How To Be A Free Range Human – Meet Marianne Cantwell
Written by Jaillan Yehia
‘I never imagined I could travel the world as a lifestyle – I just thought I wanted longer holidays.’
This is the first thing career change guru Marianne Cantwell says to me as I interview her at a leafy London café. From here we cover life, travel, work, relationships and the perfect pair of portable heels – which we both agree are not actually heels at all, but wedges.
It turns out the Chief Chicken of kick-ass career-change movement, website, and best-selling entrepreneurial book, Be A Free Range Human started with the same modest dream as the rest of us – the one we’ve had ever since we persuaded the teacher to take the lesson outside on a sunny day – to simply spend a few more days in the park than we feel is allowed.
We’re meeting close to London’s Victoria Park, Marianne’s outdoor space of choice back when she still had a rented office and an ‘in person’ business – an idea which causes her to giggle and roll her eyes at her own foolishness. These days she is the advocate of a totally different style of working life, one which is built around your own dreams, lifestyle choices and innate skills, with the motto ‘escape the corporate cage and live life on your terms.’
Marianne had her own work life eureka moment after creating and selling her first online course during a trip back to her native Australia. She came back to London run it: ‘I thought I’m back and I don’t need to be,’ she explains. Having decided to keep the online courses as a lynchpin of the business and work from a base of her own choosing she planned a road trip around America’s West Coast: ‘I put my stuff in storage and tried living location independent to see what would happen.’ she tells me. What happened was that Marianne found trying to launch new products and courses while on the road, continuously moving from place to place, just too hard – ‘I wish someone had told me that shit!’ she jokes.
‘Yes you can sustain a business that’s ticking over nicely while continually moving and I can do it now’ she explains, ‘but that’s when I realised that being location independent can be what you want and need it to be – you can be based in different places for different parts of the year, 3 months in one and 6 months in another and that’s the version that works for me. But I would never make a business decision about where I live – change your business model to suit how you want to live.’
So Marianne says that it’s not all about throwing your life in a backpack and hoping that somehow a business will just work out: your strategy on travelling depends where you are with your business: ‘I don’t believe in travelling the world randomly and then wondering why no-one is looking at your crappy arse website: just because you’re taking your business on the road doesn’t mean it’s not a business. Still look at it with a smart head, and give it the love it needs to grow.”
Marianne has always been a traveller – it’s ten years now since she left Australia with a backpack for 3 months. That turned into 6 months, then a year. ‘Then I got a job, and after a while I realised I lived in London!’ she cheerfully admits. So how does she find being away from London for months at a time and why does she always come back? I assume the capital’s pull as a hub for networking and business opportunity is the key.
There was always something in London,’ she confides, ‘usually a boy! I am so leaving London was my mantra every year!’ She admits that while she misses out on well-paid keynote speaking gigs by not being in a big city all the time, she reasons that ‘it’s not authentic to stand up and talk to people about how you can have the life you want if you’re not doing that yourself. When you travel you will miss out on some opportunities that being in one place would provide, but remember there is more than one way to grow a business: half the game is finding the one that works for you and the lifestyle you’re creating.”
So Marianne has played around with location independence in all its shades – from having a home base and office to travelling full-time, and now realises the solution for her is to have multiple bases. So far she’s spent a maximum of two and a half months in a single location – Bali – and is about to begin a nine month stint there, which she admits is a commitment that scares her, despite Bali being the place she feels happiest.
It’s partly as an experiment to see if she can curtail her own impetus to keep moving and changing things. She reasons: ‘I’m the sort of person who sees lots of options and can get overwhelmed with possibilities so it helps to run what I call ‘lifestyle experiments, where I say ‘for 3 months, or 6 months I’ll try this and after that I’ll review and see how it went.’ This helps get over the idea that by choosing one thing you’re missing out on other options and gets me grounded in the reality of an option by trying it out.
But she stops short of advocating any specific location independent lifestyle choices or paths to others: Marianne concludes that we’re all attracted by big concepts like travelling the world but points out that most people who buy the Free Range Humans book won’t go (or want to go) location independent, what they want to do is dream about it, and then go on to create something that suits them – whether it be packing up and taking off around the globe or working from their kitchen table. Marianne wants to show people that dream – but with the reality of what it takes to achieve it.
The Free Range Packing Order – What’s In Marianne’s Suitcase?
‘I’ve got my packing down to a fine art; as long as I have my dresses I’m happy – but my travelling is confined to warm climates. I don’t travel to cold places.
What do you miss?
My criteria for good packing is I don’t miss anything. Ok I miss pillows and good bed linen. I used to miss my favourite handbag, so now I bring it along.
What’s the one item you used to pack that you’ve given up on?
I used to pack a beach towel, then I realised they have towels almost everywhere!
What’s your packing advice?
Pack what you’d wear in the same temperature in your home city, there’ll be an 80% cross over.
Checked baggage or carry-on?
I travel with just carry-on luggage. My cosmetics and office pack up very small and I have 5-6 dresses including two white dresses that are non-negotiable – but generally I do operate a one-in-one-out policy.
What luxury items travel with you?
Full size ghds, accessories and handbags. If you have a nice handbag, nice watch and a nice ring you can walk into any 5 star hotel. Also I’m very willing to buy clothes and accessories – after all I don’t buy dishwashers or big TVs! It all depends on what you prioritise.
Free Range Take Away – 3 Lessons You Can Learn From Marianne
- You don’t have to go fully minimalist. It’s ok to want to know where your things are at all times even while you’re on the road; storage units can be sacred to Free Range Humans
- Being location independent does NOT mean you have to haul yourself from place to place constantly – if you’re launching a new business product or service be realistic about how much travel you can do during that time
- If you’re not buying white goods at home, it’s ok to splash out on a beautiful white sundress overseas. Glad we got that figured out.
Want to know more? Hop on over to the FRH blog which is full of tantalising insights from posts titled things like ‘what to do when you want to do everything’ and ‘9 pieces of advice they won’t tell you at business school (but really should)‘ You can also get Marianne’s Friday love letter, a weekly inspiring newsletter which is probably one of the only mailing list emails you’ll actually read.
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