The waiting room of Oncology department in Kaiser Permanente Hospital downtown was lined with long rows of uncomfortable seat. It was cool and quiet, only the soft hum of air conditioner dominated the ambiance of the room.

Outside, the summer heatwave of Pacific Northwest had arrived and was particularly intense this year. The usual green scenery of Portland in Spring was long gone, replaced with something akin to the desert of Las Vegas. It was dusty everywhere, the wind was unbearably hot ( 115F at least) and blowing with low humidity.

Back inside the cool waiting room, I was sitting down with a shiver that’s not only a reaction to the low temperature. I was there waiting anxiously with a dread over a recent lab result. The song playing in the background was from the First Kit Aid band. Later, I found out from Spotify that it’s actually their new song, titled Angel.

What an appropriate title song to describe what was considered as one of difficult moments in time. The lyrics goes something like this:

I've been afraid all of my life Crippled with anxiety, shame and doubt And sometimes, sometimes I'd like to shout At the top of my lungs and just let it out

What has that fear ever done for me, oh ooh ooh ooh But hold me back? Oh

About two months ago, summer of 2022, my wife and I received the worst news we could imagine. It started with an innocent yearly physical health screening. While I started to feel the impact of middle age, my wife has been blessed with perfect health. Well, the lucky streak stopped that day. While my screening showed some minor health issues, my wife has been diagnosed with cancer.

The good news is that the it was caught early. The bad news is that the next two months was filled with countless visit to hospitals, doctor appointments, endless testing, surgery, and repeated radiation. While the surgery was painful and subsequent treatments were difficult and painful, the overall outcome is very good. The long term prognosis is that we can return to normal in a couple of years with proper check ups.

During this time, I was reminded of a quote in a book about The Dalai Lama. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;

We lives as if we are never going to die, and then dies having never really lived. Dalai Lama

In that time more than ever, I know better than to take anything for granted. No one likes this type of news and the uncertainty of it has shaken my perceived of comfort zone to the core. So much that it led me to question our humanity and mortality. While it was difficult to accept, this type of news is necessary. It is the right medicine to jolt my perception of life. It was what the doctor ordered.

In Search of Stability

My wife and I had experienced quite a few false starts and several disappointments along the way. We only finally got back on our feet couple several years ago. After so many failures, I have grown to be less risk adverse.

I can honestly say that I’ve tried to remove as much as unknown variables from my life, only to find that life always has its own way. I learned that we can either accept this or try to create our own alternate universe where we have all the answers and the ability to control every outcome.

When my daughter was smaller, we used to travel a lot. We had lived in many places and travelled every other months. We’ve been to places like Austin TX, Albuquerque New Mexico, Akron OH and even entertained the thought of settling down in Boulder CO. But when we arrived in Portland, I decided to look for place to settle down. Don’t rock the boat and start planting the roots they say.

After settling down and during the next fifteen years, I have systematically removed anything that may cause unknown issues in our life. We travel less and less, and have practically stopped in the last five years. I always thought that I will do it later when things are less hectic or when my daughter has grown up.

I even made up the reasons, like why stability is necessary and so on. The list of excuses grew longer as I postponed my life each year in the name of living a responsible and respectable live.

After the health scare, we decided to not wait for the perfect time and take the plunge. I realized that there is no such thing as a safe place or the place where I have full controls. That summer, I learned that we have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.

Our Most Minimally Planned Trip Ever

Once it was decided, we put all our belongings into the storage. Then, we will be embarking on a 2-month trial tip where we’ll be living like digital nomads. I will still work remotely during the trip, as inspired by

Our first trip will start in November 2022 destination Europe, France and Portugal to be exact, while all my work will be shifted digitally. I think this is the future. The overall goal is to see if we can live on our terms, working remotely and living life while we are still alive. The long term objective is to experiment and accept that in order to learn and to live, we need to let go. More particularly, to let go of the idea that we have to know every thing and control every single outcome.

The Art of Necessary Adjustments

With the skyrocketing prices here in United States, I feel that the timing is right as well. I want to know if travel could actually be a way to lower costs of living while enjoying a new place. Wouldn’t that be a win-win?

Finally, I also want to know what it would be for me to put myself in a strange and unknown place, rich with new experiences. Would it lead me to better wisdom? Or prepare me to learn new skills or pick up a new language? I think it would, I believe it will and I certainly hope so.

I feel like there is certain appeal of not being afraid to fail. If you only try what you know you can do, what is the point ? You don't gain anything. You won't learn anything new and stay foolish. Only when we make the first move to change the unknown to known, then we will learn.

After all, you don't get lost if you don't know where you go.

Certainty is the enemy of progress

Clear Eyes, Open Heart

My sincere hope in regards to this travel is to seek freedom. Freedom from fear, Freedom from anxiety, and most importantly freedom from all the things known.

Embracing the unknown requires clear eyes and open heart. Clear eyes mean that we do not set any predetermine expectation based on other experience but our own, while open heart means that we can adjust to any surprise by listening to our heart for once instead of our brain.

To be willing to embrace the new frontier and live the digital nomad life, this is also my chance to get a full taste of jobs redefined. When the old job definition changed, the new one emerge, just like the one outlined in Reinventing The Future of Jobs

Embracing Fragility

It’s exciting to think that this could be a new way of living in digital world. With technologies like internet, bitcoin, blockchain, etc, we are no longer limited to a specific location for long period of time - just for the sake of putting down our roots. It’s definitely one of my intentions to find out if this lifestyle is possible.

With the great unknown ahead, I just know one thing is for sure : it’s going to be a hell of a ride. And I hope you can come and join us along the way.