I should know better than to predict our departure date. Last year I wrote the blog entry “(Almost) Ready To Roll” on June 1, and we ended up stuck for various reasons until June 17. This year I wrote “Last week before launch” on April 27 and then we realized it wasn’t really the last week at all.
Not that we’ve had serious mechanical issues, like last year. This time it’s more a matter of feeling not quite ready. We’re going with our guts here. Eleanor was feeling stressed by a lot of projects she wanted to get done, and I was feeling put off by the generally lousy weather conditions along our proposed route. I can’t see the point in rushing away from decent weather here just to go up and freeze our snowbird tailfeathers in the upper elevations of New Mexico and Colorado.
As I’ve said many times, flexibility is the key. We had an Executive Committee meeting (Mom & Dad) and decided that we would simply chuck a few destinations from the trip plan in order to be able to stay in Tucson for another week. The major destination dropped was Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northern New Mexico. Being at about 6,000 feet, it was still experiencing cold days and wind recently. Although Chaco has been on our destination list for a long time, we’re going to postpone it again until summer 2011 when we are looking for a cooler getaway from the heat of the low desert.
This has turned out to be a great decision. Not only do we have a much more leisurely packing process, but we are using the opportunity to clean up projects and tasks that otherwise would have dragged on into the fall. We’ll leave in a clearer-headed state, and that much more able to enjoy the travels that are ahead.
That’s a really important point. When talking to prospective full-timers, or people who are planning a grand voyage of several months, I always mention that they need to get the little things cleaned up before they go. Most people don’t follow this advice as well as they should, and the result is always that the first year or so of travel is overshadowed by lingering issues from their life before. In particular, it’s important to get your financial house in order. Too many times I’ve seen folks go out assuming that life on the road would be fantastically cheap (which it can be, but isn’t always), and then they inevitably hit a wall caused by old debts not cleared up, lack of capital, tax problems not resolved, or unexpected expenses. More than one person I know has had to give up their travel dreams, sell the trailer, and go back to a day job, very much against their will.
Of course there are plenty of other things that can hang you up as you go. Some can’t be prevented, and just have to be dealt with as they crop up, like medical problems and mechanical breakdowns. But it’s a crucial exercise to think for a few months about how you live every day, and what you’ll need to adjust when living out of a 200-square foot space that has no fixed address. We still do it before every trip because it’s easy to accumulate stuff and habits while living in a house, that don’t translate well to mobile life. It’s a process of cleansing, simplifying, and organizing your life that ultimately yields benefits beyond the travel experience, so it’s well worth doing.
You may not think retirees have a lot to teach you, but in this case they do. Retirees often simplify their lives in a healthy way. With kids and jobs behind them, they reduce expenses, clear out the garage, downsize the house (or get rid of it entirely), don’t replace the elderly pets, stop taking on big projects, and try to focus on what’s now important in their lives. A lot of working people try to have it all when they travel, and that’s a huge mistake. The freedom and broadening of travel are the rewards — everything else is ancillary.
Oh, how nice it would be if I didn’t have to work as we go! But of course in every life there are compromises. This year, thanks to the new magazine project (launching in November 2010), I expect to have more work-related compromises than ever. In fact, I have given in to reality and built a six week hiatus into our travels, during which I will return to Tucson alone (by air) and just get stuff done. Rather than be depressed about this, we have a plan to make the most of it, which will be revealed later. It should be a very interesting summer.
And that’s perhaps the most important point about travel life: everything is an opportunity, if you’ll just choose to see it that way. Even a breakdown means a chance to meet someone new, try to learn a repair skill, or suffer discomfort that becomes a grand tale of adventure later. We are leaving later than planned, digging a 6-week hole in the middle of the schedule, and working too much … and yet this looks to be the most interesting summer we’ve had in a long time. I’m looking forward to it.
Revised countdown: T minus six days and counting…