‘You Don’t Belong in a Box’ and Other Insights from Petra Kolber

'You Don’t Belong in a Box' and Other Insights from Petra Kolber

The options stopped at 45. Petra Kolber was trying to finish her application to join a digital nomad community. Asked to enter her age, she hit a wall in the list of options at “45-plus.”

Not long after, the nearly 60-year-old author, speaker, podcast host, DJ, fitness brand spokesperson, trainer to the stars and recovering perfectionist got a “lovely, very thinly veiled answer back” from the digital nomad community. It said, in essence: You’re too old for us.

“And I was like, ‘Well, screw that,’” Kolber said in a recent episode of On Your Terms with Erin King. “I’ll go and do it myself. So that’s what I did.”

The “it” that Kolber did was something many people of all ages dream of, particularly as the pandemic wanes and the collective trauma it has inflicted fades. She started traveling the world as a digital nomad.

Anyone who knows her shouldn’t be surprised that she’s well into this journey and still loving every minute of it. More importantly, she’s making it work on her terms. 

On Your Terms host Erin King sat down with Kolber this week to learn more about what this world-traveling inspiration has been up to and how she’s made it so far in such style.

Anxiety, excitement or both?

From national media appearances to conferences, speaking appearances to podcast episodes, Kolber has brought a warm, authentic vibe everywhere she has gone throughout her incredible career. 

If you’ve seen her, you’ve seen the quiet confidence she brings. She doesn’t walk—she floats to the stage, the mic or the next conversation. But Kolber said her inner dialogue is quite different from the outward image she projects.

How is she processing anxiety so it comes out as confidence, or even excitement?

“The more you care, the more anxious you’ll feel,” she said. “And anxiety and excitement run on the same nervous system. It’s just the mindset behind it. So I’ve lived on both sides of that coin. I’ve defined anxiety as just proving that you don’t deserve to be here. But now, on the other side of things, I know anxiety just means that you care.”

Kolber didn’t reach this enlightened state of being overnight, though.

“We cannot wait for courage and confidence to show up,” she said. “It happens in action. And it’s just like a muscle. It’s the sets and it’s the reps, and it’s showing up time after time.”

Living the possibility

When Kolber was rejected from a digital nomad community based on her age, she realized she had been placed in a box. The box was trying to tell her she was in the “too-old-for-this” category—a category that’s difficult to escape.

“Do I define that as, ‘Oh, that means I’m too old to even try this?’ Or does that mean, ‘Well, OK, you go out there and be the change. You go and live the possibility for other women of a certain age,’” she said.

It was the latter. And it became something of a calling for Kolber to help “women of a certain age.” 

To be clear, that “certain age” isn’t a number on your driver’s license, Kolber said.

“It’s when you start thinking about your age and asking yourself, ‘Am I too old to be doing this?’” she said. 

It’s that moment when you can look at new endeavors in one of two ways: “I’m too old to get started,” or, “I had better hurry up because I’m just getting started.”

Kolber has dedicated this phase of her life to helping women of a certain age see that they truly are just getting started.

The origins of real change

The decision to give up much of the life she had built to travel the world didn’t happen overnight, Kolber said. A lot went into it, but there were two defining moments.

The first was a conversation with a younger woman, a millennial. When Kolber mentioned the concept of traveling around the world as a digital nomad, the woman said she would be highly interested in that journey. That sparked a genuine interest in the idea.

“I began to start talking about it on podcasts and interviews,” Kolber said. “I hadn’t really committed to it yet, but I started speaking it into truth. I figured if I put it out there enough, I would create the courage to do it.”

Then, the second defining moment struck: A close friend of Kolber’s died. And she was the one to find him.

“There’s nothing like finding your best friend passed that will wake you up to the preciousness of life,” she said. “Twenty minutes earlier, he had emailed me asking me to bring over some antacids. I went 20 minutes later, and he was dead.”

That moment left Kolber thinking, “If not now, when?” On top of that, there was an old joke between her and her friend that left her feeling like she had no choice but to follow the digital nomad dream.

“I always told him, ‘When you leave New York, I’m out,’” she said. “Well, he left, so I’m out.”

Out she was. And the journey since has been filled with personal growth, success and a healthy helping of adventure.

Hear more from Erin King’s interview with Petra Kolber in the full podcast episode.

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Alex Lindley is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he lives with his wife, son, dog and cat. He loves working with words, whether that happens in print journalism, SEO, poetry manuscripts or pretty much anywhere else. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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