Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Living the Dream"

A typical hallway conversation at my workplace:

Person 1:  "How's it going buddy?"

Person 2: (in a dejected and sarcastically toned voice) "Just living the dream..."

I hear this too often.  Why don't we just stop?  If you aren't living the life you want to live, living your dream, it is time to change.

The problem is that most of us think we have to work for forty or more years and sock money away to get to the point where we can go live our dreams, some would call it retirement.  Somewhere along that journey we lose our youthful ambition and the daydreams we had as children.  The simple fact is that almost anything is possible with enough determination and initiative.

What I mean is, I can't walk onto an NFL team as a quarterback (one type of dream), but I can get out of the work-a-day life I have been leading and start living life on my own terms.  It won't be easy, and it will take some sacrifice, but what is leading the life you want worth?

Too many people are unhappy, or just content with their lot in life.  But they assume that is how it is supposed to be: you work, save your pennies, and then "someday" you'll get to enjoy the things you are truly passionate about. 

Part of the reason for writing this blog is to challenge that assumption. 

Maybe I am crazy, but I feel there has got to be a better way.  There's got to be a better way than driving thirty minutes to work to sit at a desk under fluorescent lights while staring at a computer screen for nine hours only to turn around and drive thirty minutes home eat and watch TV till you fall into a fitful sleep only to repeat tomorrow.

My wife, Trisha, recently broke free of that trend.  By renting our house and getting rid of much of our stuff, she was able to quit her job to focus on starting a business for us.  It's nothing too fancy, no dot-com start up that will turn us into uber-billionaires, but rather a seasonal concession business that we can hopefully work at for an eventual six month on/six month off schedule.

I'll soon follow her out the door away from corporate America.  Our plans now include traveling south by RV for the winter.  It would be better if it was by boat, but plans change and we have to re-evaluate our situation and adapt to the challenges at hand.  We are sticking with our overarching plan of heading south before winter sets in, and we are still going to be looking for boats, while we journey in our "land-yacht".

I'll leave you with a quote from Bob Bitchin of Lattitude & Attitudes fame:

"Don't dream your life, live your dreams"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Down to the Water

There's something about water.  Something that binds us together as humans, that seems to bring out the best in people.  There is an optimism, a free spirited, good time feeling around water.  Whether on a river, lake, stream, or ocean; water seems to have a good vibe.

It's the power boater who waves as they pass you by when you are becalmed in your dinghy.  It's the guy playing with his dog next to the boat launch who wades out to give you a push when you are starting to drift towards the rocks.  It's the members of a sailing club who have your trailer already in the water when you get back to the launch because you had to be towed in by the committee boat.  These are the same people who would cut you off and give you the finger on the interstate, but around water there is something different.

Water gives us recreation.  It gives us hope.  There is a reason that the Man and the Boy in Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' are always heading towards the coast, away from the desolation of a post apocalyptic world.

Perhaps it is that we are mostly water?

There's a great story from Jimmy Buffet's autobiography, where he talks about his grandmother telling him to go down and wade into the salt water if he got a cut or had skinned his knee, and (paraphrasing here) "Later on down the road of life, I made the discovery that salt water was also good for the mental abrasions one inevitably acquires on land."

I owe a lot to water.  When I was five years old my parents moved from Long Island to the mountains of central NY to start a bottled water company.  In some ways water literally gave me life.

Yet water is not always kind, just ask the residents of the lower 9th ward.

But by and large, people want water in their lives. It gives us hope.

So here's to you water, thanks for everything.  I'm looking forward to a lot more good times.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Real Cost of Stuff

We moved out of our house this past weekend.  After unsuccessfully trying to sell for the past four months, we took on renters.  So naturally we had to move all of the junk, I mean stuff, that we have accumulated.

Well, not all of it.  We sold off several large pieces of furniture the week before on Craigslist.  We had also had a yard sale earlier in the season to get rid of unwanted items.  I thought we were in pretty good shape for our move.  So down to U-Haul we went and rented a 14' box truck.

Loading up

Last Friday afternoon we left work at lunchtime to go home and load up our truck.  Everything went pretty smoothly and fit in fine, though we did end up throwing a futon frame away and some other miscellaneous stuff. 

Of course now we had to find a new home for all of our stuff.  Luckily my in-laws were willing to take it in for the time being.  The thing is, my in-laws live on Long Island; four hours and many expensive tolls by U-Haul truck away.

Long story short: we made it to the island after a harrowing journey involving cutting across nine lanes of NYC rush hour traffic, an inadvertent trip around the Mets stadium, and no bathroom breaks. 

By the time it came to unload the truck the next morning, we didn't even remember or much care about what was in those boxes in the back of our U-Haul.  In fact, we put up a couple more things for sale on Craigslist that day.

It got me thinking:  if one annoying trip can make me forget about what is in those boxes, what did I really care about it in the first place?

After all, the tag line to this blog is currently 'Achieving our dreams by simplifying our lives'.  We've made great strides in simplifying, but we still have a ways to go.

Of course that isn't even taking into account all of the stuff that we have moved to our new apartment.

I estimate that to move our stuff it cost right around $500.00.  That is just for the hard costs including truck rental, gas, tolls, etc.  I haven't yet put a value on mine or Trish's time.

On the bright side we did make a trip to the beach on Long Island Saturday afternoon.  We had said to ourselves that if we were going to go through all of this trouble that we would have to at least go to the beach for a half an hour and remind ourselves what all this craziness is for.  We spent about five hours there.

The moral of the story?  Own less stuff.  I have talked before about wanting to have less, perhaps even trying to live with 100 or less things.  I think this experience will be a good catalyst towards those goals.  I have basically been living out of a backpack for the past two weeks as we have packed up and moved in to our new place for the next month.

"But Bill, what do you mean: 'for the next month'?"

I mean that we are moving forward.  The opportunity to transfer to Burlington, VT with my job fell through.  And while we have toyed around with the idea of the USVI, I think we will be stateside for the time being, just not in one place for very long :)