Fear. Man that stuff is powerful. I read something recently that said that most people choose unhappiness over uncertainty. Such a depressing thought, isn’t it? But it is true. As they say, it is easier to face the devil you know than the devil you don’t. It’s just really tough to face your fears.
I’ve been inching closer and closer to my fear for a few years now. You see, I knew I felt unhappy and unfulfilled. There was a nagging deep down that I saw but didn’t want to see. It was telling me that my path wasn’t going to be very traditional and that I would need to make some scary decisions ahead.
But that is terrifying! So I danced around my fear. For years, we did a a little tango. Sometimes I would move a step closer to my fear and sometimes I would dart a step back. I would try to confront it just a little bit. I thought maybe if I did a few somewhat scary things, it would go away.
So I started by taking small risks. I began to train as an actress and audition for film rolls. Exhilarating and one of the best things I have done, but it didn’t hit the mark. I started taking lessons in adventurous things like airplane flying and tactical first aid. Again, those things fired me up, but they were just bandaids. My fear still paced around me, whispering that I needed to deal with him.
I got a little closer; offered up a little bit more. I collapsed my entire life, put my world into storage, packed up two suitcases and accepted a job teaching in the Middle East. And at first, my fear and I were thrilled. Yes! This is it! This is what I needed to do! But no. “This is great, but you aren’t there yet,” my fear whispered back.
“Go away,” I spat back at my fear. “You are annoying.” And I proceeded to ignore him.
But it was still there, that nagging inside. It begged to be acknowledged. It crept out in alarming ways. For example, I started noticing that I would tear up when the opening theme played on The Amazing Race. I would have a similar reaction watching shows or movies about writers covering important subjects in dangerous places. Or when I would read blogs by travel writers who were out there living my dream.
Wait a minute, what was that? Just like that, it slipped in. I had a dream and I wasn’t living it.
“But aren’t I close enough?” I would argue with my fear. “I have a steady job in a different country! That is kind of the same stuff right??”
More and more though I realized how weak my arguments were. I truly wasn’t enjoying teaching in that moment. Not that it isn’t a noble profession. Man, we need amazing teachers now more than ever! But it just wasn’t clicking right then.
I had been making excuses for too long. Although I was unhappy, I thought if I just got “kinda close” it would be alright. I taught, but made half hearted attempts at writing on the side. In the evenings, I would take online courses on the international subjects I wanted to work with, but would never finish them. I would start a website and then point out that I had lessons to plan. Something else always needed my attention. And, after all, I had to focus on the things that paid the bills. Right?
When we make excuses, we chain ourselves to our unhappiness. And I finally realized I was done being bound to unhappiness. It was time to make the leap.
From the moment I read about “digital nomads” I knew I wanted to be one. The idea of working for myself, from anywhere at anytime just fit. I liked the idea of having multiple focuses and leveraging multiple skill sets. I get bored quickly in traditional roles and the need to stay in one place for months at a time just leaves me feeling trapped.
But being a digital nomad isn’t exactly a traditional career path. There weren’t any guidance counselors at school giving me a “how-to” course and explaining how to make it all work. And when you don’t have a traditional job, you don’t have any of the traditional “security”.
In December, I quit my most recent teaching job. As teaching jobs go, working for Westgate English in Japan is a pretty ideal job. I had excellent colleagues, supportive superiors and motivated students. But it wasn’t for me. So I quit. I moved back home to Seattle and in with my best friend for three months while I gathered my wits. I recruited him to join me on my adventure, because adventure is a wee bit less scary when you do it with friends. Then I started to motivate.
Without teaching duties daily, I had so much more time to focus on formulating my goals. But I also had so much less income. In fact, I had none. Terrifying! Bills kept coming in. Meal time kept coming around. But that is where I discovered something important. Necessity breeds creativity!
Suddenly, with everything on the line, I started to make it happen. I learned new skills. Clients appeared. My nights were spent exploring the details and legalities of freelancing. I made tons of mistakes. I plan on making tons more.
But I haven’t starved. I haven’t spent a single night on the street. I’m still here.
I bought a one way ticket and in mid April my friend and I boarded a flight for Bangkok. I have plans to spend a month living in Chiang Mai, Thailand before moving on to Bali, Indonesia. And from there, who knows.
My fear isn’t whispering at me anymore. Ok, well, now, don’t get me wrong, I am scared like every day! Freelancing isn’t easy! I regularly wonder if I am going to be able to pay my next set of bills. But these days, fear looks a little different. He is still there. But he is visibly proud of me. And if I can impress fear, what else can I do?
So from here on out I will be running an experiment in digital nomad living. Follow along to read about my ongoing adventures, trials and tribulations. I am learning as I go and what I learn I plan to share with you! Your fear is probably a little different from mine, but if any of my experiences can help you along your path, let’s make that happen!
Oh, PS, like I said, I dragged my friend into this crazy adventure with me. He is going to get his own blog soon, but in the meantime, he is sharing his adventures here too. And he will certainly feature in mine. So world, meet Emery!
Ems is a world class professional motocross racer, ski and snowboard instructor, film editor, actor and model. We met on a film set five years ago and have been getting into crazy adventures ever since. This is Emery’s first real experience in the great world beyond North America. He is especially good at shenanigans so expect to see some fun stuff as he explores the world!