Everyone who’s pushed long and hard and achieved a major goal is as familiar with the accompanying sense of accomplishment as they are with the strange disorientation that inevitably follows.
There’s always that moment the next day when you say, “Okay, now what?”
No, seriously. What comes next?
We’re about to find out. This is literally the last post we’ll write about wondering what will happen when we hit the road full time – because that time is now.
About five years ago, Glenn and I conceived an utterly cockamamie plan. We decided we would walk away from stable, successful careers and a beautiful home with scenic mountain vistas to declare early retirement and to embark on a new life on the road.
Having no experience living as nomads, one could say the framework of our plan was constructed from what we didn’t want our lives to look like.
When you define something using negative parameters the result is a giant, gaping void.
So many “musts” and “shoulds” accumulate over a lifetime of following the rules, they ultimately become the invisible boundaries we abide as we navigate our time on this earth.
It’s hard to determine their exact origins. Like, how do we know what kind of job we should take, or how many years we should work at it, or why does it seem that however much money we save up for retirement we should still need more? Who says whether it’s more or less respectable to wear certain clothes or live in one type of home or another, and why do we care so darned much what people think about us in the first place?
As Glenn and I examined and dismantled our own familiar and basic values, they seemed more and more foreign, yet quite stubbornly entrenched.
The effort effectively resulted in a long list of definitions of success that evolved from seeds planted by others that, after our many years of striving, became deeply rooted in our psyches and woven into our own self-images. You know, those obvious milestones that define success in your career, or that next thing you simply must have to live comfortably. At its core, so much of this is informed by the media and a culture of insatiable and mindless consumption, but that’s another post.
Anyway, we challenged each one of those definitions by asking ourselves why we wanted to have or to do all things on our list. When you discover that so many of what you thought were your goals turn out to have originated from others’ expectations or from society at large, it’s quite unnerving … and empowering as you decide which of them you cast aside.
At the end of that ambitious exercise, we learned we wanted to Explore, to Cultivate, and to Create in ways that our conventional lifestyle constrained. Thus, Haven’s Path was born – our journey to discover the forever home that would be best place to live our life by design.
So, with our more authentic values and goals identified, we set about prescribing our next steps to achieve them with the compulsive fervor reserved exclusively for lunatics and over-planners.
Always Have Something to Look Forward To
In our working lives, Glenn and I had a rule that we should always have at least one vacation on the calendar. As soon as we got back from one, we had to plan the next. This practice meant that we could not neglect time for ourselves and family as could so easily happen when we were deep into achieving our work’s goals.
This tradition continued even when we stopped working and started planning this big change; we scheduled one trip after the next, tent camping in The Rockies, taking a month-long road trip to New England in the summer, and taking yet another trip back there in the depths of winter. But we no longer need to enforce this familiar rule since we are now on a permanent vacation.
Three days ago, we celebrated our official detachment from a bricks and mortar home when we walked away from our townhouse.
Yesterday, Glenn and I finally checked off the last, lingering items on our precision project plan and accompanying hyper-detailed checklist to achieve our newfound nomad status. After five years of planning, all those things we said we didn’t want are now, in fact, gone.
Today, I reflexively went to my ever-present mental checklist of what needed doing, only to find it was blank(!).
Feeling “blank” after a lifetime shaped by imposed expectations and uncountable to-do lists (whether mine or others) is simultaneously refreshing and terrifying.
What have we done?
Have we made some horrible decision? What were we thinking walking away from all those familiar things? What do we do now that we find ourselves in this boundaryless, unknown territory?
The answer is, for the first time, we don’t know. At all.
We’ve designed and then suspended ourselves in this exact situation of unknowing on purpose. Like a grand, high-stakes psychological experiment, we specifically want to learn what shows up for us once we’ve removed as many constraints as possible.
As if invoking a whole-life state of meditation, we are embracing blankness as we turn the page on a new chapter of our lives.
Regardless of what the rest of this story holds for us next, it will be written by and for us.