The Precipice

by Keith Savage · 40 comments


Post image for The Precipice

I’ve been under the weather for the better part of a week now, but the time abed has afforded me countless hours of watching bad movies. One that made me sit up was the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves. There’s a scene where Keanu and John Cleese talk about how species only evolve when threatened with annihilation. The movie wasn’t very good but this exchange clicked with the idea for this post. You see, I’m the classic case of someone who waits until things are unbearable, until it hurts more to stay in the same place than to move on, before changing the scene.

If you’re new to Traveling Savage, my plan is to use this blog as a platform to share my observations, insights, and quests as I travel for one month in every three. Along the way I’ll choose the experiential travel path wherever I can in honest efforts to understand the culture and the land. When I’m not traveling, I’ll return to my wife, Sarah, to our three cats, to our house in the suburbs with refreshed eyes and whatever boons I’ve acquired while away.

That’s the plan. These days I’m in the corporate world, where I’ve been for the last seven years. So why the change? I’m not yet 30, but the sheen of age is silently sneaking gray threads into my hair. It took me three days to recover from a flag football game. These are the unremarkable losses born out of an office job that quietly stack up like a great, collapsing wave. The truth is I could live with these simple physical reminders if they were the only signals, but I’d bound and gagged my creativity many years earlier, too.

I was on the precipice.

prec-i-pice (noun): a situation of great peril.

per-il (noun): something that endangers or involves risk.

The precipice is the moment when your current path ends, that metaphorical ledge that demands a response. You can choose to jump toward some new path or you can stand still, frozen in place, decision-less, teetering on the brink of the precipice unable to make a decision or oblivious to the fact that you should be making one. Jumping is hardest. Who knows, you might cartwheel off into the chasm. On the other hand, you might land on solid ground with a new path open before you. But it’s almost always dark across the chasm. The paths we need to walk are rarely mapped.

I was on a precipice alright, and I’d been stuck there for years. The key for me is that word “risk” in the definition of peril. I have been a risk-averse person. Perhaps I’ve called it pragmatism in the past. I used to bemoan the occurrence of hardship, of precipices, as if the ideal life would be one without difficulty, without tests of spirit and courage. But I’ve come to view the precipice as desirable, as a milestone in life. Most dictionaries define risk as the chance for loss, but it is also the chance for gain. Whether you find your footing on solid ground or emerge from the depths of the chasm to start anew, you jumped. You found the courage to reach for something knowing that you might fail and fall into the chasm.

The irony does not escape me that it took a cold December night to unfreeze myself. Sure, life was good enough there on the precipice. But I wasn’t moving forward, and when has “good enough” ever really been good enough? For me, traveling is the greatest expression of jumping.

I’ll let you know if I hit solid ground.

Look at your own situation. Are you on a precipice? Have you decided to jump?


Jaipur HotelNo Gravatar October 21, 2010 at 1:56 AM

Thanks for sharing. fantastic post.

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Nomadic ChickNo Gravatar June 24, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Very well put. There is a moment of pause – where one can continue on the same path, the well known one, but fraught with misery. Or – leap. Close your eyes and jump off. Diverge from that tired old path. I’m always amazed at how people will constantly pick misery over possibility. When did we become a culture of fear mongers? Sounds like you already shut your eyes. ­čÖé

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 7, 2010 at 7:34 PM

I think most people are just afraid. Afraid they won’t have money. Afraid they’ll be reduced to squalor. Afraid of an undefined thing, ultimately. All that’s needed is a thoughtful probing of that fear to find out that the worst possible scenario isn’t all that bad.

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StanfordNo Gravatar June 16, 2010 at 11:24 PM

I was on the precipice too and I jumped a couple weeks ago and left my job. I also believe that traveling is the best expression of jumping. I plan to travel for the rest of the year and hope I can figure things out in the process. I like the concept of your blog. Thanks for the post.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Hey there – sounds like a good plan to me. Best of luck to you!

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Travel With a MateNo Gravatar June 12, 2010 at 8:58 AM

This is a familiar story and I’m glad that through the wonders of twitter, facebook and stumbleupon we’ve been able to find many others that share this story! We jumped last September and have never looked back. New careers and new opportunities have popped up on almost a daily basis with amazing new experiences, new friends and importantly more knowledge!

It’s ultimately led us to create our Travel Community site at http://www.travelwithamate.com which has grown so much in the last few months.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 12, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Social media is truly an amazing development of technology. Thanks for the link, I’ll check your site out. I guess a subtitle for my site would ‘Travel Without a Mate’ ­čÖé

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PoiNo Gravatar June 7, 2010 at 7:29 AM

I’m glad to say I’m standing on the edge waiting for the green light to flash so I can jump and looking around me I made the decision at the right time, I may be only 22 but things around me are starting to settle and it’s time to make it interesting again.

Really enjoyed reading the post Keith!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 7, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Hey Poi. I think it’s great you’ve found a path that you anticipate will make you happy. That’s the best we can do. You could be 22 or 92 – I don’t think age really matters.

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Spencer SpellmanNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Excellent post! Love it and just what I needed to hear. I’m on the precipice and about to make the jump!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Thanks and good luck, Spencer. While we may not always be successful when we jump, we almost never regret the act.

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Globetrooper LaurenNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 4:14 AM

On the precipice now too, it’s great knowing you’re not the only one. But if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never know and always regret it. At least if you jump, you have the option of falling or flying, and you decide which one. No matter how hard you fall, if you really want those wings, you’ll find a way.
.-= Globetrooper Lauren┬┤s last blog…Travel on Equity: the key to endless global travel =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:25 PM

That’s very true: if you really want it you’ll find a way. Something to think on. Thanks Lauren!

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Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel ExperiencesNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 6:18 PM

As Caz knows (*wink*), I was just on the precipice too. I’ve been on it many times. You know the funny thing? After awhile, I start to recognise it. So when I see it, I take a deep breath, get really freaked out. Then I sprint and jump. Never look back. No regrets.

Life’s too short to spend it staring over the edge. Honestly: jump. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
.-= Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences┬┤s last blog…Swimming with the Rich and Famous =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Totally agree with you Andy, though my old self would wish to be that bold. The precipice is a chance to be courageous in a way that isn’t common in this day and age.

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Caz MakepeaceNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 10:28 PM

Wink wink. I’ll jump if you do.
Ready 1.. 2.. 3..
Hey look at that we’re flying!

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AkilaNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 5:57 PM

30 is an awful year, isn’t it? That was my precipice – realizing that I was turning 30 and so many of the things on my to do list had been washed aside. We jumped and it was wonderful.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:17 PM

Your blog has been wonderfully inspiring, and I’m very happy that it has worked out for you and Patrick. Is 30 an awful year? I don’t know yet, I’m still 29, but crud that sucks. ­čÖé

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JayNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 2:39 PM

I’ve been on the precipice for quite some time and unfortunately did kind of a half jump off of it. More like I tried to jump but turned around and grabbed the ledge at the last second and am now just hanging there. I took steps to leave my current job but was talked into moving to part time. Financially it helps, but at the same time I feel caught between two worlds- my old career and the new one I am trying to build– and ultimately right now I am unable to fully commit to either.
.-= Jay┬┤s last blog…Free Museum Weekends =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:27 PM

Sorry to hear that Jay. Obviously I don’t fully understand your situation, but staying in two worlds isn’t sustainable in the long run. It sounds like you know what you want to do…jump.

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AndrewNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM

There are two outcomes from jumping: falling and flying.
You never fall as far as you think you will and the chances of flying is higher than you expect.
I’m a quote person so..(paraphrased from memory)
“Often that which you cling to so hard to keep from falling is exactly what is holding you down from flying.” – Me.
“Flying is simple, it is the act of plunging yourself at the ground and missing.” Douglas Adams in Hitchhikers somewhere.

Excellent post again, and a neat image you put forth. I like it and will remember it next time I have decisions.
.-= Andrew┬┤s last blog…A light Refreshment =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:16 PM

Thanks for sharing these quotes, Andrew. Insightful.

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CandiceNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 11:16 AM

I’m 23, and I’m pretty sure I’m already at that precipice.

And I agree with Andi about the writing, beautiful!
.-= Candice┬┤s last blog…Sometimes Growing Up in a Bilingual Country Sucks =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:14 PM

We’re never too young for a precipice. You might have many more before it’s all said and done. Thanks Candice!

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AndiNo Gravatar June 4, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Your writing is beautiful. I have no doubt that you’ll hit solid ground, though it sounds like you already have!!! CONGRATS for taking the risk! ­čÖé
.-= Andi┬┤s last blog…India: Day 3 (Part 4) =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Thanks for the compliment Andi!

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Caz MakepeaceNo Gravatar June 3, 2010 at 9:32 PM

I feel as if this post was written for me today. I am at the precipice right now in my life. I’ve been here many times before, but I was always so great at jumping. I was only thinking today, why this time do I feel so stuck and afraid to jump? Now that I’m a little older and have a little girl, I don’t feel so courageous, which before served me soooo well. I know what I have to do, but this stranger called fear, keeps pulling me back. Thank you for reminding me, that the change I desire comes with the jump. I don’t need to be afraid. By jumping I am saying yes to life instead of denying it through the illusion of fear.
.-= Caz Makepeace┬┤s last blog…Daily Travel Photo: New York City Subway =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Hi Caz – thanks for the comment and the pingback. I think it’s important to look at the source of the fear. Perhaps you already know which path you should take. The fear doesn’t want you to go there and this is all the more reason to choose it. Good luck!

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Caz MakepeaceNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 10:25 PM

Thanks Keith. I’m pretty sure I know which path. I like how you said the fear doesn’t want you to go there- This has really made me stop and think tonight Why? I’m ready to swallow that fear I first have to really work out what it is so I can smash it up. I’ll let you know when I find the answer. Such a great post!

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AliNo Gravatar June 3, 2010 at 7:58 PM

I think I’m getting close to that point, or possibly I’m there but realize I have quite a bit of planning to do before I can take that leap. Unfortunately I’ve come to realize this AFTER buying a condo, which leaves me a little more tied down, but I’m confident I’ll figure out how/where/when to jump with enough persistance.
.-= Ali┬┤s last blog ..North Carolina Wine Country =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 4:58 PM

Hey Ali. The toughest part for me was owning up to the fact that I was on a precipice. I needed to change course but I was hiding the decision from myself. It sounds like you see a precipice up ahead, and that’s a huge leg up.

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floretaNo Gravatar June 3, 2010 at 6:33 PM

sometimes i just love watching bad movies! haha

i think i was on the precipice about 2 years ago when i broke up from my relationship, changing the course of my life, and sending me to Asia (currently). ­čÖé Hope I can reach another precipice soon. I’m an entrepreneur wannabe..
.-= floreta┬┤s last blog ..This Is Not The End =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Bad movies – me too. I also saw part of the remake of Friday the 13th – horrible!

You don’t seem like you have any trouble jumping off those precipices, Floreta. ­čÖé I mean, not only did you move to the Philippines, you also joined a monastery for three months.

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ayngelinaNo Gravatar June 3, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Oh man have I ever! At 32 I had been working for ten years and was in a great place professionally and financially. I would say that I had already proven to my younger self that I could “make it”.

It was either throw a lump sum on a downpayment for a condo or take the money and travel.

I knew once I had a mortgage there would be too many reasons not to travel for a year so here I am blowing my downpayment and having a blast.
.-= ayngelina┬┤s last blog ..Reunited and it feels so good =-.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 5, 2010 at 4:52 PM

Hey Ayngelina, I like the story. Looks like you definitely jumped into something new. I assume you quit your job as well, that you’re not on some kind of extended sabbatical. Alas, I have a mortgage…

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