The Mundane & Messy Middle

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I know when “it happens” it is going to be amazing. I know I will say it was worth the wait because “it”is everything I wanted…but in the moment – I must practice patience.

The idea is to surrender to the timeline that is true for me, and enjoy the present so I don’t miss out on my todays while working towards my amazing tomorrow.

This is true for so many things (the “its”) in my life my career, a relationship, my business.

The trick is to appreciate all the amazing that I have right now. The gift of the journey is to appreciate the unfolding, the stuff I love and the other stuff too – the mundane and the messy middle stuff.

I would love to say I have it all figured out and I don’t get impatient and I don’t have destination blindness at times, but that would be a total lie. I do however now recognize more and more that this journey I am on has a purpose and I’ve begun to really embrace it.

I have days that I question things, that I wonder why I’ve chosen a particular location, decided to attend a particular event or wander into any given coffee shop or workspace. I wonder if what I’m doing is as important to others as it is to me. I wonder if I matter (don’t we all?).

I also have days a total stranger starts a conversation with me for no particular reason and before long, tells me their story, sheds a tear and calls me an angel. Wow!

I realize this is all part of my journey and if I was Oprah today – that stranger wouldn’t be able to get near me and I might not ever be part of his/her healing.

If I was the female Tony Robbins in this moment, sure I could touch more people, but would I reach the ones that I reach today? Would I be able to give the time and attention to this person to create the same impact through these intimate, seemingly random conversations?

I remind myself of the magic of the journey, these moments in time that tell me I am exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment. I can’t say that I don’t still think it should look or be different at times, but to surrender to what is and have the “why” reveal itself is proving to be quite powerful to me.

One of my three guiding words this year is surrender and although I didn’t really understand what that meant to me when I chose it in January, now in September it is becoming so much clearer. I am learning a whole lot by living in this space of letting go of what I think life “should” look like for me.

It is said that the beauty of goals is not in the achievement, but rather who you become by walking the path to achievement. I am learning to embrace the lessons along the way knowing that I can’t get to “it”if I don’t do the work.

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This is not easy and I often have to remind myself to slow down and look around. There are roses to smell and views to take in all along the trek up the mountain and I want to make sure I don’t race by and miss “it”.

Life has taught me that we don’t always reach the peak, so if we don’t appreciate the journey along the way, we have missed it all and I am not willing to take that chance.

In the end, I have a goal and I imagine what “it” will be like when I achieve it, but who knows, maybe “it” is not the ultimate goal. Maybe ”it” is along the path after all.

I encourage you to continue to set your goals and your sites on big dreams, just make sure you are not sleep walking or racing to the destination. Remember to enjoy the mundane and magic along the way.

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Courageous Acts

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Sister: “What are you afraid of?”

Me: “umm, plummeting to my death!”

Sister: “You can do it, just jump, you saw me do it, I’m fine. You’ve got this!”

Encouraging words from my sister standing on the ground looking up two stories to me waiting on a platform to belay down.

I sat there listening and trying to get my courage up to jump. I coached myself, I listened to her coaching and in the end….

I unhooked my harness and traversed the course back to a platform I could walk down from.

My whole career these days is helping people make leaps! I help people do the scary things they are not quite sure they are ready for.

One of the best reasons to have a coach during these times is that – guess what? Sometimes you are not ready and it’s just not the right time.

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Having someone to encourage you and walk with you as you move through your process of collecting your thoughts, building your courage and thinking through your risks is the best gift you can give yourself.  Sometimes no matter how much courage you muster, the big leap is not right at this moment.

This doesn’t mean the big leap may not be right ever, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do other things that are smaller leaps that will prepare you for the big one or any combination of things.  What it does mean is that you get both the encouragement to stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible while still honoring exactly where you are at the moment.

This is a critical piece that doesn’t get talked about so I want to shed some light here.

When you arrive at a point where it is time for change and you begin the process you will come up against some challenges. Some of these you will plow right through and feel great about. Some will stop you in your tracks and make you question yourself, your capabilities, your sanity, etc.

This is how I work through these times because yes, even coaches get to these points and this ropes obstacle course just reminded me about the emotional part of what I do for a living and how I live my life in general.

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Remember what you have accomplished

First and foremost to even get to the point where you are thinking of taking a big leap deserves a celebration. Reflect on what you did to get to this point – it is highly likely you have pushed your comfort zone a bit already. Don’t discount that part – celebrate it!

For me, just to get to the second story platform getting ready (or not) to jump off meant that I had crossed all sorts of unstable rope bridges and taken a bunch of leaps that were pretty scary for me!  Even turning back and not belaying down meant I had to traverse more obstacles and challenges to get to a stable staircase to the ground. I was not choosing to walk away from challenge, simply choosing what challenge I felt capable of in that moment.

Be kind

It’s at these crossroads that we can be terribly tough on ourselves. We can be a big ole bully to ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t help me move forward, it simply makes me feel bad about honoring my feelings and my choice in the moment – that is not ok!

Originally my bully came out and I thought to myself – what kind of a coach are you? You tell people to make the leap all the time! You teach people move through their fears to push their comfort zone and here you are stuck!

I thought – well, if I jump and overcome everything I’m fearing I am a prime example of what I teach! This will be walking my talk and people need to see me doing this and hearing how courageous I am to feel that they too can do anything!

However, I also preach about living life for yourself and not to please others or meet anyone else’s expectations at your expense.

I then asked myself would replay this moment and feel regret. This ended up being a really important question for myself.

With this question moved into a much more gentle place and realized just how courageous it can be to walk away from the thing you are not sure you are ready to do. I thought of this decision as a strength equal to the decision to leap.  For me I saw no regret in not leaping…today. In the future I might come to another opportunity and feel more ready and I will welcome that, but I didn’t feel like I would regret this decision in this moment.

I also felt like if I dishonored myself by doing what I didn’t want to do and got myself hurt I would thoroughly regret not having listened to my “gut” to not jump.

These are important questions and processes to go through as you face new challenges. It is often very hard to determine intuition from indigestion –protecting yourself from harm vs. fear of doing the unknown (first kiss living).

Finding Your Courage 

So if you find yourself at a crossroads I encourage you to work through a process, here are a few questions I think my help:

            Am I doing this for myself or someone else?

            Will I regret doing or not doing this? And Why?

            Is this my intuition telling me don’t do it or am I letting fear or story keep me stuck?

Of course I must say, I also encourage you to have a coach to help you work through your process and help you listen to yourself, honor your stage and develop the skills and capabilities to build up to the leaps you desire.

I still have no regrets for not jumping and I believe I make as much of an impact helping people realize that sometimes it is not time to make a leap as I do helping people leap into incredible lives they have dreamed about.

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Soundtrack Of Travel

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From the balcony of my workspace I hear the sounds of the street below. There are taxis honking and the faint hum of people greeting each other as they pass by.

And then it begins, “ Ah, cinco mil pesos!” a vendor shouts through the streets. The familiarity of this gentleman will become synonymous with my memories of Santa Marta for sure.

You would think that hearing this chant throughout the day, each day (he works Saturdays and Sundays too) would become annoying, but actually it has become quite comforting. He has a rhythmic way of shouting this out, almost like the melody of a familiar song, and the precision – wow, I hear him say this so many times a day so many days and each time it sounds identical to the last.

I can almost mimic him at this point because of his consistency.

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Carrera 2 traffic, both old and new

This is just one of the sounds that will remind me of this part of Colombia, together with the clip, clop of hoofs from the horse drawn carriages riding up and down Carrera 2 in Rodadero. Some were work carriages, some were giving tourists rides, but the sound almost always brought me to the window just to enjoy the sight of the old times combined with the current times.

This is part of the experience of travel for me. You see, in the US, the buildings are closed up, the street sounds are usually traffic and there is no sense of what is really going on in the community. You can tell people are busy, but you don’t know what they are busy with because everything is so buttoned up!

I may not know what this gentleman on the street is selling for 5 million pesos, but I know he’s a vendor. I do not know him but he has become part of my day and will be deeply engrained in my memories when I leave here.

When I lived in Belize I had a similar chant from below my 2ndfloor balcony apartment.

“Alejandro!” This chant was not nearly as rhythmic as my Colombia gentleman and did not have consistency at all. Sometimes it was drawn out, sometimes it was quick and other times it was welcoming.

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You see, I quickly figured out that Alejandro was a little boy and his mother would call his name in varying frequencies depending on the day or what the boy had gotten himself into.

My son and I still recall this memory fondly each time we think about our time there.

It is the sounds of a location, the pace of life and the ability to find yourself immersed in a new culture simply by listening to life around you. In many places around the world, houses and transportation are open so connection with the community is simply part of the fabric of the location.

Learning a new culture is not simply the one-on-one interaction with people but it is allowing ourselves to become enveloped by the community. To pay attention and listen to the melody of the streets and the people within them is to know life in the community.

One of the most beautiful gifts I take from my travels are the songs inscribed on my memory like an audio keepsake souvenir.

Thank you “cinco mil peso” vendor, for you have become part of this soundtrack of my time here in Santa Marta, Colombia.

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Vendors setting up for their day on Carrera 5

10 Critical Items for the Digital Nomad and Location Independent Worker

cropped-gwmhzsxtfet8v2u16d2l_hero-imageThis is not my usual type of post but I have been a digital nomad for years now and it is different than being a traveler with different requirements. Many people have asked my advice about what things I feel are “must haves” for this lifestyle – here are my top 10 picks.

Do you dream of working online and having no restrictions to where you can call home at any time? Do you dream of traveling to different locations to experience their culture without the restrictions of PTO or days out of the office?

If you are dreaming of becoming, or are a digital nomad or location independent worker I have some important tips from the road.  Whether you adopt this lifestyle for a lifetime or simply several months a year, there are some “tools of the trade” that warrant the coveted space in your luggage. Sorry fashion forward travelers, you will have to forgo your shoe collection for these items.

There is a difference between tourist and digital nomad and therefor what to bring on a trip versus what to have for a lifestyle are different as well. As a tourist, if you can’t get internet on a day, you can work around it, as someone who relies on it for their income, it’s a whole different ballgame. This is a list for those who make their living while traveling.

This is my list of the top 10 most important items for a successful location independent lifestyle:

  1. Surge Protector– there are many locations around the world for which power is inconsistent at best. Your most valuable possessions are likely electronic and thus need recharging. Stay protected against power surges that can fry your equipment by always having this between an outlet and your devices. I like this Belkin Surgeplus because it contains both electric and usb outlets, has a rotating plug and is super compact for packing.
  2. Multi-Current Converter and Adaptor– When traveling to different countries I’ve had little pouches with all different plugs. I have since ditched those since pieces can get lost and have an integrated unit that handles every possible country I’m likely to visit. This unit from TryAce acts as both an adapter and a converter. So those of you that travel with hair appliances or juicers can use it to still run your devices without smoking them up. Compact, multi purpose is all what this lifestyle needs!
  3. Warm Coat – It is inevitable that you will find yourself in cooler climates throughout your travels. Having a warm coat is priceless, however they often take up a lot of real estate in your luggage! This option from NorthFace for women and this for men is water resistant, insulated and packs into it’s own hand pocket making it a trifecta win for the location independent traveler.
  4. Daypack – There will be times you get caught in a rain shower or want to go on an adventure in one of the places you land. You can certainly get a backpack that has a rain cover – but let’s be honest, will you have it on hand during that pop up rain shower? Are you likely to be a bit more adventurous and need it for water activities? I recommend having a fully waterproof and durable daypack like this one by Vitchelo the trick to managing this lifestyle is to have multipurpose items and this lightweight daypack will protect your valuables from water damage all while serving as a regular back pack.
  5. Noise Cancelling Headphones– There will be days that you feel like these are the best thing on the planet! You may be sitting that one row in front of the crying baby on a plane or happened to accidentally book the airbnb next to the train station but noise cancelling headphones are the BFF for a location independent traveler. You can get the over ear ones which compact into a small case or the tiny, space saving ear buds. One way or another make sure you have them, you will be grateful one day!
  6. Compact Raincoat– This need goes without saying, I’m sure. You can definitely carry one of those lovely plastic ponchos with you or you can spring for a compact packable wind and waterproof jacket for yourself like this one for women and this one for men.
  7. Electronic Reading Devicekindle, iPad, surface– whichever you fancy but you will want to read at some point and carrying books as a traveler is weight you cannot add to your luggage. These devices allow you to keep your laptop safely stowed and can be used from plane boarding until deplaning without the evil eye from the flight attendants! Additionally, I have my iPad as a back up option for some of my most important programs in the terrible event something happens to my laptop. You’ll not lose by adding this piece of electronics to your gear.
  8. Luggage– This is your life you are carrying around in these bags. You need to be sure you have the most sturdy and best product to hold what possessions you have decided to take on your journey. I am a huge fan of Osprey products as are many of my nomad friends. My gear is a Osprey Shuttle however I think the Osprey Sojurn would have been a better fit for me. Regardless of what suits you, it makes sense to buy quality here – and do yourself a favor, do not get black luggage!
  9. VPN (Virtual Private Network)– As a location independent person and traveler, you will spend time in airports, coffee shops hotels and various shared network locations where you are not secure to do the day-to-day things like pay your bills or transfer funds in your financial accounts. Having access to a secure network has more benefits than watching shows blocked in the country you’re visiting (although that is a feature!) it provides you protection for your data. The Butterfly is the most compact and portable VPN I’ve seen on the market and well worth the money for sure.
  10. HotspotSky Roam Solis– Since you will rely completely on your internet connection, this is a key element for your tool chest. You will find yourself occasionally at a fabulous location that has intermittent power outages, or their idea of reliable internet is not yours. If you are continually telling clients you cannot connect online because of a power outage which took all the routers down in your fab location. This tool is not for a daily use, it is a great disaster recovery system for a day use from time to time.

So there you have it, 10 tools I believe every remote worker, location independent business person or digital nomad should make space in their luggage for.

Note – yes, there are affiliate links in this post, this will not add any cost to the items but I will receive a small credit for anything you may choose to purchase – so it helps a fellow traveler out!

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Inspiration In Practice

I am always taken aback when someone tells me how inspiring my life is to them. It certainly makes my heart happy that I am helping others consider options that they may not have thought possible originally and I am so grateful for the reminder of the ripples my life generates.

I love to set big goals that most would shy away from because I have learned that there is as much ability to reach an amazing goal as an average one! I have also learned by stretching myself over the years that I am far more capable than I allow myself to believe most days.

I want to let you all in on the whole story though – I have the same fears, insecurities and self-doubts as everyone and I don’t always get it right.

Leaper

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Look, you all have been in my world long enough to know I’m a leaper. I have had tremendous success and a few epic failures. I know there is more than one side to this coin I’ve chosen for my journey.

What fuels my courage?

The possibilities of each leap I take are my main inspiration.  I do a lot of research on the bigger leaps I take, but there is always an unknown. I plan for what I can and anticipate as much as possible, however I have learned that I cannot control the outcome.

I have  learned that control an illusion, and my grandest idea of the best outcome is limited by my experiences. There might be a far greater outcome possible if I get out of my own way and let it unfold!

Epic Failures

I have also had the benefit of failures of epic proportions both business and personal. The benefit to these experiences is that at my lowest point, I was never out. I got pretty low and close to the absolute bottom and I learned that if you jump in a body of water and hit the bottom, you can propel yourself to the top at a speed that shatters a slow swim from the middle!

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Plan B

My sister and I have a history of making plans that somehow might just not turn out exactly as we originally planned. My Type A sister has come a long way and now without any hesitation will say, “Oh well! What’s plan B?”

We call ourselves the Plan B Girls now because it never riles us and because we have a goal in mind and we are determined to figure out a way to get to what is important. We  have learned not to waste time with what could have been and go around what is inconvenient or unplanned to reach our end goal.  It’s brilliant!

When Contingency Planning Gets In The Way

I am a risk manager by trade (20+ years in the legal field will do this to you) however, there are times when you can sabotage your goal by planning on “what if’s”.

Sure I recognize that things won’t always go the way I am hoping and planning. When setting goals with others and myself, examining the full picture is critical to be prepared for what might come up.

Be careful though not to scare yourself right out of your dream!

Right before I left California I almost did this to myself. I was halfway done selling all my items and planning my move to another country and I woke up one morning in a complete panic!

What if my clients don’t follow me online?

What if I get to Panama and I don’t have any way to make money?

What will I do if I can’t run my business in Panama?

I worked myself up so much that I actually considered scrapping the entire move and going back to the workforce and getting another paralegal job (gasp!)

My Truth

It was in the moment that I was considering scrapping my business and getting a “real job” that the nausea set in. It was immediate and visceral and unable to be ignored.

The one thing I have learned is that my body speaks to me! In those moments of self-doubt and insecurity when I retreat to the familiar, my body says, “I don’t think so! You don’t belong there anymore, you’ve learned what you were supposed to – time to move on!”

Wow, I’m so glad for this!

Conviction

In the case of my Panama move, well, you all know how that turned out and I am happy to say, I’m having one of the most successful years in my business to date.

I had to do a couple of things to get here though:

  1. Decide that this was the path I wanted and it was indeed possible to succeed.
  2. Determine what markers I would use to signal a need to reassess my move.

Once those two items were in place, I was ready to move on with confidence that I would not hit total bottom and become homeless in Panama before reassessing my options. I further committed to making it work because I believed in my business and I’d seen my clients follow me when I moved from Boston, so I had proof it could happen.

Your Turn

So now I ask you, are you talking yourself out of what you really want to accomplish? Is there a possibility you are selling yourself short?  I am certain you are far more capable than you give yourself credit for!

I encourage you to set your real goals this year, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that maybe you’re even a little afraid to tell others about because maybe they’ll laugh or try to talk you out of them.

As I head forward into a new year in a new location, I am filled with gratitude for this audience with whom share my journey. It is you who continue to inspire me to see how high I might reach and if I in turn inspire you a bit to reach as well – then I am doubly grateful!

Let’s do this!

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In Pursuit of Crow Pose

I have recently returned from a week away at a yoga retreat.  This was one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but for one reason or another, had never actually done.  I can’t even tell you how I heard about this event, or why it came across my radar, but when I saw it something said I needed to do it now and this was the one.

Our initial evening we were asked to write our intentions for the week.  What did I want to get out of the week?

I was stumped!

This goal girl had no goals for the week, except, maybe to finally get into crow pose for more than a millisecond before toppling.

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Toppling crow

As I pondered this question and searched my soul to figure out my goal for the week, I realized it was just to have this experience.  My goal was to let the week unfold and teach me what it wanted and for me to just be curious and a allow myself to be a novice in this experience.

Now you all know, I am an action person, I like to set goals, make plans, allow them to change but always I seem to have my eye on some prize, some goal.

I have begun to explore another way, to see if there may be times when I would benefit by allowing life to unfold for me. The idea to not drive my life every step of the way and to allow the path to reveal itself with each step is new for me and I’m seeing how much it might benefit me to listen, watch how each move I make changes the landscape before me.

I’m not saying that I believe sitting on a couch eating bon bons is the way for me, nor do I believe you can just OM your way to a fulfilling life. I am saying, maybe releasing my grip on the driving wheel might have some benefits at this point in my life. How about you?

The challenge for me is to find a way to both allow life to unfold while still having a strong direction and taking action and steps. Lord knows I can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen to me – I’m never going to be THAT chill!

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For example, the action I took was to attend the yoga retreat, the release and the unfolding was that when one came across my plate and it struck me, I didn’t question it and I jumped on board. Once I determined I was in a safe space, I further released to the unfolding and allowed all of the people I came into contact with during that week to teach me and share whatever it was they chose to share.

I did not have a list of questions to ask others nor did I have any agenda of accomplishments I hoped to achieve. I did not have to be the best yogi, I did not know anything about the topics that were being taught.  In fact, I knew very little about the stories that were shared or any of the activities or rituals that occurred during the week. I was in a “child’s mindset” which I could have embraced or fought – I chose to embrace it.

Curiosity Is Action

What I learned during this week was precious and not entirely what I could have thought to put into an intention at the beginning.

One of the most important items I continue to learn as I practice my crow pose, is to take careful assessment of how I feel, align myself well, take my time as I move and concentrate on the moment as I look forward, let go and trust myself.

Although you may or may not be a practicing yogi, I believe these lessons may prove helpful in all that you pursue.

Are there places in your life that you are safe enough to let go of the driver’s wheel, be a novice and just be curious? Are there times when you are so busy setting goals and being the best you can be that you miss what others share with you?

I encourage you this month to consider where you might loosen your grip on the driver’s wheel in your life to trust and allow some of life to unfold for you and show you what it has to teach you.

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A Digital Nomad Defines Home

I had an interesting revelation during my last trip.  I discovered the term home has lost its traditional definition for me.

Please don’t misunderstand me – Yes I grew up outside of Boston and that will always be where I come from and since it is where I grew up and the bulk of my family still lives, I absolutely still consider it home (don’t take this the wrong way Dad).

Boston Garden

What I have discovered is that the more I travel the more I consider the globe to be my home.  It is not the house I was raised in, it is not the town I grew up in; home is no longer a place but a feeling.

Home is Familiar

No matter where I am, there are always a few familiar things like chain stores and restaurants across the globe.  Because I often repeat travel locations, I find there are familiar faces to each location and now, because I am connected with the digital nomad community, I am likely to find a familiar face in an unfamiliar location. This provides a sense of belonging and in a way a feeling of home.

Although primary languages may be different depending on where I am, it seems that in a global society multiple languages and dialects are more common in any location than to hear only one language.  I can be in Boston, San Francisco or Rome and I hear multiple languages, so hearing different languages just feels normal to me now; the unfamiliar has become familiar.

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3 Carry-On’s And A Dog

It’s no secret my life needs currently fit into three carry-on suitcases. I’m not trying to promote simplicity or minimalism, it is a lifestyle of convenience for me at this time.  I simply don’t want to lug a whole bunch of stuff around the world with me and there are few tangible items that have great importance to me.  It is the memories and experiences that I treasure and these take up much less space in my luggage!

Home As A Reflection

Most people have a more permanent home than I and in the course of their lives they create one that reflects their values and things they hold precious.  Designing and decorating to create a space that provides comfort, respite and safety for all that is important in their lives.  They collect items to remind them of travels and happy occasions, mementos of events and their history.

I guess I’m different in this way (surprise!). Although I love when my screen saver on my computer scrolls through my photo collection and fond memories pass by, the pictures on my wall are mostly the art of any given landlord I have.  I don’t keep my memories on my wall, I have them in my mind and they are as portable as I am.

So as much as I no longer have a home in the traditional sense, I have a home that is as vast as the globe. I am able to move about the world in a way that is both exciting, like seeing people and places you remember and miss, and comforting, like being in an old familiar space.

Almost all of us have had several locations which we have called home over the course of time, be it a family home that moves, a college dorm or your first apartment.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to think about what made these home for you. I wonder if I am not alone in feeling like home has less to do with the place than the feeling created within?

Once you have your definition, I encourage you to think about how you might carry that with you throughout your journey.