A few months ago, I wrote a piece for International Living. It has subsequently been reprinted and distributed through a number of other sources, to include Huffington Post. The thrust of the piece was to not allow fear steal the life you could have. Pretty good, huh?
The truth is, I’ve dealt with a lot of fear in my life. When Diane and I decided to sell what remained of our lives to the highest bidders, pack a few suitcases and move to a country we had never visited, believe me; there was fear involved; but it didn’t stop us.
When I was first attacked by an armed enemy in Vietnam, I was afraid but did what needed to be done, despite my fear. Flying small planes and a commercial hovercraft in Alaska’s harsh, unforgiving wilderness provided many brushes with death and yet, I moved through the fear to the next assignment.
As the years have piled up, I’ve grown accustomed to dealing with my own fears and seldom allow them to slow me down as I once did as a very young man. I’m certainly not foolhardy or reckless but now move forward knowing that whatever is on the other side of fear will be worth a bit of anxiety.
While waiting to see my dentist recently, a woman and I struck up a conversation. She was here in Cancun on vacation and wanted to take advantage of the low-cost dental care while here. When she learned that Cancun was our permanent home and we had previously lived in Ecuador, her first comment was, “Weren’t you afraid?”
I readily admitted that we did have some fears when we first decided to sell all our possessions and move to a small village on Ecuador’s northern coast. How could we learn to communicate? Would we become the victims of crime? Would our limited budget really be enough for a nice life? Would the medical care be sufficient, as reported? I explained that it was necessary for us to move through our fears to reach our destination. I also told her that our fears quickly diminished as our new lives took root. I went on to tell her that our move from Ecuador to Mexico was a no-brainer and induced zero fears. We’d already been through this and knew there was nothing to fear.
That’s not the first time that Diane and I have had conversations with folks considering an expat lifestyle but have not pulled the trigger for fear of (fill in the blank).
No, living outside the U.S. is not for everyone. But if it is your fear that is holding you back, you could literally be missing the best chapters of your life. To be honest, Diane and I have a bit of pride attached to our expat lifestyle. We know friends and family that live in the same place now that they did as infants. Their view of the world is restricted only to the singular culture they have experienced and their tolerance and understanding for others is hindered by their limited exposure. One or two week vacations to all-inclusive resorts somewhere in the Caribbean hardly qualify as life-expanding.
We have good friends in Florida who took their young sons on a wonderful trip to China last year. They had an amazing experience and I suspect that the seeds have been planted for these young men to see more of the world someday, possibly finding other places on the planet they wish to live.
I offer you my mantra to adopt as your own:
Don’t Allow Fear To Steal The Life You Could Have
Whether fear is holding you back in your career, keeping you in an unhealthy relationship or restricting your choice of a new location to call home, you can push through it. At this moment, I am sitting in my office on the top floor of our beachfront condo. From here, I can open the glass slider and step out onto the small furnished terrace overlooking Nichupte Lagoon. If I lean back in my chair, I can see down the hallway, into our master bedroom and out the window onto the beach and the turquoise Caribbean Sea a few steps from our door. The sky is clear without a visible cloud.
This moment would not exist if Diane and I had surrendered to our initial fears four years ago. For that matter, Diane would not be my wife if I hadn’t ignored my fear and asked her to dance while she was on a date with another man. Sorry dude! A huge win for courage!!!