The old saying “travel forces you to grow” is certainly a true quote, if not a tad bit cliche. Today’s guest is proof – these two ladies met while traveling, and little did the know that the gods of travel were about to change their lives – and help them try to change the world in the process.
Could you introduce yourselves?
Kristin: I guess I’m a girl of contradictions. Quietly outgoing. A calculated risk-taker. An adventurous person, but not without a plan. I grew up in small-town America, and was clawing at the door come high school graduation. I’ve lived in New Orleans, Atlanta, Boston, Maui, and most recently, Australia, where I met Shannon.
But after all of that, I’ve realized that there are (gasp!) benefits to having a home base and constant work. I’m hoping that our new business will help us have the best of both worlds: occasional, meaningful travel, a place to call home, and above all, purpose.
Shannon: I don’t consider myself an impulsive person, but the past three years could argue otherwise. I took the seemingly “normal” route that all middle-class, suburban kids are supposed to take, and graduated from a good university with the intention of going to law school.
Two weeks before I was due to take the LSAT, I had a change of heart, bailed on the exam, and booked a one-way flight to Australia instead. That turned into two and a half years of world-wide travel and volunteer work. I’m looking forward to settling down in the States for the foreseeable future and pursuing meaningful work, as well as meaningful travel.
During a chance travel encounter, you’ve found an idea that you hope will help you change the world. Tell us about that encounter, and the result.
Our entire friendship and business has been built around travel. We serendipitously met in Australia in 2008, where both of us were living and traveling for a year. By 2010, Shannon had been living in Cambodia and South Africa, and I had been traveling in Asia and bartending in New Orleans. We reconnected, and decided it was time to take over the world and go on an adventure together.
We joked around about traveling to exotic places and importing unique pieces back to the US. Then it became less of a joke, and we decided to actually go to Central America and look for clothing and accessories in markets and fair-trade sewing cooperatives.
After landing in Guatemala, all of that changed. We realized what the travel community really needs is a clothing line that’s not just made for hikers or middle-aged women. So we came up with an idea for a women’s line: eight pieces of functional clothing that can be worn over 100 different ways.
We visited the only organic cotton cooperative in Central America, and returned home to continue researching materials and to explore our options. Our ideas and designs might take us to places like New Zealand, India, Fiji, or different parts of the U.S. The joy is in the journey!
Our ultimate goal is to provide options for travelers and people looking to minimize their environmental impact. Our line will be sustainably-made, using fair trade labor practices, and still be both practical and fashionable. We’re hoping to slowly kill fast fashion, and spread the word that less is more. That’s our revolution.
Shannon, tell me about “wandering even when you’re not lost” – a quote that seems appropriate to our conversation.
I think this idea can mean different things to different people. For me, “wandering” meant traveling around the globe, even though I had a straight path laid out before me. I wasn’t searching for something or trying to “find myself,” but in the process, I ended up learning more than I ever anticipated.
That’s the thing about traveling, or wandering, it forces you to grow. No matter how much you’ve got it together, we can all use some self-improvement. Even the people who are settled in one place, have started their career, and aren’t “lost” at all. In a lot of cases, these are the people who can benefit from wandering the most.
So even if it’s trying a new hobby, or setting off on your own, or pursuing an unlikely project, I believe everyone should take some time to wander. No matter what, you’ll open your mind, learn something about yourself and gain new perspective.
Kristin, tell me about how “Travel inspires you to be a minimalist.”
Every time I return from a trip, I reconnect with my “things.” I go into my closet, check out my abundance of clothing, and wander around my house as though I’ve never seen such luxury.
It makes me feel guilty. Because after traveling for months on end with just a backpack, you start to get it: Life is about experiences, not things. I realize that I’m happier with just that one backpack. I don’t need the luxuries that I’ve become addicted to at home. And I need to be grateful for the things I do have.
Travel always changes you; that’s why we do it. The trick is to keep that change alive. Once the shock of being home (hot water, a real bed, infinite pairs of underwear) wears off, it’s good for me to somehow maintain that travel philosophy. I find that cutting down on my stuff reminds me, every day, that life is about something bigger.
What’s been your most inspirational travel experience?
We lived with a family in Antigua, Guatemala for two weeks in November. They were unbelievable. They loved and laughed constantly, and treated us as their own.
We took Spanish lessons from the parents, Jose and Karla. For four hours every morning, we practiced our Spanish. As you can imagine, after 40 hours of conversation, we became close with them. We talked about marriage, boyfriends, vegetarianism, globalization, kids, war, love, spirituality, everything. It was a turning point in our personal lives and in our business philosophy. Speaking in a different language, we began to figure out a bit more about what we want out of life, thanks to the wisdom of two remarkable teachers.
Seeing beautiful landscapes is fun, but the most inspirational travel comes from the people– the ones you travel with, and the ones you meet along the way. The real beauty is in shared experiences.
Last but not least: does this new business venture mean you’ll be travelling less? What’s the plan?
Compared to how much we have both been traveling in the past two years, we’ll definitely be traveling less. We’ve come to a point where we both want a home-base (Kristin will be in Denver and I’ll be in Austin), and the chance to pursue a business venture that is proving to be just as challenging and exciting as living abroad.
Traveling will always be a part of our lives. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, travel is something that neither of us will be able to give up. We aspire to make our business location independent, so we’ll have the freedom to live abroad again, and avoid that feeling of being tied down. We have a lot to look forward to and still so much to see!
Wow, incredible stuff. It’s one of those interviews where I found myself nodding the entire time and not saying a word, and then blink – everyone’s looking at me uncomfortable waiting for the next move! Ha.
Folks, if you’d like to learn more about Kristin & Shannon’s eco-friendly apparel line or about their minimalists goals, check out their their blog: www.allofusrevolution.com. You can also follow them on Twitter: @AllofUsRev.