Our First Interview at Agile Living with Cath Duncun: How We Collect Experiences with Our Daughter

Thanks Cath for sharing our story with your readers.  We are very humbled by the very idea of being interviewed :-).

Friends, be sure to check out Agile Living :  Strategies for thriving through change and uncertainty over at Cath’s website  http://www.mineyourresources.com

Live Small. Give Large: An Interview GotPassport.org

1.   So tell us your story; You’re in the process of getting rid of all your stuff and moving to another continent. Where are you from and where are you going to? And what’s your vision of what you’re creating?

We currently live in Texas, and have lived here most of our adult lives (that’s uhhh 30 years in numbers). We will be relocating to Chiang Mai, Thailand this summer (2010). Our vision is to create an opportunity to live abroad and expose our 7-year-old to Asian culture, and take advantage of our time in Thailand to explore Asia at our own slow pace, and to serve as a family.  Since A is Burmese American and J is Canadian born Taiwanese American, we’re pleased that we’ll be just a skip and a hop to Burma and Taiwan once we are in Thailand.  M will be multilingual in no time. Visiting a Buddhist temple will not require vacation days. We will have access to seasonal fruits year round.

We say NO to the status quo. Live small. Live green. Give large. Take little. Take Notice. Take Action.

2.   You’re making fairly unconventional choices as a family. What’s motivating your choices? What are your big “why’s?” behind it all?

Perhaps our move has been inspired by the young people we’ve encountered during our travels, who study or work abroad, as well as those who do service work.  In a way we are both making up for lost time (though we choose to not call it a ‘mid life crisis’ moment) when we did not take advantage of those travel abroad opportunities (we didn’t know we had- hindsight is 20/20) during our college years.  Now that M has joined us for the past 7 years, providing a global experience for her has further motivated us to make this move. Besides, A has had the incurable travel bug as long as she can remember.

One of the things that really moved us into this new direction was A leaving her job of nearly 6 years (in late 2007).  She said during an ugly cry, “I don’t want to wake up at 50 and have regrets.  We need to glide into our 50′s with our heads held high, proud of the path we have chosen.  We need to be good role models for our Emma, living a life that is true to who we really are!”

Through our blog we hope to do the following:

  • Document travel memories for our daughter.
  • Showcase that service to others and travel could be combined.
  • Prove that travel in and of itself is an educational experience for our child.
  • Live with only the *necessities* without the need to overindulged in material possessions.
  • Inspire other families to get out of their comfort zones and explore (even if it means in your own backyard!). It can be done without breaking the bank!

3.  Agile Living is ultimately about being free and there are a few different types of freedom; there’s financial freedom, location freedom, time freedom, social freedom, mental freedom and emotional freedom. Which of these freedoms are you creating for yourself, and what’s your paradigm on freedom?

We will have financial freedom – although this is simply a by-product of our decision to live in Asia. Yes, living expenses are much cheaper in Thailand.

All the types of freedoms you mentioned seem to apply to us!  Although J will be taking a significant pay-cut, going from a full-time professor to a ‘freelance’ online instructor, what we gain is the freedom of not being tied down by geography due to a job. Having professional diversity will also create occupational freedom, like the freedom from the entanglements of institutional politics.

The most important freedom is emotional/psychological, knowing we have no barriers (geographical or otherwise) to try out new things. Another freedom we will gain is being free from possessions.  We used to own two cars.  We will no longer have even one.  We have a house full of stuff, enough to fill up a 2260 sq ft home.  We have reduced that down to boxes. We will go to Thailand with suitcases… not an entire life of accumulated material possessions.  We feel liberated, uplifted by the very idea of this bold move. For now, we can only imagine what it would truly be like once we arrive in Thailand with only suitcases in tow!

4.  A lot of people say they dream of living in a more free way, less encumbered by the 9 to 5 and the material forts that we’re socially programmed to collect and build. And one of the most common excuses for not doing it that I see is, “I have children.” There’s this assumption that children need the stability of staying in one place and collecting stuff. What would you say to parents like this who are wanting to be more free, but think it can’t be done with children?

We would never want to pass judgment on how others choose to live their lives, and there is nothing wrong with valuing the stability of living in one place for many years. We have done that ourselves as adults for a couple of decades and we’ve been doing so for nearly a decade since M came into our lives.

In our experience, some parents who say they don’t travel because of their kids actually do not enjoy traveling themselves. We’ve always believed that home is wherever the family is, and children learn from the role modeling of the parents. So, if we show passion and excitement for our service and travels, that joy will be passed down to our child (uh, at least we are hoping so!). Emma loves to travel, loves to be in any mode of transportation, ranging from trains to elephants!

If we were to offer words of encouragement to families, it would be this: Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s fun. If you make travel and seeing the world a family priority, then it can be done, even on a tight budget. Start them young. It’s OK to travel with a newborn. We took a road trip with M when she was weeks young. She’s had her passport since she was months young. We started a tradition as a family during every Spring Break to travel to a new place to celebrate M’s birthday each year.

Quite honestly we celebrate many special occasions around Emma’s birthday: Js birthday, A’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. So instead of having big expensive parties with plastic toys that ends up cluttering our lives, we just choose to do it in a way that gives M the impression that gatherings are about human beings and connections, not so much about the “stuff.” We watch videos and view pictures together about our past trips and plan for future trips. We make travel a part of everyday discussion just like breathing. Travel is education outside of the classroom. Perhaps, she’s just getting an extra dosage of it than the norm.

5.  One of the values within Agile Living is about choosing to collect intangible resources and experiences rather than material resources. Intangible resources are the things that are hard to measure – experiences, feelings, ideas, and so on. This seems to be a big part of your philosophy. Why is this important to you?

We’ve learned that pleasure from material goods is tangible, but fleeting in the end. We discuss this quite a bit on our blog as we purge our way out from under the material stuff and on our way to Chiang Mai, Thailand. When we reflect on our lives in 30-40 years, what would we have to look back upon with satisfaction?   Instead of collecting fast cars, DVDs, or kitchen gadgets, we choose to collect experiences related to service, and travels that expose us to various peoples and places. This is what our move is all about: Saying no to the status quo.

6.  You’re passionate about serving and making a positive difference in the world, and this also ties in with the Agile Living value of choosing connection and co-creation over individual progress… Tell us a bit about how you live that value…

We realize we have it really good in America, having our basic needs met, and much, much more. Both of us have worked in the service field, if you will.  J is a Psychology Professor with training in Counseling Psychology and A is a Licensed Master Social Worker, having worked with people from various walks of life and age ranges. We feel it’s our personal obligation to give back, and to help improve the lives of others (most of the time helping those who can NEVER repay us!).

Our success was not due to our hard work alone. We were fortunate to be born into families in countries which provided the freedoms and opportunities that allowed us to do well and live comfortably. We are living the American Dream! Many around the world are not afforded such opportunities. We don’t believe anyone should be given charity for charity’s sake, but we offer a helping hand so they can become self-sufficient, and have a sense of self-efficacy as well.

7.  What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as you’ve been creating these kinds of freedoms for you and your family?

The most important lesson is that we should have done this earlier in our lives. Habits, routines, societal norms and expectations, and fear have held us back from trying new things, and we feel now that for the most part, that fear is gone. Instead, fear has been replaced by anticipation, excitement, for new opportunities and experiences. We are humbled by these new opportunities and a chance to share our story with you!

Our final thoughts: Don’t let fear hold you back. Say NO to the status quo. Live small. Live Green. Give Large. Take Little. Take Notice. Take Action.


2 thoughts on “Our First Interview at Agile Living with Cath Duncun: How We Collect Experiences with Our Daughter

  1. Your family is an inspiration. You talk about somewhat difficult goals: getting rid of stuff, teaching your daughter to value relationships more than stuff, and exposing her to various cultures through travel – and the fantastic thing is I’ve seen you LIVING these goals the past 5 months we’ve been friends.

    Congratulations on setting great life goals and really living them. Few are so ambitious and determined. I’m proud to call you my friends!

    1. Thanks, Bessie! We feel the same about you and Kyle! It’s not easy these days to find genuine people who choose to live life in accord with their passions, and you guys definitely demonstrate that.

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