A Race Against Time

Milepost 12-10-13   The newer RV arrived yesterday, and Kaye and I are on a mission to have it ready by our departure day, December 28th, when we hope to head for California for the winter and spring.  Today we emptied the cupboards and drawers of the old RV and carried everything across the yard (through the snow) to the new rig for sorting and re-assigning places – for the stuff we want to take with us for the next phase of life.  It feels like we are in a race against time.

It’s a small slice of the larger race against time:  Life.  And it is informed by bucket lists and lifelong dreams and a watchful eye on the clock of human life expectancy and physical well being.  Can we get everything done before we are too decrepit to climb the proverbial mountain (because it’s there)?  Or will we die trying?  Or will we die NOT trying?

I climbed to the top of a mountain with family members on the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.
I summited a mountain with family members hiking the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.

It’s been 10 years since Kaye was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, and we have been keenly aware of our mortality since that day, two days before Christmas, 2003.  There’s nothing like cancer to remind a person of the shortness of human life and to cause one to formulate  some quick plans about how to spend what’s left of it.

We decided to travel more, to see more of the world, but our financial situation wouldn’t accommodate us.  All of our capital was in real estate, and none of it was liquid.  We had to make radical changes.  For us, it meant downsizing, and we are still in the process.

Finally, later this month, it looks like we will get to hit the road and wander around the country for a few years…  perhaps until we can’t climb the steps of the RV anymore – let alone the proverbial mountain.

To my younger friends who haven’t yet given a thought to the future and how to make the most of it,  I have some words of wisdom:

  • Enjoy the moment.   Stop and smell the roses.  Don’t wait until retirement to have adventure or to take risks (and don’t seek adventure if you don’t like to take risks; they go hand in hand).
  • Upsize when you need to.   You need a bigger house and vehicle  during the family years.    And a bigger garage — for the Harley.
  • Downsize when you need to.   For us it was after the kids had moved out and we realized our house and 30-acres were too big for two people.
  • Prioritize from the outset.  If money is important to you, get an education.   With a college degree, on the average, you’ll make 30% more over the span of your career (if you can get a job in your field).   At 17 years old, a major factor in my decision to become a teacher was having summers off.  No way would a 2-week vacation every year satisfy my need for extended adventure trips.
  • Love people more than stuff.   Your friends and family will determine your quality of life more than the job you have or the stuff you own.  Respect them even when they don’t seem all that respectable,  hold them tight for the most part,  but give them space when they need it.
  • Go climb a mountain.  Start on your bucket list while you are still young.  Believe me, it’s a big world, and there is too much to see in one lifetime, so you better get started now.
My kids set the pace.

My daughter, Wendi, has visited all 50 states and has backpacked with her husband from Mexico south through South America to Argentina.  She and Scott own an adventure tour business in Alaska where they spend their summers.*  My middle daughter, Angie, has lived on four continents and resided with her husband in India for two years.  She planned their 10th anniversary trip to Florence, Venice and Rome without the help of the tour companies.   My oldest daughter, Stacy, has visited 46 states and will get the other four in 2014 before her 40th birthday.  She could write the book on lone wolf adventures for women (and she might do it), as her husband often works weekends.

Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

They’ve been great adventuring role models for me!  Maybe this post isn’t really about the race against time that is life, but more about the race to keep up with my daughters on their adventures!

Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping on South Manitou Island as young adults.
Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping together on South Manitou Island as young adults.

Anyway,  Kaye and I are taking off to assume the gypsy life for a while – and the risks and adventures that go along with it.  Maybe we will meet other vagabonds along the way.  Perhaps we will bump into YOU somewhere between the oceans in the next couple of years.  I hope you will give us directions if we seem to be lost.

Just remember, “Not all those who wander are lost.”   –J.R.R. Tolkien

 What adventures are on your bucket list?  In what phase of life will you make them happen?   Click  “Leave a Comment” at the top to tell me about it.  Also, if you’re interested in life on the road, please “Follow” (in the left sidebar) to see where we end up next time.

* Also see the BBC story from Lonely Planet writer Roff Smith mentioning Wendi and her work at the famous Black Bear Coffee House at Denali.

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