don’t know yet. Right now I’m working on an illustrated guide to life that teaches you French at the same time. Take that, text book.

What in your life has changed since living Unsettled?
A friend of mine, and fellow Unsettler, recently told me about something called the Chaos Monkey. It’s a tool that Netflix created to wreak havoc on their computers so they can find weak spots and test how resilient they are. My mind loves a good metaphor, so of course I thought, oh my god, there are Chaos Monkeys everywhere!

Whereas Netflix uses a test space (super smart of them), I use my actual life to conduct experiments. The perils of being human and not a piece of software, I guess. Earlier this year I moved on my own to a beach town in Portugal. It sounds idyllic, I know, but the truth is this was my open invitation to the Chaos Monkey. Any big change is.

I now wish I’d gone in with a little list of things that are unchangeable to support me when so many parts of my life were shifting. I’ve since created it, just out of necessity. It includes things like what I do every morning (yoga, write and draw), to knowing the lifeline people I call for help (my sister), or a meal I know will comfort me (red lentil curry). I highly recommend coming up with your own monkey-proof list.

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