When I first read Tim Ferris’ “Four Hour Workweek” I was instantly spellbound by the freedom that he described in his lifestyle chapter, where he simply put his belongings into storage for months at a time and traveled the world with abandon! He became our inspiration, and as such, we were looking forward to finally unencumbering ourselves, to live out our dream and go on our work-travel journey. For me, however, that is- until it came down to actually taking the pictures off the wall. I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks, clinging to my possessions and my perceived identity like they were a life raft.
Before I continue on about my packing story, a little bit of background. As Rich mentioned in another post, sometime between being laid off and starting a new business over these past few years, Rich and I decided to take the plunge and hit the open roads. We labored diligently to create an online business, which we plan to take with us across the miles- equipping ourselves with the newest technology and gadgets so we can feed and clothe ourselves, while visiting family across the continent and seeing the world as we love to do.
But then somewhere between the mile long to-do list I created and the action, I almost lost my nerve. I’ve been buffeted from much of the world by my cozy, resort-style apartment in the scrubbed-clean and super-safe city of Irvine, CA, which is nested happily near the famous Laguna Beach. Who would be crazy enough to move their spoiled, fluffy cat cross country, uproot themselves from these digs, their friends, and a perfect climate? More than that – we aren’t just moving, rather we’ve elected to travel for a year or two, only tethered by a mail forwarding address and our technology. As far as our physical location goes, we’ll be spending time visiting family, camping and living abroad, as a way to ‘try on’ a long-term traveling lifestyle.
Still, I consider myself to have a spiritual side that isn’t attached to belongings. Wrong. Instead, I find myself sitting amongst the unopened moving boxes, sobbing intermittently in the rooms I interior-decorated, and it hits me that I have to get going here. To unblock my procrastination, I’ll need to reflect on what’s going on here with myself, so I can help us to meet our self-imposed Sept. 1 travel start date. I should embrace this time, after all, I was on the road with my dad at 3 years old, and loved it – so this is nothing new to me. Plus I’ve been singing praises to this lifestyle for the past few years. Hmmmm.
Most of my life I’ve probably been what I would call a typical consumer, collecting much more stuff than is needed. Recently, however I’ve been inspired by my daughter to adopt a more conservative and ecologically sustainable lifestyle. So I finally begin dragging myself into the endless chore of sorting out my life and belongings. In spite of a beautiful and organized facade, I realize to my dismay that I’d truly accumulated vast mounds of consumer goods that are hidden efficiently into closets, drawers and furniture, and anywhere that a single square inch of space exists. (Note to self: consume less going forward.) With help from my daughter, and about 8 trips to Goodwill, I begin to get into the swing of this streamlining!
I’ve also come to realize I the obvious truth that I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to family photos and other sentimental momentos. To be fair to myself, I am a mother – and by nature I have an ordained right to hang onto everything related to family and my grown children. (Note to self: scanning photos is more efficient today, and allows you to keep many of these things in much less space.)
Then there’s the cat, Gracie. She is the Princess in our home, who is convinced she is a person. As such, she’s grown accustomed to her rituals with Rich and me, like morning and evening ‘lap time’, her walks, us topping off her water glass, and having us endlessly opening and closing the screen door to our balcony, where she is amused by the birds. It seems like an insurmountable emotional task for me – to ship her off to Massachusetts to live with my daughter, who is graciously taking her in while attending graduate school.
The question looms over me like a storm approaching – will we really ever leave? Worse yet, if we do, will it be turn out to be a good decision, or one that fills me with regret? And who am I, anyway?…who will I become? Throughout these ruminations I should note that most of this self-doubt is rambling through my head, not Rich’s. On the other hand, he is simply excited most of the time, and so sure of our vision. Yes, he has many stressful moments, too – but I through all of it he retains unwavering self-confidence, while I vacillate between thinking I should be committed and being filled with excitement.
Fortunately for me, beneath my ego’s negative chatter, the truth dimly glows in the corners of my mind -I am absolutely positive I’m doing the right thing for my life. I’m comforted by reading about a couple who accomplished a similar feat of bravery and lunacy, in their online RV -Dreams Journal. Howard & Linda Payne tell an entertaining tale of how in their 40’s they quit the corporate world, sold their home and went on the road permanently, buying an RV to transport them and their unique vision. They are still on the road today after 5 years! I highly recommend it as a must-read if you are considering a long-term travel lifestyle. Another excellent resource is Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts.
Ultimately, the calendar marches on through August – with or without my timely packing. Somehow, Rich and I sift through difficult decisions like how many shoes to bring. I have a modest dozen or so pairs of shoes, and at around 2am my loving husband convinces me to reduce my shoes for this trip down to a mere 6 pair. I wanted 8 pairs, but was so tired by this time that I gave in. I also put my bathroom scale into storage, figuring that my clothing will tell me how my weight is doing. Daring move a or freeing one?- it depends on your perspective.
Really, how do you take all of your comforts of home and personal belongings, and decide which ones to take with you on a long term sabbatical? Your knives, photos, bedding, bikes, pots, plants, the list goes on. Decisions like this are tiring, especially when there’s no ‘home’ on the other end of your choices. We have a few situations to plan for: 1) Staying at relatives, 2) sleeping in campgrounds, 3) traveling abroad, and 4) hiking the Appalachian trail! In the end some of it is sheer guess work, but after a few sleepless nights of stuffing items into boxes, drugging our cat and putting her on the plane, and organizing multiple matching totes for the Honda, I’m happy to report that we’ve made it onto the road. Stay tuned!