How about building a life that has ingredients from multiple worlds? Why settle for one way of living if you can mix and match? Miranda Stamps switched from New York Corporate Executive to a campervan mom and lived a nomad family life for over four years. After the travel years, Miranda and her husband decided to settle down in Western Australia and try corporate careers again. Miranda is a great example of a person who has combined different lifestyles in different times, together with her husband and two kids.
I met Miranda in Bali already in March 2016. We met at a Yoga and Meditation retreat in Gili Air, and I remember already then admiring the choices she had made with her husband. Back in the day, they were somewhere in the middle of their nomad adventures, spending a year in Asia and travelling. I ended up having many discussions with her during the week, and there was something that she said back then that I’ve carried with me ever since.
We talked about relationships and the challenges of finding a partner. She clearly didn’t have a challenge there since she was living an adventurous nomad life with her family, but I was struggling at that time; while it seemed impossible to meet a matching partner, I also didn’t find traditional family life and relationship escalator calling my name. She shared an eternal piece of wisdom with me then, and it went something like this;
to form a good partnership is about understanding what kind of life you want to live.
This piece of wisdom resonated strongly already then, but I didn’t understand the full meaning at that time. What kind of life do I want to live…? What does she mean…? You work hard, try to advance your career, pay taxes, buy a home, and start a family. Then you run in the wheel, travel to Thailand once a year, celebrate some external achievements and die happy. Isn’t that’s the life we all should want to live?
Little did I know back then, but I’ve never forgotten about our conversation. And now, some years later, I wanted to reach out to her to discuss more and see how she was doing. I’m glad we stayed connected on Instagram, so I could check in.
It’s ok to want different things at different times
Miranda and her family lived nomad life for about four years. Their journey consists of different periods; it started with hardcore camping in Australia and led them to live in Bali and travel to Japan, where they moved to Canada. After a year in Canada, they visited family and friends in the US and then moved to Western Australia and got corporate jobs again.
But back to the travels. Their initial idea was to move to Sydney and get corporate jobs after leaving their careers in New York. But things changed on the go. Miranda’s husband Jay got contract work that he was able to do online. And the family ended up pursuing a camping life in the outback of Australia in a camper van.
Camping seemed to be a full-time job, a challenge to conquer. But they were very motivated to learn from this new way of living. In the beginning, just preparing camping-style family meals in the middle of nowhere seemed overwhelming. But soon, the simple campervan life started to open their eyes.
“It’s not easy all the time, but it’s different. The challenge is not that you are trapped out there. Our water froze some night, and I was afraid my kids would get hypothermia. The thing about a more typical life is that things are happening to you, you are happy or less happy, but there are all these things just coming in; a big project, a new boss or whatever. There is this pressure, and you start to feel like you are trapped. We learned that we could drive from the rain if it’s raining; we were not stuck in there”, Miranda explains.
I think we are never 100 % in control of our lives, but I know that feeling stuck is a very familiar feeling to me and many people I know. While we might not be able to control our lives in any circumstances, we can create lives where we have more freedom; freedom to decide what we want to do and how we want to spend our time.
Letting go of the false sense of control
During their nomad years, Miranda learned a lot and started to see life from a different perspective. One important learning was to enjoy the present moment, letting go of the rush and the need to achieve something. She is more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and she’s become more willing to take risks. The skill to meet new people and establish new relationships has been helpful also in her current life.
Part of the adventure was to have very few plans. Miranda’s experience is that many people look down on you if you don’t have plans for the future. For her, lack of plans allowed her to say yes to many wonderful opportunities, like living in Bali and doing a house exchange in Canada.
“The planning one is a big thing; we have this idea that we can plan how our lives are going to be. We have this false sense of control that we get by planning, but we could get more possibilities in our lives if we were more open. This is something I try to keep in my mind now when my life has gotten back to more traditional format”, Miranda says.
Miranda also points out that their nomad years weren’t about “living a dream”. They were privileged enough to have education, passports and the possibility to go nomad and try out how that lifestyle would play out. It was about exploring and expanding their perception of life, or that’s how it sounds to me.
Miranda believes that many people would lead much happier lives if they bothered to figure out what kind of life would suit them. And it doesn’t have to require a huge trip or nomad life; it could be about finding work that would make you truly happy. Like figuring out if one should do furniture or marketing?
A nomad experience will destroy your career and other common myths
Miranda also wants to blow up some of the common myths about long-term travelling and nomad life. First of all, it doesn’t have to destroy your career opportunities. Both Miranda and her husband ended up scoring great jobs in Australia when they decided to stay in one place for a change.
They both actually felt that their nomad life helped them get jobs they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Miranda is back in leading a team in an industry where she always wanted to work.
Another important point that Miranda makes is that no choice is likely to last forever. She went from corporate to a camper and a nomad and is now back in the corporate. The freedom that she got as an exchange when going nomad was the right exchange for her during that time. But we can make one decision today and take another decision four years later. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
“Coming back to work and live here in Western Australia is a deliberate choice. We wanted this now, to have real jobs in listed companies. But it’s very different here compared to NYC. We have a very cheap house, and I still drive my camping car. I’m another person these days. But I work in a value-driven company that is the kindest place I’ve ever worked”, Miranda expands.
It sounds like Miranda has gone back to a more standard life but done it very mindfully, being more of her authentic self and integrating her travels’ learning into her everyday life. For a change, she is also enjoying the flexibility that a stable salary can offer.
There is one more myth she would like to correct, and it’s about travelling with kids. She has heard a lot of comments about how travelling with kids must be so hard, but her experience is that it’s not any harder than raising kids in one place. It’s wonderful, challenging and hard work – regardless of where you are. It might be different on the road, but it’s not hard per se.
For their family, it was a natural decision to educate their kids in a home school. It’s something they’ve decided to stick with even after settling down in Australia for now. Miranda sees that the flexibility in their education allows her kids to pursue their passions instead of trying to fit them into a standard box.
Success is about doing things that have meaning to you
Miranda thinks that leading successful life is all about understanding what has meaning to you. It’s not about pursuing things that are important to your family or society but understanding and following things that have meaning to you. Many of their choices didn’t make sense to some other people, but why should they. People want different things. Being trapped in other people’s views what’s best for you is not a great recipe for a purposeful life.
Another thing she brings up is the ability to be present, something that she learned during the years on the road. Travel brings you there, living the moment, which is a gift that Miranda tries to keep with her regardless of her lifestyle.
“Travel brings you into the moment. When I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s next because my present wasn’t that great. While travelling, I felt so much gratitude just for being able to be present in the now. It’s what the landscapes, amazing people connections and good food can bring to you. You don’t have to be searching anything, but you can just be present in that”, Miranda shares.
Now she’s also grateful for having her own bed and kitchen equipment. Even if she loved long-term travelling, Miranda is not a minimalist by nature, which is why it’s been nice to stay in one place for a change and have your own stuff around you. Like Miranda puts it, she likes the mix of being on the road and then settling down again. I like it; it doesn’t have to be either-or, life can be a combination of different things at different times, mix and match the way it suits you.
What sort of characteristics does one need to make these kinds of choices? Miranda talks about being comfortable with uncertainty and discomfort. She’s always been striven to push herself; earlier in her career, she was in the grind and working long hours. During the nomad years, the road they travelled wasn’t the most convenient and easy. Extreme camping trips with kids don’t fit into that category. But she is also driven to learn and a very curious person, wanting to solve problems and roll her sleeves.
Her advice to anyone who would like to build a more authentic life is to get started. There is no need to know everything or have a perfect plan. It doesn’t have to make sense to other people; it’s your life, after all. Take things day by day, figure out something today and trust that the rest will follow. In a nutshell, have some faith.
“I’ve learned that being afraid is not a sign of not doing something. It’s just a sign that you don’t know what is going to happen, and it’s scary. The scariest part is leaving, but when it’s done, I don’t think anyone has ever regretted they’ve taken that step”, Miranda says.
This is what Miranda wrote in her blog during her travel days, great food for thought:
The ‘me of two years ago’ still squirms at some of these notions. I would have read this piece and thought, “well good for them… couldn’t work for us, but isn’t it nice for them.” And if I allowed myself the space, I would picture these people as flighty, quite a bit out there and vaguely irresponsible. … But the ‘me of today’ knows with certainty that choosing to live our lives based on what works for us now and being open to new opportunities is far more satisfying to my soul than living a life totally focused on the future and my hopes for it while ignoring my quality of life in the present.