Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Getting Ready

Catch Ya on the Flip Side…of the Atlantic

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Our bags are checked, and our flight’s on time!  After a surprisingly uneventful cab ride to the airport (think middle-aged metalhead in a crumb-filled mini-van…),  we cleared security in record time and relaxed over pre-flight veggie burgers and beer.  In a little less than an hour, we’ll board our overnight flight to Ireland.  With any luck, we’ll fall asleep quickly and wake up in the Emerald Isle.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting near-time updates from our travels in Ireland and Germany as well as sharing a series of posts highlighting our recent road trip across the American West.  We hope the resulting “time whiplash” doesn’t deter you from following along. We are looking forward to sharing this next leg of our travels with you. -J&M


My Road to Achill

My road...err, flight path...to Achill

My road…err, flight path…to Achill Island for next week’s marathon

I’ve only been running for three years, but I’ve noticed a recurring runner (R)/non-runner (NR) conversation that goes a little something like this:

R: I’m a runner.

NR: Have you run a marathon?

R: No

NR: (Nods. Loses interest. Changes subject.)

Completing a marathon is a rite of passage for a distance runner.  It confers a level of commitment to the sport, of accomplishment as an athlete, of membership in a special (albeit slightly crazy) group.  And while half-marathon is now the most popular distance to race in the United States, the marathon remains out of reach for many runners.  Perhaps because it is more difficult, more of a training commitment, more daunting a challenge…whatever the reason, taking on a marathon is a milestone in a running career, and for me, that milestone is right around the corner. (more…)


The Countdown is On

Tools of the trade: Old school road tripping with an actual map; freshly-minted passports ready for the next 10 years of action; and a sneak preview of  our fall travels.

Tools of the trade (L to R): Old-school road tripping with an actual map; freshly-minted passports ready for the next 10 years of action; and a sneak preview of our fall travels.

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…)


Race-tober: Tear Down the Walls

L to R: Runners competing in the 2011 Smuttynose Rockfest; us, after yesterday’s 2012 Rockfest, happy to be done running in the rain; and the finish corral, where everyone wants to be!

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…)


We and Bobby McGee

L to R: Rainy, cozy trip to storage; saying goodbye to la casa; a well-packed Sal; Jenn kicking it passenger-style; Marty working on a post from Bar Harbor

“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


Cooking Up Something Good

Tasty victuals and critical productivity tools...

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


The Art of Losing

Before and after the garage sale...

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


Spring Cleaning

It’s possible—strike that…it’s a fact—that being home is more frenzied than being on the road.  In the two weeks since we returned from Key West, we’ve had zero plans on exactly one day—and that one day was spent sorting through the contents of our kitchen cabinets.  In that same period of time, we’ve managed to put up just four blog posts.  Not because we haven’t had much to say, but because we’ve been distracted and exhausted.  So what’s been keeping us so busy?  Where to begin?  We’ve gone under agreement to sell our house, celebrated holidays and family birthdays, run a half marathon, babysat for my niece, gone to concerts, hung out with friends from near and far, played charity trivia, and found a new place to live.  The new place won’t be ready until July, so we’ve also been working out arrangements for two months of temporary living…which for us will be a combination of campgrounds, friends’ homes, and an occasional hotel.  Whatever isn’t going in our car for those two months is going in storage, so we’re spending a fair amount of time sorting through things and being tough about what we really need on a daily basis.  And if things don’t make that cut, we’re deciding whether they have a place in our lives at all.  It’s a good exercise to go through, and our test trip a few weeks ago helped clarify our requirements.  This time, we’ll be wandering for six additional weeks, but our gear requirements won’t be much different.  It’s easy to live simply when you’re simply living.  Although the simplification process might seem minimalist, we’re actually taking our own maximalist approach to life these days…in other words, attempting to maximize the utility and value and enjoyment from each object we retain.  That doesn’t always mean the smallest or cheapest items; on the contrary, it often means trading quality for quantity.  It also means being very thoughtful at the point of consumption (i.e., time of purchase) to ensure any new items won’t end up in a donation pile the next time we move.  It’s rather depressing to sort items for a garage sale and realize how many things should have never entered our lives in the first place…how many dishes or vases or electronics or souvenirs should have never been purchased.  And it’s not just the wasted money that’s depressing.  It’s the wasted materials and resources along the way.  No one needs those things, and certainly not that many things.  More often than not, things won’t make you happy.  They’ll suffocate you and depress you and clog your closets and drain your bank accounts.  If you haven’t already done so, stop watching commercials on TV, stop looking through catalogs, and stop buying things you don’t need.  You’ll be happier and better off for it, and you’ll have fewer things to sort through next time you move. -J


Hurry Up and Wait

“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)


…Go!

“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!