We’re all threading our way through life, weaving through life’s wonders and around its challenges as we make a path for ourselves. It’s a journey. And, in the end, that’s what matters.
“The destination is irrelevant – it’s how you get there and what you find along the way that matters,” says Michael Youngblood ’07. “Life is a process and navigating through it all is how we grow and discover our best selves.”
To help others on that discovery, he co-founded Unsettled, a work-tourism company that curates month-long working retreats for entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers in inspiring destinations all over the world.
“We find places that are just edgy enough that they attract the people who want to leave their routine,” he says, “something that will shake them up a little bit and take them out of their comfort zone.”
Grounded in the belief that embracing the unknown and feeling a little unsettled can bring about positive change, innovation, collaboration and exploration, Unsettled provides a productive work environment that encourages self-exploration and self-fulfillment.
His own self-exploration really began when he transferred into the College. “That’s what opened everything up and really broadened my perspective,” he says, giving particular credit to anthropology professor Idee Winfield’s course in social entrepreneurship. “That class really changed how I thought about my own future. It taught you to challenge your perspectives and to question the assumptions around you. It was a game changer for me.”
Also a game changer: the sailing class he took, which led to his first job in travel at a local eco-tourism business guiding tourists through the Lowcountry’s waterways. “There are so many threads between the College and where I’ve gone from there,” he says. “My experience at the College really cleared the path for me.”
Still, as an anthropology major, Youngblood didn’t follow the most obvious path to entrepreneurship. In fact, he didn’t take a single business class as an undergraduate.
“I wanted a liberal-arts education and anthropology is as liberal as the liberal arts can get. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” he says. “Anthropology was the best degree for entrepreneurship. It taught me to listen to people. I can’t get over the threads between the anthropology department and the market I’m in. I came out of the College with all the knowledge and experience I needed to start a business.”
The first business he started was an eco-tourism startup that landed a contract with the U.S. National Park Service. From there, he worked for multiple startups while studying social entrepreneurship at George Mason University. Upon earning his master’s in public administration, he co-founded a digital creative agency for entrepreneurs and Innovations Stories, a digital-storytelling publication out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And, finally, after building their business model in the inaugural TED Residency program, Youngblood and his business partner were ready to focus their entrepreneurial energy on Unsettled.
“Ultimately, Unsettled is a people business – it’s about understanding people and helping them find whatever it is they need to find in life,” says Youngblood, adding that he wouldn’t have the people skills he has if it weren’t for the College. “That’s where I learned that how you communicate with people matters. That’s what builds the relationships that we carry with us through life. And we can’t get through this journey alone. We need those connections, those ties, every step of the way.”
Indeed, that’s the common thread between us all.