Carrie McKeegan: “Everyone thought we were completely insane”

August 9, 2012 | ,

Each person’s unique vision of Nomadtopia is a reminder that there is no one way to create the travel-centric life you want, no right or wrong approach. Many people just like you—or in even more complicated circumstances—have made it happen, or are working to get there. Hearing others’ stories keeps us all inspired, and reminds us to dream big!

Carrie McKeegan is a location independent entrepreneur, mom, and travel junkie. Carrie and her husband run a financial business specializing in serving Americans living abroad, and in their spare time write a blog and host a radio show about how to run a business, toddler and newborn in tow, all over the world. Carrie and her family are currently in Mendoza, Argentina, but move around a lot.

How would you describe your current lifestyle (Nomadtopia, if you will)?

We like to think of ourselves as “semi-nomadic”. Our goal is to live all over the world, but because we have a pretty demanding business and two young kids, for right now we are trying to stay in each place for a year or so. That allows us not only to really understand the culture and get to know people and day-to-day life, but also to have a solid base with a school for our son, an office, and some stability. So, we see it as the best of both worlds! We spent last year in Bali, Indonesia. This year we are in Mendoza, Argentina. We’re trying to decide on our next move, which will take place sometime between October and January, and is likely to be to either Nicaragua or Brazil.

What was the first inspiration/motivation that led to your current lifestyle? Was there a particular moment when you realized you could make your idea/dream a reality? How long did it take you to get from “here’s a crazy idea” to making it happen? 

Although we have been living abroad since 2002, the move to our current location-independent/nomadic lifestyle took place in 2009. In late 2007, we took a trip to Croatia, and I remember vividly sitting on the beach there, reading a book about setting life goals, and exploring what we wanted over the next couple of years. At the time, my husband and I were living in London, thoroughly enjoying our lives there and working for big banks (I was a general manager responsible for partnerships).

But in talking, we realized that what we wanted next in life was totally different than what we currently had, and if we didn’t make a change fast, we might just settle for a life that was perfect for someone else, but not at all what we had in mind.

We wanted to have a family, and to actually get to see our kids, spend time with them, enjoy and participate in their childhoods. We wanted to travel even more than we had been (we did a ton of travelling even while working in corporate jobs, but were itching to start living in some of these wonderful places and enjoy them not as tourists only). Finally, our goal had always been—since finishing business school in 2004—to run our own business.

So, we set out to combine all three goals into a lifestyle that worked well for us. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment! Once we decided that was what we wanted to do, we were pretty relentless about making it happen. We planned and mapped everything out pretty carefully, started a business on nights/weekends and thoroughly tested a proof of concept before taking the leap, made sure our finances were in order, and within a year had our first son, finished the test launch and beta test of our business, and left our corporate jobs to move to South America.

It was a wonderful feeling to know that you can transform your life in that way and make your dreams a reality. Everyone thought we were completely insane taking so much risk, but it felt to me like it would be crazy not to take risks to get the life you want, the life that would make you happy.

What is the most unexpectedly useful thing in your Nomadtopia?

If you mean a physical possession, I would have to say the iPad. I love reading and we try not to travel with too much stuff, so it’s great having access to every book you’ll ever need on the road in one small device. The other useful thing is a pack and play for our older son. It allows us to move anywhere we want and he can sleep in the same place, and it’s small and portable and easy!

What do you miss most that you didn’t (or couldn’t) bring with you?

Friends! It can get lonely moving all the time. You get somewhere, know nobody, meet some great people, and then you leave and start over… The pro side to that is that we have friends all over the world and have gotten the chance to meet so many interesting people, but it would be great to see them even more. We do lots of Skype and emails, which helps, but sitting across a table from someone over a drink and dinner can’t be replaced.

What’s the craziest advice or comment you’ve heard when you told someone about your plans/lifestyle?

Someone once said to us, “I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have matching monogrammed hand towels.” She was kidding, of course, but I do think what baffles people the most is how we can move from place to place without hardly any belongings. That is always shocking to me [that people feel that way], because that part doesn’t bother me in the least. I love not having lots of things to drag me down, and wish I could do an even better job of simplifying (easy for me, hard to do with babies!). Really frequently, people tell me that we’re lucky we can have this lifestyle, and as much as I try, I can never fully explain that luck has nothing to do with how we live our lives—we all choose what we do and how we live. The harder you work, the luckier you get! 🙂

What changes have you had to make to your Nomadtopia now that you have kids?

Tons! Routine is more important when you have kids, so you need to be aware of your schedule and plan a bit more when traveling. We also find that staying in one place for longer at a time allows us to give our son the structure and school time he needs while still seeing the world. On a more practical note, we definitely have more stuff—it seems that we have one bag between the two adults and three for the kids! Also, we need to be careful about choosing locations with good healthcare, something we never really worried about before. But in so many ways, having kids has enriched our experiencing other cultures. Our older son is super friendly so we meet lots of local people in our town that otherwise we might never have encountered, and seeing the world through his eyes adds an extra dimension/texture to the experience that I hadn’t had before.

Would you rather spend one month in a place you’ve been to before, or 24 hours somewhere you’ve never been before?

24 hours in a new place; I am a travel junkie!

Thanks so much for the interview, Carrie!

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