Journal of the time leading up to the trip.
Sitting in traffic on 495, the Washington DC beltway. At the point where my car is sitting at a total standstill it is 5 lanes wide, and those are just the lanes headed in my direction. I look at the 2 lanes to my right, and the 2 lanes to my left, and realize that I dont belong here. I look at these people and it scares me to know that although I'm not really moving, I am racing towards being right where they are. This continual cycle of: buy, get debt, work, pay, buy, get debt, work, pay. Does anyone dream of having this as a life when they were a kid? I think of that scene in the Matrix where all the humans are cultivated for energy. Then I imagine myself being Neo, and breaking out. I've decided its time to go.
To be honest, its not like I just up and decided to do this while sitting in my car. I had wanted to do this trip for years. But now its time to start planning it.
How to pick a date to leave. Well, theres several factors. What do I want to do with the house? Continue to rent it to the friends I have living there without a contract leaving me with uncertainties, or do I want to rent it to a family and have a year contract, or do I want to sell it. Some options require a lot more work than others. For instance, if I sell it, I have to get everything out of my house. That wont be fun. Where will I put it, what will I keep, what will I sell, will I need to buy all new stuff when I return? So much to think about. Then theres my cars. The Lotus is sold, but who will watch the Mustang, and what will become of my project car, the Sterling. Sell it, fix it, store it?
Well, in any case, that is why I am starting my journal now. This trip isnt beginning on the day that I leave, its beginning now. In the planning stages. Its 4 months away, and already it seems like I'm late.
The things I've figured out so far. I will be giving the Mustang to my dad to watch. I had also decided to continue renting the house to my non-contract renters, but just yesterday have begun to re-think all of this and lean toward selling the house.
I've slowly started selling things on eBay that I know I dont want to keep.
Yesterday was rather productive. I made contact with a Real Estate agent about selling the house, got my international drivers licence, stopped by the Kwikpoint office and picked up a couple Kwikpoint cards. Kwikpoint cards are these cool little picture cards that you can use to comunicate with people who speak a different language. What a cool idea. I was about to mail in my check to them, when I noticed their office was 2 miles from where I worked, so I just stopped in. Its run by a really nice lady who runs it out of her house.
I've also been getting very stressed out by all the things I have to do. I mean, take a look around your house, and imagine all the things you'd have to get rid of if you were going to leave. Not just move, but leave. We're talking - dishes, electronics, rugs, furniture, plants, tables, lamps, vacuums, tools, crap, bikes, beds, clothes. You name, its all got to go. I will probably look in to a storage facility, but I dont want to put too much away. I dont want to end up with a huge facility. For instance, if a small storage area is $50 a month, and a large one is $100, and I need the large one to hold my $800 couches, by the time I returned, the storage would exceed its value. Most items I own fall in to this category.
I may ask some friends or my parents to hold some things for me.
I am still working on making mods to the truck. I also got new rims yesterday. I have nice alloy rims on there now, but I want to put cheap steel rims on there. Why? Well, in lower-income countries most people dont have alloy rims. That means that most shops dont have the special type of tire machine needed to replace the tire on an alloy rim (alloy rim machines can do steel rims, but steel rim machines cant do alloys). Hence, its a good idea to have the old steel wheels.
I've also contacted a guy by the name of Mitch Stephens. Mitch is a professor at NYU and is a seasoned world traveller. I found his journal on the web and I've emailed him a few times and he is a really nice guy. He was agreeable to meeting with me if I can take the time off and drive up to NYC.
So much to do, so much to do. Sometimes I get so stressed out, then I have to tell myself that this is a choice I'm making for myself, and its in the name of not working for a couple years, so yeah, its going to be worth it. :)
I have decided to sell the house, and after talking with Hannah, I have decided to sell it FSBO (for sale by owner). Or at least try that route for a few weeks, then if nothing happens, pay a realtor. I will have to pay $18,000 in commissions if I sell it through a realtor, so its in my best interest to try to sell it myself first. But that does create a lot of extra work. A lot.
I've put a sunroof in the truck, and installed a roof rack. I've also found a way to fit the bike inside with plenty of room to sleep. I've also bought a grille guard and a light bar.
I just looked in to storage fees. Looks like about $3500 to rent a 10x10 space for 2 years. Yikes.
Bit of a lapse in the ol Journal. I have a tendency to do that sometimes. I am always so busy getting ready for this trip, but it seems like nothing is getting done.
For starters, the house is sold. In 36 hours on the market, I had 6 offers. Wow. I guess people just envy my lifestyle and will pay anything to buy in to it. :) Ok, well, maybe it was more just a factor of the booming housing market in DC right now. The house went up about 70% in 2 years. Holy cow.
With the house sold, I've been working on getting rid of stuff. Its one thing to try to get rid of stuff when you're moving, but when you're going to be homeless for 2 years, its a bit trickier. I know that the majority of my stuff would cost more to store than it would to just sell and re-buy. I know that most of the clothes I have will be even more unfashionable when I return than they are now, if thats possible. :) The tough things are gifts. I have been given a lot of presents which mean a lot to me over the years. I like to keep those sort of things, but some are large, and its just becoming a dilemma. My parents have offered to take a lot of stuff, but I don't want to load up their basement with too much stuff.
I have a lot of CDs that I've bought throughout the years. I cant keep them all, but I dont want to get rid of them, so I'm going through the labor intensive process of burning them all to MP3s. If you figure you really only want to keep about half the songs on each disc, you can fit about 20 discs worth of music on one CD. Bitchin.
Wow. Tomorrow is my last day at work. So much has happened since the last entry. I've closed on the house, my project car just sold on eBay, and things are slowly coming together. I was fortunate enough to meet with someone who had already done this trip before by the name of Mitch Stevens. Mitch is a professor who took a sabattical to travel for a year. He drove his leg of the trip to Central America and has done a lot of travelling in South America. I emailed him and asked him if he'd like to meet for lunch someday. He agreed and I took a day off of work and drove up to visit with him. We ended up talking for about 3 hours. Just a fascinating guy, and his help was incredible. During that same week, I found a website belonging to another guy who drove to Panama and back, who lives just 30 minutes from me. We met for beers and talked a lot about travelling. Another awesome guy to talk to who I think really shared my same travelling mindset. I think those 2 conversations got me more excited about this trip than I had been before.
Another lapse in the Journal. Things have been REAL busy. I've been getting just a few hours of sleep each night, and pretty much just working right through each day. Building, cleaning, selling, tossing, shipping. I dont see an end in site, but I only have 14 more days, so I guess I'll have to have an end.
I sold the Sterling project car on eBay and got it out of here. My dad reconsidered his ability to watch the Mustang for 2 years, so I sold that on eBay as well. That was tough. I owned that car for 11 years and put so much time in to it. It had really become a part of who I was. One of the reasons I didnt want to sell it, is because it was a good link to my past. If I sell off everything, all I will have of my life before the trip will be some random photos, letters, newspaper clippings and knick-knacks. But there will be other cars later on. :) In the end, it really wasn't something I could ask of someone to watch such a high-mainteance car for so long.
So with the cars gone, I have started to build out the truck. I finished building the bed in the back today, and will need to wire up the electrics on Sunday.
I had put a few ads up on my website and in the paper about stuff I'm selling. I'd say I have just about 70% of everything sold. Just a few more items left.
Well, its 5:30am and I cant sleep because I'm too stressed out about everything I have to do. My going away party starts in about 8 hours.
Jerry Sienfeld had the right idea. Leave at the peak of your game, and you'll always remember being the best. Jerry left his hit TV show at the height of its popularity, despite huge offers from the network. Why? Because he didnt want to do it for another couple of years and have people remember the good years of Sienfeld, and the bad years of Sienfeld. It was more important to him to have a show where every episode ever made was great.
My going away party brought that idea in to my head. I've lived in this house for 6 years. From ages 25 to 30 (well, 31 as of yesterday). You couldn't have asked for a better place to live in your late 20's. A large 5 bedroom house with a massive pool and adjacent jacuzzi, and spacious deck. Nice enough to be impressive, rough enough where people really enjoy partying there and feel comfortable. It really was awesome. But I think if I'd kept the place, or even not gone on the trip and stayed living there, it was going to mark the turning point in the good years at Lawn Court (the name of the house) and the bad years. My friends are getting older, married, moving, settling. The people coming over are younger, and I don't have the patience to deal with their shit anymore. I used to look up and down a street strewn with beer cans, and as I walked around picking up the beer bottles from my neighbors yards, think to myself "wow, this WAS a crazy party, look at the mess". Now, I look at it and wonder how people can be so disrespectful to my neighbors who have put up with so much.
Yes, the 6 years I've spent at Lawn Court were the good years, and I am so elated to be leaving it at that. I couldn't have imagined a better place to live for my late 20's.
On a different note, truck preparations are coming along nicely. Got the dual battery isolator hooked up, and the gas tank installed, but not hooked up. I put the older steel rims on the truck, so as to not draw attention to myself in the poorer areas with flashy rims.
Whew. I have been a long distance and endurance athlete on and off for 10 years and my current state of exaustion might equal that of finishing some of my longest races. Between moving my brother out and having my yard sale today, it has been non-stop for 3 straight days. One day of moving Alan out, which after he (the last room-mate to move out) was gone showed me exactly what was left and needed to be sold. Even though Al had a ton of stuff, there was still 3 tons left. A lot of it just got thrown out, but I had a room full of stuff for the yard sale. Its actually felt very threraputic to do so. I'm feng-shui'ing my whole life, and it feels great. All those little corners of my mind which were pre-occupied with all the things I had stuffed in the basement are now gone. I am a true confessed pack-rat, and for me to shed all this stuff is just amazing. :) My parents came to visit me today, and if it weren't for their help I would not have survived today. I've said this in other parts of this website, but in case you missed those parts let me say that without the help and support of my family this trip could never happen. Without their help, this would be an insurmountable project.
People keep asking me if I'm excited about my trip. The truthful answer is no. Its not that I'm not excited, but that I just havent had the time to get excited. I'm so busy selling, cleaning, trashing, insuring, licencing, moving, recording, packing, and building that I really havent had 10 minutes to plan the trip. I've taken care of the details I need to in order to get on the road, but I havent really planned any of the trip. I have a handful of books about travelling in South America which I havent read past the table of contents. Great- one more thing to pack, I'll read them on the road. :) I'm sure once I start reading them I'll get more excited, or once I'm actually on the road.
My Crutchfield catalog came in the mail the other day. For those that dont know, Crutchfield is a catalog that sells mostly cool stereo and video equipment. I used to look through it with lust, planning everything that I was going to buy either next week or next year. Now, looking through the pages, I saw TV's in there for $6000 and more, and surround sound systems for $2000 and more. I thought to myself that 10 years ago, people were really happy, despite the fact they had none of this stuff. So, what compels people to spend that kind of money on it now?? I had a hard time figuring it out. Man, what a change in my thingking in just the past few weeks. I was talking to by brother during the day of his move, and told him about that particular revalation. His comment was that instead of me buying all those things like I normally would have, I've decided to set out on a quest to learn lifes lessons (which is right) and he asked if I thought I'd really find them. My answer, reflecting on that incident, was that I had already started finding my answers even before I left on the Journey.
On the way back from helping Al move, I got scared about this trip for the first time. It was realizing that I was going back to an empty house. I've always come home to Lawn Court to find it full of furniture and people. Even when I moved in, it was furnished. Albiet with stuff that the Salvation Army rejected when we tried to give it to them years later. None the less, its always been a home and not a house. I think the fact that I was going home to a place that had no TV for me to watch or couch for me to drop on to really made it hit home. For a split second, I wanted to take it all back and stay.