Living in the Ending of Things

Where is that thing, I wondered as I dug deep in the back of the closet.

I know I have it. I’ve had it for years.

As I searched for the missing item, I realized how much stuff had accumulated on just three shelves in only one closet. 

Stuff, stuff, everywhere. And I am getting rid of it all.

Every single thing.

Item by item, I scan each room as I try to assess the value of everything I have lovingly, and sometimes unknowingly, collected over a lifetime.

I am no longer attached to the vast majority of these things, these representations of my life. In fact, everything I own is being reduced to just ten boxes, things I’m actually making myself keep, because I will eventually settle into one place again. I am keeping items that are, for the most part, sentimental: a painting, a family heirloom, a favorite sweater, my new pans.

I’m thrilled that my family was just visiting, because I gave a box to each of them, two adults, two teenagers, and a pre-teen, and had them fill their boxes with whatever they could find of mine that they wanted. I was thrilled when my beautiful great-niece chose my beloved collection of perfume bottles and antique trinkets from the top of some long-forgotten woman’s mirrored vanity. The tall, handsome 14-year-old snagged a stunning decorative knife, the youngest, still a sweet kid but looking more and more like a young man, got my first-gen iPad. Their mom and dad got camping stuff and keepsakes. They each got a box-full of my memories.

How does one begin to liquidate a lifetime of possessions? Getting rid of all my personal belongings is a monumental task, and yet here it is, looming in front of me. 

Memories flood in as I look more closely at things I’ve had for years, things I don’t really see any more. One by one, memories come from my many years of a marriage long since over, of my crafting days, of lifelong friendships and friendships come and gone. Even my plants hold the history of the business I once owned. Who is going to inherit these memories? Who will hold precious the items I have carefully chosen, over many years, to fill my space?

One by one, items I post to my Facebook friends are finding homes with people I know, at least. Nothing has yet gone to a random stranger, although that will certainly happen in my first liquidation sale. 


Bottom photo by Suzanne McQueen

But how can I possibly put a price tag on the little print of Vermeer’s L’astronome I got when my husband and I visited the Louvre on our first and only trip together to Europe? What is the value of the lovingly hand-beaded astronomy orb I spent hours and hours making during a creative period? How do I price the tiny trinkets friends have gifted me over the years, dusty now, sitting in a glass bowl?

I have given myself many months to prepare for this part, this parting with the symbols of my life. I am spending time with my thoughts, my memories filled with sweet hope, quiet satisfaction, deep contentment, tragedy, and lost love.

Occasionally, I must remind myself why I am doing this. Why am I, at fifty-eight years old, selling everything I own to travel the world? Then the spark flares, the adrenal flows, and the excitement rises as I remember: to experience life to its fullest, to meet people of all colors, shapes, and sizes around the globe; to see the spectacular sites of ancient history; to hear the sounds of monkeys screeching, shop owners calling out in strange tongues, and temple bells ringing through the jungle; to smell the fragrance of flowers I’ve never seen, aromas of foods I’ve never heard of; and to taste, in all respects, the flavors of lands far away and completely foreign to me.

This is what drives me: the knowledge that this is the only life I have. The time is now, while I am young enough and healthy enough to vagabond my way through the world. And I am thrilled and excited all over again.

Ah, there’s that thing. I gently pull out a small, faded photo of my former husband and me before we got married. I am sitting on his Harley, and he is standing beside me. We are falling in love, smiling the smiles of joy and young life. There are casts on each of our broken right arms. The Golden Gate Bridge is rising high in the background. This picture is going with me on my journey around the world. It holds all the love, all the dreams, all the adventure I once felt as a young woman. It will remind me that the future of that young woman is now. Now I stand on the threshold of the rest of my life. 

If you like this blog post, please like, comment, and share. Doing so will help support me as I prepare for this amazing lifetime journey.


I Give UP! Details Overwhelm Sets In

I quit.

What have I been thinking?

Who do I think I am, chucking my entire life, pretending I can travel the world for a year?

I can’t even imagine how I’m going to deal with my stuff and figure out what to do with my house, let alone have enough money to live and work from the road.  I’m 58 years old, for Pete’s sake. I give up. I’m not going.

These thoughts pass through my mind whenever I think of everything I need to get done to realize my dream of traveling around the world for 365-ish days. And the more I read other world travelers’ blogs, the more I realize that this is perfectly normal, this not-knowing-what’s-going-to-happen fear, this there-are-so-many-things-to-do/plan/decide/buy overwhelm.

Yesterday I was feeling that overwhelm in a pretty major way. My mind whirled with the myriad details of what travel bag to choose, which walking shoes to buy, whether I should sell or rent my house, what to keep and where to keep it, how I’m going to manage mail, how I’m going to deal with taxes, and on and on and on . . .

Then I remembered about lists.

Before I started hyperventilating, I grabbed a pencil and notepad and began writing down everything that was streaming through my mind like a high-def Bruce Willis action movie. A peaceful calm immediately started trickling through my manic brain. Oh, right, I thought. At this age I have tools to deal with fears, anxiety, and overwhelm. I just have to remember what they are and how to use them when I need them most.

I realized then that I actually had a list of lists constantly running in the back of my mind. I am astounded that I had not yet started a real, physical, long-term list of things I need to do/research/buy before I go. So now I have the beginning of my list of lists and a place to jot down all the random thoughts that come into my head when I read a blog about dealing with taxes while traveling or what mail service to use. Lists Fix Everything

Here is the very beginning of my list of lists:

  • Stuff:
    • Room by room, separate items into three categories: Keep, sell, give
    • Create a timeline of selling stuff using VarageSale, Craigslist, Facebook, specialized garage sales (Jewelry! Clothes! Electronics! Tools!)
    • Find an awesome home for my cat, Apples.
  • Stuff about the house:
    • Get CRM from my realtor—should I sell?
    • Talk to property managers about renting to long-term tenant—should I lease?
    • Prepare house accordingly
  • Stuff to purchase:
    • Laptop (Dell Inspiron 11 3000 series)
    • Backpack (probably Eagle Creek Switchback 22) and packing cubes
    • Walking shoes
    • Down jacket
    • The perfect pair of pants
    • Travel insurance
  • Stuff to research:
    • Best way to travel between countries
    • Volunteer opportunities
    • Weather by month
    • How to deal with taxes
    • (This list is going to get huge!)
  • General stuff to do:
    • Re-establish my credit (I had to file bankruptcy in 2010. It’s been a long recovery.)
    • To that end: apply for a credit card
    • Decide where my permanent address will be (tricky, since I don’t plan on coming back to Oregon. Probably will be my mom’s in California)
    • (Another rapidly growing list!)

These items represent just a tiny beginning of things that go through my mind. This list of lists will grow quickly, I’m sure. And when I am working on planning my trip, I’ll go to my list and see what to do. There’s nothing like crossing off an item on a giant, months-long list of lists to feel like I’m making progress!

My goal is to leave by November 2015 and travel for a year, so I also remind myself I have time to take care of all these details, but no time to waste. My departure date will be here before I know it, so I am actively choosing my travel laptop, my backpack, my walking shoes. I am sorting through my stuff and talking to property managers. And the money? I’m already halfway to my goal of saving $10,000, so I may increase the final total if my work flow continues to hold steady.

From now on, when I have those moments of panic and anxiety about preparing for such a huge life change, I will simply remember my lists and take comfort in knowing that it will all work out as long as I stay on track. After all, these are some of the best life skills I’ve developed, tools I can pull out of the bag when they’re most needed.

What do you do when you’re in overwhelm? Are you a list maker? Please share the life skills you’ve developed and keep in your tool bag!



What is Paleo Again?

I might as well explain . . .

2012 I am fat

Fat in 2012

Once upon a time a couple of years ago, I felt old, overweight, constantly fatigued, and had given in to the idea that I would never again be healthy and vibrant. Then my gut (and I) got really sick, and I couldn’t ignore it any more. Something had to be done. I did what most of us do when we want information: I Googled it.

What I found truly and forever changed my life. After weeks of research, I came across Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog about the Primal/Paleo way of eating and fitness. (The Primal Blueprint is the version of Paleo that I use and one that has really worked for me.) I had always tried to eat well, so it wasn’t a stretch to eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, and processed foods from my diet.

2014 I am fit

Fit in 2014

In three weeks my brain fog lifted and my energy returned in full force. I had forgotten what it was like to feel so good. Within a few months I was hiking three to four miles 5 days a week, had lost 25 pounds, and felt more fit and healthy than I had in at least twenty years. People were asking me what I’d done. I started a Primal potluck group. I attended PrimalCon. I adopted Darryl Edwards’ ideas in his book Paleo Fitness. In short, I changed my lifestyle and changed my life.

So now my plan is to maintain my Paleo lifestyle while traveling RTW, using the world as my fitness playground and seeing what Paleo foods are like in other countries. Will I be climbing trees in the jungles of Thailand and running across logs over rivers in Venezuela? Will I be eating fried insects in Brazil, chicken feet in Malaysia, and fish eyes in China? I have no idea, but I am open to all of these possibilities and more. I just read about saying yes to eating unidentifiable foods, and that is the idea of world travel, right? To be open to all the new experiences that other countries have to offer, to be adventurous in ways I never imagined, can’t now imagine. I’m excited to expand my horizons, to be brave and bold, and to maintain the health that the Paleo lifestyle has provided me. I’m never going back to old, sick, fat, and tired.

What strange foods have you eaten? What fun and different ways have you used the world as your playground?

Seven Ways to Save for a RTW Journey

Yes, you CAN save enough money!

There was a tiRTW save moneyme when I didn’t think I’d ever have enough money to actually travel around the world. I mean, the travel industry sure makes it seem like you need to either be rich or win the lottery to get in any travel of significance. I have traveled quite a bit now, and I have done both the expensive and the budget versions of travel. And since I plan to be on the road for a year this time, you can bet that I’m going to make the trip last that long by having a very small travel budget. Like, miniscule. Itty bitty. Teeeenie tiny. Recently I was telling someone about my trip and she cried out, “WHAT?! You’re not staying in hotels?!!” She simply couldn’t imagine how one travels without the travel-industry-led idea that you must make your trips luxurious and, therefore, expensive. Otherwise, what’s the point? Ah, I wrote that blog here.

I will be writing a blog on how to make an infinitesimal, itsy bitsy traveling budget actually work, but this blog is about how I’m saving and scraping and selling in order to have enough money before I go. I have given myself a mere ten months—just 300 days—to save for this year-long round-the-world journey. While I will be making money working on the road, my goal is to save at least $8,000 before I go. This is a shade over five months of travel at $1,500 a month, equal to $50 a day, which is incredibly generous for world travel.

“Gosh, that’s a LOT!” you might whine observe. I think so, too. But I’m all about the cushion, and it IS an estimate. I’d rather aim high and have enough to last than to have to come home early. And think about it: I only need to save $800 a month for ten months. When you have a dream or a goal or a desire within sight, wouldn’t you do whatever you needed to to get there? It’s that.

Now, I don’t have an extra eight hundred bucks lying around at the end of every month, but I also don’t have a lot of bills. Still, how am I possibly going to accomplish this savings on my fairly small, not-very-consistent freelance income? Well, I have been doing my research, and I’ve come up with a list of seven ways to stuff my green-and-orange-striped sock with plenty of money to get me launched. 

Show me the money!

Here, in no particular order or relevance to success, is my list of seven ways to shove the green stuff into my strisockped sock:

  1. Cut out all discretionary spending. This one is a no-brainer. Stop buying coffee out. Movies are all at home or at friends’ homes. No new lipsticks. (Geez, I’ll never use up all the ones I already have.) No eating out. (Not hard for me. I like my own cooking.)
  2. Actually put the actual money I actually would have spent on the items in (1) into said green-and-orange-striped sock.
  3. Combine auto trips to save gas. Better yet, ride my bike or walk when I can. I live where it’s easy to jump into the car and run to the store, which would take 45 minutes to walk round-trip. But it’s also easy to jump into the car several times a day on short little trips because of this, which adds up in gas. I’m going to plan better in order to consolidate my trips, or heck, even forego a trip to the store altogether. I don’t always have to rush out for coconut aminos if I run out while I’m cooking. Adjust. Adapt.
  4. Sell my stuff. This is a big one for me. I am not young, and I own my house. It’s full of a lifetime of stuff, but not clutter because I’m certainly not a hoarder. However, it is true that your stuff grows to fit the size of your home. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to sell, and I realize that I’m just not attached to much of it at all. That said, I’m going to want the basics when (if) I return, so I’m giving this a lot of thought. But lots of kitchen stuff, much of my furniture, most of my clothing, and all of my books can go. Craigslist, Ebay, and garage sales are what I’m planning.
  5. Do odd jobs. I have lots of little one-off income opportunities that put money in my sock. I teach astronomy to private students. I make Power Point presentations. I coach people in public speaking. These small jobs are not my Paleo bread and butter (that would be book editing), so I can think of the income from them as “extra” money. Again, it goes right into the sock.
  6. Put away something from every single income check I receive. Since I work freelance, my cash flow can be pretty inconsistent. One thing, among many, that my dear departed dad taught me was to put aside some amount from every single paycheck, and do it FIRST, before I pay any bills. This advice has served me well (thanks, Dad). Before I even think about how much I need for living expenses, I put away enough that it hurts a little bit. Sometimes my checks are for a single hour of work. I’ll put away 50 percent of those little checks. Other times, a check is several thousand dollars for several weeks’ work. With paychecks like these, I can put away 25 percent, and the sock gets much fatter much faster.
  7. Take the money I’ve saved out of the sock and put it into an interest-bearing account. This one is also a no-brainer. While savings and checking accounts don’t pay much at all these days, I am looking around at different options. Putting the money in a savings account instead of my sock is not only smarter, it’s safer.

Well, that’s it. Those are my secrets to saving for a dream I have had for years. It’s time to put my words into action and make it happen.

Now I want to hear from you! What dream do you want to save for? A house? College? An RTW? What secret tricks are you implementing to save money? Answer in the comment section below.