“So after you spend all your money traveling the world, then what are you going to do?” he asked.
“I’m not going to spend all my money, first of all,” I said. I started to explain how I had a chunk of cash specifically for my year of travels, but then quickly decided this guy wasn’t going to understand my plans, so I got out of the conversation. Working on organic farms in Italy and walking a pilgrimage trail in Spain was beyond this gentleman’s understanding. In his book, a 34-year-old single woman should be on a career path and husband-hunting.
He was a business-owning baby boomer. He’d spent his whole life tied to a store, a family, a location. I knew full well how much of my story he could take, and he’d reached his limit. To his credit, I’m the one who opened the can of worms. When people ask what I do these days, I often answer, “I’m selling off or giving away most of what I own and living on the road for at least a year as of 7/7/11.” I know in that very next moment – by the look on their face – how open their mind is to unconventional folk like me.
Thankfully, there are plenty of his generation that love what I’m doing. Some of my friends in the over 65 crowd are my biggest supporters, in fact.
But you know who I really love talking to? The ones that put on the I-think-that’s-a-bit-crazy-but-I’m-also-intrigued face. You know why they have that look? Because they have a child like me. And don’t know what to do with them.
“My daughter has a PhD in biochemistry,” she told me over tea. Her husband, sitting on the other side of her, glanced over with a look that said, “Uh-oh – who’s she telling about our crazy daughter?” The woman went on. “She spent a year in Washington working on women’s rights in Iraq, and now she’s thinking of going to law school.” The husband rolled his eyes. “Oh, how wonderful!” I said. I get just plain giddy when I hear about people like me. “She’s 38,” the woman said. “She has a place in Boston, but she’s thinking of selling that because she wants a simpler life.”
I had just finished telling this woman about my own travel plans and my process of getting rid of most of what I own. “I’m 34,” I said. “I have two Masters degrees and finished a quarter of a doctorate program.” The woman’s eyes opened wide – I was more like her daughter than she had initially thought.
I asked how her daughter went from biochemistry to women’s rights. It was a fascinating tale. As the afternoon wound down, she told me how much she enjoyed talking to me. “It’s nice to know there’s someone else out there like her.”
I’ve met my fair share of these folks and, without fail, at the end of our conversation they actually thank me. So to the list of services I offer, today I’ll add “reassurance – to parents of children like me.”