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?

Facebook Made Another Change – OMG!

<rant>

Spent some time scrolling through Facebook comments this morning over my first cup of coffee and, I must say, I am constantly amazed at the number of chronic crybabies clogging up my news feed every time FB makes a change to its platform.

Folks who claim to be businesspeople are actually…

… starting petitions to change things back (“Sign here! Join the cause!”)

… whining about having to get used to the new look of their profile page…

… griping that a smidge more space has been devoted to the ads column (hey, it’s a FREE service, give ’em a break!)

… panicked that they can’t find the status update area (ahem, yes, it’s right there at the top, where it’s always been…just looks a little different).

Please, people, get a grip. It’s just aesthetics. It’s not like you now need to get an aeronautical engineering degree to access Facebook. Couldn’t that energy be more usefully spent on – oh, I don’t know…

… improving your business offerings…

… attracting new clients…

… updating your website…

… writing some interesting and informative articles and blog entries…

… following up with prospects…

… or maybe just coming up with some really helpful and engaging Facebook posts aimed at your business’ target audience??

</rant>

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Social (Media) Gaffes

It’s so funny to me how sometimes a real-life situation can provide insights into making your online marketing practices better. Here’s a great example . . .

I met a woman for the first time earlier this week. Seemed nice enough. We were going to have some ongoing contact through some work I’m doing, so I was looking forward to getting to know her.

Within the first 20 minutes of the first day we met, she did the following:

  • Asked me if I colored my hair, then proceeded to recommend a hair salon (not even sure why … she said she doesn’t go there!)
  • Recommended (unsolicited) her OB-GYN to me
  • Made a pointed remark about “the natural look” while casting a sidewise glance at my eye makeup (conversely, I did not find it necessary to ask her why she doesn’t wear makeup or to suggest to her that she should)

The next¬†time we saw one another,¬†she mentioned that she “had been thinking about my situation”¬†(the fact that I had just moved here three months ago) and proceeded to¬†say that she didn’t think I should buy any real¬†estate just yet, suggesting¬†that I won’t be able to take a “Maine winter.” She then proceeded to “school” me on some of the local gossip, of which I was already aware since I have subscribed to our small town’s local weekly since 1989.¬†She seemed perturbed that she didn’t really have any information to impart that I didn’t already know. She continued trying to impress me with her knowledge for 20 interminable minutes.

Today [still thinking about¬†“my situation” in her “off” hours, apparently], she suggested a market segment¬†to which¬†SHE thinks I should market my services – and all the reasons why she thinks so.

Seriously. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up!

She does not know my background, my experience, my skills, my education, my reputation, my abilities, or my aspirations. Did I mention we just met??

She seems to choose her topics¬†based solely on the likelihood of getting¬†a rise out of me. For the life of me, I don’t know why. I wonder if my refusal to take the bait will continue to push her to ever greater lengths to get me to react to¬†her increasingly bizarre and inappropriate choices for conversation?

All of which got me to thinking …

How many of us are guilty of this same kind of approach in our social media marketing?

Are we asking for too much information too soon?

Are we offering unwanted information/advice because we don’t know our prospects sufficiently?

When we get no response to our efforts, do we ratchet it up even further, rather than backing off and taking the time to get to know our prospects better and then fine-tune our message?

I saw a terrific post the other day – I believe it was on Facebook. It said, “Social media is like dating. You don’t ask to get married on the first date.”

Love that.

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.