Screw the Louvre

After Kristin came home Friday night from her retreat, and after we ate pizza and made our way back up to the office for me to get to work on my guidebook and Kristin to catch up on her email, I started getting depressed. It was a slow gradual build up of emotion over the past few days and weeks -- and no doubt my intense, prolonged sleep deprivation had contributed to it -- but it had grown to a point where I couldn't work. I couldn't focus. I wanted to sleep, but even moreso I wanted something. The feelings were easy to ignore the three days Kristin was gone because those three days were really just one long work day for me, broken up by short naps and the occasional trip outside to visit the coffee shop or to walk the dogs. But now that Kristin was home, I had to talk.

I wanted to know "What's next?"

I'm a person who needs a goal. I always need to know what's on deck in my life, both professionally and personally. My publisher sometimes has to tell me to just focus on my current project instead of worrying about what's coming down the pipe, but I can't help it, it's the way I am. With work, it's out of curiosity and because I like to plan out my free time. But with life, well, if I'm not actively working towards a goal or training for something, or planning for a trip, I feel empty. And I've been feeling empty ever since TransRockies. For 9 months I trained and prepared for that race. For 9 months I blogged about it, talked about it, thought about it almost every day. Sometimes every hour. And then it was done.

I read a quote not long ago that said "Obsessive is what the lazy call the determined." I like that a lot and kept it in my mind whenever I thought I might be giving TransRockies too much attention. After all, I would tell myself, how does one over-prepare for a 7-day bike race? Well, now that it's come and gone and I've written the ride report and have seen the photos, I'm left wanting more. I need a new goal.

Another quote I read this past year which I've come to think of as a nice motto to have is, "Nobody every laid on their death bed wishing they had traveled less." No. No, they haven't.

So I started talking to Kristin Friday night about this. About wanting something big to look forward to. And not a race. And not just a trip. But something potentially life-changing. What I had in mind has been bouncing around in the back corner of my mind for years. I've mentioned it to Kristin a couple of times -- she always knew I was serious whenever I brought it up -- but it was always met with a daydreamy sigh and her telling me that it would be really nice one day.

That day isn't now.

But when Kristin asked me where I want to go and I told her everywhere she knew exactly what I was hinting at. And she knew I was completely serious. It was time for us to finally commit to making it happen. We have the house, we've decided to not have kids, and we're in good health. It's time. So, it brings me great joy to finally say that after several hours of discussion and a couple hugs, a handshake, a kiss, and a promise, we've agreed that what we will indeed finally take a year off and spend it traveling the world. Yes, she agreed to everywhere.

The plan is to spend the next 5 or so years saving to cover the cost of the trip, that we would sell our cars for extra money before leaving, and lease out our house fully furnished while we're gone so that we would have some extra income being set aside to help us get by while job hunting when we return. Five years will give us enough time to save the money needed to pull it off, and also give Kristin ample time to get through her Exec MBA program and give her current employer the two extra years of service they agreed to after she has the degree (that's the deal: they pay for the schooling, she promises to work there for another two years afterwards). As for me, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I have several ideas of what to do if/when I decide to no longer write strategy guides. Or should that decision ever be made for me. I also have several "projects" in mind for the trip -- I've made it no secret that ultimately I'd like to parlay my career as a guidebook writer of fictional places (i.e. videogames) to a travel writer and novelist. This would give me the material.

As far as planning the actual trip is concerned, we are going to make a point of planning only at the macro level. We're going to map out what countries we want to visit and at what time of year and plan an itinerary that suggests little more than be at country X during month Y. We will not book a single hotel or guide before leaving (and probably not many while we're gone), that is part of our deal. One of the things we already do know is that we'll likely begin on a train. A trainride across Canada, in the fall. And after a few days in Nova Scotia we'll make our way south along the coast to New Jersey to say goodbye to family and friends and fly from Newark to London. We want to gradually guide ourselves through a tour of cultures that get progressively more different from our own. I expect us to return home to Seattle some time many months later on a flight from Tokyo or Shanghai.

As for research, we've already hung up a map, bought boxes of pins to stick in the places we want to go and will rely heavily on this, this, and especially this. The latter of which was given to me by Kristin's parents many years ago and helped plant this seed. I've also been a subscriber to Men's Journal and National Geographic Adventure and have been mentally saving clippings of travel ideas for years. But now it's time to save the clippings for real. One of Kristin's ideas for this that I had to agree to is that while we're gone we will try to hook up with various international volunteer organizations and lend a hand for at least one week of every month while we're travelling. I like that idea. I also hope that in a similar vein we'll be able to meet locals either online or during our travels who will let us stay with them. It's much cheaper and more interesting to me to rent a spare room from someone who lives where you're going than to stay in a hotel with other foreigners. Granted this will be easier in Europe and Australia and New Zealand, but I hope to make it a big part of the trip.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Since our talk on Friday night, I've been a walking, talking daydream. Agreeing to do this not only answers the big question of "What's next?" but does so much more. For starters, it makes me really excited to save money. We've always had an ING savings account that we put money in monthly as a travel fund, but now we know it's time to up the monthly transfer. It also helps light a fire under me to finally paint the rest of the house. And to get better with my photography and to also start work on a few of the side-projects I've been keeping in mind to start making some money outside of videogames. Also, the only thing that I love better than travelling to new places is the actual planning of those trips. So much excitement so early. But even aside from that sort of stuff, it's going to make it that much easier to suck it up these next couple of years and focus just on work and helping Kristin get through school (which, by the way, I know doesn't include sarcastic blog posts -- to be honest, I write those to make her laugh. And I succeed).

It's going to be hard to wait 5 years, but we have loads of reasons to wait, some of which are more personal than others.

In the meantime, do indeed send suggestions to places off the tourist circuit if you think of any and also please note that this won't be something I'll be posting about frequently. It's a long time off and I don't want to bore you with details about planning it. I wanted to make this initial post for my own benefit -- after writing 470 pages of copy in the past 24 days I have to remind myself sometimes that the pain is worth it -- and because we're both very excited. I hope those of you who know us well, know what a big deal this is for us and are happy for us.

Now where did I put that atlas?

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