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How to Become Fearless

Skydive, plane

Hey, that’s my ride!

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared here on January 1, 2011. We’re publishing it again as a perennial New Year’s reminder. We also updated the headline photo to show one of the fears we faced since writing these words 12 months ago. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what fears you overcame last year or about the ones you resolve to tackle in 2013.


In youth, the world is wide open. Life is about trying new things, pushing boundaries, discovering limits, and exploring a planet that is ripe with possibility. As time passes we surround ourselves increasingly with comforts and lose interest in discovery. Our propensity for boldness atrophies. Our longing to see around the next corner gradually succumbs to fear of the unknown. Our world shrinks.

It doesn’t have to.

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Living Large in Small Spaces

One of the things we always felt pressured by living in the U.S. was the subtle coercion of BIG. Big houses, big cars, big everything. There’s a lot to lament about big. It’s costly, it’s wasteful, it’s demanding. Every square inch of that bigness needs to be maintained and financed. It is, in our view, a horrible waste of time and resources.

Of course our view is a minority one. For the majority, big is desirable, it is status, and even an end unto itself. And because market economies like ours typically give the majority what it wants, we’ve seen a more than doubling of home sizes in the past 60 years. Not only are new homes being built bigger, vintage properties are torn down to make way for giants. In the process the stock of reasonably sized residences has declined, along with the options of the minority who prefer them.

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End of the Road

Red Rock Road Southern Utah

Our RV road trip is nearing an end. Some months ago we realized that this chapter of our lives was coming to a close. Now, the next chapter is starting to come into focus.

Over the next 18 months we expect to mostly complete our tour of the United States. We’ll spend this winter making our way up the Pacific Coast and be in position to hit Alaska next summer. Over the fall we’ll work our way back down through eastern Washington, Oregon and California. By the time we reach Yosemite National Park, we’ll mostly be done RVing.

From there we might go on a short tour to promote Shannon’s upcoming book, Writers between the Covers (depending on release date) or drive back east to hit some of the places in the middle of the country we missed. Either way, sometime in 2014 we expect to be finished with our North American road trip.

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How to Get Lucky

On good days I accept it as a compliment; a sincere expression of admiration. Other times, though, it’s hard not to take the meaning literally.

“You’re so lucky.”

Lucky. The word hangs in the air like an accusation.

In many ways we are lucky. We’re lucky to have been born to middle class families in the richest country on earth. We’re lucky to have been raised by loving parents; to have received a good education; to have our health and all of our faculties. I’m immensely grateful, every day, for my good fortune.

In short, we’re lucky in the same way that millions of other middle class residents of developed countries are lucky. Everything else took effort, determination, sacrifice and, perhaps most importantly, a strong belief that we are the masters of our fate.

Which brings me to the other thing I hear when someone says “You’re so lucky:” capitulation. Capitulation to the vagaries of life. Surrender to imagined forces beyond our control. I hear in these words the sentiment “if only I were luckier, things would be different.” That’s a copout. We assign ourselves too easy a task in life when we ascribe so much of our condition to luck.

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The Indispensible Man

Caye Caulker Belize Lounge Chairs

These empty chairs were meant for you.

“I feel like I’d be less of a person, a bad employee, if I didn’t work on vacation,” says Jermaine Turner, director of current series for Walt Disney Pictures Animation in a recent article.

Mr. Turner is not alone. A Harris Interactive study “found that 57 percent of working Americans will have unused vacation time at the end of [2011], and most of them will leave an average of 11 days on the table – or nearly 70 percent of their allotted time off.”

That is a remarkable finding: the majority of us take less than one third of our vacation time. And on those rare occasions when we do break away, we bring work along with us. Why?

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