How to Plan A Road Trip – Backwards

“I start on July 30th,” I said to Lois.

“Oh.  I’ll be there the week before taking a class – can you get there a little earlier?  We can have dinner at the Copper Door again,” she offered.  Dinner at the Copper Door is not something one turns down.  So though I’m not officially due at the Folk School until July 30, I decided to arrive in Brasstown a couple days earlier.

But where to stay?  At the time, I didn’t know anyone in that area well enough to ask to crash on their couch for a night or two.  So I went to  Turns out there are not one but two people in Brasstown (population 240) that invite strangers into their homes to spend a night or two. I sent off my request, got a response and a few days later was all set.  I know where I’ll be staying the two nights before I start at JCCFS.

Today I solidified the two nights prior to that – I’m staying with a family friend (whom I’ve known since childhood) in Raleigh, NC. Now that that’s all set, I sent off a request to another friend for the two nights prior to that….and on it goes.  So hopefully, in the next couple weeks, I’ll have my whole trip planned – from Staatsburg, NY to Brasstown, NC:)

Adelaide + Me = 90,000 miles

I pulled into the gas station and paused to make heads or tails of the place.  There must have been twenty different pumps and cars going every which way.  I drove slowly though the maze.  A woman rolled down her window as our cars approached one another.  “Oh dear,” I thought.  “Am I going the wrong way?  She’s probably going to yell at me.”  I’m from New York.  This is my default thought when someone rolls down their window while looking at you.

As she drove by, she gave me a big smile and said, “Nice car!”  I smiled back.  “Thanks!” I said.

This happens a lot.  People love my car.  And feel the need to tell me so.  I drive a Beetle convertible.  And when the top is down, I am no longer an anonymous driver behind closed windows.  I’m out there for everyone to see.  And therefore for everyone to talk to.

Now that I think about it, a convertible is probably the ideal car for me.  When I put the top down, my mood immediately improves.  Here’s why:

1 –  I love teaching and public speaking, which means I love being on stage in any situation.  Who knew I could be the center of attention just by driving down the road?

2 – I love meeting new people – with the top down, wherever I pull in, it’s an automatic conversation starter.

3 – If I’m putting my top down that also means it’s warm outside.  And anyone who knows me knows I’m a much happier person when it’s warm outside.

4 – I’m a multi-tasker.  Thanks to Adelaide, I can tan and drive at the same time.  Prior to owning a convertible, I was a lovely shade of white most of the year.  Sitting outside in direct sunlight is not my favorite activity.  It’s hot.  And boring.  But in a convertible, the sun can do it’s thing to my skin while I only feel the wind.  Three hours later, boom.  I have a tan.  Or a burn if I forget to put on sunscreen.

Yesterday, not too long after I crossed from Maryland into Pennsylvania, my odometer hit 90,000 miles.  This is not like a traditional birthday where you say, “And here’s to another 90,000!”  No, I won’t be with her that much longer for sure.  We’ve surely had our ups and downs.  So much so that I won’t be buying another VW, but that’s another story.

But for those who see all the different jobs I’ve had, and all the different places I’ve lived and think that perhaps I can’t commit to anything, you’re wrong for a lot of reasons.  Here’s one: I’ve been with the same car for four years:)


Two down, Two to go

“A world without Rebecca is not a world worth living in,” she said.  A little extreme perhaps, but I appreciated the sentiment.  She was the dean of the natural sciences department.  I was a well-liked adjunct instructor of anatomy and physiology.  I had just told her I was leaving her institution to adjunct at another one that was closer to home and paid more.  (Not much more – adjuncts get paid peanuts, but that’s another story.)

When I told my mother I was going to another institution to teach a different course, she shook her head and laughed.

“Most teachers get their first couple years under their belts, then get to the point where they have all their materials set  so they can just focus on the teaching.  Not you.  You’ve got all you need to teach the same course, but you’re bored and move on to start all over again.”  Yeah, that’s me.

Every time I leave a job, I recall my most memorable resignation.  I was almost 26.  I hated my consulting job and no one there knew it, so my boss was shocked when I walked in with a resignation letter.  She said, and this is a direct quote, one I will never forget, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”  As if working for her was some grand opportunity I was giving up.  Ha!  I left and drove across the country, hiked the Grand Canyon, and never once missed her or that job.

I haven’t gotten anything near that response since.  Last Wednesday, I told my new department chair I would not be returning because I’m going traveling for a year.  She had the same look I’d seen on the face of my old department chair.  Maybe they get trained for this?  Maybe she had an inkling something was up when I didn’t apply for one of the three full-time positions they opened while I was there.  I explained, “I don’t really do full-time jobs.  I need a little more variety.”

When I told her all about my trip, she was excited for me.

“How did you keep this in all semester?!” she asked.  I explained that it had all been in my head, but plans hadn’t solidified til a few months ago.

“Send us a note, or pictures,” she said. “And if you decide you need to make a little money at some point, you can always call me up and we’ll have a course for you to teach.”

A Place to Stay

I explained that I wouldn’t have a home of my own to return to as I’m letting my apartment go on July 15.

“So you won’t be back at all for a year?” she asked.

“Oh, I’ll be back.  For visits.  For Christmas.”

“And after the year is over?”

“Well, then I might come back.  And I guess then I’d have to find some place to stay,” I said.

“You could stay with me,” she offered.

“Really?” I asked. “Because I just might take you up on that.”

“Oh sure.  I have plenty of space,” she assured me.

That’s the third such offer in a month.  The first offer was for a place to stay over the winter, the second was a place to stay when I come back for visits, and now this one.  They were all genuine offers from fabulous single women I know.  All three are retired, living alone in multi-bedroom homes.  They have fascinating lives (are busier now than when they were working I’m sure – as are many retired folk!).  And all are gracious enough to share their homes with me should I be interested.

It’s flat out amazing what can happen when you put your ideas out to the world.  So thank you to these three women, and to all who have offered their friendship, support, and wisdom for my upcoming year (or more!).  I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.

To Rest, To Enjoy

“Hey – why not just enjoy your apartment for a while?”  God said.  Hmph.  Imagine that, I thought.  Over the last few months, I have taken time nearly every day to work on paring down my “stuff” in preparation for my year of travels.  I’ve cleaned out files and closets and kitchen cabinets getting rid of those things I rarely use or don’t need.  But lately, I’ve lost my momentum.

After beating myself up for a few days, I said to God, “So what’s the deal with me losing my motivation?”  Like all good teachers, he answered my question with another question.  Didn’t tell me what to do, just led me to a solution I hadn’t considered.

So I’m just going to enjoy my little place for a few weeks.  Read in bed.  People watch out my windows.  Do whatever I feel like doing – especially if that means doing nothing at all:)

One down, Three to go

I do a few different things to support myself.  Since September, 2010, I’ve had four income streams.

I’m ready for a change – a big one.  So I’m leaving all current income streams behind.  Not burning bridges, mind you.  Just having the “Today is my last day,” conversations.  The response has been only positive, peppered with a few “I wish I could do that’s” and “I’m going to live vicariously through you.”

It’s much easier resigning now that I only take work that is expected to be temporary.  On Monday, I ended a consulting gig.  Here’s the thing about consulting: you think it’s temporary, but every time I’ve done it they’ve wanted to hire me full-time.  They make this offer thinking it is much better being salaried.  I disagree.  Why would I want to punch a clock when instead I can just come in when I want to, take off when I want to?

The best thing about 1099 work  is that whoever you’re working for can’t tell you when you have to be there.  So I can say to myself, “I need a day off…or a week,” and then tell the big bosses that I won’t be in for a week.  Sure, they can choose to end our engagement at any time, but they like my work so much that so far I’ve always been the one to end our engagement – not them.

So I’ve been working with these folks for over three years – choosing when to go in.  Sometimes it was twenty hours a week, sometimes just a few hours a month – depending on their need and my availability.  Sometimes it was a big portion of my income, lately it was just icing.

And now, it’s over:)

On Leaving Jobs

“I hate my job,” she said.

“So quit,” I said.

“People would think it’s ridiculous to leave a job in this economy,” she said.

“Um…you realize you’re talking to someone who does things other people think are ridiculous all the time, right?”

“Yeah,” she laughed.  “But if I quit, I’d lose my retirement benefits.  Maybe I’ll just put 10 years in so I at least get part of them.”

“How much longer is that?”

“Four more years.” She laughs.

Mind you this is an educated woman with many skills and a great social network.  She could do whatever she sets her mind to.  She has enough money socked away to live for at least a year.  And that’s not counting her retirement funds.  There are people with less that have done it.  She could do this.  So why doesn’t she?  Well, I can only speculate.  In my experience, it’s a little scary to leave a job without a new one on the horizon.  But now that I’ve done it so many times, I have faith that it will all work out.  Because it always does.


“And you’re doing all this alone?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.  As of yet, I hadn’t met anyone else who wanted to spend six weeks walking across northern Spain.

“That’s a little scary,” he said.

“Not really,” I responded.  But I was talking to a man who had a daughter in college.  Most men with daughters get a little nervous when they hear about my plan to walk the Camino. My dad is probably nervous too, but is now well experienced at living through my wild ideas.

“Do you know if you go through Burgos?” he asked.  I confessed that I had no idea what towns I’d be walking through.  My only research so far had been to read every book I could find written by someone who had walked the Camino, but I had yet to really get down the details of the trip.  He talked with great enthusiasm about the town and the festival he and his wife attended while there.

“Did you go there specifically for that festival?” I asked.

“No, actually,” he said as his eyes sparkled and a smile spread across his face. With a laugh he explained that they had once hosted an exchange student from there and went to visit her.

“That’s the way to see a place – though the locals,” I said.  He agreed.

So this morning I did a little research.  And, in what I can only call another sign that I’m on the right path, found that Burgos is indeed on my route.

All levels welcome

The class is called “Building a Garden Shed.”  I don’t have a garden.  Nor any property on which to put a garden.  In fact, I’ll be living “on the road” for the next year, so it’s inconceivable that I will need to know how to build a garden shed anytime in the near future.  Despite all of this, it is one class I’ll definitely be taking during my four months at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

Why?  Well, because I still have it in the back of my mind that I may one day want to live in a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  And I may just want to build it myself (well, with help of course).  There is just one small hurdle here: I have zero home building skills.  You might think building a garden shed is quite different from building a tiny house.  In which case I ask if you’ve seen a Tumbleweed?

My class covers use of hand and power tools (the only power tool I’ve every used is an electric screw driver thing), framing, trusses (I think those are the things that hold the roof up?), shelf building (I imagine this could be useful even if I never build a house), and window and door installation (because just about any house I live in will have windows and doors….though now that I think about it, maybe not…)  And when it’s all done, we’ve built a garden shed for the Folk School to use for years to come:)

Building anything is so out of my element that I just love the idea.  I mean, how else would I learn all these things?  You might think JCCFS would want only experienced builders on such a project.  And you would be mistaken.  Because one of the things I love most about JCCFS is that so many of the class descriptions, including this one,  end with the words “All levels welcome.”