Our family of four stepped into the unknown on March 25, 2014. We put our sweet home of 10 years on the market, packed all our belongings into storage, and set off to film our dream — a family travel show that goes off the beaten path, inspiring families to become their own adventure families — with or without back-up plans.
With one-way tickets to New Zealand, we took flight.
Living in a camper van for three weeks, we traveled the country and filmed our hearts out. For the last seven weeks, we’ve been in Thailand. Seven weeks in Thailand … that was never the plan. Like the old saying, “there is an elephant in the room,” no one wants to admit when a plan takes an unexpected turn. And yet, we must acknowledge the truth with respect, no matter how giant and overwhelming it may be.
Right before we left home my long time business mentor, Jeff Jochum, said:
“Me Ra, you need to remember that plans rarely go the way you plan. I have full confidence you will find success, but things will most likely unfold in unexpected ways. Don’t hang on to your back-up plans too tightly. Go for it but be adaptable at the same time. That is the challenge. Following your dreams means letting go of back-up plans.”
‘Why even plan?’ I thought. But we all know why. You have to have a strong, hammered out vision to begin building your dream.
The pre-planning process is about preparing you for all the…
“what if” scenarios you may encounter. But no one can guarantee what the actual experience will be like. Webster’s dictionary defines adventure as “an exciting or dangerous experience.” It adds “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” When I think of the word “adventure,” especially Adventure Family, I think of words like “fun,” “unforgettable experiences,” “challenging but rewarding” versus “dangerous and unknown risks.”
The “plan” was to film our pilot in New Zealand. While the networks reviewed our footage, we would go on to film Thailand because we believe so strongly in what we are doing. We had promising meetings of expected contracts and funding to happen before we even left for New Zealand. But contracts took longer and longer, and eventually we had to leave for New Zealand without the guarantee of a contract if we were going to beat the rainy season.
From the start, I needed to adapt to things not going how I planned.
We hustled and did the shortest Kickstarter campaign that probably ever existed. Twelve days before we left, we had enough funds to get us off the ground and pay our cameraman.
All throughout New Zealand we thought the contract would happen. Then we got to Thailand, and the contract was still in process. This was not what I planned as one of my back-up plans. But we’ve adapted. On paper we should have run out of funds five weeks ago. And yet, we are still going! All of our family’s needs have been met from the most unexpected resources.
We’ve been able to come up with funds to keep our cameraman and continue filming. And we’ve been eating fresh Thai food every night for under $15 for the whole family. And in all this adapting, I’ve learned that back-up plans are overrated.
When I first started realizing our plans were going sideways, stress took residence in my heart right away. Everything in me wanted to come up with several back-up plans. But following your dreams means letting go of back-up plans. Did I believe that?
Worrisome thoughts swirled through my head making me dizzy.
We have a family to take care.
A living to make.
We just gave up our home.
What if all our filming and hard work, actually ‘heart work,’ was for nothing?
What would we do if this all went south?”
At first glance, creating back-up plans seemed like a wise thing to do.
But over time, it only robbed my creative energy from being able to build our dream. I was so exhausted from trying to figure out what we should do, I didn’t have anything left to give in co-producing with my husband, Brian, and our cameraman. Every time I tried to figure out how to hedge ourselves from unnecessary risk, I was losing creative energy for our show. I was trying to avoid adventure, which by definition IS unknown risks. Wasn’t Adventure Family our name?
I had to make a choice. It was either choose the presumed security of a back-up plan or fully focus on building our dream. I couldn’t do both because building our dream needed all of me.
Following your dreams means letting go of back-up plans. Period.
I chose our dream.
And I chose it over and over and over again.
When Brian and I sat in a campervan, pulled off the side of the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the south island of New Zealand, overwhelmed with the realization that our contract or funding may not come in time, we decided again to choose our dream.
In Thailand, when Brian and I looked at our film schedule, not sure if a contract or funding would ever come, we chose our dream again.
When I checked our dwindling bank account and realized…
we didn’t have the funds to even fly our family home, I looked at the kids and said “God must not be ready to send us home yet. Let’s keep choosing our dream.”
Every time we choose to focus on building our dream, we embrace the unknown again.
It’s an incredible freedom to rest in the knowledge that we have all that we need today.
We have ALL that we need for this day. Tomorrow lives in the unknown. Today, we have more than enough. Since I was a child, I’ve heard the Bible verse “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I’d say that about sums up my family’s life right now.
I’m so thankful for this season because each day is an opportunity to experience the truth and power of that promise.
Some days I breathe deeply, regardless of looming fears in the distance.
On those days, I feel like my spirit goes through a supernatural growth spurt in trusting beyond what I can see. And other days I feel the shortness of breath from the growing pains that wake me in the night. But I am engaged with the process … pressing in to learning, growing and evolving with every gift that this season offers. But even more importantly, our children are learning first hand that dream-building may be the toughest work you ever do but also the most rewarding.
I shared with our Kickstarter backers how life-changing it’s been to be in the deep jungle here. The jungle has always been a popular metaphor for the craziness of life. The jungle represents a place where you don’t know what to expect, you can’t see all that surrounds you … that could possibly harm you. The jungle metaphor often communicates a sense of threat, disorientation, and feeling lost.
But having spent the last couple weeks in the deep jungle where wild elephant herds come down to the lake at night to drink and black panthers make their own appearance under the night’s cover,
I have learned the jungle is a dynamic community busy doing life.
Every living creature plays their part from the most seemingly insignificant tiny insects to the odd-looking wild boars. Every living creature is busy having babies, building shelter, gathering food, protecting themselves from predators and doing it all over again the next day and day after. An environment that has always been rumored to be dangerous and threatening is actually a place thriving with life.
How many of us face our own jungles?
We hear the invitation to step into the unknown but fear the rumors…
we’ve heard about “that space,” the rumors that say no one survives the dangers that lurk in the jungle, no one gets out alive, no one is safe. Rumors often built on myth, distorted truths, and few witnesses to counter with truth.
If you hear the invitation to enter your jungle, to step into your unknown, leaving behind what is familiar for what is foreign…
I send you greetings from deep within the jungle!
My heart calls out to you “Following your dreams means letting go of back-up plans! You won’t regret it. I know it’s scary!”
I stand as a witness!
Can you see me waving to you amongst the thick foliage and brush?
You may not hear me over the cicadas humming.
You may barely see me wave.
The unfamiliar noises that surround you may startle you.
But feel my joy, feel my utter astonishment in discovering that the jungle is not a dangerous place. The jungle is a place thriving with life! And the unknown is worth the adventure — even if you have to let go of your back-up plans.
*When Following Your Dreams Means Letting Go of Back-Up Plans was First Published with Disney