Happy June, everyone! We hope those of you in New England are enjoying this early taste of summer. We’re staying cool indoors today, putting the finishing touches on our upcoming travel plans. For the past month or so, we’ve been busy mapping out three separate adventures in 2013: an old-fashioned road trip through the western U.S. and Canada, a European slow-cation, and a Pacific Northwest park-bagging loop.
All that trip planning has been in addition to the task of figuring out things like where we want to live for the next year and how we want to balance work and travel as we continue down this path of self-employment. For the most part, we’ve answered the big questions, and we can freely go forth into the universe for another round of aimful wandering.
So what’s ahead during WPG’s main travel season this year? (more…)
I was lying in bed last night contemplating the start of October and thinking about an article I had just read. The article asked, “Why do you run? Every runner should know the answer to this question.” I thought about it for a minute, and my first answer was that running helped me lose 160 pounds and now it helps me keep from putting it back on. It also helps me to stay balanced (read: sane). Then I thought on it a little further. Running helps me test my limits, both physically and mentally. It helps me push myself further or faster than I thought I was capable, and this gives me courage. If I can push past things that I thought were limits on the road or trail, then I can do it anywhere.
There’s a lot of truth in this metaphor. I haven’t learned everything in life, but I’ve learned that many things that present themselves as barriers are false. (more…)
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” –Janis Joplin (courtesy Kris Kristofferson, et. al.)
And we now—officially, after months of planning and hoping and maneuvering—have very little left to lose. As of noon today, we sold the house and hit the road without an address. To clarify, we have a P.O. Box where mail will be forwarded, but we do not have a physical address. We are voluntarily homeless (which brings with it a number of sociological issues which J. plans to discuss in a future post, naturally.) (Insert shout out to anyone who has agreed to host us during the next three months…)
Over the past few days, we’ve both been singing Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” while working to move our stuff into storage, sell the house, and take the final step toward freedom. During this time, music has been a critical factor in our sanity and our motivation. We’ve bee-bopped around the house: packing, cleaning, moving, and singing. We’ve raged and hip-hopped and rocked and sung the blues. Throughout the process, the lyrics of “Me and Bobby McGee” proved to be especially relevant: “Freedom’s just another word for / nothing left to lose.” They were sung quietly while carrying trash bags to the garage, belted out in the shower while we scrubbed off the basement grime, and hummed while packing boxes of stuff we wondered if we really needed.
Yet Janis isn’t the only one who’s been keeping us company. Adam Ezra understood why we were “Takin’ Off Today.” Air Traffic Controller knew that all of the hoops we’ve been jumping through were “just a test / test 1, 2, 3…” And The Hold Steady explained that “we were young and we were so in love / and I guess we just needed space.”
But perhaps Modest Mouse captured it best: “I know that starting over is not what life’s about / but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth.” It’s not often that you change most (or all!) of the key components of your life, but sometimes your thoughts are too loud to ignore. We’ve changed so much with our physical and professional and personal selves that this financial transition out of the house seemed natural. It was necessary to complete our journey into a place of total flexibility.
We have no idea what the future will bring, but for now, being on the road—traveling, reading, experiencing life and writing—is good enough… “good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.” -M&J
Today was the first day in weeks I’ve been able to take a deep breath and fully exhale. We had no plans except those of our own choosing, and no schedule to keep except to get a run in before dark. We slept a little later than usual, huddled under the covers in the guest room. (In a story too long and boring to tell here, we sold the bed we’ve been sleeping in at the yard sale last weekend, and we’re keeping the heat off so we don’t have to pay for another oil delivery before we sell the house next week. It’s really a circus of the absurd around here.) Once we finally rallied downstairs, we cooked up a delicious breakfast of lentil hash and eggs scrambled with sweet onions and cheese. We sipped cups of coffee and read the news and paid bills. We relished the return to quiet normalcy, to a day when we did not have strangers or appraisers or buyers pushing their agendas on us. We drove to Portsmouth to procure boxes and tape for packing, grab a few fresh veggies at the grocery store, and pick up a replacement screen canopy for our upcoming camping trip to Acadia National Park. We were back by early afternoon and each headed out for a run. Distance didn’t matter today; just getting out there mattered. Our next race is in Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, so we have plenty of time to train. What we needed today were fresh air and clear minds, and we found both. We capped the day with a delicious dinner collaboration, one so tasty that it will probably make its detailed way to my food and fitness blog soon. The short version: spicy apple tofu roasted over fresh asparagus and paired with sweet potato fries and a chipotle-lime aoili. Pick a word: delicious, fantastic, balanced, amazing. They all apply to dinner, and they apply to the rest of the day as well. I hope your Monday was as balanced as ours, but if not, there’s always hope for tomorrow. -J
We’ve been losing a lot of things lately: weight, earrings, and the lottery, among others. We’ve even been losing track of time, spending hours in a dusty basement sorting through boxes of stuff we’ve been lugging around for years. Last weekend, we took a break from purging to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem. This weekend, we held our first (and only!) yard sale to rid ourselves of extraneous possessions. How are all of these events related?
One of the sessions at the festival featured a reading of a favorite poem we hadn’t heard or read in a while. The poem is “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the opening stanza goes like this:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Bishop goes on to suggest that we should all “practice losing farther, losing faster”…and that seems to be the theme of our April this year. We started the month staring down a houseful of stuff, wondering how we would decide what to keep when we moved into our next place…a much smaller, cooler, easier to handle space, by design. Sometimes those keep-or-ditch decisions were easy, but often they were difficult, getting caught up in memories and emotions and absurd hangups on financial value or sunk costs.
But as the month progressed, we seemed to get better at losing. Every box we touched became easier to go through, every letter we read became easier to recycle, and every possession we evaluated became easier to part with. We sent hundreds of items home with new owners yesterday, with the intent that their useful lives be extended in someone else’s care. We then took most of the remaining items to a local non-profit with the same outcome in mind. A handful of leftovers wait patiently in our garage to meet their fate at our town’s recycling center.
It turns out that the art of losing is difficult to begin, but with a little practice (Write it!) it isn’t hard to master. –J&M
In honor of the festival and national poetry month, we suggest you check out Bishop’s entire poem, available on the Poetry Foundation’s website here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176996
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine
Freedom from a mortgage and a job might not be what Paine had in mind, but the spirit of his statement fits! First things first, we are sorry for our silence this week. Who would have thought that being home would be more hectic than being on the road?! We received an offer on our house the day we returned home from our trip, and we’ve spent the past week setting the wheels in motion to move into a much funkier and more economical river-view apartment that better suits our lifestyle. So we spent most of our time this week organizing and resolving the things within our control, and now we wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at a waiting, even after a lifetime of practice. When you’re a kid, it’s waiting for your birthday or waiting for Christmas or waiting for your friend to come over. Then it’s waiting to get your license, waiting to go to college, waiting to graduate. Once you start working, it’s waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for the next job or promotion. Waiting can take over your life. This realization brings to mind the quote most often attributed to John Lennon (though said by others before him): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
There is some truth in that statement, but is it all just waiting? What about preparation and effort to ready oneself for what’s next? Is preparation the same as waiting? The answer, of course, is no. Preparation involves taking an active role in the future and showing initiative, while waiting implies a being passive while other things occur around you. We’ve arrived at this juncture in our lives through preparation. We’ve done our best—sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding—to control the things we could and to mitigate risk from circumstances outside of our control.
And now, we wait. Better yet, we wait and we live our lives! This is a time to be active. To put worries to the side and run races, write poems, visit friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company (and of course, update our blog!). And as we wait for items outside of our control to be resolved, we can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared the best we could.
We stumbled across the quote below from a great adventurer and wanted to share it as an encouraging piece of wisdom that sums up the impact of preparation and initiative:
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)
“Take a last look out on / Turn the key and we’re gone /
Who cares if Monday / There’ll be hell to pay…”
-Taking Off Today, Adam Ezra Group
We are taking off today. We are hitting the road for the first in a series of trips that will, over the next nine months, criss-cross two continents and five or six countries.
We’ve been planning this day for weeks and talking about it for months, but we’ve each been dreaming about this day our whole lives, long before we even knew the other existed. The day when we quit our corporate jobs to pursue an authentic, creative life. The day we awoke with no expectations or agendas or constraints other than the ones we assigned to ourselves.
We’ve been readying our physical selves by losing weight, eating whole foods, and getting fit enough to tackle 6,500-foot mountains and long stretches of road.
We’ve been readying our financial selves by living below our means, sticking to a budget, paying off debt, and saving money.
We’ve been readying our possessions by decluttering, donating, and downsizing, seeking out “the right stuff” instead of simply “more” or “less” stuff.
And we’ve been readying our ride. We traded in two family sedans for a road warrior, swapping a hybrid engine for all-wheel drive that eats mountains and standard trunks for a wagon that craves gear.
This morning, that wagon is packed and ready to roll. For us, there is no Monday. There will be no hell to pay at the office, because there will be no office. There will be no commute to the city, no gridlocked traffic, and no work e-mail to check. There will not be anything except the few things we’ve chosen carefully for the trip and a collection of dreams that have been piling up for the past 30-something years.
We know roughly how many miles per gallon we will get on the road, but we have no idea how many words per gallon we will write while we’re out there. Come along for the ride, and we’ll find out together!
T-21 hours and counting! We’re busy as bees cooking meals and snacks to take with us, getting the house ready so it’s sparkly clean when we come home, and packing our gear and the car. We both have a long training run planned for this afternoon, so we’re working our other chores around them. In many ways, it feels like a regular Saturday around the house, but there’s a building sense of anticipation with every tick of the clock on the kitchen wall. Still no decision on the first song, but the tunes are cranking right now!
It’s barely noon, and I’m crying for the second time today. It was a song that did me in both times: the lyrics of one and the opening chords of a guitar in the other. Twangy little rock-and-rollers singing about change and loss and freedom. In other words, songs that were written specifically to make me cry today. Well, not me specifically, but anyone on the precipice of a big transition that’s been in the making for a long time. Today’s two songs have made their way to our growing road trip playlist. We expect to do more than 80 hours of driving in the next two weeks, and that calls for a longer-than-usual set of car tunes. We’ll mix in old favorites with new tracks, shuffle up the genres, and throw in some spoken word for good measure. There’s been much debate but no decision yet on the track that will earn the coveted designation of “first song,” the song that will play during those first three or four minutes of the trip. Even though we’ll spend those minutes driving on the roads closest to our home, we’ll be driving away from what our lives have been and toward what they will become. There’s a good chance I’ll cry most part of the way to Virginia, too, but they will be happy tears: tears of boundless relief, tears of authentic joy, and tears born of emotions for which I won’t have words. With a little luck, the words will come later. In the meantime, I’ll be content to lean back, look out the window, and listen to the soundtrack of our lives. -J
So…I resigned from my job at the company I’ve worked at for the past thirteen years. My last day will be this Friday. After that, we’ll pack the car, hit the road and start a different kind of work, moving our lives in a new direction. I mentioned in a prior post that I expect some friction as I wind down over the next couple of days. That’s okay. There was plenty of friction in my day-to-day job anyway. As I sit in my kitchen and reflect on the job and people I’m leaving behind, I also know that I’ll receive encouragement and support from many of my friends and coworkers. Delivering my resignation turned out to be far less dramatic than I expected (probably because I was wrapped up in my own head about it). I’m guessing the next two days will turn out the same way, and I’m relieved by that thought. I’m grateful for the good people who I’ve worked with over the years, and I’m confident that the team I’m leaving behind will be successful . After Friday, the only employee I’ll be responsible for is me. I think I’m up for the challenge. – M
Today brought us three huge steps closer to the road and the freedom that follows it. We cleared the last few critical hurdles this afternoon, two on the financial front and one on the professional front. Without going into the gory details, there were three tasks that had to occur before we hit the road but could not occur any sooner than today, four days before we are scheduled to leave. I can happily report tonight that they all are done and done…and done. After weeks of waiting–waiting for things to go right, waiting for things to go wrong–we are finally able to take a deep breath and let ourselves sink slowly into the realization that what we’ve been talking about for months is actually going to happen. -J
The timing of our first few weeks on the road will coincide with the last few weeks of our training before we run a half-marathon back in our hometown. It will be my first half (his second), and despite a recent bout of bronchitis, I’ve done a decent job sticking to my training plan during what turned out to be a mild New Hampshire winter. What’s proving to be a bigger challenge is ensuring we stick to our training plans while on a road trip. Planning our workouts (especially our long runs) will be critical to ensuring we return home at the end of the trip ready to run the race. I spent part of today mapping out a workout schedule, taking into consideration which days we have extended drives planned (making it tough to fit in any kind of workout) and which days look like they’ll offer us a big block of free time (perfect for a long run). We’ll control for the variables we can (like choosing to stay in locations that seem to offer decent running routes) and be flexible when faced with ones we can’t (like weather or terrain or quirks of a small town road). We’ll also need to be more careful than usual when hiking during the first week of the trip. We’re planning to tackle some moderately challenging hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains, and what might be normal fatigue or a nuisance injury on any other trip could become a race-ruining injury on this one. No amount of internet research or advance planning will prepare us for exactly what we’ll find on the road, but having a plan in hand when we set out will give us the best chance of sticking to it while we’re out there. –J
I should be reading On the Road or Dharma Bums or The Undiscovered Self to remind myself of all of the reasons I’ve been chasing this life for the past ten years. It’s not that I’m afraid of quitting my job. This nervous/anxious/pensive response to readying our gear for the trip is more of a flinch, since I know that the next five days are going to hurt. I will disappoint some, anger others and likely perplex all. They won’t understand my motivations, they’ll question my motivations, and they will definitely criticize my motivations. On Friday, after thirteen years of working in the insurance industry, I will be free to make my own way. I’ll be free of debt, free of the fears of others, free of contractual obligations and ready to move on.
So, when the haters begin to talk and the questions begin to fly, it will be up to me to call upon the spirit of Kerouac’s “Rucksack Revolution” and to summon Jung’s analytical mind and ability to deconstruct the man-made trappings of what he called “the state” (…which has evolved in our time into “Corporate America”). Their voices remind me that the American Dream is not just a singular dream, rather it’s any dream. It’s my dream of hitting the road in the shadow of the travelers before me, experiencing life and writing in my own voice. Whatever happens from here will be up to me.
In the lyrics of Ben Harper, “the unfinished work of our heroes must truly be our own…” I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I’ll finish the work of those like Kerouac and Jung, but perhaps I will further their causes and leave an unfinished legacy for the next dreamer to pursue. -M
The anticipation is high, and the waiting is painful. These last two weeks are moving more slowly than any of the previous twelve months. We’re distracting ourselves by staying focused on trip preparations. We’ve sketched out the itinerary for our first two weeks on the road, and it’s shaping up to be a 50/50 split of camping nights and nights spent in other accommodations (like highway hotels or the homes of family and friends along the way). We have reservations for a few anchor nights, and we’ll play the rest by ear. I’m obsessively checking the 10-day forecasts for Key West (stunningly warm) and Gatlinburg (confusingly bipolar). We are planning to camp near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains NP, and the overnight temps are still dancing in the 30s. I’ve started to work on a meal plan so that grocery shopping and food preparation and cooking gear all scream efficiency and economy. And given that writing will be a major component of this journey, we’ve created several new blog sites, including this one to track our travels. (In addition to this blog, we’ll each maintain our own individual blogs for topics ranging from food and fitness to poetry and photography. You can find links to them on the right side of this screen.) Each day brings us one step closer to the morning when we shift the car into drive and log our first mile. That moment cannot arrive soon enough. -J
After months of dreaming and scheming, we’re down to less than two weeks until we hit the road! We’re busy readying our gear, ourselves, and this site. Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to our much-anticipated departure. -J&M