Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring is a time of renewal

We went ahead and got the 52 page passport book. Here's to filling each and every one of them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Twenty years from now...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  –Mark Twain

I love this sentiment.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home Sweet Car--or Subedroom?

We've been planning on car camping for portions of our road trip in North America. Fortuitously, we also need to discard the fold-away bed portion of a sofa which I modified, replacing the fold-away section with simple (light) plywood. The bed portion has been in the way in the garage for months, and today I decided to try the mattress in the back of the Subaru--it's a small full-size mattress, and it's a perfect fit! We were worried earlier that the bump where the back seat bottom folds up would restrict our headroom, but it actually works very nicely as a pillow bolster.

Now, this definitely would not work for a 6' tall, back- or front-sleeper, but we're both side-sleepers, and it was quite comfortable with both of us in there. Ruby even hopped in and settled down. It did get hot pretty fast, so we will need magnetic bug screens, and some way to regulate the window opening without clambering into the front seat to turn the ignition into the ON postition. Definitely an instance where crank windows would be convenient.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Anything can be replaced

This is part of an advertising campaign that is in the window of the advertising agency that created it.  The campaign is to prevent teenage suicide in Wyoming.  There's something so resonant and true to this statement that it always catches me off-guard when I walk past it.  You can sort of see that they've used a school desktop, and a giant statue made of crushed cans, as well as a couple of other wood carvings, all of which say the same thing.


I don't think that I need to tell you that, given my state of mind these days, this (or an adapted version of this) is my mantra.  Jobs can be replaced. Houses can be replaced. Things can be replaced. But you can't get back time, you can't buy more days on this planet (although maybe we can debate the vagaries of this point).  

People are always telling me how they would love to travel more, if they had more money. That they can't afford it.  I always respond that I wish I had more time.  Always admitting, of course, that time buys money.  And that is what we're doing.  We are buying a year of our lives.  I think it's a worthwhile purchase.

Monday, March 12, 2012


We're trying something closer to my original haircolor, which my vanity thinks is a very bad idea, but my pocketbook believes in.  It should be easier to maintain on the road.  There are, however, a lot of white hairs that recently made themselves known. I guess we'll meet those guys on the road as well.

The Purge Begins

This weekend, we started addressing all of the stuff we'll need to pack up and move, in order to rent our place. We don't have a huge volume of house to collect stuff in, but we've met that challenge, it appears.  The first item on the list was going through our collection of CDs and checking to make sure they were all ripped to mp3, then boxing them up. As a fraction of the bookshelves, they didn't seem so big, but they filled just under 6 cubic feet, tightly packed. The bookshelves are looking a little emptier now, but we haven't even started packing the books. We have at least 90 linear feet of books--I haven't counted how many shelves we have double-stacked.
It's a start. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012


This morning on the bus I told a complete stranger I was travelling the world for a year. It feels somehow more real if you tell it to someone you don't know.

In case you're wondering, he thought it was a wonderful idea.  So far no one has said it was a bad idea. Maybe they'll just keep that to themselves if they do.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Travel Baby and the House

Last night we met with our financial planner, just to let him know what we are doing, and also to see how feasible it is, and get his opinion. It was also a good time just to talk about the money we have, where it’s invested, and that age-old question—when can we retire?  The answer to that is probably not until 55 or 60, unless we can live a whole lot more frugally than he thinks, or we get some kind of windfall.  Which is a bummer. 

But the good news is that he says we can totally take a year off, cash-flow wise, and he’s going to put us in touch with their mortgage guy to refinance our mortgage.  Hopefully we can make this happen soonish, and that’ll help us when we have to rent our place. 

Speaking of which, we had a lightbulb moment over the weekend, realizing that we have a former neighbor who has a unit with the same layout as ours, who is renting out her place. David emailed her about it, asking who manages her property, what she rents her place for, and how it’s working.  She rents her unit for $1550, which if we could do the same, would cover our current mortgage, the HOA, and the property management fee.  If we refinance, we might even be able to stash a little away for the inevitable repairs that will be necessary after having a renter.

That leads in to her next point, which was that she felt the hardest part of the whole renting thing was that your renter doesn’t have respect or investment in your property, so things will get damaged.  She also said she allows pets, which she thinks helped her get her place rented (and re-rented—she just signed a 2 year lease with a new tenant) quickly. She said that getting a response from the property manager who manages the condos and lofts could be frustrating at times, as when you have a renter, time is of the essence when getting repairs taken care of.  So that was all good information.  She also said that she pays $250.00 a year for insurance against a renter.  I’m sure there is a deposit involved, and possibly a pet fee.  She did say they charge a percentage/fee? for getting the property rented, so there is a front end cost.

The other thing that David thought about was seeing if our friend Rob, who right now has a couple of properties he rents and manages himself, could handle it for us.  We would pay him, of course, but it might be better just to have someone who isn’t a friend do it.  We’ll talk to him and see what he thinks.  He’ll be a good resource for advice if nothing else.

There are so many lists, so much to do. So, so much.  But here is my house list:
1.      Sort out and begin packing up books. I think we have a bunch of books that we aren’t going to re-read in the next six months. We can make a shelf/stack of books that we haven’t read, and then pack the rest.  Keeping out the travel books as well.
2.      Sell some furniture. We have a queen size bed and two chairs in the basement that can go.  Sell the treadmill.  Sell/give away/donate some bicycles.  Those speakers that David never repaired.
3.      Donate, donate, donate. I need to go through my clothes (the sock drawer is off the hook) and set aside all the stuff I don’t wear, to donate. I don’t think my Old Navy t-shirts are going to be able to be consigned, so I’m guessing anything I still like/think I’ll wear, I can just pack up.  Then we need to drop it off, or call for a pick up. There are already several garbage bags of stuff waiting in the basement.
4.      The garage. Oh my the garage.  That needs some serious work.
5.      I also want to make a “borrow” list, possibly. Things someone could use while we’re gone, rather than just having them sit in storage.  My mom will benefit from some of this, including our KitchenAid mixer, I think. Although there is no way she can lift that thing, so we’ll see.
6.      Paint. We will need to paint. Definitely all of the trim, and the doors. I think I might be able to get away with not painting everything, and just re-painting the walls that need it, but we’ll see. It’s hard to match colors when you know the paint has faded over the years.
7.      Use up stuff. We have a lot of food, and it might take us six months to use it all up. So the goal is to stop eating out, and to not spend money on food that we might already have. Lots of pasta, lots of beans/rice/couscous/quinoa.  A lot of meat in the freezer.  And oh my god I have a huge bag of powdered sugar in the basement. But I suppose that’ll keep.  Anything we don’t finish, we can probably give out, but first and foremost we need to spend less and eat down what we have.
8.      Same goes for products like toiletries, soap—all consumables, really.  I keep looking at things and wondering if I can use them up in the next six months.  It’s funny how the way you think of things shifts. When I’m shopping now, I think about whether I’ll need it in the next six months, whether I’ll use it up in the next six months. Am I going to have to store this? Do I want to choose to store this?
9.      I also want to make sure all our CDs have been ripped to hard drives, and all of our movies have as well. It would be nice to take them with us—there will always be down time when a movie might be nice, and Netflix won’t work outside the US.  Once the CDs are ripped, we can pack those as well.

I think this weekend we’ll go through the house with a clipboard and try to make determinations about what to keep, what to sell, what to donate.

Six months. Six months isn’t that long, really, when you think about it. It’s two trimesters of a pregnancy. I keep thinking of the parallels in this experience to having a baby. I’ve even called this trip our Travel Baby, often.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The fear

We're really going to do this, aren't we? 

I think the main thing I'm feeling with details right now is overwhelmed. So I'm making a list. Lists help, don't they?

  1. Health insurance. This is big, huge, have to figure this out. 
  2. Travel insurance. I'm trying to figure out combining this with the health insurance thing, but the whole ball o' wax is pricy. It's pretty non-negotiable for this trip, though. I got away without it in Belize, but this time I don't think I can avoid it.
  3. Refinance the mortgage
  4. Rent the house. I think we'll need to get a property management co. to handle all of this unless we can find someone trustworthy to rent it to furnished, or something. Not sure we can swing paying the mortgage for the house to sit empty for a year.
  5. Sell the Focus. Must get it fixed first. But sell it. Maybe someone my folks know, or my brother knows, or Jean knows, will want to buy it for $3K.  That would be easiest.
  6. Sell some other stuff, like the treadmill, and maybe some furniture.  (My biggest fear is no one will want any of this stuff and we'll have to find a place for it.
  7. Break news to parents, friends, family, work.
  8. Re: work, that'll be when we quit our jobs. This one has a lot of fear and doubt around it for me.
  9. Get in shape! Seriously. I'm over my recent maintenance weight, and I would like to be 20 pounds lighter by the time we leave on this trip.
  10. Try not to panic, vomit, or shit myself with excitement and terror.