raising little ones in the great outdoors

Embracing the Edge: Maggie Jacobus

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”

I added this quote to my e-mail signature years ago. Not everyone gets it, but I bet you do because the desire to live on the edge—in whatever way you interpret that—doesn’t disappear when you become a parent.

We all live at varying levels of edginess. Your edge may be way beyond mine, especially if you’re one of those rock climbers. (Just looking at you people makes my palms sweaty.) The edge I currently inhabit is a dream shared by many, but one that few actually attempt. It required me to embrace Uncertainty and the Unknown. Realizing my dream has been both uncomfortable and deeply rewarding.

Four years ago my husband and I sold everything — our businesses, our home, our furniture — and moved with our three boys (then ages seven, eight and 10) from the ‘burbs of Milwaukee to the jungles of Costa Rica.

What pushed me to that edge? A deep-rooted terror of Select Soccer.

My neighbors, who had kids a few years older than our children, spent every spare moment chauffeuring their professional-athletes-in-training to endless practices, games and tournaments. With three boys, I knew a similar fate was coming down the pike for me. Not that all my kids would even have made a Select Anything team, but the American culture of kids (and thus, their parents) being scheduled to the hilt freaked me out.

River travel in Costa Rica

River travel in Costa Rica

I yearned to let my kids run free, to simply play in the wide open. Nothing scheduled, nothing organized. Just creative free play like building forts, searching for frogs, riding bikes, fishing. I wanted to be able to just hang with them, exploring and learning together. I wanted them to be able to be kids for as long as they wanted to be, not prematurely hustled into the bustle of adult lives.

Combine that desire with the belief that it would be good to be fluent in a second language in order to function in the global future and the conviction that less (material goods) is more, and all signs were pointing to getting out of Dodge. Destination: a Spanish-speaking developing nation rich in nature. This was our dream.

Crossing the bridge from desire to reality wasn’t easy. And at the same time, it was totally easy. “All” it took was letting go of the fear associated with making such a move: fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of the unknown, fear of charting a course different than many of my peers, fear of going broke because my husband and I were leaving our careers and selling everything we owned, fear of being wrong and screwing up our kids by denying them an American education and childhood. Little stuff like that. There were plenty of people who fueled those fears. I’ve long forgotten her name, but not the comment one fellow soccer mom made when she learned we were moving to Costa Rica: “Are you CRAZY?!? Why would you want to do THAT?!?”

She was right on some level. I admit that the move was more sketched out than planned out. We did not have jobs. We did not speak Spanish. We were pulling our kids out of a top education system and putting them into a rural, under-funded, third world school. We did it in the name of pursuing a vision of living a life far away from material goods, technology and over-scheduled lives. We believed in being close to nature, the earth and people who live simply, but we had no idea if those beliefs could be realized in action, so it was all a big gamble. Wow. I guess that does sound a little crazy.

At some point, you just have to make a leap. You cannot live totally attached to your job, your money, your house, your lifestyle…and the next day walk into your totally planned, edgy new life. “Planned” and “edgy” do not go together. In between the life you’re living and the dream of how you want to live is a space called the Unknown. The transition comes with a large dose of Uncertainty. It’s these aspects of change—also called Fear—that keep most people right where they are.

My new favorite quote explains how this can happen. It’s from modern philosopher Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New Earth. “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.”

The very act of stepping through Uncertainty and into the Unknown presented my family the opportunities to make our vision work.ryancropsurf.001320x

Four years later I’m happy to report back that the Jacobus Family is alive and well and thriving in Costa Rica. Our kids are fluent in Spanish. As for the parents, well, let’s just say we’re “conversational.” We are living proof that one can indeed live with far less stuff and not skip a beat although I sometimes catch myself simply skipping with the joy of being so unburdened. My husband and I have figured out new ways to earn a living and to include the kids in on many aspects of our businesses. In particular, I’ve created with the boys a nature show that we air over the Internet called Super Natural Adventures.

We’ve explored nature and cultures together, learned side-by-side, traveled and adventured together and, by struggling through the scary patches of living on the edge together, we’ve grown amazingly close as a family, just as I dreamed we would.

If a vision is calling you, I invite you to make the leap. Come on in–the Unknown’s fine. And, ironically, on the edge there’s so much space. There is so much possibility.

To learn more about what “infinite possibilities” opened up for the Jacobus family, check out www.supernaturaladventures.com, www.tierramagnifica.com and www.activatedlife.com To read more about their adventure into the unknown, read Maggie’s blog at www.gypsyjournalist.com

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2 Responses to “Embracing the Edge: Maggie Jacobus”

  1. Graham Waugh says:

    Thank you for sharing this! It helps me remember my own experiences with open ended freedom, which were slightly terrifying, but was also the richest period of my life. Being in a stable place right now it’s easy to avoid the scary unknown. Reading stories like yours inspires me to move back towards the edge and step into the unknown.

    • Hey Graham,

      Thanks for your comment. Isn’t it interesting how “terrifying” and “enriching” seem to go together? I

      ‘m honored that reading our story inspires you to move back towards that edge, in whatever form that might take. You know, in so doing, YOU will then inspire others to do the same.

      Have fun!

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