Creative Nomads: How letting go inspired our most creative year

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore, columns by local residents about their lives. 

We looked at each other and knew something wasn’t right.  We’d spent years chasing inspiration – the big studio, a garage bursting with tools and a stuffed bookshelf. But, in that moment, the things designed to enable our creativity felt like dead weight. We were creatively paralyzed and flooded with guilt. Unfinished projects, unrealized potential, and all their reminders were sapping our energy. 

Minimalism

We tried downsizing, giving away most of our stuff and moving into a tiny downtown Holland condo. Living intentionally in 470 square feet was transformative.

We learned to take something out when we brought something in. We embraced multi-use everything. We prioritized, essentialized, culled, and distilled. We developed a minimalist mindset that we still follow today. Yet, the ghosts of the past lingered. We continued to define ourselves by what we had been or done in the past. If we’d bought it or made it or learned it or started it, it was who we were. With so many interests and no clutter standing between us and creativity, why weren’t we inspired? 

Kelli Nina Perkins and Bill Parrott live in this camper.

Full Timing


Enter nomadic life. The pandemic crystallized our plan to travel full time. First we braved the Michigan winter, traveling across the icy Mackinac Bridge and boarding a ferry to Drummond Island to bring home a used truck camper we renamed Lucidity Base. Then we wrapped up our work careers and readied for life on the road. But how could we know what we’d want to do on the road? How would we even know what we need?

After years of planning every aspect of our lives, the prospect of the unknown was terrifying. A sage piece of advice helped us reframe. What if we let go of our past selves and let the adventure speak to us? What if we refused to bring anything that defined us and just discovered ourselves on the road? We embraced the experiment, made a few more Goodwill drops and rolled out of town with just what we needed to maintain our camper. No tools or supplies that defined us. Just who we were in that moment, and the world ahead of us. 

Letting Go of Ordinary

Tens of thousands of miles and many states later, traveling without a destination has allowed us to move beyond “ordinary life” and experience other ways of being in the world. Inspiration lurks around every corner: colors, architecture, native plants, unique cultures and history.

Each new discovery lights up those creative synapses and inspires us to share. We are finally off autopilot. There are still routines on the road, but flexibility is our new superpower. Living in this ever-evolving landscape means taking advantage of what’s around us and seeing everything as an opportunity to be creative.

Kelli Nina Perkins and Bill Parrott inside their camper
Creativity Rules for the Road

Creativity doesn’t need expensive tools or a studio or training. It’s taking advantage of what’s around you.  Here are my rules for creativity anywhere, but especially on the road:
 
  • Use what you have or can find. Rocks, branches, and recycled trash are some of my favorites.
  • Let the world around speak to you. The view outside your window, the tree in the next block, the colors of your favorite building. It doesn’t have to change to inspire you.
  • Make it and give it away. There is no room to keep or display art in our tiny space, so no hoarding.
  • Know when you’re done. Set project goals so you can finish, clean up and make room for something new. 
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things and see if they suit you. You can’t fail by trying. 
  • Don’t hold on to hobbies that no longer interest you. If you don’t wake up inspired by it, give it to someone else. It might be just the thing to start their journey. 
  • Stop apologizing. You are the only one defining yourself. Let go and find a new passion.
  • Share your creativity wherever you can. One of the great joys of creating is seeing the joy it brings to others. 

Unleashed

Kelli Nina Perkins created the Holland Michigan Coloring Book.

Since we let go, we’ve been on a whirlwind ride of inspiration. In between travels, we’ve found time to:
  1. Start a YouTube channel and Instagram account to share our stories, travels, and even some art tutorials.
  2. Publish the “Holland Michigan Coloring Book” (print or download) capturing all our favorite places. 
  3. Hone our skills; learning a new graphics program, creating a logo and branding for a friend’s shop, hand-illustrating custom holiday gifts and taking online classes.
  4. Tell stories through writing (Bill’s novella is taking shape) and making short films.
  5. Make and share art made out of found rocks, sticks and recycled trash. Inspiration is everywhere.

There’s so much more to creativity than finding inspiration. We had to let go of the things we thought defined us. The adventure is still teaching us, and that’s the way we like it.

Holland residents Bill Parrott and Kelli Nina Perkins are full-time nomads exploring the U.S. in their truck camper and sharing their stories on YouTube and Instagram as Outer Limits Open Road.