Friday, February 14, 2014

Interview (20) - let me introduce you to Life Out of the Box

Name: Quinn Elise & Jonathon Button
Occupation: Entrepreneurs/Founders of Life Out of the Box
Living in: Couch Surfing through Europe
From: San Francisco, CA

We are Quinn & Jonathon, founders of the social venture and blog, Life Out of the Box. We're two twenty-somethings trying to help the world as we travel it. A year & a half ago we left everything we knew in California to pursue our dream of traveling the world and creating a business that gives back. At Life Out of the Box we work with local artisans around the world to create handmade products and for every product we sell online, we give a child in need school supplies. Since the launch of our business, we have lived and given school supplies to kids in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. 
  • How / when did you catch the travel bug?
    We caught the travel bug while sitting at our desk at our last job. We knew we wanted to explore the big world but we didn't know how or where to start. After hours of research we decided that we would move to Nicaragua to learn and live life to the fullest.
  • What’s your preferred type of travel- destinations, type of accommodation, activities, length of trip, and so on? Why the preference?
    Our favorite type of travel is how we travel--long term to developing countries. We typically stay at least three months wherever we go so that we can really immerse ourselves in the culture around us--meet the locals, find the best spots to eat at and learn as much as we can about the new place we're in. We love traveling this way because we travel to learn. If we traveled to places to do just the same things we'd do back home in California, then we might as well just stay home. 
  • What was your first travel experience?
    Our first travel experience was going to Nicaragua together. We planned as much as we possibly could but we were not able to plan for the crazy culture shock. The first time we were rode the chicken bus we were nervous but our level of comfort with the unexpected increased. We love pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.
  • What do you like best about your traveling life?
    Everywhere we go pushes us out of our comfort zone and teaches us more about ourselves. We see things we didn't see before we started traveling and have a whole new appreciation for the life we have because of where we've traveled and what we've done. The people and the children we've met along the way of our travels have changed us both forever. 
  •  Could you please tell us about one or two of your very best trips and what made them so great?
    San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: We met some of the most amazing people here--friends, locals, kids, etc. We gave school supplies to hundreds of children here in various schools and after-school programs and we really felt like we made an impact on the community. It's a beautiful small beach town that we first moved to when we started this adventure and it will forever have a special place in our hearts. 

    Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua: This is a very special place that is an inactive volcano crater that has been filled with thousands of years of rain water. It has the most clean water and deepest point in all of Nicaragua. The water is so clear that when the moon is full and sky is clear at night you can even see down to your toes! We lived on the edge of this crater in the green jungle amongst the howler monkeys for 2 months as we ran a hostel, bar & restaurant. Our life here was magical. We woke up each morning to the sound of the monkeys, swam out to the dock to soak up the sun, met some great friends from all over the world and really learned Spanish from our local staff on property. We'll never forget that experience as long as we live. 
  • Are there any places in the world or special trips that you’re just dying to visit / take?
    We would love to explore more third world countries. Any place that has a different culture than what we are used to is intriguing to us. There are a lot of countries in Africa that we want to explore. The culture looks incredibly beautiful and we want to understand more of it. There is also a lot of need there--we want to go to see if we can make a difference in anyway.
  • How do you fund your travels?
    Budget. We worked for a bit after college, saved our money and then took off to travel the world on a very tight budget. Between the two of us, we typically live on under $20 per day, including rent. We budget so that our money can go back into the business and into our ability to travel wherever we want to go whenever. 
  • What are your 3 favorite countries, and why do you love them so much?
    Our three favorite countries are Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico because this is where our new life started for us. We love speaking Spanish, the food, the people and the culture of each country. We have spent so much time in these countries that they all feel like our home. 
  • Are there any places you hate/ never want to visit again / do not recommend to other travelers? If so, where and what’s the turn off?
    We haven't really ever experienced a place that we absolutely hated. Perhaps we will one day, but right now life is all about seeing the beauty in everything we encounter. 
  • What are your 3 favorite things to do out in the world? 
    1. Give school supplies to children through our company
    2. Watching the sunset on the beach with a couple of beers, anywhere in the world
    3. Seeing the art created in each country we go to & then creating new products based on inspiration we get from it
  • Have you been in any seriously scary, dangerous, nerve-wracking situations when you feared for your health, safety, or your lives? If so, please tell us about one of them.
    The scariest situation we experienced was when Quinn caught the Dengue Fever in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. The Dengue Fever is an tropical disease transmitted through mosquitoes. Quinn was sick for a very long time, not knowing what was going on, until one of our local friends took us to the doctor and then the hospital. The equipment was very old but Quinn was very strong and went through the process. The one thing we were most concerned about living abroad was how the hospitals were going to be, but after that we realized we were in good hands. The locals around us saved her and we will always be grateful for the kindness and care they showed her in a time of desperation. 
  • What are your favorite foreign cuisines and why do you love them?
    Basically all things street food everywhere in Central America. Quinn's favorite is plantain chips with grilled chicken in Nicaragua. Jonathon loves the shrimp ceviche in Guatemala. There's just something about eating street food that doesn't compare to any fancy restaurant. We've had some street food that resulted in upset stomachs, but to us street food is always worth the risk. 
  • Is there anything you would have done differently/ any regrets, if you could do it over again?
    No regrets ever. Just keep traveling, learning and truly living life to the fullest. We have attained this mentality through recognizing that we only have one life to live, so we better make the most of it. 
  • What’s the strangest situation you have found yourself in?
    No two chicken bus experience are ever the same--every bus ride throughout Central America has always been a bit strange. Whether it is sharing a seat with a basket of chickens or a pig on a leash we have always enjoyed the ride. 
  • What are your top three tips for other travelers?
    1. Pack light
    2. Volunteer abroad
    3. Live, eat and drink like a local. Not a tourist. Do your very best to not look or be a tourist. It can be difficult to achieve but what you get out of it is definitely worth the effort.
  • Tell us about the best food you have ever eaten on your travels? Picking just one food is very difficult but we would have to say it is Plantain chips & street mangos (Nicaragua), ceviche (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala), tacos (San Cristobal, Mexico), street tortas (Oaxaca, Mexico) and pupusas (El Salvador).
  • What is the most breathtaking view you have ever witnessed on your travels?
    While at Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua we saw amazing views of the lake as the sun was setting. When the water was still, the lake reflected the sky perfectly creating a gorgeous image that allowed us to truly self reflect.
  • What do you miss about your home when you go traveling?
    We always miss spending time with our family and our closest friends. There are also a lot of options and varieties in the United States. We have found that in third world countries there are fewer options which is great, but we do miss specific things like sushi or spicy Cheetos. But all those things are not necessary when we know that we will be back eventually and that we have each other. 
  • What item will you always carry in your backpack?
    We always carry our camera and a few journals to be able to document & share what we do as we travel. We live a very unique life traveling while giving school supplies and we love sharing our story with others.
  • Who was the kindest or most generous person you met on your travels, and what did they do?
    Jane, the founder of the San Juan del Sur Mobile Library, is a huge inspiration to us both. We worked with her and her team when we lived there to give kids school supplies. She started the very first public library in Nicaragua and is one of the most generous people we've ever met. She fell in love with the people and the little beach town years ago when she first traveled there and has been doing everything she can to help out every since. She's a huge influence. 
  • What have you learned from traveling?
    It's ok to have nothing planned, when nothing is for sure--anything is possible. The world isn't as scary as people think it is, most people who think that it is haven't seen the world for themselves. Don't let that happen to you, turn the fear of the unknown into curiosity and go see it for yourself.   
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