Declaration of Independence

What does freedom mean to you?

This question was posed by Adam Baker of Man-v-Debt to the audience at TEDx Asheville 2011. It’s really a great question and something important for me – for all of us – to get clarity around while crafting lives we love living.

I’ve been pondering it for a couple of years now and my answer has pretty consistently been this:

Freedom to me is having the ability to live, work and play where I want and when I want.

I want to be able to travel somewhere for a week or a month, live in a place for 3 months or 3 years, go where the festivals and conferences and epic events are happening, move somewhere warm in cold seasons and somewhere cool in hot ones, and sometimes even plant myself at “home” until I feel ready to move again. To say it another way, I want to be location independent and completely in charge of my own schedule.

And I want to do all this while earning a reasonably steady and solid income that supports my lifestyle.  The income part is something I expect to flux up and down over time – my number now may not always be my number. The schedule flexibility I don’t think will change. It’s been my #1 desire for many years now. And so far, an unmet desire.  Why?

My definition of Freedom is fabulous and true for me.  But there’s quite a bit going on under the hood.

Achieving the Freedom I desire means having:

  • Freedom from financial worries, which means not feeling stressed out about spending $20, $50 even $500 to do something impromptu.  That requirement may change but for now that means my income needs to be at a certain level.
  • Freedom from debt, which reduces my ability to flux my income should that become a priority.  I tend to give mortgages a pass since I really, really, really want a cute house but there are compelling arguments to be made for being mortgage-free ($) and even house-free (energy).
  • Freedom to move about the country (apologies to Southwest Airlines). This means having time and money (sense a theme?). It also helps to have a sense of adventure, a strong network and a passion for putting together fun trips.
  • Freedom to move about the world – same as the above plus a passport and freedom from a criminal record (not really kidding)
  • Freedom from stuff, at least too much stuff. Storing it, hauling it, cleaning it and dealing with it all distract from the moving about part, right? Stuff requires money and time to maintain.  Less stuff = more freedom.
  • Freedom from my cubicle. No more 8-5, M-F, can’t-get-off-to-go-meet-someone-at-3pm-without-asking bullsh*t. Nuff said.
  • Freedom from my “career”, at least from the traditional sense of the word.  I’m not sure about the boundaries on this one and it’s been a sticking point. I’m not a career ladder climber but I do have a professional identity I’m apparently attached to. I have always gotten a job when I wanted one and my experience is in a fairly in-demand field (IT).  However I worry about said skills getting stale.
  • Freedom from the perception that security is possible. Many a thought leader and blogger have posted on this. I’ve been laid off and you probably have been too.  We no longer have security in a j-o-b. Our retirement accounts won’t necessarily provide it nor can our Countries. Remaining nimble, passionate and healthy is the new 401K.
  • Freedom from caring what others think of my life, including loved ones who care about me very much but may not really “get” me.  This is a big, triggery one for a lot of us. I’ve pretty much trained my family to trust that I’ll take care of myself but I know they will freak out when I leave my job.

Yep, I said it … when I leave my job. I am ready ready ready to leave my j-o-b in cubicle nation. I’ve appreciated it but it’s time to move on. It _is_ happening, friends. Not tomorrow and not next week. Maybe not even next month. But it’s imminent.  I can taste the Freedom.  Things are in motion. And it feels good.  Really good.

So today, I’m declaring my independence from my job – along with all the baggage that comes with it – and embracing the Freedom I know I deserve!

Woohoo, hell yeah and somebody bring me a beer! 

Cancun, Mexico

What does freedom look like to you?

psst … none of this requires Freedom from fear. I’ve been told over and over to get used to fear and uncertainty as a companion, to just stick ’em in the passenger seat and get on with the ride. It’s great advice and something I am practicing.

Update: shortly after posting this (on the way to find that beer, actually) I decided that I would be best served by putting a timeframe around the act of quitting. So I will inform my boss of my intentions before the month of August is over.

Starting Again

Several years ago (5 almost to the day, in fact) my friend Tracy forwarded me an email newsletter from a woman named Kate ( The title of the article was Two Magic Words. I’ve kept that email at the bottom of my inbox and periodically, I re-read it and appreciate the simple power of those magic words: Start Again.

She talks about how this wisdom was born out her meditation practice, where the ideal is to clear all thoughts from your mind.

“… what you’re supposed to do when you realize you’ve veered off course isn’t to berate yourself. Or wonder why you can’t pay attention. Or give up. No. Your most powerful tactic is to let go of all the lamenting and the blaming and the analyzing and just go back to following your breath. That’s it. Just. Start. Again. No drama. No regrets.”

Words of wisdom, they are. And knowing that article is there always helps me remember what to do when my routine – or my intention – gets sidetracked: Just.Start.Again.

So I recently turned 42. As my birthday neared and I practiced saying my new age, I would joke it was my “Meaning of Life” birthday. Yes, it’s a geek reference — if you don’t get it, look here.

The thing is, I wasn’t joking at all. I had begun to feel strongly that I was ready to understand – and voice – my own personal meaning of life and then honor it. Several times over the winter, I’d sat still and asked myself “what do you think the meaning of life is?”. The answer always came quickly and clearly: love.

With my birthday approaching, I asked myself what I want from the next year. The answer again came quickly and clearly: love.  I want to experience and share and create love wherever possible. And I want to be in love – with my partner, with my business, with my home, with myself, with my life.

Satisfied I’d identified The What, I turned my attention to The How. Well, that question – “how will you experience and share and create love” – evoked what can only be described as a long, deep soul sigh.  Why did such a beautiful question feel like so much work??

With the same rapid clarity, I understood I was depleted. I had been pouring energy and creativity into business development AND 6 months prior, I had relocated from Austin to Asheville. I arrived with a carful of my most prized possessions, fresh off a 3 month, 8,000 mile road trip. I started a new job; I lived in 3 different apartments; I handled an endless list of relocation-related tasks; I formed new relationships; I connected with my new community. A lot of my energy had been spent rebuilding my life. The word rebuilding sounds dramatic – and perhaps it is, given I relocated by choice (in fact, enthusiastically). Overall it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t without effort. I had dismissed the impact of the transition and all the newness – which is both invigorating and exhausting, just like extended travel.

[side bar: I have begun to view relocation as a form of extended travel]

The crux of the matter was that I’d lost my sparkle while pushing myself to create my ideal life on a time line that I essentially made up. I wanted so desperately to have the life I’d been dreaming about that I wasn’t enjoying the life that I had! Can you relate — even a little bit?

In a flash of brilliance (and self preservation), I decided to take 42 days off from thinking and just enjoy whatever was in front of me. I called it my 42 Days of Now. I stopped thinking about the business, about traveling, and about my never-ending list of to dos. I went on an information diet and ignored the forums I participate in and the blogs I subscribe to. I planned the bare minimum and said yes to impromptu fun. Essentially I took a break and I rested – I rested my body and my brain and my soul.

After about a month, I sensed the wind gently filled my sails. I began to feel flashes of creativity and slowly started interacting with my network again. I felt excited about Travel Coaching and set a date to re-engage with the concept. I was thrilled and I was relieved. I am passionate about Travel Coaching because I want to help people travel more AND because it’s a core component of my own epic travel plan.

The date came for me to re-engage.  I made my to do list … and promptly cratered.  It was massive!  All the goals I hadn’t met in the past months and my neglected blog plans came rushing towards me.  The overwhelm crushed me. I pretty much went fetal for a couple of days, as my coach and mentor Christine Kane likes to say.

And then I remembered:  just like when I fall off the wagon with a diet or exercise program, I simply needed to wake up in the morning and start again.   That is all.  So on Friday, I woke up and just started on my list.

I am choosing not to beat myself up. Instead I choose to have compassion for myself and appreciation for everything I have accomplished and gratitude for all the people in my life who love me and support me. And I do not wish I’d spent my time different.  In fact I enjoyed some de-licious experiences during my 42 Days of Now and, looking back, I wouldn’t have spent that time in any other way!

And so, without too much fanfare (OK maybe a little bit :)), I declare the blog is back.  Woohoo! I am really looking forward to sharing some Inspirational travel stories with you, dear reader, in the coming weeks. And I am excited to better understand what you need from me and this blog in order to become your own travel hero.

Is there something in your life that you need to start again?  Can you gently honor yourself by waking up tomorrow – or perhaps right now – and simply starting again?  

♥ Audrey