Time for Life

My girlfriend and I recently took a roadtrip to northern Minnesota for a weekend. After an eternity in the car, we arrived to a land of trees, and giant lakes, and more trees. And porcupines.

We got to spend a good portion of the weekend trampling through the woods with her dog, ducking under branches and stepping over fallen trees, breathing amazingly clean, crisp winter air, with leaves and dirt and sticks crunching under our boots.

And then the weekend ended and we returned home, to a world of concrete and asphalt and car exhaust. No me gusta.

After spending even one weekend just enjoying the beautiful outdoors and being free of any real responsibilities, coming back to a life of sitting at a computer all day was jarring and unwelcome and distasteful.

Then I see an article about a 2,650 mile trail from Mexico to Canada that people take five months to hike, and it makes me sad because there’s no way I can take five months off of work to do something like that. (Not that I would survive that kind of hike right now anyway.) I don’t have anywhere near the kind of vacation day availability that such a trek would require. And I came to a realization. I am tired of having my life dictated by when I have to be back at work.

Despite my fairly constant snarking on Twitter, I do actually like what I do. But it shouldn’t define me. My work should not be in charge of my life. It should be something that contributes to life, something that enables life, but not something that consumes life. Spending all day every day at a desk in an office in a city, surrounded by pavement and advertising and obligations is not the way to go through life.

That prompted me to question, what do I really want to be doing? And not in a “what kind of job would be better than this one” way. What do I want to be doing with life? I want to travel, to explore, to do things I’ve never done before and see things I’ve never seen. I want to be able to take a month and hike a trail – a pack on my back and boots on my feet and not a care in the world beyond how far I’ll hike that day and what I’ll see along the way. I’d love to see the Eiffel Tower, to hear Big Ben, to swim in clear blue tropical water. I can’t have all those experiences on the meager allowance of vacation days Americans get on average.

So I started thinking. Could I take a year and do all those things? Could I quit my job for a year, pack a bag and just go experience life on my own terms? What would happen? It’s a scary idea.

  • What would I actually choose to do? There need to be some plans in advance, so I don’t just spend a year on the couch watching Farscape in my pajamas.
  • Can I afford to go a year without an active income, living only on savings? There would have to be some changes, but I think it’s doable.
  • What happens if I get back from all these adventures and can’t find a job? The economy’s not exactly in tip-top condition at the moment.
  • Could I really go off on my own for that long? Presumably no one else would be willing to take that kind of plunge with me. Would it be safe? Would it even be fun on my own?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. But I want to find them. I want to know if I could really do it – quit a stable job, pack up and go experience life.

Absolutely not. I’d regret missing out on all the things the world has to offer because I had to be at work on Monday.

2 thoughts on “Time for Life

  1. Good luck with this process! Like I said earlier, I never did anything like this myself, never really had the vision or initiative to make it happen when I was younger.

    The closest I came to something along these lines was in ’02 when I was seriously considering doing an organized cross-country bike tour which would have been 2+ months, I think.

    I didn’t do it for a number of reasons – I’m reasonably sure that I would have set myself up for a layoff down the road but more importantly, Kath was less than enthused by the idea. For some reason she wasn’t exactly excited that I was going to go off on this adventure without her, leaving her to hold down the fort by herself!

    Two more comments –

    1) Does it have to be a full year? Would 3-6 months work? Might also give you an opportunity to take a leave of absence instead of having to quit work outright.

    2) There’s always going to be a good reason not to do this. But I’m guessing that in terms of your situation in life (age, not married, not a homeowner) that there won’t be a better time either.

    Good luck!

    1. No, doesn’t have to be a full year. That just seemed like a nice round number, plus gives plenty of time to do all sorts of… whatever… I could think of.

      Six months would probably be better, for a number of reasons. Cheaper, certainly, but also forces you to really make use of the time. Taking a year might start the “well, I’ve got a whole year to get around to that thing…” train.

      And this is exactly why now would be a good time for me to do this, if I do actually do it – I’m not really tied down. Yes, Sarah would probably not be thrilled if I took off around the world and left her to wait for me to get back, but I have no children or pets to look after, etc. I have family/friends that I could entrust to check in on the apartment once in a while.

      But nothing that I couldn’t let sit for a few months.

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