Life’s Better in the Garden

I had the greatest of intentions this week. I even spent 2 days working on what I hoped would be a really stellar post about our progress through the exercises in Tanja Hester’s book, Work Optional. Since finishing the book a few weeks back, we’ve been nothing but excited about the prospect of creating an even more fulfilling life than the one we already enjoy. We made all the lists, we drew our interlocking circles, and we came up with a mission statement for our work optional project, and, then it happened…

I was on our weekly “team meeting” conference call with the draft of my blog post in front of me. I felt like something still needed work but it was hard to pinpoint what it was. Yes, I was writing while conferencing. Anyone who has ever attended a remote meeting knows that these are the most boring parts of any job. So I say my part, then I tune out. The rest is just background noise to me anyway – the planning of events I will never attend by people I will never meet, in an office I haven’t stepped foot in in nearly 8 years.

Somewhere amid the drone of voices, I think it hit me. Angie and I had crafted the perfect work-optional “vision” but our actual plan to get there was as weak as my mom’s decaf coffee. I had given us a year to “figure things out” and “get better prepared” while still maintaining status quo at a job that stopped being fun a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I just don’t like all the other stuff that comes with having a job. Every Tuesday I get off the phone and say the same thing – “I don’t know how much longer I can do this” and every Thursday, I get up and do it all again. Not anymore. We need a better plan.

So… I wadded up the draft of that other post and threw it in the trash. Maybe in a few weeks (when we return from our first-ever trout fishing trip), I’ll dazzle you with the pretty charts we made (a newly updated version of them, of course). Right now though, we need to rethink our strategy and give it some real teeth.

In the meantime, we’re going to take you to our happy place – the garden. Enjoy!

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Alaska or Bust??

I read The Box-car Children when I was in 3rd grade and decided then and there that I wanted to live in a boxcar. To my 9-year-old self, stealing milk off doorsteps and sleeping on a straw mat seemed an adventurous and independent thing to do. Then I read Where the Red Fern Grows and instead of boxcars, I wanted two little puppies to hunt with. Mind you, I never wanted to actually kill anything; just go out at night with my pups and a lantern…maybe steal some milk off a doorstep and sleep on a straw mat. Even now, I still read every day and I still want to go, see, and do the things that I read about.

A few months ago, Angie and I were on an Alaska kick. My mom had gotten us hooked on Alaskan Bush People and we had each picked up a few books about folks living in remote Alaskan villages (like If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende and Forty Years in the Wilderness by Dolly Faulkner). As always happens, we started daydreaming about going there and even looked into Alaskan cruises. We both told our parents that “our next big trip would probably be to Alaska”. And it probably will be. But when we say the words “our next big trip”, we don’t exactly mean the next time we pack up the car and pull out of the driveway. It could be a few years before we make it to The Last Frontier. In the meantime, we have other plans, though none of those plans included hurting the feelings of someone we love. Yet, it seems that we did.

Angie’s mom said she wanted to go with us if we went on a cruise to Alaska. We said that sounded great, and we moved on without much of a second thought. Why? Because my mom always says that she wants to go with us to Hawaii the next time we go. My nephew tells us every time that he sees us that he wants to tag along if we ever go to Ireland. Angie’s aunt and uncle said once that we should all plan a road trip together and my niece mentioned at Christmas that we should go with them to Florida this summer. It’s something people say and sometimes it turns into a real plan, but more often than not, it’s just a way to daydream about a vacation together. But Angie’s mom was serious, and it seems she was expecting us to go this spring.

Of course, now we feel terrible. So terrible in fact that we considered hastily putting together a trip just so we wouldn’t let anyone down or make anyone mad or cause anyone to miss out on such an opportunity. Thank goodness we came to our senses, because we are in no way ready for such an undertaking!

And honestly, most folks aren’t either. Did you know:

  • 75% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation at some point in their lifetime,
  • 23% did so in the past 12 months,
  • 55% don’t budget for vacations (or factor them into their annual expenses), and
  • Over the past year, Americans borrowed $12.64 billion for vacations, racking up $778.77 million in interest and other charges?

Have you ever heard the term “debt-lag”? It’s what happens when you return from a vacation with debt. We’ve only ever had it once – when we hit a few snags on our 2014 trip to California and Hawaii – and we decided then and there, we would not have it again. Not for any reason. If we couldn’t completely pay for a certain vacation destination, we would simply not go there. There are way too many other, cheaper places to go when the “exotic” or “once in a lifetime” locales are not [yet] within reach.

Our plan for Alaska (or any other big destination) is to save up before we set off. Looking at cruises, lodging and activities gives us an idea of how much we need to add to our vacation fund and how long we need to save. You might say, a lot of dreaming and scheming goes into our travel planning process. I get that it’s not the same for everyone, and that’s okay. If you are ready for and able to take a big vacation, like an Alaskan cruise, and that’s what you have your heart set on doing, then that’s what you should do. We just aren’t there yet.

We gently and lovingly tried to explain our position to Angie’s mom. She was disappointed, but I’d like to believe she respects our decision to avoid debt. More importantly, I hope she understands that though we might not be going to Alaska this year, she is always welcome to go with us wherever we may roam…even if it’s just to the park. (We have plenty of hammocks, by the way 😊)