In Leo Tolstoys The Death of Ivan Illyich, the main character Ivan, from his deathbed, looks up at his wife and says, “What if my whole life has been wrong?”
Tolstoy continues, “It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his social and official interests, might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness of what he was defending. There was nothing to defend.”
DO IT NOW, WHILE YOU CAN
“Man I wish I could do something like that. Good for you for making it happen.”
That’s the phrase I’ve heard most often when telling people that we plan to take a year-ish off of work and travel the country in @LadyLolaMae. You can read about the trip here: 50 States – 18 Months – 1 Airstream Episode One: The Trip
Honestly, I expected more varied reactions.
Sure, there have been a few naysayers. Those folks so entrenched in what the “average American 30 something” should be doing that it’s completely incomprehensible that we would take time off in the middle of our “prime earning years”. But they are a distant minority.
Everyone from good friends and business associates to our doctors and complete strangers have been nothing but positive and offer encouragement. “Do it now, while you can, and are able both physically and mentally” my doctor said last week during my yearly physical. Exactly doc. I agree wholeheartedly.
A cute couple enjoying Venice…
AN EXPENSIVE NAP
Besides, don’t we have a lifetime to work?
I can’t necessarily speak for my 70 year old future self, but won’t I likely want to spend more time sitting…maybe even working… then vs. boarding planes, learning new languages, exploring strange regions, hiking mountains and setting up campsites? Note: this is not to say at 70 anyone is unable to do these things. I’m not an “agist”. On the contrary. People are able to keep themselves in great shape well into their 80’s, 90’s and beyond – I get it. The reality is, however, it’s extremely likely my body and it’s joints, eyes, ears, balance, etc will be in worse condition 30 years from now than they are today. Sad truth indeed.
“What about the year of income you will lose?”
What about it? Stop thinking like you are supposed to think. And stop thinking it’s about money. Depending on how you choose to travel…or volunteer… a year away will likely be far less expensive than your day to day living is now. Or even free. Besides, even if it’s not free, its simply a goal with a number attached to it, right? Similar to that lofty retirement goal that is pounded into our brains from childhood.
The time away. The hard reset. The chance to remove all of the external stressors of work and business ownership for a period. The chance to focus on creativity. The chance to continue graduate studies…gasp…for fun, perfect another language, write, read, play the guitar. The chance to see places in one year that most people only dream about seeing in a lifetime.
That’s why you go.
That’s why you choose the road less travelled. Take the other fork. Blaze your own path. Go against the grain. Choose your own cliche…that’s why you “risk” taking a year away.
Take a deep breath.
Now read this.
Isn’t the real risk that you end up at the end of your life, looking up at your wife and asking “What if my whole life was wrong?“
The reality is this is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time. The destination has changed. What I hope to accomplish personally during this extended time off has changed. The steps involved in achieving this audacious goal have changed. The burning desire to actually pull it off has never wavered.
See you on the journey.