Walking away from a good career was easy to do on paper, but when the reality set in, somewhere west-bound on I-30 heading to New Mexico, it became a bit harder to grasp. Did we save enough money for the trip? For our retirement? Will I be able to find another job if and when we return?
Not that I was regretting the decision, it was just a job, one of millions out there and I knew if I didn’t fit the bill for one of those millions of jobs, I could just start up another company. That was our plan anyway, start another business someday.
That first two weeks I spent in a mental fog. I was still receiving work emails, as they hadn’t shut down my account. I was living in two worlds and it was hard for me to let go of the world I was walking away from and embrace the world I was walking into.
Two years ago, I sold my company and moved to Dallas. After selling my company, I spent two years working in a more corporate setting. To be fair, it wasn’t a true corporate setting. It was an overall good experience, but more corporate than anything I had ever experienced. Having not worked for anyone but myself for 12 years, where I rolled into the office anytime I wanted and wore my bike clothes all day, it was hard for me to have to buy “dress casual” pants and wear company embroidered golf shirts to work; and the need to be at the office by a certain time was lost on me. Occasionally I would work from home, where I got more done in my underwear by 10 a.m. than I did all day at the office.
It’s now two years later, and suddenly the company I had created, nourished, cradled, watched grow and find its way into the world…was gone, left in an unmarked office building – in a suburb of Dallas – to fend for itself.
On the second day of our trip, during a 6 hour climb up Guadalupe Mountain, most of what I thought about, aside from gasping for air at 8700’, was work. That world I was so eager to leave kept gnawing at me, and it was ever so obvious to Kate. She tolerated it and understood my mood. Importantly, she was there to remind me that that world is over; if not forever, for the next few years.
It was the winding down and eliminating the day-to-day that was ironically the toughest bit.
-Too many emails
-Too many meetings
-No time to get caught up
-No time to work out
-Got to get this PowerPoint done before I have to get to the airport, jump on a plane, rent a car and give a presentation…
Spam continued to fill my email box, calls dwindled and stopped all together. The only meeting I had was to find a campsite, set up camp, build a fire, boil water, watch the sun set and the stars glisten and sun rise. We had all day to read, write, hike, run. When we began to stink, we bathed and washed our clothes in the river. We laid in the hammocks with a glass of wine and napped to the sounds of hundreds of birds and busy bees.
Yes, yes, it sounds wonderful. But after a week of that, when we arrived at my friend Brant’s house, I was eagerly helping him with projects he needed done around the house. I couldn’t wait to be busy again. It was there I realized that I needed to learn to find balance, my chi, the yin and the yang.
Entering the third week I began to find myself again, not that I was lost by any means. Perhaps it was more of a re-grouping with myself than an altogether “finding” of myself.
It was sometime during that third week when I finally walked into my new world. I had overcome the biggest obstacle…myself. Of course I had help, there was a book by Bruce Chatwick, Songlines. Out of all the books I set aside to read on this trip, I cannot tell you why I picked this one. I’ve owned it for 10 years. I had no idea why I bought it, nor did I know what it was about. The book was about the Australian Aborigines and how their land was being stolen and they were losing their “sense of place.” The book neatly wove into our own “sense of place” along with experiencing the places of the Pueblo, the Navajo, the pioneer homesteaders of the “Wild West.”
The final push out of the old and into the new world happened when we arrived in Telluride. Spending time with family, slowing my body down with daily hikes, slowing my mind down with yoga and being surrounded by people who chased a totally different rabbit.
It is now our fourth week and I can’t even imagine working in an office again. I still worry about money, however I’m able to put that in the back of my mind. We know, if need be, we can always make money. But for now, our tent has become our home; the mountains, deserts and rivers our backyard. Our sense of place is ever changing and continuously educating us.
I don’t know if three weeks is the magic number. I do know that if you choose the same journey, the first couple of weeks will be hard. You’ll no doubt question your decision a hundred times. I would encourage you to get to the end of week three before reconsidering your decision to “leave it all behind.” You will soon realize that what you left behind will always be there, but it’s what you will discover by leaving everything behind that will amaze you and change you forever.