As many of you have asked me to share my experience and feelings in returning to the U.S. after a year traveling out of the country, here’s a piece which lets you in on a little of what’s going on in my life and head.
They say that after a traumatic experience – the death of a loved one, divorce, eating at Taco Bell – you shouldn’t make any major life decisions; you’re supposed to, first, experience all of the immediate emotions which might cloud your judgement. The completion of this last year of uninterrupted, around-the-world travel and volunteering without a plan has felt much like a death; it’s caused me to grieve. Sure, there’s plenty of project left – writing the book, continuation of volunteer efforts, traveling, always traveling, with a plan for whatever work I get, or without a plan for some pop-up Drop Me Anywhere votes – but, as I sold most everything to finance this project, I need to consider how I’ll make some money from it, or something else (until the book comes out of course, when I become the next J.K. Rowling or E.L. James or, perhaps, H.P. Lovecraft).
You may recall that, during this past year, I was interviewed by various publications and websites which found Drop Me Anywhere anything from interesting to crazy. One interview was published on ChrisGuillebeau.com, a writer who I find inspiring, and whose book, The Happiness of Pursuit, helped me get through the fear and anxiety of selling everything to do this. In his book, Chris profiles Questers, people who sacrifice much to set out on a specific quest; the one big project in their life which others might find crazy, yet they do it anyway (sound familiar?) The final chapter of Chris’s book deals with ending your quest. According to Chris, to be classified as a quest, it must have an end goal. And while my goal has always been to do this journey without a plan, allow my Virtual Travel Buddies to tell me where to go (the joke’s been done), and to write and publish the memoir, the lack of funding and need for some writing time mean I must pause the voting and travel without a plan part of the quest in order to move onto the next phase. The Questers to whom Chris introduces us describe the end of their quest as a period of adjustment, confusion, and self-examination. From the feeling of a lack of direction and passion for something, to the lack of ability to relate to others, the amount and variety of emotions is simply overwhelming.
As I returned to my house in order to repair the damage left by renters who, not only had a lack of respect for each other (yes, the police were there and yes, he was arrested for assault), but also a lack of respect for my house. (They did more damage in the year they lived there than I’d done in the twelve previous) which left me with some decisions to make. I returned just before Christmas and slept on an air-mattress loaned to me by a friend (due to the holiday, nobody could put me up as they all had family visiting) which I placed in my empty living-room because, again, I sold everything to finance the project. Still, I kept busy spending days doing many of the home-repairs myself (adding plumber, painter, landscaper, handyman, and locksmith to my resume/CV, though I had to have new carpet and door repairs professionally done and, well, the counter-tops, front-door repairs, new kitchen floor and new refrigerator will just have to wait), and entertaining myself in the evenings sponging off of my very generous neighbor’s Wifi (with his blessing) watching Netflix. And while others may have received a new Play Station or, perhaps, a hover board that doesn’t really hover but does burst into flames without warning, my Christmas gift seemed to be a broken heater. Even better, while my home warranty covered the problem – a broken air-handler – it didn’t cover the alterations to the duct-work necessary to install the new one.
So now, after a week of staying with a friend, and a way too expensive rental car (yup, sold my car too), I’ll be heading to Ketchum, Idaho, where a friend has offered to put
me up in her timeshare for a couple of weeks. I’ll spend much of my time working on the book (four-chapters completed thus far) while trying to clear my head and make some decisions. My options, as far as I can tell are to A) sell my house for a profit and set myself up in some cheap-to-live country (perhaps, near a beach); B) rent my house out, though I couldn’t possibly rent to strangers again (even though I did check the previous ones out and was hopeful); C) rent out my two extra rooms through Airbnb, as my background is in hospitality and travel/tourism, and my house is in one of the coolest, up and coming neighborhoods in the Phoenix area. Still, I’d have to spend what’s left of my money getting it set-up.
All of these options are made to keep me on course to my final goal, the book. I thought of having you vote on which option I should take but this seems like a decision I should probably make on my own. (Remember, you’re the ones who sent me to India and we all know how that worked out.)
As I’ve done some speeches around the world, I hope to get on the lecture circuit and share stories of travel, volunteering, inspiration and risk-taking. In the meantime, I’ll head to Idaho, then do a little freelance tour-guiding to pick up a little money (I’m heading to Cuba to lead a tour next month and will provide some of my impressions of the country when I return), and make some decisions.
Quests are not easy. But few things worth doing are.