5 Adventures To Read During Quarantine

I once heard that if you read five books on any one subject you can consider yourself an expert. Angie and I both are avid readers of travelogues and adventure memoirs. Between the two of us we have read more than 80 such books over the past 5 years, which should give us 16 times the expertise. Ha! I only have to recall the time we spent the night trying to hold down a tent in 30 MPH winds or the time when we nearly froze to death camping in Florida (of all places!) to know that we’re no experts. We are hungry, adventurous souls that love to read about other hungry, adventurous souls.

Of the 80+ books we read, five of them stood apart from the rest and are sure to get you in the mood for an adventure of your own (once we’re free to move about the world again, that is).

Vagabond Dreams by Ryan Murdock

This was the book that kick-started my longing to leave normal behind and just take off for parts unknown. Ryan’s adventure in Central America is punctuated by true tidbits of wisdom about life and the desire to be free. Of all the books that I have read since, this is still the most inspiring travelogue of them all. In fact, we were so inspired that we went to Mexico, Honduras, and Belize soon after reading it.

Freeways to Flip-Flops by Sonia Marsh

Sonia and her husband packed up their family and moved to Belize where one crazy misadventure after another taught them (and us) that paradise is not a place; it’s an understanding and appreciation of the simple things in life. When things don’t go just right, this book always comes to mind and I think, if they survived scorpions falling into the bed and sabotaging neighbors, surely we can hold down a tent in the wind.

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith

Peanut butter and parks and penning letters to the folks you wish could have come along – that’s basically the story of our travel life, so no wonder we loved this book. Through emails to their friends Bob and Sue, Matt and Karen told of their travels to every National Park in the US and through those stories, I saw my own country with a new set of eyes. (Side note: if you love this book as much as we do, you’ll be happy to know that there are two follow-up books: Dear Bob and Sue Season 2 and Dear Bob and Sue Season 3.)

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas

“You should read this book and we should get a van.” That was the first thing I said to Angie when I finished Ken’s story. The second was, “Oh my gosh, I think I know his friend.” In Walden on Wheels, Ken works a series of adventurous jobs from Mississippi to Alaska to pay off his undergrad student loans before deciding to live in a van on the Duke University campus. Like Thoreau’s Walden, this one is also full of wisdom. Reading it reaffirmed our aversion to debt and inspired us to approach our adventure in a more unconventional way. And as it turned out, I had met his friend once through my job. That little tidbit helped me realize that the people in these books are real – just like us – and if they can do it, so can we.

Leap of Faith: Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat by Ed Robinson

Leap of Faith speaks a lot to being owned by one’s possessions and letting go in order to experience freedom. I loved the book and soon started following Ed on Facebook. You see, for several years, we only lived a few miles apart – me in a cozy apartment surrounded by pools and an exotic landscape and him on his boat. I never met Ed but I credit him with being the person who provided the swift kick in the rear that I needed to actually do something brave (ie. buy a RV and live in it for a few months). One day on his blog, Ed assailed so-called-minimalists in their cozy apartments proclaiming to live simplified lives, while he lived in a 36’ x 12’ boat with only one pair of shoes. I admit, I was a little offended. Minimalism is a personal experience after all. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was a kernel of truth in Ed’s words and we still had room for improvement in our own minimalist journey (still do, I might add). As an homage to freedom and a reminder to always live authentically, one of the last things that we did before we left Florida in 2015 was to go to the marina where Leap of Faith was docked and take this picture.

You can check out any of these books on Amazon by clicking the book cover. It is an affiliate link, by the way, and we do get a tiny kickback if you purchase one of them. If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you’ll find that most of these books are included in your subscription.

For more great book recommendations, be sure to follow us on Goodreads at goodreads.com/minimal_melody and goodreads.com/greenpeep

Today is Not Tomorrow

When I met Angie, she was living with roommates. There were 3 women, 4 giant dogs, 3 cats, and a lot of random overnight guests all staying in a 3-bedroom/1 bath house just north of Denver. I lived alone in a cheap 1-bedroom apartment south of the city; an apartment that didn’t even allow pets, but had the most awesome resident appreciation dinners every month…and a pool. I didn’t own a car at the time but I made my way around with just a scooter, a red Raleigh bicycle, and a bus pass. And when I say “made my way around”, there was nowhere that I didn’t go back then. I went camping, visited all sorts of parks, shopped thrift stores in Colorado Springs, drank tea at Celestial Seasonings (the tour is free by the way), and solo-hiked in Taos, NM.

Meanwhile, Angie was living a pretty frugal life herself. For our first date, she used a gift card. When I was finally invited to her house, she proudly showed me the plastic bins under her bed full of deodorant, shampoo, and other items that she’d scored for pennies by “extreme couponing”. She drove an Xterra that she had paid cash for, worked part-time at a casino to pay her $300/month rent, and put money into savings every week. For fun, she took long walks by herself.

One of our first hikes together at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.

I wish I could say that I knew from the moment we met that she was the one, but it took me a little while. You see, along with all the good things we were each doing in our lives came a bit of baggage. I had trust issues and financial issues. Being with someone most of your adult life who turns out to be a criminal can do that. Angie was struggling to find her place in the world and spent most every weekend drinking and playing video games in a house full of 30-year-old children. When we met, I had just filed bankruptcy and she was facing misdemeanor charges for public intoxication.

Last month, we celebrated our 9th anniversary as a couple. A decade ago, if you had told me I’d be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I may not have known where I was going but I knew for sure that I didn’t want another long-term relationship, especially one that had problems from the get-go. If either of us had looked just on the surface of what we saw in each other in those days, I can say with absolute certainty that we would not be here today. Financial and legal problems are not fun topics to deal with and sometimes it’s easy to think, in the moment, that those types of things are what define a person for life.

Trust me. They are not.

Thankfully, we looked past each other’s shortcomings. In that box of couponed items, I saw a person who shared the same values as me – even if they weren’t being exhibited for anyone else to see. In me, she saw a person she could trust with her true self. And together, we learned that we had more in common that just poor judgement 🙂 Among other things, we were both thrifty, both aspiring minimalists, both raised in Southern homes (so we knew each other’s heritage and culture), both loved the outdoors, and both craved adventure – though our first cross-county adventure was a bit of a disaster. Let’s just say, we almost left Caesar in Amarillo, TX.

We’ve come a long way over the past decade. Neither of us has had a drink of anything stronger than kefir water since sometime around July 2014. There was no real conversation around it. One day we just noticed that a bottle of fruit wine we had purchased at a winery had been sitting in the fridge for months without either of us having any interest in opening it. When my niece asks how we quit drinking, I often wish we had a better story – one that might inspire others – but we don’t. We just lost interest, likely because we found so many other things to be interested in, and we never drank again.

Change comes into our lives whether we ask for it or not. Sometimes it is for the better (sometimes not) and we feel it’s impact immediately. Sometimes it takes a while to realize things are different. As I look back on our life, I see so many ways that we have changed – and grown – to become the people we are today and I am so very thankful that we weathered those first storms. I’m so very thankful that neither of us let what was happening in any one given moment cause us to abandon our dreams, our goals, and our life together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our journey this week, mostly because I see so many people who are struggling with fear and uncertainty right now. The normal lives we were living just weeks ago are in a state of disruption. We see others around us panicking (or not, as the case may be) and we don’t know which side of the fence we need to be on. We are scared of what may happen but also scared that being scared makes us look weak. We’re afraid to watch the news and afraid not to. We’re afraid not to go on with our normal routines and afraid that if we do, we might catch this virus and/or give it to our families.

Even without the uncertainty of COVID-19, life can be hard.

My grandpa Willie was a man of great wisdom. Among the many things he taught me was the power of these four little words – today is not tomorrow. The things that seem all consuming today are likely not to matter tomorrow or in the many tomorrows that will inevitably pass as our life progresses.

Today, we are being asked to stay home. Today, the way we are accustomed to working, shopping, and socializing has changed. Today, some of the things that bring us comfort and happiness are not available. Today, we may feel powerless, afraid, uncertain, or even bored. But today is not tomorrow.

Soon this pandemic will pass and in a decade, it too will be a distant memory that we look back on and say, if you’d told me then that we’d be here today, I wouldn’t have believed you. And where is here exactly? I hope that here is a world where people feel closer to one another because in absence, we’ve realized the value of community. I hope that here is a world where we live and thrive on less resources than we once thought possible. I hope that here is a world where we remember that collective strength and compassion for our fellow man are what kept us safe today.