2 March 2011. Filed under category Nomad.
A Dementor

A Dementor

I had a crisis of conviction today. In my previous post, I wrote about overcoming the temptation of money and status. Today, I faced the flip side of that rusty old coin: the fear of losing it all.

It hit me when I looked at my map of tasks for leaving London.

Am I making a mistake? I am about to throw away a well paid job, a comfortable life, great friends and stability for some dream that might dissipate the moment I reach for it. Have I lost my mind? Perhaps I should leave my job so that I can be institutionalised.

Seriously, why do I think that this will even work? Surely, if a life of freedom and travel was possible then I would have heard about it long ago. There would have been a section on ‘Nomadic Work’ in the brochures my career counsellor at school gave me. Isn’t it likely that I will look back on this as the time I threw it all away? I’ve worked my whole life to create what I now have, and I am about to leave it all behind.

Everyone must surely be as concerned with their lives as I am about mine, and the vast majority come to the same conclusion on how a good life is meant to be lived: job, stability, money, friends (Volvo, dog, kids) etc. Who the hell do I think I am to go against that collective wisdom? Perhaps I am deluding myself when I think that I can create my own life, contrary to the patterns of society, without suffering a massive backlash when reality finally catches up with me.

How fitting that I chose the Fool as the tarot card to represent my new endeavour: the hapless traveller who is always drawn walking dangerously close to a precipice.

The chilling breath of a Dementor on the back of my neck turned my thoughts against me. My mind thrashed with twisted dark fantasies featuring a life of complete failure and regret. These dark thoughts fed on themselves and grew ever larger and unrealistic, but since they grew to their ridiculous proportions gradually, I didn’t even notice. The Dementor whispered a thousand reasons why my dream of a nomadic life would fail, horribly, and I listened.

Part of my map showing nothing between having the bonus paid in and resigning.

Part of my map

Where did this fear come from? Why did it hit me now?

As I said, it hit me as I looked at my to-do list for leaving London. I had just seen that my bank had paid me my bonus. That doesn’t sound so bad, but this was the last thing that stood between me and handing in my resignation at work.

Since I decided to become a modern nomad, I haven’t done anything irreversible. It was easy to be brave and dream big when I was not risking anything. Subconsciously, I probably reassured myself that I could always change my mind. However, my next step was a serious one with serious consequences. This was no longer a game; it was cold hard reality. It had been a long time since I felt so anxious that it turned my stomach. I was at the point of no return. I stood on the bank of Rubicon, feeling the weight of the die in my hand, and I was afraid.

Despite my little panic attack, I had a dinner to go to that evening with a dear friend of mine, Mike. I told him my plans of living like a nomad, and he showered me with positive encouragement. That helped a bit of course, but just then, a co-worker of his, Riccardo, walked into the restaurant and joined us. Mike excused himself to the bathroom and commanded me to share my plans with Riccardo, and I promptly obeyed.

“Wow, that is amazing,” said Riccardo. “Yes, it sounds great, but what is really weird is that I tracked you down at the restaurant to talk to Mike about my future at our company. You see, I want to work remotely so that I can travel and live in different places, just like you!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I don’t believe in signs from the universe, but this one was difficult to miss.

Amazingly, this chance encounter drained the fear right out of me. The Dementor faded into the shadows and disappeared. It was like a veil lifted from my mind and I could think clearly again. Riccardo was a reminder of what I already knew; of course I am not alone in striving for a life of freedom and self-direction! If they can, so can I. If they dare, so do I.

My fortune cookie from the restaurant.

My fortune cookie from the restaurant.

This is partly why I am putting so much energy into this blog. If remembering that others have successfully created nomadic lives for themselves helped me overcome my fear of taking the leap into the unknown, then perhaps this blog can help somebody else in the same position.

In conclusion, I am happy that I have faced both temptation and fear. Now I know that my conviction is strong enough to overcome both obstacles. I trust my decision more now because it survived these two trials. And trust in myself must surely come in handy on the road.

Becoming a nomad is a big deal, and it deserves careful consideration. Just remember that everyone must occasionally take risks to progress. Fear can sneak up on you and infect your mind such that you never dare to risk anything for what you desire. Your fear then becomes your prison, an Azkaban of your own making, guarded by your very own Dementor.

The Dementors

The Dementors are evil creatures featured in the Harry Potter books. They feed on positive thoughts and memories, leaving the victim with only the negative. The victim is eventually reduced to an empty shell, paralysed by his own twisted mind. This effect is the reason they were put to guard the prisoners of Azkaban.


When did fear twist your mind?

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  1. I’m more than honored that we had a positive influence on your grand plan. You’re doing the difficult part but this adventure will be more than rewarding. Next, you and Riccardo will need to throw a huge bash in Buenos Aires and invite all your friends ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Brother Henke says:

    Helo Brother sometimes when i have talk with you on the fone ive heard you complaining about having work upp over your head and how hard it is to find good software engineering worker.
    therefore you have been working lots of overtime and havent got time enough fore leisure.
    you should become an nomad without fear, if you dont like it after a few yers ore month the work att UBS probably stil yours.
    otherwise you can always find another job as software engineering.

    1. Gustav (The Modern Nomad) says:

      Well, UBS has actually, overall, been really great. Fine, there are times when you are overworked and under-appreciated, but that is normal for any job I guess.

      But you make a good general point. Many people feel real fear of losing the current job because they think it is the only one they could ever get. For most people, that is just not true. If you are good, or even decent, you can find another job. But it is the fear of the unknown that makes us think that it will be harder than it really is.

  3. Linde'n says:

    This is really exciting! Make sure to include a guide made up of short 1-point lessons and checklists at the end of the book once it’s published, I sure a lot of people will follow in your footsteps. There should be a nomad app where you could see other nomads or back-packers in you surrounding..hmm there I go being all business again ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s fantastic the journey you now will begin and I’m deeply impressed by your detarmination, I hope that there will be room to tag along for some time on your travels. See you soon

    1. Gustav (The Modern Nomad) says:

      Of course you can tag along! I bet you would simple love the first place I’m going to. It is called ‘Ljungby’. I’m told there are bears behind every hill there.

      Private jokes aside, I am definitively hoping that friends will take advantage of wherever I live and come and visit.

    2. Karen J says:

      So, 3 years on, IS there “a nomad app where you could see other nomads or back-packers in you(r) surrounding..” yet?

  4. Linden says:

    Last time we spoke we talked about the contradiction in planning where to go on you nomad plans vs being “free to travel wherever”. Do you have a plan for the first months or will you act on impulse?

    1. Gustav (The Modern Nomad) says:

      I do try not to plan too much. So far, I only have two fixed points: Ljungby and Burning Man. Ljungby is the first place I’ll go to, and I then need to be at Burning Man at the end of August. Apart from that, I will let the wind blow me where it will.

      1. nรคr Ljungby?? ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Jono says:

    Fear is an interesting concept in the context of giving up materialism for a gypsy’s lifestyle (like the dwarf zombie pikey you know you are). Fear is something that with the sharpened vision of hindsight is redundant. In the grand scheme of things you don’t have much to lose. Sorry if that sounds harsh but, “search your feelings Luke, you know it to be true.”

    You can always get another job and you will always have family and friend support if your mission goes tits up so quit being such a drama queen buddy. The only thing that can go wrong is if you get pulled into some kind of debauched coke-fuelled male stripper lifestyle and you get super-Aids or something.

    But I don’t know what really goes on in Burning Man.

  6. Doug Burns says:

    Whilst moving to become a contractor rather than a permanent employee is a Nomad-lite, I have had to deal with this fear in many people over the years who are thinking of moving into contracting and I’m trying to encourage them. Their head is full of ‘whatifs’ and all I can see is that life always changes and we’re fluid souls. Even if I encourage someone to throw in their steady job that they liked and they ended up hating contracting, *so what*? It is an entirely simple matter to say, ‘you know what, I don’t like this and want to go back and do that other thing’. So you do.

    I worry people think this sounds entirely irresponsible and the truth is that I will die poor and my family could be richer and I’ve made mistakes. But the way I see it is that I’m entirely responsible for my happiness and that of those around me. Which means that I need to both deal with lifes changes and effect those changes when things aren’t working out.

    I know you’re a drama queen and I know you need to see this Nomadic life absolutely but you must know that the truth is that if it turns out it’s not for you (although I think it will be), then you can stop it and will have people around who will accept and support either path.

    Not doing something ‘just in case’ means you’ll never do anything!

  7. Christel says:

    Good thing you met Riccardo, he had about the same effect as a patronus charm ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Pathik says:

    Fear began to twist my mind the very moment I left my doorstep–how will I eat? Where will I go? What happens if I get hurt? I left civilized life to live the life of a wandering monk, and since the day I began my new life I realized: No one walks safer than those who walk filled with love and goodwill…I believe in the Great One Above, and I feel It has protected me thus far, so why worry?

  9. Well we left for our nomadic life 8 months ago and it was the best thing we ever did. We have spent 8 months travelling through Latin America… we originally were going to take 12 months in Latin America but then it seemed too short, so we added 6 months…because we can!

    Life is unbelievable now and I wish I had done this years ago! For the 4 months before we left we were stressed and wondering if we were doing the right thing and fought as we sold everything and packed up, but life is so good now we laugh every day and pinch ourselves.

    Anyway I just arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico and launched a new website yesterday and am off to try some chocolate soup… Good luck, surround yourself with likeminded people and don’t look back – this is the beginning of the best bit!

  10. Phil Stevens says:

    I used to live in constant fear, the effects of an abusive, lonely and unhappy childhood. My way of dealing with the fear then was to create a fantasy self, living out illusions and idealistic dreams in my head, it acted as a kind of buffer to how I was really feeling and how life was for me, cushioning the impact of fear and pushing it away, albeit temporarily. This was my coping mechanism and one which I found to my detriment as an adult, ceased to serve me so well as when I was a young boy, my fantasy self was no longer in alignment with the reality of my life. I felt inferior, incomplete and ashamed, that I was missing something vital to my very being, although I was unable to identify exactly what that was. Life to me had become something which had to be endured rather than lived. I had come to identify with my negative feelings so much that they began to falsely define me as a person, including how I felt about my emerging sexuality which I (wrongly and misguidedly) attributed to my childhood experiences and the influence of the dominant culture, namely it’s toxic prejudice towards Gay Men. I was terrified and felt devastated.

    It took a long time for me to unravel and untangle all those conflicting emotions which toyed with my identity and sense of self and to recognise that I was meant to live this life as a player and not as a victim but it didn’t come easy for me. Thankfully, with support, things slowley began to work out after much heartbreak and many ill-trodden paths in life.

    The lessons I have learnt have been hard ones and if I am honest have left me a little scarred but then who isn’t.
    I still have to monitor and nurse my psychology (the whispers of the Dementors) but they are now only whispers, I no longer allow them to shout aloud and dictate. I’m aware of their presence and malignant intent.
    My experience of prolific fear and of ultimately being able to see it for what it truely is (a seed that is often planted in us by others but then becomes self-propagating) has afforded me the luxury of delving into my inner world and returning again in a much more enlightened and truthful state of mind, it has provided me with clarity, insight and the ability to communicate subtle truths about the human condition. I have learnt that very often that which we keep personal and hidden from others is paradoxically also the most universally felt.
    I took that risk.

  11. Karen J says:

    Greetings from the future, Gustav!
    I just followed you “home” (wherever that is, this week ๐Ÿ™‚ ) from Cordelia’s archives. Are you still nomad-ing?

    Much like Phil, here, I’ve been hearing my Dementers far more than my own soul for years (and years!) – often forgot that there IS a “my own soul” to listen to!

    The fears that gripped me and kept me in my secret hidey-holes were centered around being told variations of “But, you’re so smart” when I still didn’t understand how to do something ~ I wouldn’t accept “Because somebody said so!” as either an explanation or a reason…

    I’ve also spent a goodly part of the last couple of years re-discovering ME, in my own context.

    Bright Blessings to you ~

When did fear twist your mind?

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