Oct. 26, 2022

Alternative Living and Clearing Your Life with Jen Rao

"I'm not ready for this adventure to end.”

Have you ever spoken these words after returning from an amazing trip or weekend away? What if you could live a life full of adventure each and every day?
In this episode, Jen Rao shares about her decision to relentlessly pursue exploration & adventure, and how her values have guided her to a live an “alternative” lifestyle.
We dive into what Alternative Living is, what it’s really like day-to-day, and how it has shaped Jen’s business helping others clear their life and make space for more what really matters.
Psst - Special link to Jen’s Guide: Clear Clutter in an hour or less!

Have a comment or suggestion for the show? Leave us a voice message or email us at contact@liveyourvalues.co

Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. Four Agreements
  2. Go Gratitude Experiment
  3. Gone with the Wyns
  4. Exploring Alternatives
  5. RV Lifestyle
  6. Keep Your Daydream TV
  7. fyt
  8. Live Your Values Podcast
  9. LYV on Facebook
  10. LYV on Instagram
  11. LYV on Twitter

Guest Bio:
Jen Rao is a professional organizer who specializes in clearing clutter and its magical benefits.
She has lived in tiny dwelling since 2014, traveled full time for two years and is always looking for new and fun alternative lifestyles. She loves to inspire others to let go of the junk holding them back from living their best life. And you can learn more about what she does over at https://clearyourlife.ca


[00:00:00] Bagel: Have you ever returned from an amazing trip or weekend away and said, "Man, I am not ready for this to end?" What if you could live a life full of adventure each and every day? In this episode, Jen Rao shares about her decision to relentlessly pursue exploration and adventure and how her values have guided her to live an alternative lifestyle.

We dive into what alternative living is, what it's really like day to day and how it has shaped Jen's business helping others clear their life and make space for what really matters. Note that this interview was recorded in summer 2021, so you may hear some references to life at that time. You may also hear the occasional dog barking in the background, that's how you know Jen's living that authentic life. Also worth mentioning is that Fizzle, the online community and resource mentioned in this episode was just recently sold as of the time of this episode's release. Alternative living is certainly not for everyone, just like the more traditional path of buying a home and signing a 30 year mortgage isn't necessarily for everyone.

But I'll assume that if you click to listen to this episode, that means you're interested in learning. So, I hope you tune in with openness and curiosity, as always. Let's get into it, season two, episode four, with Jen Rao. 

[00:01:26] Bagel: All right. I am excited. Wow. Here we are. 

Welcome. Welcome to the live your values podcast.

I am your host Mike Bagel. And today I have a wonderful guest that I've been excited to bring onto the show for a while now, her name is Jen Rao. Jen is a professional organizer who specializes in clearing clutter and its magical benefits.

She has lived in tiny dwelling since 2014, traveled full time for two years and is always looking for new and fun alternative lifestyles. She loves to inspire others to let go of the junk holding them back from living their best life. And you can learn more about what she does over at clear your life DOT CA. And I also just wanna say that Jen is the community manager in Fizzle, which is an online entrepreneurship resource membership that I've been a part of for years now. I can't even count how many and Jen is just a wonderful person who's facilitating creators and entrepreneurs and just being their authentic selves and showing up and making progress.

And, there's just been so much good that has come out of that community and you're at the center of that. And so, I'm excited. Welcome to the show, Jen.

[00:02:43] Jen Rao: Yay. Thanks for having me. I'm very excited to be here. I'm officially off of a podcasting hiatus doing this show now. I'm excited to get back in. I'm so glad it was this show. So, thank you.

[00:02:55] Bagel: Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad we can break you back into it. That's awesome. I know that we're recording this in the summer. It's August right now. And I know oftentimes that we're taking breaks and maybe recharging for what tends to be a ramp up for a lot of people in the fall with school getting back in session and people kind of getting back to their priorities and things like that.

So actually brings me really nicely into an ice breaker question. I wanted to ask you, and I know we kind of were chatting a little bit before we started here. But I wanted to see if you'd be willing to share to, for our audience to get to know you a little bit more, and you could pick. You can either do one or the other or both, cuz I couldn't make up my mind here.

So either the most fun adventure you've had this summer and or what is the way that you've been able to recharge a bit this summer?

[00:03:44] Jen Rao: Hmm. Okay. So honestly, because of COVID, I'm gonna pick the second question. It's been a trip this year, like not traveling as much and it just kind of had an effect on me in terms of being like, "wow, I did all these amazing things and like, we're gearing up for what's next, hopefully next year." But anyways, I will talk about recharging and I recharged by not being on podcasts or going on video at all.

And just really taking some time. I kept the lights on in my business and I kept working my minimal hours with Fizzle where Mike and I know each other from. I gave myself permission to do less work, less of visibility. I've been off social media since April 1st, it was supposed to be a month long experiment.

And I'm just like, I can't go back. 

[00:04:34] Bagel: Yeah. 

[00:04:35] Jen Rao: So, I'm like anyways, so less social media and just giving myself permission to go for a swim when I wanna swim, instead of thinking I need to book being on a hundred podcast so that I can grow my email list and do all these fun things that I do wanna do. But just not over the summer.

[00:04:52] Bagel: Yeah. Well, I think it's great that you've prioritized that downtime. And for you to be able to lay off a little bit of the majority of your priorities and been able to re recharge a bit. I think that's so important. It's so necessary. I know we talk about it a lot in Fizzle. We talk about it, a lot amongst entrepreneurs that Hey, part of the reason that we do this is so that we can take that time for us when we need it.

And so often we forget to do it. So how I'm curious, was there sort of a mental or some sort of mindset shift that allowed you to do it or kind of what was the reason or the impetus that like told what was telling you "Like, Hey, I really need to take a little break from things right now"?

[00:05:34] Jen Rao: Yeah, well, honestly it was going through a lot of grief in the spring. I lost my cat, who was my best friend for over 16 years. And it was like, she, Yeah, so she was old and no one lives forever and I'd been like trying to prepare myself. But I just went off the rails a little bit. And that just took a lot of energy out of me.

With my organizing clients, I'm always like, be kind to yourself, listen to yourself, use your intuition, you know what's best. When I'm in Fizzle, I'm like, Hey, like it's your business. Make your decisions. Like no one gets to tell you what to do. And so I was like, okay, well I better do what I suggest everyone else does and actually just be nice to myself.

[00:06:14] Jen Rao: So yeah.

[00:06:16] Bagel: Absolutely. Practice what you preach. 

[00:06:19] Jen Rao: It was hard.

[00:06:20] Bagel: I'm sure. Yeah. Well, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss and I know, I'm sure that that's not easy. It's probably hard to prepare for something like that. And I know you've adopted a new pet recently. You were telling me that you're trying to do some more adventures with your pup.

[00:06:37] Jen Rao: So now we have a nine month old puppy, but in the early spring we were dealing with losing our senior cat and having like a five month old puppy at the same time. So like the energy levels, just our whole household was very skewed and it took

[00:06:53] Bagel: Yeah.

[00:06:54] Jen Rao: It took a lot to figure it out. But we're coming out the other side now. It's good.

[00:06:58] Bagel: Yeah, that must have been, yeah. A funny experience with those two com complete extremes.

[00:07:04] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:07:04] Bagel: Yeah. Well, hope for many, many more years of fun and adventures with the pup. I think you kind of hit on a few of the things that you're doing and kind of occupying your time with these days.

I thought it might be helpful, we'll sort of start with a little bit of just like getting to know Jen and kind of what brought you to this moment and brought you here. And then we can learn a little bit about your values and then we can talk about our topic today, which is gonna be alternative living.

[00:07:30] Bagel: So, is there anything that you feel like would be helpful or useful for the audience to know about your journey here? Maybe if you wanna share about your business? Why did you start that? And where is your sort of passion lie around the business that you've started. And then how does that start to tie in a little bit to values.

[00:07:47] Jen Rao: Sure. Well, I don't know if any of your listeners can relate to this. But for me, I felt like up until my mid twenties, I was living very out of alignment. Or I didn't even know the word alignment. I was very like just kind of living a life that wasn't of my choosing. Not always making the best decisions, knowing that I'm like, ah, I'm meant for more.

And then it was when I was around 24, 25 I got the right books. I read the four agreements and I learned about the go gratitude experiment and all of these really great resources to help up level your life in a good way. And from there, I moved away from where my family lives.

They are all in the same city. I moved away and I got the most amazing job. And I was there for 12 years and I rose through the ranks. It was a local coffee shop in Ottawa, Ontario. And by the time I left there, I was a district manager. I had managers working for me and then all their staff were below and it was like really high stress, but very much a values aligned company.

It was fair trade, locally roasted. We worked with farmers for coffee, but also for the food that the coffee houses served. It was just amazing. However, I was getting burnt out in that job and that's when my husband and I decided to try the hashtag van life. So we downsized, we actually lived in a really small house.

It was only 600 square feet, but we're like, let's sell the house and move into 112 square feet and just travel full time. We knew that we wanted to move west in Canada, together towards the mountains. And through that, I started building an online business and blogging. And from that it's turned into my professional organizing business, which is now a mix of online offerings as well as I work with people locally.

So I'm just finding like that sweet spot. I'm always experimenting with life and we're not in that tiny dwelling anymore. We're in 300 square feet now. So we actually live full time in a fifth wheel. Yeah.

[00:09:51] Bagel: Yeah, that's awesome. And we're gonna get more into hearing about the fifth wheel and the alternative lifestyle living and all that, cuz I really do want to hear more and, and personally, you know, I'm, I've

[00:10:01] Jen Rao: I know…

[00:10:01] Bagel: really curious about it and I think it would be really cool for our listeners to learn a little bit more about it too. Before we get to that, thank you for sharing a little bit of the background and the business and all that. So sounds like there was this misalignment, at some point you sort of realized like the burnout was happening and you were feeling like this wasn't the right fit for you. And then you and your husband sort of collectively said let's let's head west.

I'm curious of a couple questions. One is why did you decide to head west? And was there something particularly appealing about the downsizing, even at that point? Like you said, even just from 600 feet to 100 feet. Was it more about just being able to be on the road or tell us a little bit more about like that decision and how that came about.

[00:10:43] Jen Rao: Yes. Okay. So I'll answer the why question first. And it was kind of like, why not? Like we started following YouTubers, especially Gone with the Wynns, W-Y-N-N-S. So if you haven't heard of them, check them out. They live on a boat now, but back when I first found them they lived in an RV full time.

And we found this amazing YouTube channel called Exploring Alternatives, who were friends with the creators on that show now. And it was just watching, and even though we lived in this beautiful little house. And my husband and I, he's a musician so he's always been self-employed. And I had been working in the corporate world, although very values aligned. But still I was working like, 40 to 60 hours a week, and my commute was getting worse and everything like that.

[00:11:29] Jen Rao: And, it was just, every time I was stuck in a traffic jam, I was like, "No, no, I know this isn't what I want." Like, I don't want traffic jams, especially like five days a week. And so my husband and I, so I'm a Gemini, he's a Sagittarius. And we're both pretty adventurous. And if something sounds like, wow, that's totally wild as if people do that.

We're like, oh yeah. Okay, well, we're gonna try it. We're like proving. We're like, well, we could do it. Let's do it. So it was definitely a big shake up in our lives on purpose. And honestly, I think that everyone should downsize at least once in their life when they're young. Cuz always downsizing, you think about it when you're like in your seventies and you're passing things onto your grandchildren and okay, now I'm downsizing and I'm retired. But there's just something about touching every single thing you own and making a decision on it that is so cleansing. It's so much work, but it takes so much focus and that was the other thing.

So actually moving into the van, we needed to be mobile as much as possible. And also I love the idea that we couldn't zone out. It was like we were living off of solar. We only had so much water. It was a very challenging way to live, but I was aching for that. I was like bored that my taps just turned on and off like normal.

Now I'm glad they do again, we're at a campground and it's like, "Oh, thank goodness." But for a short amount of time that kind of challenge really tunes you in and forces you to pay attention to life. And so it was like that combined with loving to travel combined with the mountains is why we did it.

[00:13:07] Bagel: What would it feel like for you to simplify your life? Jen talks about how not having water taps forced her to quote unquote pay attention. If you could declutter and or minimize an aspect of your home life, what would that make possible for you?

[00:13:26] Jen Rao: And then when I found out that I was good at decluttering and I joined Fizzle and Fizzle was like, "what's your business gonna be about?" I was like, "Well, I guess it could be about decluttering." And, that's where it all began.

[00:13:40] Bagel: Yeah. So there's a lot of overlap there. I think I always knew a little bit of that, but it's really helpful to hear the full story and how cohesive it was with the decision to downsize to move out west and then to also build a business around this idea of decluttering. Seems to all align.

[00:13:54] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:13:55] Bagel: The feeling UN unaligned before that. So that's really cool that you were able to form such a good ideal around all of these things around the same time. I know like you said, it's taken a little bit for the business kind of to take off in the direction that you've wanted it to go, but it sounds like, yeah.

And I know we could, we could probably spend a good hour talking just about that. You and I, but I think, just for sake of context, it's really helpful to hear kind of how that happened. I don't know if we've mentioned or if you're wanting to mention where exactly you are now or just where abouts you are for

[00:14:29] Jen Rao: Yeah. Yeah. So we ended up landing in a town in British Columbia called Squamish. And it's halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, which are the two bigger names that most people know. And it's just, it's a very adventurous town. It was kind of overlooked for decades and decades. And it was like everyone lived in Vancouver or Whistler and you just drove through Squamish, but now the secret's out and everyone realizes how amazing it is.

It really is. Yeah. So we're here now and we honestly left and didn't know where we would land. We spent the first four months on the road, we lived in a ski hill parking lot. Cause my husband is a ski fanatic. So we did that. And then we kept moving further west and we house sat on and off for years.

So that's really what kept the travel going. We would look after other people's pets and look after their home and then we would park the van in the driveway. And so that was actually a really fun mix of being able to go off, go on the road. Go more remote and then having these little stints of having good wifi.

[00:15:41] Bagel: Yeah,

[00:15:42] Jen Rao: Two toilets that sort of thing.

So, and I think for both of us, we just loved at the time that we didn't know what was coming next. We would always just plan about a half season ahead. And no matter what, throughout those two years an opportunity always came up and I just love living life like that. We were like, mm, where will we be in two months?

And then we'd get a text. "Hey, our friends need a house sitter, do you wanna do it?" That sort of thing. So. 

[00:16:12] Bagel: Yeah. That's cool. And I think there's probably some people listening that just got a lot of agita just thinking about the fact that they don't have a plan, right. For more than a few months ahead of time and others are probably more like you and your husband were like, that sounds fun.

That sounds like a wild adventure. Sure.

[00:16:29] Jen Rao: I think, I honestly might need to live the rest of my life like that. Cuz I just, anytime I get too comfortable, I'm like, oh, you gotta switch it up. So, 

[00:16:39] Bagel: Yeah. 

[00:16:40] Jen Rao: that's the pandemic. Like we've been parked in one spot for a year and a half and I'm like, oh my God.

[00:16:47] Bagel: Feeling a little cooped up at this point.

[00:16:50] Jen Rao: Yeah. We have lots of places to go here though. I have to remind myself, so

[00:16:54] Bagel: So you're you're at a campground now, is that right?

[00:16:57] Jen Rao: Yeah, we have like one of those full-timer spots where we have a deck, the owner lent us a shed and like we're really set up and we're so grateful. Because during COVID, if we had been in the van, like during like the biggest part of lockdown.

[00:17:12] Bagel: Right.

[00:17:13] Jen Rao: I don't know what we would've done. But again, life just kind of happened the way it did. We got this rig in October and then the lockdown happened in February and March. So.

[00:17:23] Bagel: Gotcha. So a few months ahead of time. So this is a great transition. Now let's talk a little bit about alternative living and what it is. If we can start at a high level, like maybe assuming that people know very little to nothing about it. And then maybe we can explore a little bit of your experiences in which you're familiar with.

Like, you've talked about vans, you've talked about fifth wheels, and so just maybe giving some of the context of the different styles and types of alternative living.

[00:17:51] Jen Rao: Yeah. Oh man. There's just so many. Okay. I'll just say their name again, like if any of this is of any interest to you go to Exploring Alternatives on YouTube because they don't only talk about van life. They really show everything that I'm about to kind of touch on right now. But alternative living could be anything from living in a proper home, except it's made of cob.

And it's carbon neutral, you made it yourself to living nomadically, living out of a backpack, living in a van. People live out of SUVs and love it. There's full-time RVing, there's proper tiny houses. There's just so many different ways that you can design how you want to live.

A lot of the ones that are dear to my heart are tinier dwellings. But there's there's just alternative ways of building homes as well, so that you could live off grid, there's just, yeah. So hopefully that helped, but it's just, this is no judgment, but it's the idea that you're not living in a suburb, paying a mortgage for the next 30 years.

That is for a lot of people, but it's not for everyone. So for anyone that has that kind of nickel of like, ah, like maybe there's something else fun I could be doing. There really is. There's so many rabbit holes of different people living these different lifestyles that you could go down.

[00:19:15] Bagel: Yeah. And with that said, and I appreciate the high level overview. And so who do you think this is for? Who might really be interested or might benefit from exploring this? Because just like buying a home, there's probably some sort of commitment to saying, I want to go the route of alternative living or specifically picking one of those types. Who do you think might be a good fit for it in your eyes?

[00:19:41] Jen Rao: Yeah. I think people who enjoy traveling and who come back from their travels and think like, "Oh, like I wish it wasn't over. I really could have stayed out there longer." Or who, two weeks or three weeks a year is just like, it doesn't scratch the itch at all. Also environmentally conscious people, again, not saying that people in regular homes, are like a problem.

I'm not about judgment. I just always say that a lot during this. But if you live with fewer resources or if you try a home made out of a different, like not out of sticks and bricks is the term. There's learning about solar energy. There's just so much in the world. And so for anyone that is curious or inquisitive, or who likes to learn new things or practice new things, there's Alternative Living can just be a wealth of that. And it just keeps you tuned in. 

[00:20:32] Bagel: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. It's funny. As soon as you said, for the people who come back from a trip and feel like they want more that's that was the exact experience I had. I don't know if we've talked about this, but that was like my last impetus to kind of push me to do my big road trip across the country about five years ago.

I officiated a friend's wedding and I came back from that and I obviously had a great time.

Some of my best friends were all there and I came back and just felt like there was something like you described. There was just something in me that was like, I'm not done. Like there needs to be more of this. And it was probably my fourth or fifth wedding that year alone. And I just remember feeling this need to continue to travel and to see more of the country. For me, there's this desire to see more of the US. I would love to see more of Canada too. I would love to see

[00:21:26] Jen Rao: I wanna see more of the US too. That's one of our dream trips is going down the west coast and one day, I dunno when, but one day. Maybe I'll pass you on it. You can come up here. No, we'll hang out, obviously.

[00:21:42] Bagel: Well, yeah, that would be a let down if we just

[00:21:44] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:21:44] Bagel: pass each other on the highway. 

[00:21:46] Jen Rao: High five. Yeah. 

[00:21:47] Bagel: All right. See you next time. yeah. I 

[00:21:49] Bagel: so anyway, I get that. 

[00:21:50] Jen Rao: OKay. So like my sister. My sister and I are super close. She's amazing. She's this like creative, beautiful, wonderful human. But she loves her house and she loves being home. And she's been in her house for well over a decade. And I've never stayed in a dwelling for longer than I think three years.

And I think we might pass three years in this rig only because the pandemic paused, it hasn't moved in so long. So I feel like it's gonna get a little extra life, but even in the home we bought, I was like, I don't know if we should buy another house. Cause like we were out of there in three or four years.

[00:22:26] Bagel: Yeah, yeah.

[00:22:27] Jen Rao: know.

[00:22:28] Bagel: So what are the values you think that you hold yourself to, and where's the overlap? Or how does alternative living fit into that? And is it influenced by that? Do you think for yourself? 

[00:22:39] Jen Rao: Yeah. I just like staying open to possibilities. So not clinging onto one idea or forcing something to work. I don't know if adventure and like exploration is a value, but if it is then I would like put that on the list. So it's just setting up my life in a way that makes doing the things that I like to do easier.

And also, I like to rest. When I'm in a corporate environment, I will work until I fall down. Like I will give my everything to the company that I'm working for. And so it's been a really amazing shift to only work for myself and not let myself do that to myself. I don't work as much as I used to. And I'm glad I don't cuz I was getting sick sometimes from working so much and from like spiking, my anxiety and stress levels were just like off the charts. And so, just resting and recharging and learning more and more every day to be okay with that. 

[00:23:46] Bagel: I want to highlight and praise Jen for choosing an independent lifestyle that allows her to work at her pace, at a pace that better suits her needs. We hear so much about hustle culture, and especially in the entrepreneurship world. And the negative effects of it and how it's clearly unsustainable for most humans.

Yet so many people still sort of pursue it. Notice how she chooses to slow life down and to be more intentional and that it's absolutely possible. What choice can you make right now to better align the pace of life that works for you?

[00:24:25] Bagel: Yeah, that's awesome. That's really cool to hear. I think, absolutely adventure and exploration are a value. If you say they are, and there are lots of other people who I think would hold that one as a value for themselves too. Makes a lot of sense, but I absolutely love what you said about setting up your life to do those things more easily.

I think that speaks to why it's a value, right? Maybe there are folks and I'm sure there's gonna be plenty of folks listening to this that are like, "Yeah, no, I like my comfort. I want to be in a house. I want to be in the suburbs or I wanna be somewhere where I know that I can come to every day and this feels like my place."

And I'm kind of a little, maybe separated from the environment at times when I wanna be. Or I've got my Netflix and my couch and that works for me. And like you said, nothing wrong with that. That's a choice. Just as much as, kind of setting yourself up so that you have the ability to access things on the road more easily, or you're more closer to nature or whatever it is that you're setting yourself up to be able to have those adventures more easily.

I think makes so much sense for why you might prioritize this type of lifestyle. And it actually just brought me some clarity too, of understanding it a little bit more.

[00:25:38] Jen Rao: Yeah. So like I said, Squamish is gaining large amounts of popularity and a lot of people from Vancouver moving here. So it's spiked our housing market. And it's over a million dollars for any standalone house here. Whether or not it's a fixer upper and some of my clients are in million dollar fixer uppers. But it's because you look out the window and there's all these mountains and it's just heaven.

But for that, like, for my husband and I, and our values. We've never wanted to put such a large amount of our money into our housing budget. So for us right now, and especially staying in one place, living in such an expensive place, but paying the rent that we pay and we own our rig. We've paid it off a few years ago.

Like economically it's very much values aligned right now, cause we don't wanna live somewhere and go broke just by having a roof over our heads.

[00:26:36] Bagel: Yeah. Yep.

[00:26:37] Jen Rao: Which seems to be an okay thing in society. But well, I don't like

[00:26:42] Bagel: I mean, and I'm picking up on a few different values that you've mentioned before as well. Like sustainability and concern for the environment and that sort of thing ties in a lot, I think as well. And again, what's ringing true for me with a lot of what you're sharing, Jen, is just that choice, right? Like people can choose to spend the money if they have it on a million dollar fixer upper, if they have the resources to do so. That's cool. That's their choice. Right. And there's no good or bad, it's just the choice. And I think just as much, what you're talking about is, "Hey, we, we value being able to spend the resources we do have on other things as well."

And so how can we affordably still be in the environment that we want to be and still have the resources and time and energy to do the things that we want and have those adventures. So,

[00:27:33] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:27:33] Bagel: Yeah.

[00:27:34] Jen Rao: Yeah. I think like in order to live in an alternative way, it takes a lot of creativity. And the creativity can be based off of what other people are doing. Like that's so a part of my personality is, I love just like researching and learning about other people. I love listening to podcasts, like that sort of thing, where just ideas are being generated and people are testing different things and seeing the good and bad of it.

If you're drawn towards that, then doing this sort of thing, like choosing your lifestyle as like a project is just a really fun use of your energy. If you like doing it.

[00:28:13] Bagel: Right, right. So let's talk about that. And then I also wanna kind of hear some of the, maybe some benefits and drawbacks of the lifestyle, too. If you're open to sharing, either your experience of which you heard. But I'm curious. So you mentioned like making the lifestyle, your own project.

So you're in a fifth wheel now, you said you've been in that for a few years now. Like what sort of brings you enjoyment, fulfillment? Like what are you and your husband, feel drawn to? Or what do you guys enjoy the most about this home that you've been able to create?

[00:28:44] Jen Rao: Yeah, especially after how small the van was, this feels, for now, just big enough. Like we have room in our closets. We have room in the drawers, but after we move back into the rig, this rig after the van. I, what did I buy? Like I bought measuring cups again. Like, I didn't have measuring cups.

Like I couldn't, I had like one pot now I have a pot and a pan, like just like that little bit more space. We renovated this RV, which like the actual work of renovating is not our favorite thing. But the transformation we were able to do on a smaller budget and how much we love how it looks now, like, we love that about it. And then again, like, I'm sure a lot of us are feeling this way with, COVID just like, really kind of threw us off our groove a bit, like in terms of travel and just, like surviving as a couple during COVID like, let's be real. It's, it's been

[00:29:46] Bagel: in a confined space like that. I mean, I'm sure there's gotta be some challenges

[00:29:51] Jen Rao: Yeah. But now that we're starting to see a little bit of more travel possibility. Like I've been thinking about, okay, like how can I go on the road and organize for people and bring the rig with us? Or like, how can my husband go on tour? And then we actually take the whole house with us, you know?

And again, we haven't done those things yet, but they're just ideas and they might be future projects. So I love, I love that part of it. And then, because we're in the campground right now, we do have like the amenities of being plugged into electricity. So we're not on solar right now. We're plugged into water so we can, like, we have a shower. We didn't have a shower in the van.

So it's like all the comforts of home, just a little bit smaller. And like we own this home outright, rather than paying a 30 year mortgage,

[00:30:41] Bagel: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And, and in that sense, I can understand like certain things feeling like luxuries after you were in the van. Right. How long were you in the van for again? I think you mentioned two years. Yeah.

[00:30:54] Jen Rao:  With the house sitting mixed in and that really did take the edge off. But still it was like there was no shower, it was a composting toilet. We had five gallon water jugs at a time. And like, we were running off of five pound propane that would last like five weeks because we only used it to cook.

We didn't have a hot water heater, I would like do the hot water in a kettle to do my dishes. But that's what I wanted to do. It was very like, just kind of meditative, mostly

[00:31:24] Bagel: Yeah,

[00:31:25] Jen Rao: But we can talk about the bad side of it too, cuz if it sucks so hard sometimes to

[00:31:30] Bagel: Well, yeah, let's sometimes I'm sure it does. And there's always good and bad to every lifestyle choice too. I think it's important to understand both. So yeah. Feel free to share, what have been some of the drawbacks or any major frustrations or things that maybe drove you to an edge where you're like, is this really what I want?

I don't know if you've ever gotten to that point, but we've

[00:31:53] Jen Rao: Oh yeah.

[00:31:54] Bagel: of that insight.

[00:31:55] Jen Rao: Okay. So anyone that says that that doesn't happen, like really? Like even the best things go bad sometimes. But in terms of this rig, the only thing that I can really think of is that the rain is very loud on the roof. We've been parked in one spot for a long time. So when the rainy season comes, it's like a trillion marbles falling on the roof.

And it is so loud that like, we can't hear the TV. Because it rains so hard here. That's the, that's the payoff or the what's it called? Like the flip side of living in such a beautiful place. Obviously there has to be something and it's the rainy season. And then in the smaller van, it was definitely just like, not owning our own shower.

And it wasn't like a daily thing that it bugged me, but like you said, there was definitely just some moments of like. Oh. What else? We got a pretty good reception from people, but there's definitely, you have to have a thick skin for how people might judge you. A lot of people are like, wow, that's so cool.

[00:32:54] Jen Rao: I could never do that. I'm really jealous. But there, you definitely run into some people that give you the look like you live in that. And you just have to be okay with that.

[00:33:04] Bagel: Mm-hmm . Yeah.

[00:33:06] Jen Rao: Also one time, the van in the winter when sliding backwards down a street in a small town, it was a very small hill. But it was quite steep.

And we were just about at the top about to make it. It was very snowy and icy and we started fishtailing backwards. So in that moment I jumped out to stop traffic, if need be. It wasn't a busy street, so it was terrifying, but it wasn't like we were gonna get hit by moving cars or anything.

However, being out on that street and it's snowing and I'm watching my husband deal with this. With everything we own and our cat in the front seat, just fishtailing backwards down this little road. And then you're like, everything I own is in that right now. Like, oh my gosh. So

That weighs a little heavier than, just a van, that you were just driving. That, when you have all of your personal belongings in it, I can imagine that, that there's a lot more to to think about. Man. So what happened? Like did you, it just

[00:34:10] Jen Rao: Oh, he was such a hero. Okay. So my husband has this special talent of being able to park any vehicle in any space. He is so brilliant at it.

[00:34:19] Bagel: to have.

[00:34:20] Jen Rao: Oh my gosh. Like blows my mind, but he managed to turn the wheels in just the right way that he like gently slid into a snow bank and not too hard.

Like we didn't have any damage to the vehicle. Like he, I, I don't even know how he

[00:34:36] Bagel: That's amazing.

[00:34:38] Jen Rao: There were parked cars. It could have gone through, like a cross street if he hadn't done what he did, but it was like a very gentle end to an otherwise terrifying experience. So

[00:34:51] Bagel: That's I mean good for him. I can't, I can, I'm like trying to picture the scenario. Well, like how fast was it going? Was it,

[00:34:59] Jen Rao: it just, we were going really slow up the hill and it just, when you lose all your traction and it, it was heavy, right? Like it was a dually. So two tires in the back and a little apartment and it basically. And it was just, it felt like it was happening in slow motion, but he just lost all control.

So it was like, and then I could see the cat in the front seat. I was like, oh my God.

[00:35:28] Bagel: Oh my God. Yeah, that sounds frightening.

[00:35:30] Jen Rao: I that story in a while. It was very scary. We went to a hotel that week. I was like, I, I, I need a, that's the thing, like sometimes. And this might not be everyone who lives in the, that small of a dwelling, but I definitely like came up to circumstances where I was like, okay, I need a break.

Like I need some sort of reset. And then for the cat, I was like, the cat just needs to not move for a little bit. She's like 15 years old. Let's just give her a little chill time on the bed, So

[00:36:00] Bagel: Just give, give a little time to recover from the incident. I'm sure it was traumatic all around. Definitely, really glad to hear that your husband took the wheel literally and figuratively in that sense. And was able to calm things down. But yeah, that sounds scary for sure.

I'm wondering, when you were talking about the decision to stay in a hotel for a few days or for a week or whatever that is. Were there times outside of that, which sounds like a pretty extreme scenario where you kind of felt like, we really need a break from this?

[00:36:30] Bagel: I know you were doing some of the house sitting when you were in the van too. So it sounds like you were able to get some breaks from that, but like how often did you feel like you were cooped up and you really needed to break out of that environment?

[00:36:42] Jen Rao: Not that much in the rainy season as well, but it always seemed like house sitting came up at the exact right time. And even just knowing that we would have a house sitting gig for two or three weeks, it just changes the mindset of it. What really happened near the end and why we moved into this rig, was that feeling wasn't really going away.

I wanted a desk to work from. I was doing all my work mostly was online. And so I was like, I just want like a chair and a desk. And cuz that's how small, the last one was that we were. It was like a bed, our kitchen and our storage. That's what we had, so yeah.

[00:37:21] Bagel: That's smaller than most people's bedrooms. So it's like, you really have to really think about how you're gonna fit your whole life into that.

[00:37:30] Jen Rao: Yes. So my husband plays at these beautiful five star hotels in Whistler. And while we were living in the van, we went and stayed. And they put us in a room where the closet was bigger than what we were living in.

[00:37:46] Bagel: Wow.

[00:37:46] Jen Rao: And I'm not exaggerating.

[00:37:48] Bagel: That's

[00:37:49] Jen Rao: Oh boy. Yeah,

[00:37:51] Bagel: It felt like a luxury Yeah, that's funny.

So yeah, I feel like you've given us a really good picture of van life and a little bit of life in the fifth wheel and kind of what the benefits and the drawbacks are. You've shared a little bit about your values.

[00:38:10] Bagel: What, I'm curious at this point, you mentioned that you feel like you could do this forever. I think at some point earlier, you said like this sort of lifestyle is that the plan right now is just to continue this lifestyle until you get sick of it? Do you have any thoughts about moving around?

[00:38:25] Jen Rao: Yes. I definitely want to move around, I think. And if everyone just needs different things, what my husband and I definitely realized together in the smaller vehicle that we were living in is that for us, we don't need like nonstop travel. But being able to move when we want to. So doing like a month at a time or two months at a time and just having something planned ahead, that's the kind of thing that I'm going for.

We also really like buses, so maybe a, maybe a bus one day. But honestly, this setup's actually bigger than what a big bus would have because there's big slide outs. It's actually pretty roomy in here. I know I'm used to living small now, but it's pretty spacious

[00:39:08] Bagel: When and when you say, so I'm, cuz I'm learning a little bit of the lingo. By the way you shared a great resource with me. The, it was it, the RV entrepreneurs,

[00:39:17] Jen Rao: Yes. Aren't they

[00:39:18] Bagel: on Facebook and yeah, I I've, I've been consuming a lot of their content and it's been super helpful.

Well they, and they have, I think they have a few different books, but one of the books was like RVing lifestyle or I can't remember what it was called, but I basically was like, I've read most of it at this point, just to learn about everything I can consume about RV lifestyle, and the differences between the different ones and all that sort of thing.

[00:39:44] Bagel: And so I feel like I'm educating myself. There's so much to it that, there's like different types of campgrounds. And I kind of knew that, but I didn't know exactly what they were called and there's, I knew that there were different types of RVs, but I didn't really know all the different types.

And so there's so much content. And I know you've mentioned a few resources that we'll include in the show notes here for sure. I'll include the one I just mentioned as well. You said you felt like you actually have a little bit more room and you feel like it's actually a bit roomier at this point. And you were talking about being able to maybe go a place for a couple months and then kind of continuing on and that sort of thing.

I think there's, there's an appeal to that. I imagine that there's a balance. I know you've kind of been stationary for a while. I know COVID has had a lot to do

[00:40:25] Jen Rao: Which is like the worst.

[00:40:28] Bagel: Gotcha. Yeah. So that's kind of, I was curious about is, it sounds like you kind of would rather at least be a little bit more, moving around a little bit more than you have been at this

[00:40:37] Jen Rao: OH yeah. I am very grateful for this site to be our home base. I would love to leave it so that I could come back to it, you know? There's also, Keep Your Daydream is another YouTube family and they like camp and camp and move and camp and camp. And that's like what their whole business is based on.

And they're doing very well for themselves. But like, I get a little tired watching them go. Like it's a lot to pack up and go and stay somewhere for a night or two and then go again. See, and that's what I mean, it's so personal to everyone. Because here I am like living in a fifth wheel wanting to do more travel, loving living tiny. But then I look at how they're living alternatively and I'm like, well, that's just not quite, quite right for me. 

And, but I think if anyone is thinking about trying this, I would test out different RVs. Like rent them first because they are all so different. The difference between having a vehicle and towing something behind versus having the engine in the RV is like a really big difference. Cuz then you might need to tow a car, or if you go in a van, like you lose a lot of amenities, but you're way more able to move around.

And so it's like, it is almost like you make the quadrant of like, okay, so it's like comfortable, easy to travel, affordable and there's gotta be a really good fourth one, but like, I don't know what it would be, but you know what I mean? And then like every single choice falls in a different spot and you almost can't think of it unless you put yourself in it first. Either by watching other people do it and really thinking about the realities of it or renting things and trying.

Because I, I didn't think I would mind not having a desk cuz I would just put my laptop on my lap and like I would sit up against the wall and it, that was like really cool. But that, that definitely wore off.

[00:42:31] Bagel: So a quick side story. earlier this year, Emma and I took our dog, Leila, and we rented our first camper van to take a trip up to Michigan and Wisconsin for a week. And we had an absolute blast. It may or may not have taken me till, you know, the last day of the trip to like really enjoy myself, but I, you know, it was fun.

It really was a great time and I'm so glad we did it. And I can understand totally why Jen suggests trying different options before committing. We've been talking about wanting to have some sort of mobile home at some point in the near future. And there were many things that we liked about living in a van for a week.

But the biggest thing that we learned is while it worked for the two of us for a shorter trip, it might not be sustainable for us long term. Especially if and when we wanna start a family. And we've since started browsing other options like class A RVs and trailers. So if you're thinking about testing out this kind of lifestyle, just make sure to give yourself some time to truly test it out.

Maybe start with one or two trips a year in different regions or different environments and choosing some different mobile home options to make sure you get the flavor of what it's really like to live that kind of life.

[00:43:44] Bagel: Yeah.

[00:43:44] Jen Rao: We were still in it for two years. It's not like it was like two months and we gave up, but

[00:43:49] Bagel: Right. Right. You gave it a fair, a fair test. Yeah. I think two years

[00:43:52] Jen Rao: oh, we lived

[00:43:53] Bagel: know. Yeah.

[00:43:54] Jen Rao: It was good. It was good. I'm glad I did it, 

[00:43:57] Bagel: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. I think, and you're so right. And I think that's what I've learned so much about is that there are these different criteria that you might realize that you need and some things that you want. And what, where are the needs versus the wants.

And I think it's great advice of just like testing out a few different options to figure out what might work for you. Yeah, I'm curious. I'm gonna come back to one more question, but since we're already talking about some tips and some recommendations, let's just keep going with that. We can sort of combine it with like any, any lessons from the now many years that you've been doing this altogether.

Like any lessons and any tips for people who are either just starting out or really just trying to get more information or more interested in learning about alternative living.

[00:44:43] Jen Rao: I would recommend following channels and blogs of truth tellers rather than, polished photo shoots. Those are really beautiful. And they're fun to look at too, but like never think that you're gonna move into a van and it's gonna look like a photo shoot that gets 2 million likes on it, because those are so staged.

[00:45:08] Jen Rao: And it's just not like those people probably stink. Because you get stinky, if you don't have a sh- I'm telling you like. So anyways, but there are so many people on the internet sharing really truthful stories and giving really good advice. So that's one thing, like know where your sources, who your sources are a little bit and just be, make smart choices there.

And then also, if you're planning on downsizing at all, like start decluttering today. Like the freedom you get from removing excess stuff from your life that you don't love that you don't use and that you don't need, to me is unmatched. It's like, it's almost hard to put into words. It just happened today with a new client.

[00:45:50] Jen Rao: And we were only working in her bathroom, but she just looked at me and was like, I can't believe this space. And it was just because we decluttered, like I don't do any fancy organizing setups at all. It was just like combing through everything because it's so easy for your home to have like this layer of bloat around the stuff that you actually like, and you don't realize it's there.

And so when you get better at decluttering and actually making those decisions and you stop having things like hiding away in cupboards or underneath things. And you actually just go through and touch everything. It's like, it's a really healing process and I highly recommend it.

[00:46:31] Bagel: Yeah, I I'm over here like I know I'm probably like 3000 miles away from you, but I'm like I need to hire Jen at some point. Come, come declutter my life over here. How do you work with those clients? I know you said most of it is in person, but you mentioned, I think that you also do some on online? Is that right?

[00:46:49] Jen Rao: Mm. Yeah. So I do in person sessions where I'm working side by side. I act as a coach, as an extra set of hands and as a cheerleader. And my favorite clients that I work with actually do the decluttering with me. There's definitely a type of professional organizing where the organizers go in and they just like "gloop" and they like make the house perfect.

And I really like working with people and I like them having the power of like doing it too, but I just make it way easier. So I do it in person. I'm really hoping to take it on the road. Somehow with my home, that can move eventually. So I'll just put that out into the universe publicly for the first time.

And then I also do virtual sessions. So I do two hour sessions that for those ones, it's really, I found they're best for people who have like a really specific, stuck area that they're on. So for one woman, she had 20 bankers boxes of high school, college, and grade school memories that she hadn't opened in over 10 years.

[00:47:56] Jen Rao: And she was terrified of them. And her husband was like, are those just gonna sit in our garage forever? And so we worked together for about two months, for two hours a week and she would open a box and we were on a video call and she would tell me what she would find and we would talk through it. And then I would coach her that way.

[00:48:16] Bagel: Yeah. Wow.

[00:48:18] Jen Rao: I can't, I can't sweep through a whole house virtually. That's why I find doing like something really specific, can be good. And sometimes you just need someone like telling you you're awesome while you're doing it, cuz it can be really stressful. So that's what I do. And I make lots of jokes too. Cuz you gotta laugh.

[00:48:34] Bagel: Yeah, you have to I'm sure. It can be a pretty heavy experience, right. When you're going through old like memorabilia and things that have significance.

[00:48:43] Jen Rao: Old stuff from her boyfriend and like, and not her husband, like old flames and like photos that like, when I see they'll pick up this photo from grade school and they're like, I hate this photo. And I was like, you don't have to keep it. They're like, I don't. Like you don't you get to decide what you keep, you know?

[00:49:04] Bagel: Yeah.

[00:49:05] Jen Rao: So we could do a whole call just on that, but

[00:49:09] Bagel: Yeah, that's amazing. It, it sounds like it's very rewarding work, right. To

[00:49:14] Jen Rao: Oh yeah. Oh my 

[00:49:16] Bagel: and 

[00:49:17] Jen Rao: Yeah, it really changes my client's lives and that's what I love about it. they get their life back. They are like, I've just been busy raising my kids or doing whatever, and I didn't mean for it to happen, but I just turned around one day and my house was stressing me out so much.

And I'm always like, we gotta get rid of some stuff. I promise that everything's easier with less, less decisions, less to clean, less to keep track of, less to organize. So.

[00:49:46] Bagel: That's amazing. You hear that people? If you want your life back, you need to talk to Jen at, at clear your life.

[00:49:53] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:49:54] Bagel: That's amazing. I'm so glad to hear that. And it does not surprise me at all that you have a collaborative approach and one that is really focused on helping people work through it. And being a positive reinforcement and little bit of cheerleading, too.

[00:50:09] Jen Rao: My thing.

[00:50:10] Bagel: Yeah, I was gonna say, just knowing you through Fizzle and how honest you are with people and also uplifting.

I think that the combination of those two makes you so effective at what you do in Fizzle and help other, other creators and other entrepreneurs kind of step up and show up. But also give them some grace when things feel a little, like they're a little too much. And so it sounds like there's a lot of overlap in the, the business you've created and what you do there. So,

[00:50:35] Jen Rao: Yeah.

[00:50:36] Bagel: Very very cool. Is there anything else? Yeah, of course. Anything else that you feel that you wanna include in the conversation? Anything else you wanna to share with the audience around alternative living, around decluttering life? Anything else before we, we part.

[00:50:53] Jen Rao: Yeah. I just think that if you're curious about trying something different, like you can always stop. So I think some people make excuses about why, like, why they don't do things they really wanna do. You can say like, cuz you have kids or kids is like the one I hear the most. But anyways, there's lots of money, there's all these reasons why you couldn't do something.

But I like, I really, really believe that if you put your mind to something and you're determined you can just try it and do it. And then if you hate it, you can stop. You can always get another apartment or house, like none of this needs to be forever. But it's really fun just trying on different hats. So I hope you do.

[00:51:38] Bagel: Yeah, I, I definitely will be,

[00:51:41] Jen Rao: version of it,

[00:51:42] Bagel: Some

[00:51:42] Jen Rao: your version.

[00:51:43] Bagel: exactly. I've I've already, I've already shared with my girlfriend. She's very well aware that this is something I'm very interested and passionate about doing, and she's already supportive of it happening. And so, some of it may be together. Some of it 

[00:51:56] Jen Rao: be on board. Yeah, 

[00:51:58] Bagel: for sure. For sure. If you have a partner, some, someone that you care about, it's important, I think, to make sure that you talk through it at least share why it's important and how you're gonna work through it together. And, maybe that, that could probably be even a whole other conversation too.

I'm sure. But I, I do think that that is definitely an important thing, but I just wanna say thank you so much, Jen, for, for sharing all this wonderful insight and information. It's just been fun to talk to you about this stuff. Something that obviously excites me, but I hope our listeners can learn something from. I hope that they're, can tap into some of the resources we've talked about today and hopefully some people will reach out to you and learn a little bit more about ways you can help them as well.

So, thank you so much.

[00:52:39] Jen Rao: Awesome. Thanks, Mike.

[00:52:41] Bagel: Thanks again for listening to this episode of the live your values podcast, we really value feedback. So please rate and review us on apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast listening app. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss all new episodes of LYV. Special thanks to Emma Peck and Joel Lindenfeld for branding design, Danielle Gelber for marketing strategy and Rebecca Kittel with fyt for operations support.

Until next time, get out there and LYV.