My New Year’s Day dawned bright and blue-skied in Taormina, Sicily.
Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, smoked merrily in the distance. The quiet castle ruins stood stoically above us. And just outside the town center, I slipped down the spiral staircase from loft to living room, brewed a cup of tea, and stood at the window, watching the day unfold.
Chad told me he doesn’t like New Year resolutions because if there’s something you want to do, why wait until January first to start it? If you’re really committed, start today. Declare today the first step, your independence day, your fresh start, whatever it is you need. There’s no magic to the first of the year; it’s just an excuse to put things off.
In some ways, I agree. There’s no reason you can’t quit smoking or start taking weekly hikes or work toward treating people more kindly or figuring out what you want to do with your life or doing more of the things you love the very second you decide that that is the thing you want to do.
But I told him I like the New Year because it reminds us to stop and take a look at our lives. To slow down. To ask the very questions that bring us to the conclusion that we want to change something.
And so every December, as one year draws to a close and another begins to unfold, I spend some time evaluating—enjoying the mental wrapping-up of the old year, the contemplation of hopes and resolutions for the new. Every year I try to spend a little time asking myself if I am doing what I want to do and, more importantly, being who I want to be. Every year I find that in some way, be it personal, business, or travel-related, I’m ready to pivot and shift into something fresh and new as the calendar rolls over.
This year, I’m shifting my business, circling back to copywriting and content strategy for travel companies. I’m also back on the search for a European home base. And I’ll be continuing last year’s commitment to prioritize my health and work part-time hours.
But…how can you work part-time and still make ends meet? Can you keep changing careers like this and still move forward? Is it really possible to make your home in Europe?
When I mention these goals, this lifestyle I’ve been building, these are the questions I get over and over again. How is it possible to build a life so different from the norm?
And so this is a post about challenging our assumptions.
Before I started traveling full-time, I was sitting in my therapist’s office talking about the idea. I told her I was thinking about taking four months—the summer—to live and work remotely in the Pacific Northwest. I needed to shake things up. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see if I could work remotely.
Wise as ever, she asked me if the Pacific Northwest was really what I wanted. If you could go live and work from anywhere next summer, not worried about timezones and clients and cultural differences, where would you go?
The immediate and clear response from the depths of my heart was Europe.
The simple act of asking the question had freed me up to dream bigger, to remove the self-imposed limits I’d put on my unconventional idea. And so I started working to make it happen, to address the road blocks and fears, until, in the end, I made that trip to Europe happen, boarding a plane in May 2012 for Edinburgh, Scotland.
And so I ask you: what are your limits? What assumptions are holding you back?
So, you want to find a new city to live in: does it actually have to be in the US? Or could you spend six months, a year, a whole lifetime in another country?
So, you want a new job: does it have to be in your industry? Does it have to be something you already know how to do? Or could you take, say, a six-month online coding course and become a programmer? Could you start your own business? Could you try something new?
So, you want less stress and more relaxation: do you have to work full-time? Could you ask for a raise? Could you change careers? Could you reduce your living expenses? Is there a part-time job that would give you more joy, even if you had to live a simpler lifestyle?
So, you’re unhappy in your city: do you really have to stay? Why? Are there other places where you might have job opportunities, more connections, a better quality of life? What is it about that place that doesn’t jive with you? And how can you find somewhere that better fits your needs?
So, you want more time off: do you have to work a traditional schedule? Or could you work two weeks on, two weeks off, like my best friend in Arizona does? Or eight months out of the year in a seasonal job like my friend who leads Grand Canyon hikes? Or take a whole month off every year like I do? Or take on project work for three months or six months at a time and then take lengthy sabbaticals in between projects?
Whatever it is you’re thinking about changing, the thing is to challenge your built-in assumptions, ask the hard questions. So many of what we think of as “givens” in life are actually optional. For example:
::Is it really true that you have to be in the same time zone as your employer?
:: Is it really true that you must make enough money to have cable TV, a cell phone, a dog, and a two-bedroom apartment?
:: Is it really true that you need a college degree to pursue the career you want?
:: Is it really true that travel is too expensive?
:: Is it really true that you need to own a home?
For some people, the answers to these questions will be yes. A nurse or an orthodontist, for example, will need to be in the same time zone as their clients. Someone with an on-call job probably needs a cell phone more than the average Joe. Doctors obviously need degrees. But the point is that if we assume that all of us fall into the same categories, if we don’t ever ask the questions, we won’t ever know if there’s a simpler, happier, richer way to live.
It’s not necessary to be a homeowner or a dog-mom or a parent. It’s not essential to live somewhere your whole life just because you were born on that square of dirt. It’s not failure to change your mind, backtrack, try something new, start a business, start another business, move to a new city, move to another new city, give up your lease and live out of an RV or a tent or a sailboat.
While there are certainly exceptions to this, for many, many of us, the limits we think we’re up against are mostly make-believe.
So in 2017, the new year, the fresh start, what if we started challenging them?
|Going to Italy?
Get tips from 100 top chefs, wine experts, and locals all over Italy!