What a Difference a Year Makes

Last December 11, I posted an entry in this blog in which I announced Tim’s and my plans to pick up stakes and live a life of freedom and travel and writing and photography – and work from wherever life happened to take us. The reality – as is almost always the case – turned out to be just a bit different than what I originally had in mind. But 2010 has been a year of self-discovery and dream fulfillment, nonetheless.

In retrospect, despite the planning and logistics involved, it all seems to have happened while in a walking dream. Would it be a cliche to use the word “surreal”??

We did, of course, sell our home in New Jersey – in 32 days! – almost record time, based on the economic realities of the day. And with just five weeks between signed contract and scheduled closing, we did manage to find a place to live – 600 miles away – in just five days flat, and sell / donate / give away a lot of our excess “stuff” before packing up the moving truck and heading Downeast.

I know … it all sounds so easy, right?

But here’s the previously “untold story” of the big move …

I don’t mind admitting that I had a near meltdown on the actual day of moving. I was so exhausted, and although it LOOKED and FELT like we had been making outstanding progress during those five weeks, the reality of June 2nd was that “WE ARE NEVER GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!” (<<< That’s me wailing at 12 Noon)

Our “leaving the driveway” time had been set for 8 AM and somehow we found ourselves still emptying our Master Bedroom closets and packing up my jewelry in mid-afternoon (how could we have forgotten our clothes and my jewelry???) …

Felix, my traveling companionThe cat had been sedated since 10 AM (we still had hopes of leaving before noon, at that point), and I was casting sidewise glances at his pill bottle myself by 2 o’clock.

Throughout the afternoon, I was still running back-and-forth to our next door neighbor’s house to beg and borrow more boxes (the thousand I bought at Lowe’s not having been sufficient … don’t ask), and I was finally reduced to stuffing the remainder of our things into big green Glad trash bags. If stress were measured on a thermometer, my temperature would have been 212 degrees.

At one point, I begged Tim to just throw the mattress down on the living room floor and “Let’s just leave tomorrow morning!” Cooler heads (OK, Tim’s) prevailed, and we pushed on. I don’t think I’ve ever been more physically and mentally fatigued, although Tim had to be suffering more than I, as he did the lion’s share of the physical labor, in 90+ degree heat and humidity, no less.

Finally pulling away at 4 PM – Felix and me in the Eos and Tim piloting the can’t-fit-so-much-as-another-paperclip-in-here U-Haul – off we went to meet our future. I didn’t cry … OK, well, maybe just a little … but it was all over before we hit the New Jersey Turnpike. And no one knew (until now) except Felix, and he’s the most loyal cat in the world. (You never heard any of this from him, right?)

Owing to the late start, the original plan of a straight drive through was now out of the question. On the third check-in attempt (since the original plan did not include a stopover, I never looked up “pet-friendly hotels”), I decided it would be easiest to just sneak the cat into the motel, which we did. The next morning, he refused to eat the drugged food (loyal AND smart!), so we proceeded undrugged and uneventfully on to Bar Harbor. Well, except for the rain. Thankfully, I had gone ahead and hired people to unload the truck at our new place, after watching Tim struggle through loading a 17-foot moving truck virtually by himself for two full days. Those people were a Godsend, because by the time we arrived, we were just spent – the wind had gone completely out of our sails.

So, after dreaming about it for 21 years and putting every last waking moment of five weeks’ time into moving, we were home, and the main thought in my head was, “Oh my gosh … this is REAL!”

SeinfeldDespite the stutter-step of a 12-days-delayed closing and the very real threat that it would never happen at all (yes, AFTER we were already all settled in Bar Harbor! – but all’s well that ends well, I suppose), the hubs enjoyed (to paraphrase George Costanza), “The Summer of Tim” (c’mon, Seinfeld fans, you know what I’m talking about). This I happily participated in, since it entailed a lot of soaking up the bright sunshine and basking in seaspray along the rocky coast, living mostly like tourists in our new hometown, pursuing our shared interest in photography, and me with my laptop, hard(?) at work in the Adirondack chair on the front porch – every so often glancing up at the peak of Cadillac Mountain and pinching myself to see if it was all real. Yes, it was an idyllic existence that, quite literally, combined business and pleasure – with a decided emphasis on pleasure.

Fall brought on the inevitable realization that I needed to bring “break time” to an end and return to business in a serious way. Luckily, my part-time siesta did no long-term damage to my business or my professional reputation – on the contrary, this entire odyssey seems to have rekindled interest among some of my earliest clients while garnering new supporters, followers, and fans. This whole “following my dreams” and “living life on my own terms” thing seems to be resonating with a lot of people! In my heart of hearts, I think I knew it would.

Lately, however, the uncertainties of renting vs. owning have been weighing on us. Having been homeowners for our entire marriage, we’re finding it a bit disconcerting to have the end of a lease hanging over our heads. And a year goes by a lot faster when you’re counting down the months to potential homelessness. So, now we’re trying to decide: longer term lease or purchase a property here as a home base?

We still plan to travel some, hopefully beginning next year. The transformation of my business to being totally portable is complete, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I’ve taken on several new clients and secured a couple of contracts with previous clients since moving here, and the new business model is working really well for all concerned. So, in that sense, I am “living a life untethered,” as I originally planned. But what a long strange trip it’s been!

Horseback on BeachAs I look back on this year, my wish is that those who may be inspired by my crazy, ongoing story decide to grab the reins of their own life and ride on!

Yes, it’s a leap of faith, but if you don’t have faith in your ability to make your dreams come true, who can do it for you?

July? It’s July? Are You Kidding Me??

Somehow all of June went whizzing past, and here we are staring down the barrel of the Fourth of July! (Well, hopefully not down the barrel – sounds like a fireworks display about to go very, very wrong) … but I digress …

Getting a signed contract on our New Jersey home took only 32 days, which might be cause for panic in some quarters (“OMG, we sold the house! Where are we going to live? How are we going to get it all done? The closing’s in just 6 weeks!!”), but Tim & I had a plan, you see.

We had met with a builder/Realtor® in Bar Harbor not once but twice – the last time being just 7 months ago – and I had been in touch with him via phone and email all throughout the time we were preparing our house for sale and while it was on the market. Our plan was to rent one of his 8 available brand new townhomes, right across the street from and with a full view of Hulls Cove on Frenchman Bay. So I called him as soon as we got the house under contract to say we were ready to sign a lease … only problem was, he had just rented the last unit. After 18 months of having units available, he had literally signed the last available lease the prior week.

This – and what happened next – in and of itself merits a full chapter in my [future] book, but let me sum it up thusly: In my long, long list of “What Not to Do When Relocating” is an item in bold with a large, red asterisk next to it that says, “Don’t – I repeat DON’T – wait until May to try to secure a year-long rental in a summer resort area.” As obvious as that sounds as I type it, it did not occur to us that this could be a problem until we had solicited the help of no fewer than 4 REALTORS®, scrutinized 58 MLS listings (hoping that maybe one or two of them might consider renting their properties to a responsible, mature couple with one very well-behaved cat), contacted almost a dozen rental property owners, and completely traversed the second largest island off the United States’ East Coast in search of something – anything! – that would keep us from becoming one of the homeless. Much of what we saw made homelessness seem like a viable alternative.

On Day 4 of our 5-day house-hunting excursion, I sat on the edge of the bed in our room at the Acadia Inn, dejected and wondering, “What have we done??”

And then a miracle happened. One of the REALTORS® (the one who’d emailed me the 58 listings, bless her) mentioned that her broker had a townhome for sale that she had been prepping for weekly summer rentals but she would consider offering it to us on a one-year lease. [Cue the heavenly chorus] But (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) … there was a requirement that not every lessee would be amenable to. Well, at this point, we figured we’d better go have a look because it was, quite literally, our last hope – we were leaving in 36 hours and had completely exhausted every option we’d had.

Long story short, we took a look at this 5-year-old in-town beauty, realized it met virtually all of our criteria (OK, admittedly, at that point our “criteria” had been downgraded to “fully enclosed against the elements / working heating system / carpets that don’t squish when you walk on them / plumbing that has been updated within the last 65 years”), and, after a very late morning breakfast of wild Maine blueberry pancakes, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it!”

So, from the 5th of May to the 2nd of June, we boxed, bagged, sold, donated, tossed, and gave away the contents of an 8-room house, somehow paring it all down to what could fit on a 17-foot U-Haul truck and into a 5-room townhouse.

The actual details of how “Moving Day” became “Moving DAYS” and how we got the non-traveling cat here is another story for another day, but suffice to say May was a “lost month.”

June, on the other hand, was … another lost month. Unpacking, buying furniture to replace some of the too-large pieces we had to get rid of, making the new place feel like home, and – oh yeah – working all conspired to consume the month of June. So much for blogging, restarting my eNewsletters, ramping up new my eCommerce site, and all the things I thought I’d do after “settling in.” I guess that’s all starting now.

Welcome to July!

How Often Should You Blog?

Hmmm … I’d have to say, simply: A LOT MORE OFTEN THAN I HAVE BEEN LATELY!!

It’s hard to believe my last blog post was March 4, but life’s been … um, shall we say “interesting” around here since then …

After 20+ years of thinking and dreaming about it, we put our NJ house up for sale and are moving to … drum roll, please …

BAR HARBOR, MAINE!

Between finishing up the “Honey-Do” list (OK, that was mostly Tim) and de-cluttering and “staging” the house for sale (that was my end of the contractual bargain), well, time just got away from me. Blogging became lost in the shuffle, as did updating the website, getting out eNewsletters on any kind of regular basis, and pretty much doing anything related to “working ON my business, not IN it.” I’ve been working IN it quite regularly through all this preparation to pick up and move almost 600 miles from the only place I’ve ever called home (Trenton/Hamilton/Bordentown, NJ) – but, of course, that’s really all I had time for … well, besides a few Facebook posts and tweets – you always have time for those! 😀

So, as we wind down the last couple of weeks leading to The Big Move, I’m getting all my little ducks in a row and preparing to re-launch my eNewsletters in the first half of June – from my new home office window that looks out on Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island. I think it will be a joy to “go to work in the morning”! 🙂

And I promise blogging will, once again, be a part of my online presence – along with some other extra special awesomesauce! Maybe I did have just a little bit of extra time to create some incredible business affiliations and joint ventures … but more on those in June! Sorry to tease, but …

Stay with me, and I promise I’ll make it worth your while!

Can You Work to Live, Rather than Live to Work?

The following question was recently posed on LinkedIn:

How can you work to live and prevent your life from being all about work? With the increasing demands and stress in the world and the necessity to focus on the important things in life, people should be able to get 15 times as much done in a normal week. How do you work to live and prevent your life from being all about work? Are you living your own life on your own terms? Did you ever ask yourself what do you really want from life? What was your answer?

Here’s how I answered:

My answer is not for everyone – in fact, I don’t know that I ever really believed it was possible until recently – but I’m actively putting into action a plan to live my “Chapter 2” very differently than I lived my “Chapter 1.”

I’ve had a 20-year dream to make my “home base” a place I consider to be my spiritual home, and I’m finally moving forward. At least for a portion of every year I will be living there. I’ll also be traveling to the many places I’ve dreamed of visiting – all the U.S. National Parks, the great baseball parks around the country, and spending time with family and friends who live far from me now.

I started the process by taking an inventory of what’s really important and realized it’s not the house and the pool and the cars and the “stuff.” It’s no longer important to me to strive for things or hang onto possessions just because everyone else does so (and thinks you might be slightly unhinged if you desire something different). It’s no longer a priority to own a home in one place.

I’ve begun taking concrete steps to transform my existing business into something more ‘portable’ so that I have the ability to earn a good income wherever I am. And because of the lifestyle changes I am making (the most significant of which is leaving a state with one of the highest costs of living in the U.S.), I will not have to work as much as I have in the past to live the life I have imagined.

I will, indeed, be working to live, not living to work. And that, in my opinion, is how it should be – even if you don’t decide to “take your show on the road!”

What do you think? Can you see yourself living a different life than the one you live now? And, if so, how will you make that dream come true? I’d love to hear about your plans, so share your comments here.

Charting a Course for 2010

By now it’s no surprise to our closest friends and family that Tim and I are planning to sell our home after the holidays. What they are surprised at is our plan beyond that.

See, we’re lining our ducks up in a row so that we can live “a life untethered” for … well, we’ll see how long … but we’re thinking maybe as much as a year.

What does that mean?

Our plan is to sell the house and one of the cars and any of the “stuff” that we just have no further use for (think: formal dining room furniture!), grab Felix (our cat), and just go … initially to coastal Maine, a place we both feel spiritually attached to, but we also plan to see the old classic baseball parks, national parks and monuments, explore both coasts and as much as possible in between – traveling throughout this great country of ours.

One of the “ducks” we’re lining up is the creation of a “portable” business we can take with us wherever we go – much of the consulting work we do should translate well into a virtual business model, and we’re supplementing that with online businesses that complement our business and personal interests. More on that later, as it starts to really come together.

We have a “home base” in Philadelphia, where our daughter now lives in a home we all purchased together a couple of years ago, and depending on how things work out, we may decide to live there periodically throughout the year (in short bursts – in case my daughter happens to read this post, I don’t want to scare her!), in between trips to wherever our imaginations take us. Tim will photograph the spectacular and the mundane, the artistic and the unusual … while I’ll record the whole adventure in prose. I suspect there could be a book in here somewhere, but at the very least a legacy of words and pictures for our daughter and (maybe someday) grandchildren so they will know – really know – who we are/were.

I don’t honestly know if we’ll ever buy another home and live in one place full time. We’re not rich – far from it – but we’re passionate about pursuing this dream we’ve held for over 20 years now.

As they say: If not us, who? If not now, when?

I hope to gather a tribe around this blog who will follow us to parts (as yet) unknown and learn and grow with us. But more than that, I want to be able to show you – not just tell you – that it can be done. You can “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined” (thank you, Mr. Thoreau)!

Stay tuned – 2010 promises to be interesting!