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Location Independent Living with Crystal Grave

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The Baer Minimalist Blog -- Tips, Tricks and Hacks on LIVING a more ORGANIZED + STYLIZED Life

Location Independent Living with Crystal Grave

Maria Baer

Selling your belongings, packing up the car and setting forth on a true adventure. Has it ever crossed your mind? I think about it often, although I’m not positive I could ever pull the trigger. But I sure love being able to live vicariously through those that do.

For Crystal Grave and Chad Starns, they took advantage of jobs that allowed them to work remotely and headed out on a cross-country adventure five years ago. Since then, they’ve lived in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Denver, New Orleans, Bozeman, St. Pete with plans to head to NYC next. In each city, they set up camp in a house or apartment for several months, before packing their car up again to hit the road. During this time, they’ve learned how important experiences are and have changed their beliefs on material goods.

What triggered you to sell all your belongings and hit the road?

Well, we weren’t getting any younger. And we realized we were in a unique position in our lives to both have the ability to travel, and jobs that lent themselves to doing so. We’d done the whole “traditional homeowner” thing for a decade. It was time to change. And I like big, massive extraordinary change when I do it.

Tell me a little bit about your life in Indianapolis before you made the move toward minimalism? Was your husband on-board from the beginning?

Well…let’s just say that one of us is very “Marie Kondo,” and the other one? Not quite “Hoarders” casting call level, but certainly a more intimate relationship with stuff. Dealing with material items is an interesting thing in relationships, and I think it requires a bit of balance.

One of the photos from the listing of Crystal + Chad’s home in Indianapolis. So long, stuff! | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

One of the photos from the listing of Crystal + Chad’s home in Indianapolis. So long, stuff! | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

We have a rule that things don’t get thrown away without permission, but we also must have a way to manage things. A lot of what most people would find surprising is how much relief you will feel getting rid of “things” in the long run. Things weigh you down and shortly after you purge or donate items, you can scarcely even remember what you gave away. Minimalism gives you a lot more time and energy to focus on experiences instead of tasks around consumerism.

I totally agree! With that being said, you probably have a lot of extra time on your hands that would generally go toward maintaining and caring for your possessions. What have been some of the things you’ve been able to experience because of that re-allocation of time?

I laughed at this one at first! 😊 Yes, we do have some time on our hands that isn’t dedicated to taking care of a house or stuff, so we use that time to explore the cities that we’re staying in. Since we are on such an abbreviated timeline to dig into those places like locals, that means we fill up our evenings and weekends traveling around, seeing the most interesting destinations and eating at the best restaurants. (It’s a rough life, but someone must do it.)  Of course, please realize we still work all day too like we did in Indy. So that hasn’t changed. It’s just a little time back to do some other, more experiential-based items too.

Minimizing stuff led to maximizing experiences (like soaking up this beautiful sunset in SF) for Crystal Grave + Chad Starns. | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

Minimizing stuff led to maximizing experiences (like soaking up this beautiful sunset in SF) for Crystal Grave + Chad Starns. | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

Ahhhhh, of course, work! We’ve all got to make a living, but it sure is nice to have more time to experience life outside of it.

Let’s chat about stuff. How has your mindset changed toward material possessions since you embarked on this journey? Are there any regrets you have from selling your belongings versus storing them for the future?

Well, I’ve never been a big “stuff” person, but this has certainly made me more mindful about buying anything for sure. I have absolutely no regrets about selling my stuff. In fact, when you come back years later and you look at the pile of stuff you “had to save because it was worth it,” you question why you even bothered. Yes, there is sentimental stuff and photos, but above and beyond that? You could probably never see it again and not miss it.

Isn’t that the truth? Let’s dive into how you went about the downsizing process? What were the hardest things to part with? Why?

Crystal + Chad’s Collection of Travel Books, featuring some of their favorite destinations. | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

Crystal + Chad’s Collection of Travel Books, featuring some of their favorite destinations. | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

I actually have a blog post about this! I detailed my process here from soup to nuts and talk through how to pack for the road here. We boiled our belongings down to 11 totes that all fit inside our Honda Fit. Here’s what we basically have with us now:

1.       Crystal’s Clothes

2.       Chad’s Clothes

3.       Kitchen

4.       Bathroom

5.       Office Supplies 1

6.       Office Supplies 2

7.       Office – Printer & Files

8.       Camping

9.       Electronics / Maintenance Supplies (you’d be surprised how much you need – extra plugs, nightlights, and stuff like that)

10.    Extra / Overflow

11.    Extra / Overflow

Fitting it all in your vehicle, phew! That’s got to be a game of Tetris every time you pack up. After all of this downsizing, would you consider yourself a minimalist?

Yes, I would say so. Not quite to the aesthetic you see for “minimalist” design, but I certainly no longer have a desire to keep buying more stuff. That’s not to say I don’t pick up small, meaningful items when I travel (because I do), but now I make sure they are things that could fit in the palm of your hand or jewelry, or tiny décor, etc.  

Crystal + Chad’s home sweet home in Denver - so stinking cute! | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

Crystal + Chad’s home sweet home in Denver - so stinking cute! | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

I, too, like to grab a small token to remember my favorite destinations by. It is so fun to revisit those experiences each time you look at the souvenir. With so many great destinations under your belt, which has been your favorite?

Home for a few months in Bozeman, Montana | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

Home for a few months in Bozeman, Montana | Photo Credit: C. Starns / C. Grave

This is tough because they are all so different, but I personally enjoyed the largest cities the best – San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. My husband enjoyed the outdoors the best so he’d say Colorado and Montana in all likelihood.

And finally, after five years of traveling, what does the future hold? Do you see yourself settling back in a single destination or continuing to travel the country? Is an international destination in your future?

Well, since we still maintain a home (albeit small) in Indy, I feel like I always have a place to come back and truly feel like Indy is my “home.” However, there will probably come a time in the future where we create a new home and that’s probably going to be somewhere else in the U.S. Yes, we would love to do this internationally too, but Chad’s job dictates that we stay here for now and do it domestically. So we add international destinations to our schedule as vacations when we are able. We went to Israel, Jordan and several countries in Africa recently and that was a great vacation. I have a goal to hit all seven (7) continents in my lifetime and am working to make that happen, one trip at a time. 😊

What a life, right? I love that Crystal and Chad had a vision for what they wanted their future to look like and made it happen. That is truly what life should be.


Get to Know Crystal:

Crystal Grave is an entrepreneur by day and a travel junkie by night (and most afternoons). You can find her jet setting across the globe or working on one of her many passion projects which often involve events, organization, female leadership and building new things or exploring new ideas.

Connect with Crystal on Social:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/crystalgrave

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cryanngra  

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