It was a nice long break - a bit more than three weeks, and I got to spend some time in London and some time in Canada. The boat was tucked up right where I left it and there was very little drama in getting back on board. I lit the stove to get the chill off and it felt reassuringly like home. (My suitcase also found it nice to get home, especially because it had an unscheduled extra night in Istanbul before arriving a day and a half after I did.)
Last week, after getting all the unpacking done and stocking the cupboards again, I had a quiet evening and ended up spending a bit of time looking back. More specifically, I looked back at my old blog, Go See Run Eat Drink. I do this sometimes - open up the old blog and pick a country at random and go back and read all the posts from when I was there. It’s great to be reminded of all the places I saw and the people I met and the fun and crazy and amazing things I got to do. That was one of the reasons I decided to blog in the first place - so I could go back later and remember.
This time though, I went right back to the very first post. I started Go See Run Eat Drink way back in 2008 (before Barack Obama was elected the FIRST time) when I was at the beginning stages of a plan to quit a job I’d been at for eleven years, sell a house I’d had for a decade, and spend a year traveling around the world. At the time I was 39 years old and living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And though the blog did not go public until January 2009, that first post - for a select group of invited friends - was on July 30, 2008. That was six and a half years and 426 blog posts ago. (Astute GSREDGSWPL Readers will know that’s 275 at Go See Run Eat Drink and 151 at Go Stay Work Play Live. Oh, plus this one. 427.)
Those first few posts are very different. Much shorter than an average post now (and with many fewer exotic locations and more frequent haircuts) but I could feel myself warming up a bit. Testing out gear, ordering luggage, planning the itinerary, and starting to deal with the thousand things that went along with wrapping up my life in a neat bundle. But over and over I could hear the hesitation. The reluctance to commit. I kept puttering on, researching one-bag travel, prowling Mountain Equipment Co-op, checking out package tours and gradually knocking the house into shape to sell, but not really doing anything irreversible like giving my notice at work.
Not that I wasn’t aware I was hedging. There was a post in October of 2008 that consisted almost entirely of just this quote:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."As I was poking around Go See Run Eat Drink I also stumbled on a post I wrote but never published. The working title was simply “Anxiety” and was a kind of airing out of all my worries at the time. As I read it I couldn’t help but smile from my smug place in the future. Here, six years late, is that unpublished list of fears, along with comments from Future Pam about how it all turned out:
- W. H. Murray in "The Scottish Himalaya Expedition", 1951
- I'm scared my house will sit, unsold, until after my scheduled departure date. (It was fine. Sold quickly and easily.)
- I'm scared that when or if my house does sell I won't get the price I need to make the budget for the trip work. (And it sold for a bit over the asking price.)
- I'm scared about quitting my job - it's comfortable and pays well and I'm good at it and I like the people I work with. (All that was true but I’ve now found that same combination again and again in other situations. Well maybe not “comfortable” but everything else.)
- I'm scared that I might give my notice at work and then something will make the trip fall through and then I'd have no job and no trip. (Obviously that didn’t happen.)
- I'm scared about finding a new job. (This took longer than I thought, but then again I was starting from scratch in a new country and I was ridiculously ambitious about how long it would take.)
- I'm scared about starting a new job and not being very good at it, at least at first. (It was fine. It turns out I really am actually pretty good at what I do regardless of what country it’s in.)
- I'm scared a new job will never be as good as the old job. (Wow, was this ever wrong. Not that the old place was bad. But, well… this.)
- I'm scared about giving up a lot of my stuff. (As I later predicted, and as EVERYONE who’s done this says, I got back to my 5’ x 10’ storage space and thought, “Why do I have all this STUFF??”. And now I live in the space of four-and-a-half tatami mats. And yet I still rent a storage space...)
- I'm scared the trip won't be as great as it sounds. (*derisive snort*)
- I'm scared I might be trying to fit in too much traveling in too little time. (I definitely did that. But now sometimes when I go somewhere I stay for months.)
- I'm scared that I'll get locked into an itinerary and not be able to change. (Nope.)
- I'm scared that I might wimp out. (Didn’t)
- I'm scared that I won't wimp out. (Didn’t)
- I'm scared that if I do wimp out, I'll never see Petra, or the pyramids, or the Great Wall, or ever actually leave Winnipeg and move my life forward (professionally and personally). (I saw all those places and more. And my life has moved leaps and bounds. And then more bounds. And anther leap or two after that.)
I was in that old life - Winnipeg, the job, the house, the dog - for twelve years, and for most of those years not much big changed. In half that amount of time - the six years since I left - I’ve been around the world. Literally - I actually went all the way around. I visited 33 different countries on that first big trip and have chalked up a few more since. More importantly though, after I got back I turned right around and moved to a whole different country. Then I got to work on the biggest show on earth, the Olympic Opening Ceremony. And then I got to move to another other country and do that all again, expect in Russian. And now that’s kind of just what I do - go to odd and interesting places and help to put on huge exciting shows. And when I’m not doing that I live on a boat in the greatest city in the world. I say this not to brag, but because I feel really lucky.
But there’s something else too. Those advantages in life set me up, but where I am now is something I think I can take credit for. I had the idea and I took the chance, and that opened up a whole cascade of new ideas and new chances. And they're still coming.
In a way, I made this luck in my life.