How we finally decided to take the leap

Photo: Eric Koelma

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

The biggest thing holding back couples or individuals who want to quit their jobs, pack up their lives and buy a one-way ticket to see the world is fear.

And too many options analysis paralysis. And then fear, again.​ Because that's all analysis paralysis really is anyway.

When a promotion is the worst thing possible

In January 2016, while camping on holidays with our family, we had (what we now realise was) a significant landmark discussion about our goals for the year ahead. We had a serious case of wanderlust and hadn't been on an international flight since we got married back in December 2011, and suddenly, with university, graduate jobs, career changes, buying a house and having a baby (yeah, we can cram a lot in when we put our minds to it!), almost five years had lapsed.

We were happy-ish, but we were tired. ​We were tired of short holidays, taken in desperation... One week at an Airbnb two hours north of our home... Five days house-sitting in a friend's Sydney apartment. Taken out of desperation because we needed something - anything - to act as a brief wedge between the work-and-general-life-busyness that was quickly enclosing on us.

We felt geographically, emotionally and spiritually stuck, and so made the New Year's Resolution to figure out a way to travel the world and get a new global perspective. We wanted to leave by July (just after our son's first birthday). 

But when we got home from holidays, the worst thing happened - the very enemy of our plans to start our own businesses and go out on our own as digital-nomads.

Eric got a promotion.

Not the typical 'bad news' you were expecting, I bet.

Confused? It seemed great at first, a significant pay rise, an impressive job title, more responsibility. A huge compliment. You can read more about why promotions can be the worst possible thing for a would-be entrepreneur here.

But with more responsibility and a bigger take-home paycheck meant longer work hours and more sucking up to the boss. After five years loyally spent doing menial, pen-pushing, mind-numbing work in risk-management, Eric was well and truly on the corporate ladder now.

He was 'crafting a real career for himself' (or so his boss told him). But the joy was short lived.​

Work had us exhausted. Both working for others (my husband was a digital marketing strategist at a leading Australian food manufacturing company, and I was freelance writing as a journalist) and growing our own start-up businesses from the ground-up: The Mulberry Journal and Roarify. 

Add a baby in the mix...

Our son, Leo, was 6 months old, and even though parenthood was pretty epic, we had that permanent hangover that comes from sleep-deprivation as a parent, made worse by the countless 1am finishes we spent building our businesses and playing customer support. ​

We felt torn... We wanted to build our businesses, but buying a house seemed like the 'right path', the logical next step in our middle-class "Hills Hoist in the back yard" version of the American Dream. Frankly speaking, were eight short months into the 30-year mortgage repayments of our first-home, paying more interest than we could believe. We hadn't even paid off the front door handle yet. It felt like a trap.

We spent nine long months of 2016 talking.

Discussing. Pontificating. Epiphanating (yes I just made that up, but we were 'epiphany-addicted'.)

But unfortunately it was all talk, little action.

I say little action, not no action, because we were taking small steps in our businesses.

I guess we just believed that somehow, if we tried hard enough, flogged ourselves until 1am enough nights, and had enough 'serious talks' about it, we would eventually get there.

Not. True. (For us at least. If you've taken the leap in a more staggered, small steps kind of way, we'd love to hear from you!)

The point of desperation

I mentioned we had been having 'serious talks' about our future, often off the back of Eric working late, and arriving home after Leo would go to bed.

​We would go through a rhythm of having lots of intense, late-night discussions about our future in a row, and then a natural decline and complete 'radio silence', usually after we realised we didn't have a solid way forward to reach our goal. Often we'd just 'get busy' and forget about it. Those times were really disheartening.


When we think we can't achieve something, be it losing weight, buying a house, starting a business, or travelling the world (note: is this because we think we don't have the required skills/experience, or are we just afraid of hard work?), often we process this by simply getting really busy distracting ourselves. Life has a handy way of becoming a distraction, and passive, lack of action becomes our norm.

In October 2016, ten long months after our first proper discussion about travel, we found we were in an intense period of discussion, but this time something felt different.

We were desperate.

The stakes were higher than ever before. Eric was at an emotional breaking point, time-poor, hating his job, and exhausted from the constant battle with powerlessness, caught between wanting to provide for his family and wanting to take the entrepreneurial risk that so many of his biggest influencers were proponents of.

And so, having no idea what we were doing, we jumped...

One Saturday morning, we were having yet another conversation about our desire to pull up stumps and travel, to live a completely different type of life.

And then, after months of coming to the same point in the conversation and getting busy and distracting ourselves, SOMETHING DIFFERENT HAPPENED.

We looked at each other and one of us said to the other ​"why don't we just call the real estate agent"? 

And that was it. The smallest, simplest ACTION.

The rest is a story for another post, but in a nutshell​ we:

  • Identified the main problems
  • Stopped trying to over-analyse to find the 'perfect' or 'right' way to do it
  • Stopped shitting around and started taking ourselves seriously
  • And made a key phone call (ACTION).

Sounds pretty simple, huh? But simple and easy ain't the same thing, as we quickly found out.

Want some practical tips for how to take the leap?

READ: 7 steps to stop shitting around and taking the leap into digital-nomadism and travel​

Take action now

Are you ready to take the leap for yourself? I dare you to let go of fear and take a wild step, even if it's just making one phone call...

The unknown is only scary if you stay on this side of it.

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!