I feel so strongly about this statement, that I got it tattooed on my arm. Not the whole thing, just a symbolic representation of it to remind myself of this every single day.
To remind myself what it is that I truly want and need to be happy, and how to achieve it.
Like many digital nomads, freedom is the #1 reason I was drawn to this type of lifestyle. One where I can live, work, and travel wherever I want, whenever I want.
But it goes way beyond just breaking free from physical boundaries or living life on someone else’s terms.
It’s something that I feel. Something that drives me.
You see, I’m highly prone to getting anxiety
. I’ve suffered from it majority of my life. And when I first started traveling full-time two years ago, the majority of that anxiety went away. But it started creeping back up in unexpected ways.
Aka “Fear Of Missing Out.”
When I’m traveling, I frequently get FOMO and want to experience all the things. But then I get anxiety if I don’t spend enough time working.
Cuz I have shit to do. And bills to pay. And travels to fund. And food to buy.
Or reversely, I could be totally in the zone, getting tons of work done, and somebody invites me to do something fun. I turn it down so I can stay in my groove, but I get anxiety about not making the most of my travels and sharing a fun experience with other people.
So whenever this anxiety sneaks up on me and shows its ugly face, I look down at the tattoo on my arm.
I take a deep breath (or a few) and remind myself why I got it.
I ask myself which of the options in front of me will give me that sense of freedom I crave. The freedom to choose what will make me happy and stop the anxiety dead in its tracks.
This puts everything into perspective and helps me prioritize how to spend my time.
It’s how I make my decisions, and eliminate the options that will be anchors dragging me down.
What does “Freedom” mean?
I mentioned that freedom isn’t just about traveling. It’s not just about being location independent and the ability to work from anywhere in the world that I want.
Don’t get me wrong, these are definitely some major perks of living a freedom lifestyle.
But freedom also means being free from stress and anxiety, free from the pressures of society and others’ expectations, free from health and physical limitations, free from money and materialism, free from living life by someone else’s rules, and free from mental blocks and boundaries.
More than anything though, freedom is a frame of mind. It’s a feeling inside me. An overall sense of being.
How Freedom Feels
It’s hard to explain how freedom feels because it’s such a personal experience.
Basically, I’ve learned to sense freedom through my intuition…listening to that feeling in my gut.
Not to be confused with the kind of “gut feeling” you get after eating too much Mexican food.
This kind of gut feeling is not something that can be explained or seen, it’s just something that when I experience it, feels right.
And that alone is something I had to learn to accept and be ok with.
Because the rest of the world wants an explanation, they want evidence. And I had to learn to stop giving a crap what the rest of the world wants, and just have faith in myself and the Universe and trust my gut instinct with no further explanation necessary.
Do I have this mastered? Hell no.
Like I said, I’m highly prone to anxiety. It’s a daily struggle to keep it at bay and I have to do a LOT of self-reflection and positive self-talk to constantly remind myself of these things.
Which leads me to my next point of how to get to this sense of freedom.
It takes a LOT of Courage.
You know that list of “what freedom looks like” I described above?
All of those things take a lot of courage to achieve.
And not just a one-time, “leap of faith”, big life-changing moment type of courage. But DAILY courage.
What is courage though?
To sum it up: Courage is the opposite of Fear.
It takes courage to make a change in your life. To push yourself outside of your comfort zone. To say “screw the safety net” and dive into the unknown.
My life is an endless stream of diving into the unknown.
I live in a permanent state of pushing boundaries, living outside of my comfort zone, and feeling totally LOST.
Seriously, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing half the time. I’m just winging it.
I had to learn to expect the unexpected, and love surprises. They may give me anxiety sometimes. But I do love them.
That’s not to say I don’t have clear goals and visions for the direction I want my life to head in, but I’ve learned by now that there are always going to be forks in the road, detours, speed bumps, dead-ends, and a few crash and burns.
We’re all on this road called life, and ultimately, we all end up at the same destination.
But we can either enjoy the hell out of the journey and pave a new path – making it easier and more beautiful for the people after us – or we can drive like a maniac destroying everything in our path before crashing head-on into a tree.
Ok, that was a lot of driving metaphors, but you get the point.
Getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
I find comfort in being alone, burying my nose in a book, connecting with animals and nature, and spending my Friday nights at home rather than going out.
I even find more comfort in getting totally lost and figuring it out on my own, than asking for directions.
So I have to force myself outside of my comfort zone every day to connect with new people, to learn and grow from new experiences, and to constantly expand my horizons.
Anything that requires courage, isn’t comfortable. That’s why it requires courage.
I’ve learned to live in a permanent state of being uncomfortable by having courage and to be ok with it. More than ok with it, I love it. In all its uncomfortable glory.
Because courage leads to freedom from everything holding me back, dragging me down, making me unhappy, and preventing me from reaching my full potential and wildest dreams.
So when I muster up the courage to leave my comfort zone, I learn and grow more than I ever could have imagined. I become the best possible version of myself.
One of my favorite feelings that come from having courage, (aside from freedom), is feeling incredibly proud of myself.
When I do something courageous, I feel like a freaking badass!
I self-five, look in the mirror with a huge smile and say proudly, “You effing rock, Bre!”
And when that happens, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Mostly because I spent a LONG time at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, thinking I would NEVER be the type of person to feel that way or say that to myself.
Which also makes me feel INCREDIBLY grateful for how far I’ve come.
And having the courage to take control of my OWN LIFE, and change the circumstances in my life that were holding me back and making me unhappy.
What is YOUR key to happiness?
Just because my key to happiness is freedom, doesn’t mean that’s what yours is or should be.
I have a little exercise for you to do to figure out your key to happiness.
This is what I did to realize that my key to happiness was FREEDOM.
It’s called the “Reverse Bucketlist.”
Basically, dive deep into your memory and think back to the moments of your life when you were the absolute HAPPIEST.
Those moments when you felt pure joy and wished that you could press pause and hold on to that moment forever.
What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? What was the source of your happiness?
Write down the top 10-20 experiences/moments that come to mind.
For many digital nomads, I imagine much of this list will revolve around traveling. But what specifically is it about traveling and those top experiences that made you so happy? That made them better than any other experiences?
Look for patterns in each of those experiences.
Try to find a common theme and keep breaking it down until you get to the very core and realize what that one special element was that made you feel more alive and joyful in each of those moments than you ever have before.
That’s your key to happiness.
Mine hit me like a ton of bricks as I read over my reverse bucket list. It was one of those magical “a-ha” moments.
Having that epiphany unlocked something so powerful inside me, like suddenly everything made perfect sense. I understood myself on a level I never had before.
I didn’t ever want to lose that feeling, so a week later, on my 28th birthday, I got it tattooed on my arm.
I would absolutely LOVE to hear what your key to happiness is – whether you already know, or do the reverse bucket list exercise and have an “a-ha” moment like I did. Please share it in the comments below!!
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