We were rushing around each day and getting nowhere. Get up, grab a shower and breakfast, struggle through the traffic to the office, struggle home, work on projects until it was time to sleep, start the cycle over...there were long series of days in which there wasn't five minutes to catch a breath. Annie and I both had challenging and rewarding jobs that kept our little family well afloat, but we were bored. I had gotten to the point in my career where I craved less responsibility instead of more, to climb down a few rungs, get back into the trenches. I didn't yearn for a bigger house or a new SUV. There was absolutely nothing at Walmart or Best Buy to interest me. I didn't want more things; in fact, I craved less, dreaming of a life that was somehow fulfilling regardless of possessions or pretensions.
And then there was this country that we lived in, history's greatest, a place of safety and compassion and common sense. What had happened to that place? America had never been perfect--I was uncomfortably aware that our country like every other had a history of dishonesty, blind self-interest, and corruption--but I had grown up believing that on the whole things were improving, that society was becoming more enlightened and mature. In America we tried not to hate people based on their gender, the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. We had laws to protect the environment. We were trying to get other countries to do the same things. When I was growing up it seemed clear that we were the good guys. Now, with George W. Bush at the helm, we'd managed to do very little good and a tremendous amount of evil around the world and even within our own borders. I won't try to repeat what I've said before about Iraq, the cancer of lies and distortions that has become American politics, the national debt, the environment, America's growing isolation in the world (others have said all of this much better than I) but clearly something was very wrong in our society and I was taking it all very personally. Most everything I believed in or at least wanted to believe in--fairness, justice, reason, and compassion--seemed to be thrown out the window in the new arrogant, irresponsible, get-away-with-anything America. I felt like I was in one of those science fiction movies where everyone around me (my family and most of my friends excepted) had been replaced by aliens.
For me, Annie, and our precious daughter Laura, the smart thing to do was to work at least another two or three years, build up our savings, then take our break. We could go cruising for years and perhaps never go back to work if we liked. We started talking about renting out our house instead of selling, letting Laura start school. As our declared timetable for leaving became more and more real, I became more indecisive. One night I had a dream, astonishing in its clarity, in which I asked my late father what we should do. As I outlined the reasons for playing it safe he interrupted almost with disgust, "If you're going to do something, do it!" I woke up and knew that was exactly what he would have said.
When George W. Bush was re-elected on November 2, 2004, I felt like the decision to leave had been made for us. If his first election had been in part a sham, now he and everything he had done had been endorsed by the American people. I was angry and utterly depressed. We needed to get away from the sickness of American politics and reconnect with real people, step outside for a while and hope that both we and our country would be healed in some way by the time we returned.
Shouldn't everybody have a break once in their life? We wanted more than the usual week (or heaven forbid, two week) vacation, those little breaks from the routine that leave you even more tired and less willing to get back to work and those thousand e-mails waiting at the office. What would it be like to have no deadlines, no schedule, a weekend that never ended?
We're going to find out.
"What?" I said. "Discard everything we have worked so hard to accomplish and live on a sailboat? Give up our careers, our home? Take our daughter into unknown dangers? Navigate through waters and weather that are unpredictable?" These were a few of the responses I gave to Rodger when he first began talking of his dream of sailing away and leaving everything behind. I also said a very adamant, "NO, I can't do it"! He kept at it. I kept saying NO! Then I started listening to what he was really saying: "There is more, we can do better." Maybe I was focusing on the wrong things, maybe I had lost sight of what was really important. Then I asked myself the question "How can I just say no to something that was so important to Rodger"? What he was saying was beginning to make some sense. Then I began thinking about the possibilities. We could spend time together, we could grow closer. What an opportunity for Laura. She could learn so much...not only about our world, but that there is more than one way to live your life.
So, I began planning (my speciality). The more I planned, the more sense the whole thing made. We could simplify, focus on the really important things, not the stuff that had cluttered our lives. We could reshape our lives, our relationships, even our self image. So much to learn. So much to do. What an adventure. The question of what we do after cruising answered itself almost immediately. "We'll decide that when the time comes." What freedom.
"Why are we doing this"? Because it is the right thing and the right time for us. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was a good one. With each passing day, I am more convinced that I am where I am supposed to be. What a good feeling!
I had four reasons for going: