There are said to be three base driving forces in humans – food, reproduction and fear. Advertise with any of these three, and you speak to something so primal in humans, that they have viral power. Keeping safe is motivated by fear – it’s what kept our ancestors living long enough to pass their genes on to us.
Safety is often an excuse folks come up with for not embracing the life of full time travel they dream about. This is part of our ever growing series of addressing the common excuses to not traveling full time.
There seems to be a fear that at every corner ‘out there’ – there’s a villain waiting to mug you, a calamity waiting to strike, a powerful tornado, a money sucking incident, a sink hole to devour you, a rabid bear stalking you, a health issue or some other such traditionally bad thing.
I am constantly mystified at just how frequently safety comes up when folks inquire about our mobile lifestyle. ‘How do you keep safe?’ is a very common question we find ourselves addressing. And unfortunately, my response isn’t a convenient shopping list of stuff you can go order online. To really handle this topic, it’s going to take some deep inner work to rethink how you respond to fear and find safety.
One of my all time favorite warning labels is Caution: Living is dangerous to your health.
Risk and danger is all around us. No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid it entirely. Eat right, avoid high risk behaviors, exercise regularly – and you can still be killed by a falling tree on your morning jog (true story). Unless you keep yourself in an isolated bubble, you’re going to encounter risks – or go insane and die of boredom.
A more traditional definition of safety is:
Safety: The condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.
I’d like to propose that safety is not actually a condition that is realistically achievable. The closest one can come is having a feeling of being in a state of significantly reduced risks. And our society seems obsessed with feeling safe. We install alarm systems to keep bad people out, we carry guns or mace to defend ourselves, we keep installing gizmos to increase safety and we generally live in a state of fear of something bad happening. We humans are evolved to be on alert and seek safety.
And you know what? Living in a state of fear is exhausting, stressful and at the very least shortens our quality of life – if not quantity of life.
That’s not to say bad stuff doesn’t happen. It does. And Chris and I have faced our share of bad stuff.. believe me. Over the several years of being on the road full time we’ve had a jack-knifed spin out on an interstate, our lives threatened in the middle of nowhere, our bikes clipped and stolen right off our tow vehicle, a wire shorting out that nearly caused an electrical fire, our cat being bit by a rattlesnake, vehicle troubles, extreme weather conditions, minor medical emergencies and bandwidth shortages.
But I don’t feel either of us lives in a state of fear of this stuff (well, maybe the lack of bandwidth thing). I feel incredibly safe in our lifestyle – both before, during and after each of these incidents.
Because long ago I adjusted my definition of safety to be:
Safety is not expecting that bad things won’t happen. But rather trusting that I have the agility, capacity and courage to deal with the bad stuff when it happens.
Notice I didn’t say if it happens – I count on bad stuff happening. No matter how many safety gizmos are installed, one can never account for everything that might happen. There’s only so much I actually have control over… and when bad stuff happens, I deal with it. I focus on that feeling I’ve felt many times before – of getting past it and having grown stronger, wiser and more capable as a result.
And in the end, I’d much rather die having lived my dreams.. than dreaming about the life I want if only I wasn’t afraid.
Choose your battles wisely
Adopting this new definition of safety however doesn’t mean completely throwing caution into the wind. If you buy into this, you’ll be taking informed risks, educating yourself, choosing what are real fears, taking reasonable precautions, knowing what you’re able to handle and knowing your own risk tolerances. And act now and you’ll also be willing to challenge all of this from time to time too!
Chris and I both collectively embark on some activities that are regarded as risky by others- including fire dancing, SCUBA diving, paragliding and sky diving. But it’s not like we do any of these things without first receiving proper training and building up our confidence and skillsets. We always assess our environment, our own current health status, our ability to cushion a metaphorical or literal fall and our confidence levels. We choose wisely when we feel we’re most capable to tackle these adventures and their given risks.
You must also recognize that your own personal risk tolerances can change on a regular basis due to a variety of reasons. Be willing to not let your itch for adventure be thwarted by that default evolutionary implanted lizard brain response to fear.
Be smart about the risks you take on, challenge yourself to grow, take reasonable precautions.. and have fun out there!
Your choice: Be a moving or still target
There seems to be an erroneous sense of safety being associated with staying put in one location – as if being a stationary target of routine is any less safe than being a moving one. It actually cracks me up when folks questioning the safety of our mobile lifestyle try to take a high road that their life is significantly less full of risk.
Above I gave you a list of scary incidents that have happened to Chris and I since we hit the road together. What I didn’t include was a list of bad things that happened in any other 3 year snapshot in my life. Just in the 3 years prior to hitting the road, my list would include: a scary medical diagnosis, tire blow out, neighbor’s house catching on fire, multiple direct hurricane strikes, house flood from a faulty ice maker, identity theft, minor medical emergencies, a car accident and more.
How many bad things have happened in the past 3 years of your life and do you really reasonably expect that number to increase significantly if you were on the road?
Remember – bad stuff happens. Period. Whether you’re living in one spot, or constantly moving. The list of risks unique to each situation is actually rather small.
The one advantage being still has is speed dial level local services to deal with stuff when it comes up. But even a lack of continuity is addressable in a mobile lifestyle by thinking differently.
Being mobile actually gives you some distinct advantages as well, such as being more alert to your surroundings because they’re always different and the ability to easily move on if things don’t seem right. If crime rates in your fixed location neighborhood increase, how difficult would it be to sell your home and move to a safer location? If you’re mobile, you just put the key in the ignition and drive away.
Good Stuff Happens Too
Yes.. bad stuff happens. It can make for a sucktacular day, indeed.
But when you’re not wrapped up in protecting this false notion that you have complete control over preventing bad things from happening, you’re more free to experience all the good things that can… no, will.. happen.
For everything that has happened to me that could be classified as bad – I can rattle off a list of dozens.. hundreds.. of good things that have also happened. Glorious amounts of serendipity, kind and generous strangers, amazing experiences, amazing meals, opportunities to share my gifts, beautiful art, basking in the glow of the gifts of others, the purr of our cat and the shared love of so many absolutely amazing people we’ve encountered and connected with in our travels.
The world is a great big place full of awesome things to be discovered.
Don’t fear the words Epic, Awesome and Amazing becoming regular parts of your vocabulary.