native nomad life interview cassie nate
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Rockstar Interview: Native Nomads Cassie & Nate — Opening Their Hearts & Minds In Mexico

I’ve been lucky enough to be virtual friends with Cassie & Nate for a year or so now. But I recently got to visit them and spend time working, playing and exploring their (current) home in Merida, Mexico. They’re new location independent entrepreneurs with huge hearts, smiles, and love for the people and the world around them.

It really shows in their eyes and their smiles and the content they’re creating! So check out this interview and super deep-dive into the whirlwind year they’ve had since pulling the plug and going location-independent!

Give Us The Quick Backstory & Lowdown On Your Current Situation. Then We’ll Dig Into The Details!

Cassie & Nate: We have been married for 6 years and have been together for the past 9 years. We do not have any kids but we do travel long-term with our 2 cats 🙂 We used to live in Portland, Oregon, where we owned a habitat restoration company and documentary film company. Then we decided to go location independent when we bought our one-way tickets to Cancun, Mexico, and left our life in Portland behind.

We came originally for a volunteering project that fell through, but decided to live in the nearby city of Merida, Yucatan which has been our incredibly friendly, amazing, and colorful home base ever since.

We’ve been working on our location independent online businesses and creative projects. Along with volunteering at a soup kitchen, teaching English once a week.

A couple of years ago we were living in Portland. We worked hard on growing our companies and trying to stay afloat every month to pay the bills… ie. our high-ish rent for a small apartment, eating, car insurance, etc. We were able to go on some trips abroad every once and a while but always dreamed of more.  Every place we went, we would think about how it would be to live there and could we do it? When we would come back to Portland, we would feel like there was more to life, but obligations to customers kept us working and living there.

We knew we wanted to take a BIG step forward but we weren’t sure in what direction… buy a house? Have kids? Leave Portland? These questions kept coming up. Then Cassie started listening to Jason Moore’s Zero to Travel Podcast and couldn’t believe there were people who traveled full time while also making a living from anywhere in the world! So the idea was planted.

native nomad life interview nate

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What’s Your Modus Operandi?

Q: What kind of makes up your daily operating DNA and how does that typically play out in the way you roll? 

Cassie & Nate: We are both fairly similar while also totally different 🙂 Both of us are fairly extroverted, stubborn, and ambitious, while also requiring downtime to just chill and relax, watch Netflix, read or listen to music, etc. We love connecting with the people around us and creating things of value for the world and others.

Cassie is very focused on the creative side of life and business, and would do anything to work on a film project or visually creative pursuit. She has been interested in filmmaking and acting since she was in elementary school and loves geeking out with friends on camera angles, cinematography, documentaries as well as cats, yoga, travel, and indigenous culture.  Her love for humanitarian pursuits mixed with creative endeavors is how she likes to roll.

Nate has always been like a renaissance man. Growing up in a Waldorf school, the emphasis was always on what he could build or create with his hands physically. That drive has never really left him and his enthusiastic love for creating and building a life of meaning and sustainability has been his major focus for every major endeavor of his career. Not to mention how he connects with others and his wife (he is a colorful storyteller, jokester and surprisingly great cook, to boot). Right now he is most interested in habitat restoration, website design and online entrepreneurial endeavors.

cantinas dancers merida mexico
cantinas dancers merida mexico

Where There Major Friction Points Before Making Your Big Life Change—Things You Were Looking To Break Free Of?

Cassie & Nate: In Portland, increasingly high rent, rainy winter after rainy winter, working incredibly hard and long hours just to scrape by month to month as well as a plateau effect in our companies and work life, lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and an inkling that there was more to life than just this.  

After thinking we needed to make a change and take a big step in a new, meaningful direction we started to think about buying a house with the generous help of Nate’s parents. Looking at what was on the market left us feeling unsure since the best we could afford was on the outskirts of town and hardly with a roof to have over our head (major renovations were needed).

At the same time, we felt a growing desire and curiosity at the prospect of seeing what else was out there in the world.  The push to make a change almost caused us to get a mortgage and settle down. Yet that same push ended up pushing us in a completely opposite direction after we realized we didn’t want to be stuck with what felt like a potentially burdensome purchase. So we decided to break free into the world!

The Straw That Broke…

Q: What was the straw (or straws…) that broke the camel’s back? The final motivation for change that made you take the leap?

Cassie & Nate: Nate would say it was getting laid off from my corporate manager position and not being able to afford our expensive apartment in West Hollywood in 2012. With limited options for a new career, Nate created his landscape restoration company in Portland right after we got married in Oregon in 2012. This was where he found his serious life shift into something he truly cared about.

Cassie has always had a passion for film and she looks back on her childhood with her short films “Don’t Look Behind You” and “Latent Powers” on the HBO family channel as a time when she started taking film seriously as a career.

In terms of the past couple of years, the major shift to leave the comforts of our home in Portland, came when we went on a two week trip to Tulum, Mexico. Not only did we fall in love with Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, we felt something real there that we couldn’t necessarily articulate but felt it could be the new beginning we were looking for.

In a quiet moment driving back to our Airbnb from the Coba Maya ruins, we discussed what it would be like to leave everything behind and move to Mexico. What would we do? What would it look like? Where would we live?

When we got back to Portland we secretly bought our one-way plane tickets back to Cancun (the closest airport) for 8 months down the line. Enough time to tell everyone, quit our jobs, sell/get rid of most of our belongings, move out of our apartment, get our vaccines, and plan our life abroad.  We were both extremely excited and nervous all at once. A new life lay ahead of us right then and there and nothing would ever be quite the same.

native nomad life interview cassie nate 2
I just love how these two are so damn smiley all the time!

Finally pulling the trigger…

Q: How hard was it the moment when you finally pulled the trigger? Did those feelings change over those next few days or weeks once you made the decision?

Cassie & Nate: Making the decision to go abroad long-term was an easy idea since we had been dreaming about it for so long.

Telling our friends and family was a different feeling. You have to deal with people thinking you have lost your mind or are throwing your life away.  

You also have to deal with the guilt of disappointing some people who are close to you who very understandably don’t want you to leave. Once we bought the plane tickets, the next eight months were spent putting all of the details and pieces together to allow us to feasibly leave the USA and live abroad.

That was a lot of hard work because not only were we working full time (at multiple jobs and projects), but we were having to save a lot of money, move out, get our ducks in a row like insurance for our camera equipment, logistics for living in a different country, researching the new place and saying our goodbyes.  So again, pulling the trigger was fairly easy. The rest was a lot of work. And it was so worth it!

Resistance to Change…

Q: Did you notice any extra outside resistance to your change, other than your inner monologue? How did you deal with it? Have those things changed since? 

Cassie & Nate: When we first told our friends and family what we were planning to do (go location independent in Mexico and beyond for two or more years), we got some mixed reactions. Mainly very excited and happy for us, but there were some family members who were very sad that we were leaving as well as some family who were very concerned with our safety and sanity, since this was something so completely alien and outside of any kind of norm they were used to.

That eight months we had to prepare to leave was very handy because it took that amount of time to really come to terms with some of the family who was hurt or concerned with our decision.

However, time heals everything, and over time their attitude toward what we were doing changed from sadness and denial and even anger to soft support and (now) very hearty support and enthusiasm. It is amazing to see how things have changed for the better.

What Are You Doing Now?

Cassie & Nate: We currently travel full-time working on several location-independent projects and businesses. Some are purely passion projects that will hopefully make money in the future while others are bringing in money through e-commerce and freelance film and editing work.

We are also volunteering and working with native, local communities teaching English, as well as creating videos to promote nonprofits that are doing great things for the community here in Merida.

We have also volunteered for a habitat restoration project in Guadalajara planting trees. We are currently in Merida, Mexico but have plans to work on projects throughout different areas of Mexico, Central and South America as well as Southeast Asia for the foreseeable future.

We recently attended the Location Indie MexEx conference in Queretaro and were amazed at all of the connections we made in person there as well as the needed motivation and support to really dive into our pursuits to create meaningful content and the change we want to see in the world.

Next up we plan to write and photograph for a picture book called Faces of the Modern Maya here in the Yucatan, looking for Maya subjects, sponsors, and supporters. We also plan to visit Bali to work on a film for two weeks in May and June and then explore southeast Asia for two months afterward!

We are also creating regular content for our main travel blog and vlog Native Nomads, as well as developing two e-commerce sites – Nomad Fitness and Go Plastic Free along with finishing and starting more client work (editing and video production).

volunteering with children mexico

Is Your Life More “Fluid” Now?

Q: Have you noticed that your life track is a lot more flexible or variable now? Say compared to before your change? For instance, even when you think you’re going in a direction that you think is right, you’re more likely to adjust and shift towards an even better destination?

Cassie & Nate: We have found that in this life we have so much more time to be creative and make moves in our personal and professional life with a sense of fluidity and flexibility we didn’t know much of before. We also have found time to help others through volunteering and pro bono video/documentary work that is both important to us and those we work for.

This life has become a lot more creative because of our ability to choose the path we are on and change it whenever we need. Because we are purely our own boss, and can also live wherever we choose, there is a real sense of freedom.

Because of that freedom, we feel much freer and flowing in our work, and in our lives together. It is amazing to see how a free life can translate to a very meaningful and colorful life. When you live abroad and location-independent the world is truly your oyster because opportunities seem to fall in our lap at every corner we take. We love this life!

Do You Find Yourself Saying “Yes” More Often?

Q: What are some of the things you’ve done recently that you may have never imagined doing “back in the day”? Have you noticed a massive shift in the inclination to “just say yes” to things since then? Is there anything just super badass that you’ve experienced lately? How’s that feel if so? 

Cassie & Nate: The ability to choose where you live and what you work on or pursue is HUGE for us. We find that the ability to say yes to things that truly pique our interest and draw us in is phenomenally greater because of the freedom and flexibility this lifestyle has brought us.

We think also just living in Mexico has changed our points of view entirely, although subtly. What used to feel like a burden or overwhelming now just feels really natural.

It’s like creative projects or ideas or dreams that were collecting dust before now not only feel completely realistic, but our energy levels are much greater because of all of the inspiration and friendship and colorful, quality of life we find living here in Mexico.

Every time we walk out of our door, we are reminded at how lucky and happy we are to be living here. The people are amazing. The food is amazing. The sights and landscapes are amazing. We feel truly lucky. It’s changed our lives and opened our minds and our hearts. So yes, we have been able to say “yes” more and it has been amazing!

native nomad life interview cassie nate

Do Some Things In Your Life Seem Easier Now, Since The Change?

Cassie & Nate: We feel less stressed about bills and money. Even though being able to sustain ourselves financially while we travel is a very real concern and a goal we are working toward every day, there is a sense of everything working out okay, which we feel here. The cost of living is much lower and the quality of life is much higher.

Also the way Mexicans live is much more laidback about time and how life unfolds.

Things are more relaxed here and yet vibrant with many people living life outdoors (the weather is better and the culture seems to promote it!). That de-stressor has been hugely positive for us.  With all of this de-stressing, we have found that creative work has become a lot easier. The flow is just better.

What Things Are Harder In Your New Location-Independent Lives?

Cassie & Nate: It can be hard to be an “entrepreneur couple.” We have to be our own bosses. Even though that is awesome and what we want wholeheartedly there are many aspects of business that are new to us and it can be hard to be disciplined when no one is telling you to, or you aren’t even doing it for a client. Finding the motivation and following through on projects you set your mind to depends on your own self to move it forward and become reality.

It can also be hard when you are traveling to stick to daily routines such as working out, eating well or writing/journaling. Life can sometimes feel a little too fluid or discombobulated if you don’t take time for those more grounding routines.

It can also be difficult being sort of far away from friends and family, although Mexico isn’t too far from the USA. We miss them a lot and have to make plans to visit as much as we can afford as well as communicate regularly through skype, messaging, and calls. We love facetime!

Also, when traveling as a couple you spend all of your time together. We have learned how to communicate even better because you have to. I think it has made our relationship even stronger because you work through so much together.

Drawing a line between our working relationship and our romantic relationship is important too, so that we can devote an equal amount of time to both. Having time to just spend going on a date or talking about life and enjoying a glass of wine or music, etc. is important to strengthen our bonds. It’s important to take time away from work to just “be” together.

native nomad life interview cassie

What Does Your Future Look Like?

Q: What do you think your life might look like in 5 years? Will you be living similarly to the way you have in the past, the way you are now, or do you see more unique things in your future?

Cassie & Nate: We aren’t quite sure, but we hope to continue to live in a location-independent type of way, while hopefully at some point in the future buying some property abroad and having a home base set up. We have thought about the idea of buying and renovating a house here in Merida, Mexico but are taking our time in researching this before we decide to put down roots anywhere permanently.

What would be cool about having a property while still being able to travel regularly either for business or personal pursuits, is that we could either rent out or Airbnb the space when we aren’t using it, increasing our savings, etc.

Also we have talked about the possibility of continuing the location independent, slow travel lifestyle while having a kid or two.

We’ve considered the option of the world-schooling program that uses travel and going to new places in the world, with new cultures and ways of life, as the structure for our kids’ education. And we hope to continue growing our online and location independent businesses and creating artistic expressions of value (ie films, books, etc), and finding success while also helping others as much as we can along the way!

native nomad life interview nate

Do You Have Advice For Others On Making A Major Life Chance?

Q: What advice or knowledge bombs would you give someone that’s looking to make a major life change similar to what you’ve done?

Cassie & Nate: Do your research, ask others who are where you want to be how they did it, and trust your gut in all things.

Find your community, your tribe too – people who will truly support you and whatever your dreams, goals and path you choose to take.

Don’t be afraid of what is out there in the world because more likely than not you will find something that completely amazes you, changes your viewpoint and attitude about life for the better, teaches you something huge, and opens your heart to incredible opportunities and people you would have never met while staying put.

Going location independent and being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but you never truly know unless you try. If you’re unhappy with your current situation, we suggest giving it a try because it has proven to be the best change we could have made!

Where Can We Find You!?

Visit the Native Nomads Web Site where you can also connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and other Social Media!

Other links mentioned in the article: Location Indie

Connect & Share

Other Resources & Wrap-up

If you want to read more about making sure to balance and pay attention to your whole world, maybe you can just do a digital detox every once in a while to recharge. Also, Location Indie is an amazing network of people around the world challenging the typical work track and supporting each other in the process. Check them out here!

Cheers!

— Jason

Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, Travel Guard, or TravelEx. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. 

Need more resources? Click here!

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