I look ahead now to what will be Month 12 on the road….my 12th month away from my life as it was and into the life I live now. I wind down another month in a new town, and I take some time to think about the ways that I’ve changed as well as how I’ve stayed the same. About my gratitude for the risks I’ve taken and for the lessons I’ve learned. About the inspiration I feel as a result of the connections I’ve made and from the beauties I’ve seen. And my surprise by the fact that I’ve taken a life that was quickly becoming not worth living and designed it into a dream.
I have no illusions about this whole thing. I know that I haven’t done anything good for the world…I haven’t saved any souls; I haven’t bettered society in any way. This is just my little life. That’s better now than it was before. What I’ve done, for me, is create a life that feels like it’s worth living. And perhaps that’s the start of something good.
My little life, broken free from the stresses and structures that were pulling me down and focused (finally), now, on just exactly what inspires me to wake up early (without an alarm!) every day. I learned that my daily life as I was living it before could effectively be changed. That I could identify work that I loved, in ways that I loved doing it…and actually make it happen. That I could experience the thrill of living on continuous vacation, combined with the structure and stability that I need. That I could experience silence and solitude and feel satisfied and satiated in response to having “so little.” That I could stop, slow down, and listen to the world in new ways, and learn some new things from what I’ve heard.
I have plenty to say about many aspects of this adventure – how it came about, how I made it work, what I experienced, and what I’ve learned. But I promised myself that I’d wait until I had a full 12 months under my belt to even begin to try to make sense of it all. I promised myself that for 12 months, I would actually focus on having experiences rather than analyzing them.
I say that so strongly and clearly now, but for a good part of my first few months, this question created a great deal of conflict for me. I frequently struggled with whether I should focus my time on writing about my adventures or on actually going out and having them. From what I’ve heard, this is a pretty common dilemma for people who write about their own experiences. Anyway, somewhere along the line, I made the decision to focus on actually having the experiences, and promised myself that, in the process of doing so, I would be collecting the materials about which I would someday write.
I decided that, although I wasn’t writing about the experiences as they happened, my year would be spent “collecting data.” (i.e., I was determined to “make it productive!!”) So, my obligation in return for actually living would be to regularly collect (in whatever forms) the experiences, thoughts, and feelings I was having so that I could comb through it all after the year was over and THEN…I’d write. And that as long as I was taking notes and recording memos, I would release any guilt I’d feel along the way for not writing every day.
With all of this, I was sometimes successful. Of course, I failed to record every moment and piece (though what I do have will seemingly take me years to sift through!). After the first few months, my guilt presented at only low levels and further decreased over time, as my comfort with living in the present took on greater strength.
And now, at the end of month 11, I know that my decision to wait was entirely the right one. Because it allowed me to focus on and to fulfill the main objectives I had when I started this adventure: to be open to new opportunities and to take them when they came my way. To follow whatever path felt right to take, having no idea what that path looked like when I started. And, most importantly, to not allow my analytical, systematic, micro-managing self (the one who would have done all the writing) to get in the way. In other words, much of my objective was to have no clear “objectives” at all.
So now, for my last month of focused adventuring, I round out my year in the Pacific Northwest and move forward to whatever awaits…