You are woken by the sunlight and the sound of birds outside, without even looking at the clock you know you can turn around a few more times. When you do get out of bed, you make your way to the kitchen, barefoot, grab a cup of water or coffee and head outside to the terrace. The sun, the ocean, the birds…another great day ahead! What sounds like the start of a holiday could be just a normal Monday morning. If you want it to be.
Michael and his team at unsettled want to make this lifestyle more accessible and more seamless with our daily lives. Unsettled – 30 days of co-working retreats with exceptional people in beautiful locations all around the world.
In a nutshell, Michael and his team bring together 20 to 25 individuals to share an experience of travel, work and conversations in a trusted environment. They build a pop-up community where mutual trust is fundamental so that you can travel, work, make new friendships and also ponder on your life’s choices. For many retreat participants this is a point of reflection: They join a coworking retreat to try it out, to see if they would be able to work outside the norm of 9 to 5 glued to the same office space year in year out. So as to not jump into cold water – with struggles such as language barrier, accommodation organization and reliable wifi to think about – Michael and his team give support. By participating in a retreat you know from the start what to expect.
For Michael this has been a lifestyle choice. He started Unsettled because he wanted to live that way and thought that others might want to travel with him. And the last two years have shown how right he has been! Next to Unsettled, there are many other organized retreats are popping up, “the space is growing up”, as Michael puts it.
The most important part is the selection, are the people who Unsettled brings together on the retreat. Michael thinks a lot about the right size for a group, so as to have a meal together or hold an intimate workshop and about how to select the individuals for each trip. He looks for strengths and weaknesses, for people who might want to lead workshops, or one-on-one sessions, and he aims to design a platform where these things occur naturally or organically from within the community without having to manage it. He says “If you remove the fact that we are trying to facilitate something, to create a community, then sure, somebody could just book out a hotel with a 100 rooms, create a working space and say ‘Come have fun and be in the Caribbean for a month, stay in our hotel, work in our workspace and party in the pool’ but that’s not the type of experience we are trying to create.”
“Even before we arrive at our destination, we begin to build the culture through our communication by email or in shared online groups. This is a culture where we are all going to contribute. A community build on trust. This goes into different things, even the actual accommodation where we are staying – how much privacy there is. We design these features intentionally.”
After such a long introduction I would like to share the very interesting conversation I’ve had with Michael at the end of last week. He told me a bit more about who joins the retreats, how they structure them and how the group gets together. Read for yourself:
How did this idea for Unsettled come about?
I organized a sailing trip in the Virgin Islands, we were 30 people, having a blast and so we said ‘We could continue to do this and work from anywhere’. There was no reason I actually had to go home since I had my laptop with me. So we talked about it, it took a while, but eventually this was the start of it.
We had really high potential people, an amazing shared experience together and out of this Unsettled was born.
So we started the retreats because we want to live this way. Along the way, we have learned that there is a group of people who love to travel and combine that with work. However, if you are living in a place for a month or longer the idea of living in a hotel or shared space doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people want to have a seamless experience, not continually having to search for hostels, no need to sign leases, no language barrier to overcome, always a reliable and good internet connection…In order to get rid of these worries, to get the same standards, we are going launch a pilot project this fall with about a dozen people with five or six cities in one region of the world.
The retreats we are doing are part of this idea but they are geared to form groups, to create a community and a shared, meaningful experience.
Who joins you on these retreats?
All kinds of different people who are interested in life, who are open to really collaborate with other people, to contribute to other people’s lives… It takes a certain type of personality to be interested, living and working in an environment where you are constantly contributing something to somebody else’s life. What all participants have in common is that they are multi-dimensional. They are not solely siloed into their career but they bring a lot of different life experiences and interests.
Some people join us because they are curious about this lifestyle, it’s maybe the first time they are travelling taking their work with them so they want to make sure that they can have a productive work environment. For them it’s the new factor. Others might already live a lifestyle on the road but as it gets lonely out there they come to plug in into our community. Others are taking an intentional sabbatical, transitioning out from a career or some part of their life, and they are coming in with a very interesting set of questions about where they are going in their trajectory in life.
In general, all are very reflective and ask thought-provoking questions to everybody on these trips.
The retreat is not just about working together, right? What does it mean for you to create a profound, shared experience?
I think we take these retreats to a deeper level. We talk about various topics. About how to find purpose in your life, about different extreme experience, about relationships, about death.. all meaningful and complex things to talk about.
Do you see that these friendships last? Do you know if people are still in contact?
Yeah absolutely! There are some people I talk to on a weekly basis and they have become a huge part of my life. You create a real bond with people when spending that period of one month together. It’s not just about work, it’s about what you experience.
In the beginning when you mentioned the different groups of participants, you told us about people who come to try it out, who come for the newness factor. Have you seen that they continued to travel and combine it with work?
Yes, absolutely. And there is one shining example: She is from London and before the retreat she came on, she probably spent more time asking us about the experience than anybody else. I was never quite sure if she was going to join us because she always had a new question for me. But then she did come and halfway through the experience she actually changed her flight to continue travel some more. When she returned home to London, she sold her flat and has been travelling and working in Asia since. During her travels three other people from that retreat went to join her on her travels for a bit and some are coming back on another sailing trip with us this summer.
Wow, that’s awesome! It’s really the best kind of feedback you can get!
I hope the conversation has been as inspiring to you as it has been to me. If you want to find out more about Unsettled or even join them on an adventure, come this way!
Thanks so much, Michael, for taking the time!