Christmas this year find us on the edge of the jungle in Borneo. Hiking yesterday I found a pocketful of nutmeg and remembered making a Christmas phone call years ago, with my brother who was here in the Spice Islands while I was “at home” changing diapers. He told me about the orang utan he’d encountered deep up a jungle river and he mailed me a boxful of nutmeg he’d picked off of the forest floor for me. This year I’ll be making that phone call home, and he’s the one ankle deep in babies and diapers.
Josh spent the first five years after university in a 34 foot sailboat, circumnavigating. He was named after Joshua Slocum, so it was his fate. He and I have both chosen unconventional lives, as a direct result of our unconventional upbringing. We were raised to follow our dreams, instead of toe the line. I’m unspeakably grateful for that.
I remember a few short weeks before we leapt off the cliff, quit the high power job, sold our house out from under our four young children and struck out in the world with what we could carry on our bikes and nothing more, talking with him on the phone from his little homestead in the Okisollo channel in BC, where he builds boats and plots adventures. We’d been getting a little push back from people in the conventional world, people who were concerned that we were committing financial suicide, limiting our children’s educational or social potential and who were a bit incredulous that we’d step out of a “perfect life” for something so uncomfortable, so uncertain, as full time travel.
“We’re just getting a little hate mail, and it’s making me wonder… is this going to turn out to be a big mistake? I mean, it’s different with four kids, isn’t it?”
Josh chuckled, in his quiet way, and replied:
“And these people sending hate mail, what, exactly have they done? Do they have any experience with this kind of thing?”
I had to admit that they did not. None of them had done anything out of the status quo.
“See, to my mind, that’s exactly where you want to be. When 90% of the people who haven’t done anything think you’re nuts, that’s just about right. It’s when the 10% of people who have done what you want to start raising red flags, then you might want to listen.”
I laughed with him and breathed a sigh of relief; of course he was exactly right.
Over the years, I’ve repeated that bit of wisdom to many other folks on the cusp of something huge and frightening and life changing. It’s proven itself true in our own lives, time and again. If you want to live a passion driven life and your passions are taking you outside of the status quo, don’t look to the folks living conventional lives for the encouragement or experience you need. You’ll need to surround yourself with other dreamers of big dreams, and you’ll need to create a community of folks who are living in the world you’re trying to create as a sounding board and sanity check.