I have been posting pictures of rather questionable quality from the days of film when we sailed around Central America. They are easy stories to tell and by now they are happy memories and I needed to turn the pictures into digital format so it all came together.
I hope the stories of my trip to Key West have had another beneficial effect as well and that is to show that Layne and I have done this packing up of a life before. In case there be any doubt the task of taking off is not easy. It's not a simple get up and go, as there is so much involved in the process of changing your life. You leave behind the known, your friends, the familiar processes and known resources that you rely on every time you have a problem. If the van makes a strange noise on the road, and it will sooner or later, it could be quite the circus finding a suitable response. Here at home I know exactly where I'd go.
Leaving home like this means relying on each other to the exclusion of any other resource. It is up to Layne Rusty and I to make this work. There is no one else to turn to. At dusk on the road travelers are known to get the five o'clock blues, that momentary sense of being lost and away and pressed by the need to find a place to sleep. I've had that feeling while traveling by boat when I had no actual need to find a sleeping place, but at dusk a human's thoughts turn to the need to find a safe place to let the guard down. It's not something you think about when you have a routine and a home.
The best advice I can give if you are looking for advice is to practice. Do not under any circumstances except the most dire, get the idea you should buy a vehicle move in and drive off all at once. People who are forced to do this by a life altering event, death divorce or similar, have my respect because that's the hardest way to take to the road. I recommend practice above all. Take vacations, take weekends, try out your systems and your response, make modifications, feel comfortable doing things that make you uncomfortable. We have learned to park and sleep wherever we find ourselves.I have been trying to figure where everything is stored in all the cubbyholes. It's hard work. It takes time. At least I know where my tea ingredients are. I think.
We've been forcing ourselves to relearn how to pack for a trip. The big difference between a boat and a van is the availability of food along the way. Part of our pleasure as we tour involves visiting grocery stores as we go. On the boat we had to assume much more infrequent access to local stores.Overloading the van is guaranteed to cause mechanical issues so we think twice before adding anything. It took five years to find the right van but our two year preparation plan got cut short ironically by Covid. We have systems but they may change and we are ready for that.
We look back at our Michigan vacation and shake our heads: we'd have done so many things very differently. However instead of a second vacation this year in which we had hoped to check our systems we find ourselves taking off and hoping for the best. We may be on our way in two weeks after you read this. Times are shrinking here.
Don't think it's easy. We have experience, but we have two new secret weapons for this journey that go beyond our knowledge. For the first time in our lives we will get paid as we travel. And the second thing that is totally new for us is that there is no deadline. Imagine that: time and money on our side, until we lose our health, get too old or the van expires on us. That is decidedly mind bending for us. We've always had to make time and save money to go away for a while. Not this time. Weird. We just have to keep an eye on growing old.
I have three sisters and of them two are agoraphobics. One is afraid to fly and the other hates leaving home. Put her twenty miles from her house and she's looking panicked. The third one likes to travel more than the others but she is so spacey she came to key West once without checking in with me and I was on vacation somewhere else. She brought her husband from Italy and I wasn't home. Me? I'm the one who has always taken to the road from when I was a kid. It's in my genes I guess but not theirs. They are home bodies but I have always enjoyed the thrill of the unknown, the opportunity to reinvent myself among strangers. Travel is fun for me.
My wife had been far and wide before she met me so there was no need to check her credentials and there have been occasions she has had to drag me out of my comfort zone as she can be much more adventurous. I find passersby react predictably by expressing envy when one talks of taking to the road. I'd love to do that or I wish I could do that, and my thought is why don't you? Clearly there are practical reasons why not but in the First World where we have so many choices, you will have to prioritize travel to make it happen. Layne and I have no children and no parents to answer to. Unfortunate? Thats for you to answer. For us it means no excuses
I noticed long ago that people who stay still in one place get ahead. You pay off your house, you get ahead at work, your friends are solid. I have been known to wonder if I was making the right choice quitting and buggering off. Think about it: I stayed at work I had seniority, free health care, and a place in society. I could go boating, go drinking, wave to people who know me on the street and live with no surprises.
Now, instead of being the guy who sends the cops to check on people sleeping in their cars I will be the guy sleeping in his car. The world turned upside down. I like the reinvention but it isn’t the only way to live and if you don't like change then don’t and I will think none the worse of you. The important thing for each of us able to make a choice is to make yourself the life you want. This change isn’t a value judgement, it’s simply me being true to my nature. Key West gave me a chance to secure my old age by sitting still for two long decades, and I took it with gratitude, but my old age doesn’t have to be lived out in the same place. If you can try to live with no regrets whatever path you take because when you are faced with your inevitable end regrets are the worst baggage of all.