Since I began my life as a digital nomad, just about every person I talk to tells me how brave I am and how they’d never be able to do something like that. Thing is, I don’t feel brave. I don’t feel like the person they seem to think I am. Taking a flying leap into an unknown, unconventional way of doing things wasn’t how I thought my life would unfold. In fact, I often sit back and wonder, “How’d I get here?” and “What exactly was I thinking again?”
I’ve had a few people ask me what it’s like to take this kind of leap of faith. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of that time a friend and I took the kids to the river on a sunny summer afternoon…
Calling it a river makes it sound more adventurous that it really was. The area where we went was really more of a rocky bed with a few inches of water running through it. Occasionally, the water would deepen up to our ankles or even knees. Mostly, it was a cool place to hang out in the shade and spend an afternoon watching the kids explore.
Except for that one place just up around the bend a bit. It was surprising how quickly the river bottom dropped. Within about 100 feet, the ankle deep, walkable stream deepened into an area where people where jumping from the two-story cliffs above. Another 500 feet or so and people were jumping from the bridge that was twice as high as the cliffs were.
As I watched those brave souls make jumping from frightening heights look like fun, I admit, there was a part of me that longed to be that brave. I wanted to feel the exhilaration. I wanted to feel that alive. But I wasn’t that brave. I was content to watch from the safe, shallow sidelines, to tell myself they were crazy, and to silently live vicariously through them.
Until my son asked if he could give it a try. “Sure,” I said. “Just be careful.”
He got half way up the path and came back. “Mom, will you go with me?”
I didn’t want my son to learn to hold himself back in life, or be afraid of facing his fears, so I said “Sure” as if it was no big deal and I wasn’t utterly terrified. Deep down though, there was a part of me that was more than a little giddy with this excuse to pretend I was a fearless teenager again and try something that my adult brain deemed utterly idiotic and well past appropriate for my age. I was the “mom” after all, wasn’t I? I was supposed to be the one that talked the fools OUT of this sort of thing, wasn’t I?
I never was very good at being that kind of mom.
We climbed up. The older teens and younger 20-somethings at the top looked mildly impressed with this older 30ish-something mom willing to show her 10ish year old kid how it’s done. I’m sure I looked like the old fart to their young eyes, but I didn’t care. This was, of course, about helping my son fulfill a wish he had and face his fears.
I considered it my parental responsibility to lead by example.
Then, we reached the top. I swear the water had receded by at least another 20 feet or more. Why does it always look so much higher from above than it does from below?
At first, my son wanted to jump together. So, we made our way to the wet, slippery edge of the cliff. When he looked down, he decided he wanted to see me go first. Great, now I really had to follow through.
Meanwhile, the giddy, fearless teenager within me had receded right along with the water. For me though, this wasn’t just about leading by example, or letting myself feel young-at-heart again. This had become a fear that I wanted to overcome. I started this climb because I wanted to and I knew it. Now that I was here, I needed to see it through or let fear control my life and choices more than I did.
So, I took a deep breath, reminded myself of how many others I’d seen jump and live, and then I stepped off into thin air.
It took longer than expected to hit the water. When I did hit, it was a bit harder too; the water felt colder and the swim back to the top was several strokes further. I’d never jumped off a cliff before and I had misjudged every aspect of it — except the fact that others had done it, survived, and now… so had I.
When I popped up, I felt invigorated. I did it! I had absolutely no desire to do it again, but I’d proven to myself that I could, despite the well-ingrained, instinctual terror that’d been there just a few seconds before.
I looked back up to where I’d left my son at the top. He was still standing at the edge, wrapped in his fear. At one point, he started to climb back down the back side. He got about a third of the way down, stopped, and then went back to the top. I think there was something about knowing his mom had done it and he hadn’t that turned him around… ah, the male ego! But then again, that was partly why I’d done it too — to show him what was possible.
He stepped toward the edge again, and froze. At one point, his foot slipped and he almost went backwards over the edge. I had a momentary flash of him falling off, hitting his head on the way down and cringed. “Jump!” I shouted up to him from the deep water below. “That way you’ll be in control of it!”
With encouragement — and a bit of teasing — from the older teens behind him, and his mom having already made the leap below him, he finally jumped.
When he surfaced, he had a huge grin on his face and a glint in his eyes. He went straight back up the side of the cliff and jumped again. He’d conquered his fear, discovered the fun, and come alive!
That’s what this journey has been like: that leap off the cliff. I didn’t do it without vicariously watching others first, and I even “tested the waters” a bit before fully committing. But there was a leap involved. I didn’t have everything all worked out before I got started, and I still don’t have a backup plan. Instead, I’m discovering just how resourceful and capable I really am. It’s invigorating.
Being a digital nomad isn’t a life for everyone. It’s a lot of moving. It’s deciding to always be the outsider no matter where you land. It’s never really knowing where you’re going to go next, or for how long. It’s hearing about events and things your friends are doing, and not being able to be there.
But it’s also seeing places you might never see otherwise. It’s having the incredible opportunity to step into someone else’s life for a little while and try it on. It’s meeting amazing people, and some pretty cool pets.
Mostly though, it’s discovering that doing the thing your inner teenager feels giddy and excited about, is worth doing. It’s realizing the fear is left behind at the top of the cliff only AFTER you jump, not before. It’s realizing you’ve gotten yourself in even further over your head than you thought possible, and yet, discovering you have the strength to find your way to the surface too.
With each small success, your self-esteem and self-confidence increase ten-fold. Your soul wakes up. Your comfort zone becomes limitless. Your dreams begin to shape your reality rather than your reality shaping your dreams.
Taking a leap of faith is choosing to step into life experiences that change the possibilities for your life. It doesn’t need to be as dramatic as leaping from a cliff or leaving everything behind to become a digital nomad.
It can be as simple as picking up a paintbrush and putting a little color on a canvas, typing a few words on a blank page, going to a movie by yourself, taking that class you’ve always wanted to… there are as many ways to say “yes” to that “inner crazy woman” as there are women wishing they could.
Whatever yours is, do it. It may not work out exactly like you think it will. The real risk though, isn’t the failure we fear. The real risk is having it all work out even better than we could ever imagine and the ripple effect that will have on everything else in our lives!
Because it will change you.
For me though, the real choice doesn’t come down to whether to jump or not. It comes down to who I choose to be. In the end, we have two choices: become the old lady who looks back on her life one day and wonders what might have been… or become the old lady who has outrageously fun and amazing stories to tell, and the pictures to prove they’re all true.
You know who I choose to be.
What about you?