Here, on this post, we both address the question “Why are we doing this?”. For some, the answer is obvious. They know why. Others, well, we just might be sharing a bit of inspiration to get you going on your own Tramper Voyage. We’ll explain how we, ordinary middle class people with debt, are able to do this, in another post.
We didn’t read each other’s entries so there may be duplications.
Why?: Well of course, haven’t you ever wished your vacation would last “just a few more days”? I like to play. If you know me well enough though, you’ll concede I love to work too. Balancing both is not an automatic function for me. I often have to remind myself to leave work, to not go see “one more patient”, or to just sit still for a change. My most common activity after a full day at work is to stuff in a meal, head for my workshop and attack some project or home repair until just minutes before going to sleep. I’m told I have 2 speeds, busy and asleep. Most of our biggest home projects (including several of over 400 hours) were all completed while also working full-time and without investing significant vacation time into them. It is this same drive that completed the camper and safening-up the truck just before this adventure.
With this zeal, I bike, ski, hike or just plain have fun. I find laughter easily and love nothing more than to share it. In the 80’s I moved to Silverthorne, Colorado and taught skiing, such that I skied 183 days in one year. Some of my skiing peers left the Rockies for South America or New Zealand for Winters there. Play can be a way of life. Teaching all abilities and ages of people is an avenue into their joys and ways. I know from those days that too much work dulls me. PT has held my interest longer than any other career or job and I expect it will do so for many more years to come.
Jane and I imagined some of this trip to follow “retirement”, that traditional time when we would have more time, to have earned enough money to “stop working”. In the hospital I see the tragic reality of people not being well enough to get out there and do those things they’ve planned. Jane’s Cancer shook our world. It could come back any time, or I could find one of my own. Or, I could “get hit by a bus” as they say.
I wanted to go from place to place, adventure to adventure and not agonize over a “vacation ending too soon”. So many times I go to some incredible place or just meet a great group of people there and have to “rush back on Monday for work”. I feel anyone who can arrange a dream deserves to try it.
I love the world. I love mountains, streams, valleys and the variety found in nature. A mountain vista is not a coffee-table book to look at. I love to be a part of it, to sweat the work of uphills, and generally just to say “weee!” I love to share that glee and my overall zest for life.
If I felt any need to “justify” this much fun, and I don’t, I would think back to my 23 credit semester in undergrad. I would think back to grinding through Physical Therapy School at University of Maryland, Baltimore. I would think about coming in early, leaving late at work everywhere I’ve ever worked. Or being oily and covered with various grits or metal dusts as a machinist. Wearing earplugs, eye protection and a respirator for eight hours makes for a long day. I always seem to throw myself into projects or jobs, so its only natural to throw myself into this.
Some other dreams of mine simmer still. They include sailing the Intracoastal Waterway. Riding a motorcycle on a cool trip. Introducing people to some of the many skills I’ve been blessed with. Growing more of my own food, raising animals for milk or meat. None of these are off the table. I hope you have a bunch of your own dreams too. The “daily grind” sort of camouflages and envelopes dreams. Credit cards pound your possibilities lower. The biggest dream killer is “evaluation”, thinking “I can’t do that”. Other people are often incredulous; listen to them too much and that can stop you too.
Another big motivator is our own surprise in our “fifties” at our current ability to bike, hike, and ski. With a little pre-season prep, a sensible plan and tempered paces we “go for six hours and more”. We can’t imagine this duration or intensity at 65 or 70 years old. Our midlife career changes almost guarantee we’ll be working way past 62. So, there is NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT! We are in the Tramper Voyage, an adventure of a lifetime. Join us if you can, whether online, in spirit or at any stop along the way.
Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I went on vacation to the Outer Banks every September. Our group of several young couples rented an isolated beach house. We stayed on the beach all day and prepared gourmet meals in the evening in the spacious house. It was idyllic, to say the least. I remember with what great longing I wanted my life to always be like our Hatteras weeks. Leisure, exercise, lots of time outdoors, visiting with friends. Reality always called me painfully back to the world of working, home maintenance, traffic and bill-paying.
But, then, inevitably, I grew up. Maturity cast a hazy distance over those free, wild weeks of my youth. I became totally engaged and happy with child-rearing and returning to college for a career I loved.
Years passed and, being a realist, I thought little about the life of leisurely exploring the beautiful world around all of us. Oh, there were trips and vacations aplenty. Wonderful trips into the wild or off on a bike or to a child’s playground. But, always there was a returning, too soon, to the “real” world.
But, over time, things happen that offer lessons. Lessons about how fragile and short life is. Lessons like the one my brother-in-law, Ed, taught me. Ed worked very long and very hard at his job as an investment banker. His dream was to live on the water and roam around on a boat. They bought the house on the water, but soon after, Ed was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died before he could enjoy the boat and take it out on the sea. The boat’s name? “SOMEDAY”. Ed’s ‘someday’ never happened.
As a health care worker, I see many people who retire only to find that they can no longer do the things they loved because of sickness or infirmity. Sometimes, sickness or infirmity happen very shortly after the long-awaited retirement date. So, there’s a lifetime of working and, of necessity, putting off ‘someday’. Then ‘someday’ never comes.
Some of the lessons we got at our jobs were joyful ones, of course. Like patient Louis C, who, well into his ninety’s, was as spry and quick-witted as you could want to be. Witnessing his sparkle, he would be asked for his secret. He summed it up thusly: “Don’t let the chair get ya!” Good advice, for daily living and good health. But it’s also good advice for life, especially if you paraphrase a bit to “Don’t let the negative get ya!”
Then, two days before Christmas in 2009, I got the hardest lesson of all. Stage 3 breast cancer. A very difficult year followed.
David and I had been talking about taking a sabbatical before the cancer diagnosis. Kind of a mini pre-retirement while we could still ski and mountain bike the way we like. Not a real sabbatical where they hold your job for you. Maybe even pay you a stipend? No, not that kind. A long trip. Longer than 2 weeks; longer that 8 weeks. Maybe for six months to a year!
Long enough to immerse ourselves in nature, to acclimate ourselves to be physically as strong as we can be, to ingratiate ourselves into the lives of far-flung family and friends and to indulge ourselves in seeing and experiencing some of the most beautiful things this country has to offer.
After cancer came calling, our resolve was strengthened. We bought a trailer. David spent two years fixing it up. We did the math and determined that we had just enough money for our trip. We dreamed of where we’d go.
Then, the ultimate step that made it all real: We quit our jobs!
On September 15, 2012 we pulled out of Towson, overloaded and overjoyed!
(PS – I was feeling down one day, letting the negative run away with me, and I wrote this paragraph, which is now funny and completely unworthy of this blog post:
“People who do not take tramper voyages don’t go because they’re afraid of what might happen or because they think they can’t afford it. People don’t go on tramper voyages b/c they know that crap, ridiculous crap, happens everywhere. Things you buy turn out to be crap, services you depend on turn out to be unreliable, people let you down, no matter if you’re on an extended vacation or fully in the rat race. It’s very disappointing to experience this crap when you’ve set up your expectations that things will go well, because you feel you’ve done such a good job of insulating yourself. People don’t go on tramper voyages because they know that crap follows you everywhere.”)