I imagine when we walk away from our careers we’ll be asked many questions by our friends, family and co-workers. Some will ask where we plan to travel first. Some will ask how long we expect to be on the road. But some will ask (or at least, think), “what the hell is wrong with you???”
The fact is, just a few years ago, if I was on the receiving end of such news, my response would have been the same. “Morons! Why would you walk away from such a good gig? Why would you throw away all that you’ve worked for when you’re really just hitting your stride? You’ve got job security, financial security, good health insurance, a great house and a solid social network. Why would you give all that up?”
But, as is often the case, a little experience can change our outlook in immeasurable ways. In seemingly no time at all, the thing that sounded positively reckless might suddenly sound pretty reasonable. All it takes is a little experience to shine a light on a whole new perspective.
So what was it for us? Mostly it was Kevin’s health. While everyone knows that life is short and unpredictable and that nothing is guaranteed, those cliches take on new meaning when you’ve had open heart surgery by the time you’re two, a stroke at age 34 and a heart attack at age 36.
Kevin’s medical history is enough to make health insurers shudder at the very mention of his name and enough for us to take those stupid cliches seriously. You really do have to live every day to its fullest because there really, truly, might not be a tomorrow. Or at least, not a tomorrow that looks like today.
So we had some options. We could keep working our well regarded, well paid jobs and mindlessly burn through money or we could establish a new focus. The more we thought about it, the more we realized our interests had always centered around places, not things. While we’ve certainly blown money on toys and gadgets, we realized we’d always been perfectly happy to live in a small house and drive an old car and wear the same clothes one year to the next. Neither of us grew up with much and neither of us give a damn what the Joneses are up to.
What we really wanted to spend money on was seeing and experiencing the world.
With all that in mind, we started thinking about what our life could look like. Day-dreamy goals of “Let’s travel the world!” were quickly limited by the realization that Dixie was never going to enjoy Cambodia. However, what she would enjoy (and by “enjoy” I mean “tolerate,”) appeared to be the ultimate solution: seeing our own beautiful country in an RV.
We spent hours researching and the more we learned, the more specific the plans became. And as the plans took shape, so did the goals we needed to reach to make our dream a reality.
Is it possible this whole experiment will be a giant failure? Sure. It’s possible we’ll hate it, or suck at it, or wish we never left. But the one thing I don’t want is to get to the end of my life and find myself sitting alone in some old folks home watching all the money I’ve saved for “some day” being transferred to the nursing home’s coffers.
The simple truth is, I’d rather be old and destitute with a bunch of great stories than rich and alone with a bunch of regrets.