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NOMAD FAMILY - Dubrovnik is better than what our very best European travel dreams are made of All photos by Unsettle Down (

NOMAD FAMILY - Dubrovnik is better than what our very best European travel dreams are made of

Written by  Ivana Smilovic Feb 02, 2018


There are so many travel bloggers out there these days, but one special nomad family caught our eye. Chelsea, Matt and Kai Gillespie are a lovely family that begin their journey in San Diego and been in more than 60 cities in the last 9 months. One of them is Dubrovnik, which completely enchanted them. They are known under the name ‘Unsettle Down’.

For The Dubrovnik Times they discovered more about their journey, as well as their impressions about Dubrovnik. Meet this special crowd!

How did you decide to become a nomad family?

It’s funny, because we were living in San Diego, California, which is the closest to paradise you’ll find on the American mainland. But like so many other families in southern California, we were living beyond our means. We were working to live and just weren't able to save enough money to buy a house there. We also couldn’t fathom a move to the suburbs to live the existence everyone told us we should. We found that traveling full-time and living off of my husband Matt’s remote salary, as a web developer, would save us a lot of money. So we let our lease expire, sold almost everything of monetary value, and bought a one-way ticket to Florence, Italy. We just needed to stare down the American status quo, stop dreaming, and start planning.



All photos by Unsettle Down (


What are challenges of traveling with a child?

In the first months of travel, we discovered the good, bad, and ugly sides of full-time travel with a kid. Most of our time outside of parenting and work isn’t sightseeing. It’s hundreds of hours spent researching destinations, continuously outlining itineraries, planning transition days, and budgeting - which can be daunting.

But raising a kid, no matter the lifestyle you choose, presents a slew of different challenges. Life in general is challenging. That said, traveling full-time with a kid is easier than you think. People we know travel full-time with 2, 3, even 5 kids. Children are extremely adaptable, even more so than us. The most challenging aspect for our child is finding ways to keep her social and interacting with other children. We combat this by joining local expat groups, go to parent meet ups, the library and public parks often.

Traveling full-time with a kid and keeping the flame of romance burning in our marriage is, let’s say, a fun challenge. Having no babysitter means no dates. Even in Venice, the world’s most romantic city, we couldn’t steal away.

Still, the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly.



All photos by Unsettle Down (

How does your daughter react to different countries?

Our daughter loves going to “new homes,” and learning new words. She knows words in six languages now, including Croatian - “hvala”, “dobar dan” and “addio.” She is a seasoned traveler and is overjoyed when we tell her we’re jumping on another train or a airplane.

People often think that the biggest downside of our lifestyle is not giving our child “normalcy” like the comforts of her own room. We have to be honest, we were a little worried how she would react to this new lifestyle. But on day 11 of our nomadic journey, our daughter Kailen used the word “home” to describe our flat in Florence, Italy. She was already settling in. The bed in her room became her "owl-bed" because of the paintings above her mattress. She now gets excited about every new room she resides in and names them on her own. Her room in Dubrovnik was her “butterfly” room because of the wall decals that hung beside her door.

How did people react on your decision to start traveling around as a family?

Our friends and family were a little skeptical at first, but also very supportive. Some are envious that we are able to travel while making and saving more money than ever. Some family members repeatedly tell us that we need to settle down and build roots. Strangers are the only ones to really judge our lifestyle and say rude things, like implying that we’re dragging our kid around the world and being unsafe. They don’t understand the precautions that we have taken, like medical and travel insurance, back up plans, hours of research, etc. We are all, including our child, happier than ever.



All photos by Unsettle Down (


How was your experience in Dubrovnik?

Dubrovnik was among our favorite 60 cities we visited in Europe in the past nine months.

Visiting Dubrovnik during the month of November is perfect. The weather is mild and the sometimes cloudy evenings make way for the very best sunsets we’ve ever seen, and we used to live in southern California, where the sunset is king. We really enjoyed visiting the city in off-season because there are less tourists, too. By slow traveling and staying for a few weeks, we are confident we supported the local economy by shopping at local grocers and visiting less touristy restaurants, including those in the new town area.

What did you like the most?

Dubrovnik, more than any place, feels like you're going back in time. We’ve visited centuries-old churches in Dublin, Roman relics in Italy, and ancient Moorish palaces in Spain. When you walk the streets of old town Dubrovnik, you are completely immersed in the history surrounding you, and it feels like nothing’s changed in centuries.
The sun-bleached fortress and buildings combined with the backdrop of the deep blue ocean and rocky landscape of Dubrovnik creates a surreal setting. Every morning, we would open the porch door of our flat at the very top of the hill and be mesmerized by the vast view of the ocean. Every single time we started our walk down the 450 steps on the way to the Old Town, we would stand in awe, completely taken aback by Dubrovnik’s beauty. From day 1 to 28 we always had the same awe-struck reaction. And the sunsets? In general, Croatia has the very best sunsets we’ve seen, and Dubrovnik is no exception.



All photos by Unsettle Down (

What is your favorite place?

Our favorite place in terms of city living was Prague, but Croatia and Ireland equally blew us away in terms of natural beauty. Croatia’s architecture, combined with it’s cotton candy sunsets and white-washed buildings are a photographer’s dream. We are certain that Dubrovnik is among the world’s most beautiful places, but we will be sure to report back when we have seen all of it. There is no better landscape than rocky cliffs leading to the sea, and with Dubrovnik, you have that with an ancient city perched right at the meeting point of the two. It’s serene.

Is Dubrovnik child-friendly?

Dubrovnik can be tough with a kid due to all the steps. But since we have a baby carrier and our child loves walking, we were just fine. We often enjoyed the park by the gates and made friends there. One of our favorite things about Croatia is that children seem to be allowed in any restaurant at any time, which is not the case in many places in the USA, or in other places like Dublin.

Tips on tackling Dubrovnik with a kid? Take it slow, bring a baby carrier and snacks, leave the stroller at home, take breaks on the steps or stay closer to town. Also, we know many stay in the new town and take buses in and can more easily avoid the many steps.



All photos by Unsettle Down (

Would you like to come back again?

Yes, Dubrovnik is better than what our very best European travel dreams are made of. It completely swept us off our feet. Next time we’ll stay within the walls of the old town.

What is your next destination?

Still deciding on either Iceland or Mexico. Totally opposite locations, but that’s the beauty of having freedom in this lifestyle.

And further plans? Any chance of settling down? 

We are planning our spring to visit the national parks of the western USA, including Yosemite. After that, we plan to head to Australia and Southeast Asia. Any chance of settle down? Not yet.














All photos by Unsettle Down (


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