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kottke.org posts about Jodi Ettenberg

10 wonder-filled years of Legal Nomads

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2018

In 2008, corporate lawyer & city slicker Jodi Ettenberg quit her job to travel the world for a year…and then just never went back to her old job (or self). For 10 years, she traveled and ate her way through the world, documenting her adventures at Legal Nomads. For the 10-year anniversary of the site, Ettenberg has posted a retrospective highlighting some of her most memorable times.1

Writing in a true voice was important. Presenting a glimmering version of yourself that doesn’t feel real is an easy path to discontent. You can follow your passion all you want, but if you’re not expressing it authentically, in a way that is indisputably you, the gap will catch up with you. The space between who you are and who you express yourself to be exists in varying degrees. But if it’s too large, especially if your work involves sharing your thoughts creatively, the disparity can easily engulf you.

As I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit over the last couple of years, this post about The Overview Effect, Mindfulness, and Travel particularly caught my eye.

You cannot ignore the happenings in other places, or stick your head in the sand, because it’s too late — you’ve stepped away and looked at the planet in a different light. (Or, as I said to someone recently “once you’re a pickle you can’t go back to being a cucumber.”) While far less vivid or spectacular than a space trip, travel does tend to push people to think about the forest through the trees and to constantly pin current observations against past experiences. We all do this, naturally. But I think that the more you see, the more you have to compare ‘against’, which then permanently alters your views of the planet and of its people. The ultimate example of this, of course, is seeing it all from above, an orb glowing in the darkness of space.

This reflection on her travels in Mongolia also had my head nodding.

I included this post because nothing since has compared to the magic of simply watching the identity I had dissolve, replaced by pure wonder. Who I was shortly prior didn’t matter, because everything in front of me felt so intensely new that it blotted out anything familiar.

These wonder-filled moments, large and small, have happened to me while traveling, looking at art, lost in the company of others, watching heavenly bodies eclipse each other and even while working on this here website…and that’s a perfect succinct description of how it feels when it happens.

  1. Even though writing is a difficult task for her these days. Nevertheless, she persisted indeed.

Ten years of travel & the gift of surrender

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2018

Ten years ago this month, Jodi Ettenberg left her cushy lawyer job in NYC to embark on some traveling she wanted to do. But just for a year. Well, one thing led to another, and she never went back to her old life. She wrote about her travels on Legal Nomads and eventually turned the site into her full-time profession. Jodi recently marked this anniversary with a post about the nearly unbelievable parade of challenges she’s been dealing with over the past several months: The Spinal Tap That Changed My Life.

Enduring a potentially terrifying home invasion, a botched spinal tap, a debilitating condition that only allowed her to sit or stand for minutes at a time without excruciating pain, unsuccessful operations, almost dying in the operating room, and countless other setbacks in the space of a few months, Jodi has plumbed the depths of her soul in an attempt to ready herself for a future that looks very different than the one she’d envisioned.

I reread Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning during these difficult months. Frankl’s time in Auschwitz led to his development of logotherapy in his psychiatry practice, but the book delves into his theories of why certain people managed to survive the Nazi camps. Frankl saw life as a quest for meaning, found in work, in love, and in courage during difficult times. Among his beliefs was that suffering itself is meaningless, but we give suffering meaning by the way we respond to it. Or, as Harold S. Kushner writes in the introduction to the latest version, that “forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to the situation.”

Instead of thrashing around in grief, I’ve chosen to focus on the gifts that have come out of this very complicated year. With these facts, things could have been a lot worse. Instead of being confined to isolation, I have you to walk this path with me. My community around the world raised their voices and opened their pocketbooks to keep me afloat when I couldn’t manage it. You respond to my progress walks on Instagram, you cheerlead every update, and your birding skills helped me identify the beloved marsh hens that I fell for during this recovery.

I don’t really know how to finish this post. Jodi is a friend…we met in person for the first time last summer, just a few weeks before the spinal tap and I visited her in Montreal briefly during her darkest days. Maybe I’ll just leave it at this: Jodi, I’m really proud of you and am looking forward to ten more years of Legal Nomads!