Tom Wilkinson

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I moved to Ann Arbor (home of the University of Michigan in the US) for college in 1967 and never quite got organized to leave town permanently after I graduated. I have been away for a few years at a time for jobs; living in Baltimore, Chicago, and the San Francisco area. My goal is to be home for maybe six months out of the year, so I can travel the rest of the time.

Unsettled destination:
Thailand Sailing & Medellin 

What do you do for work?
I started out as a software developer and wrote part of the original code for SPSS (for you social science majors). When I realized there was no future in IT, I became a survey research methodologist. I ran my own survey research firm for 20 years, but now work for a non-profit health systems research organization. A few years ago, I got a degree in health policy, which helps in health survey design. Most recently, I’ve been working on a study of PTSD for the Veterans Administration and on a survey of American’s attitudes on organ donation. I’m turning 70 this year, so I’ve cut my work schedule back to three days per week to give me more flexibility to travel.

What makes you feel most alive?
Well, the obvious answer is coffee of course. Beyond that, I could say that it is something like watching sunrises over faraway mountain ranges, but actually what makes me feel most alive is sitting in some little street café in a new city, watching the locals go about their lives, and pretending I live there.

What does adventure mean to you?
Some of my biggest adventures involve finding working ATMs in third world airports, dealing with dishonest taxi drivers, and worrying about where that street vendor’s cooking oil actually came from. I think humans are hardwired by evolution to seek out novelty and be curious about the world.  Originally this lets us find new territories and greater resources, but for me now, it is the challenge of figuring out new places where my comfortable old rules don’t apply.

Why did you join Unsettled?
For me, Unsettled is just the right mix of structure and freedom.  I don’t have any problems traveling alone and figuring out new places, but having a group of like-minded people and local resources encourages me to get out there, see and do things that I might miss on my own.

What does living Unsettled mean to you?
I think most everybody agrees that collecting experiences is better than collecting more stuff (although as events are unfolding, it turns out that I do need a new Triumph Street Triple motorcycle). ‘Living Unsettled’ is more than signing up for the next Unsettled trip: it means organizing your life around whatever gets you out there into the world. For me, that is travel. I love the rush you get when somebody drops you off at the airport with just a backpack and ticket. Later this year, I’m going hiking in the Armenian mountains for a week and then taking two months to travel around the Black Sea – it should be very unsettling…

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Unsettled is a global community for those who embrace the unknown and value meaningful human connection. Our mission is to inspire a lifelong pursuit of growth, meaning, and adventure through travel and shared experiences.