Okay so this post is a bit of a one off that long term may not be a one off, although if you follow me on Instagram and saw how I rebranded there some of this will make sense. Note that I may eventualy rebrand this blog as well. Also this write up is being finished six months after I had intended to post/publish so this is a 6 month old draft that has both reflections and steady state of my where we were mentally in April 2022, as well as “wow that did not go as planned but OMG we had so much fun and the path is constantly fluid”.
What started this life altering event?
The story goes like so: It was Presidents day weekend (Feb) in 2022 and after seeing the house behind us sell for a ton, as well as the house across the street sell for more than it should have plus having a hunch that some big global things were about to hit (this was a couple of weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine) and an overall nagging feeling that the housing market was not sustainable for another year the wife and I decided to pay our financial guy a visit and to gauge how much we really needed to sell the house for to just walk away from the tech industry and take a little time to just figure things out as well as do some travelling. Thanks to the pandemic and folks looking to leave the cities and head to the rural areas we had watched our home value just sky rocket a lot over the past 18 months.
So with a number that kind of surprised us (lower than expected) and the desire to dip our toe in by asking for something that split the two houses I had mentioned above we ended up selling our house in 3 days for well over asking. Truth be told we were the last house in the area that was going up for sale that had a boat dock, and the guy that bought it had missed out on the house across the street; he did everything he could to not miss out on our house. This all happened so fast we had not had much of a chance to really start a plan other then establish new state residency in Nevada for tax purposes and start thinking about about some of the places we would like to visit. So what allowed us to be able to go from living the typical American lifestyle of humble but respectable house, good job, involved in the community blah blah blah? Well the main thing was both our children were now adults and were starting thier own lives and while our house was big enough (about 2000sq feet) for the 4 of us it was just to big for empty nesting. I had been constant in my mantra that i did want to be out of tech and working towards a job in the outdoor industry by the time I had reached 50, so now made the perfect time to take advantage of the situation and well “move on”. Things were just lining up perfectly, so what if we did not have a plan?
Okay so pretty quickly we decided that downsizing was in order and we did our best to give away, sell or just throw away as much as possible and we did pretty good with that. I donated all my Search and Rescue stuff (that was still usable) to the local SAR team I had been a volunteer for over the past 9 years. The end result of our efforts was we were able to put the last remains of what we deemed neccesary (clothes, and some stuff for the kitchen) into a 10×10 with enough room left over our Son and my mother-in-law could also move some stuff in (honestly we maybe take up like 15-20% of the storage facility) and could probably downsize to a 5×5.
We were gone from Tahoe by the end of March <sniff> <sniff>
Other than what I noted about “get a job doing something where I could be outside all the time”, the plan was come up with a 3-4 month travel plan and regroup later this year. So on April 30th I was “retired” from the technology industry. I deleted my LinkedIn account the very next day.
New Beginnings (a short stay in Reno): (these next few paragraphs are definitely mixing old and new). I have spent many years volunteering, and some side hustling involving Search and Rescue, or other wilderness education and leadership endeavors. It has always been my goal to find a way to do that as a profession, or even semi-profession; so anywhere we end up will have to offer some kind of guiding, teaching beginning backcountry travel or even some outdoor therapy. We are hibernating for the spring in the Reno area so maybe I’ll finally get a few of those North Lake peaks I’ve been ignoring, but after that we are hitting the road. We plan to spend some time down under with some friends, so hopefully I’ll be picking up one of the ZL associations, and spend a couple of weeks in Australia so I’ll get some more VK action too. Later in the year we will be headed to the UK and EU, I’ll be doing the West Highland Way (SOTA edition) in September and the wife has agreed (or well she decided for us) to do a little jaunt in the Lakes District called the Peaks to Pubs in August (if that’s what it takes to get her to do some walking with me so be it :D).
I do kind of want to reflect though on my time in Tahoe. I would like to throw out that reality is I lived my best life in Tahoe. I learned how to take care of my broken body in ways that living in an area that was not a mountain athlete focussed area would not have been possible (so I say to myself). I’ve always been a hiker and backpacker, and thanks to SOTA I did more hiking then anywhere else we ever lived; because of a trip in 2014 to Kilimanjaro and the back injury in 2013 I also learned the value of very regular working out and using someone to help me achieve very specific goals to keep me moving mostly pain free. Also just the amount of giving back I was able to do as a 9 year volunteer for the local SAR team. I spent the last 5 years in a leadership position within SAR, the teaching/volunteering for the local college teaching backpacking etc. I was definitely enjoying that whole aspect of my life. So yah, “best life we could live, why leave?” For starters we just no longer really enjoy (or our bodies do not) the snow any more. Despite that the winter of 21/22 was pretty mild, my body hurt a bit more than in years past, including those heavier snow years. Not that I am a weather wimp, but I do love hiking in green landscapes and sunshine :D. Tahoe had become routine, and I hate routine. My exploring was requiring further and further drives into NV/OR/UT just to get to new launching points, so it was time for a new base station. Those are just a few of the drivers to why it is time for us to leave this mountain town and try and find a new one. I am hoping we can find something that is less touristy, a bit cheaper but still offers access to water and mountains and exploration!
I will still be doing plenty of SOTA, but I will probably be operating with different variations of my callsign over the years to come.
(Jump ahead to May)
June had already been planned out. We were going to do a little travelling back east, and then I had some volunteering the last two weeks with a youth outdoor therapy group in the Truckee area (Gateway Mountain Center/GMC). A couple of weeks after my last day in the tech industry I get a phone call from GMC to confirm my volunteering, but the person on the phone was all apologetic about not getting back to me sooner because they had been franticaly trying to hire their full time guides for the summer months. “Oh really, you dont say? Well what are you looking for ?” The individual went through the list and so I replied with “Well my situation has changed some and I could actually take on a larger role with GMC”. (meanwhile in the other room I could hear an exasperated WTF sigh). After a couple of phone calls over the next couple of days what would have been a two week volunteering session turned into a five week stint as a guide.
Okay so lets touch on the “exasperated sigh”. Michele did not speak to me for a couple of days and I obviously knew why. Two weeks into retirement and I am already changing the rules. (two good rules for a successful marraige, communicate and never goto bed mad. I broke both; time for damage control). To be fair I was worried that waiting 1-2 years would have an impact on getting that first job in a new industry, and I was adamant about never working behind a computer ever again so to me it was more about getting a foot in for the sake of the long game and not risking losing the contacts I had developed at the college over the past few years. During the next couple of night wanders/dog walks I racked my brain to come up with the right things to say and a possible solution. After the second night and about a 3 hour walk I had it. In 2020 Michele was supposed to take her mom to Paris for a week, do the Disney thing and some fun touristy stuff, blah blah, but yah 2020 we do not need to revisit that :P. What I came up with was after our June East Coast trips were done, head to San Diego and Michele would reconfigure for a few months of time in Europe, take her mom for however long she can stay (I also planted the seed with my mo-in-law to kinda help things along) and I would catch up <somewhere> when the summer guiding was done. Within a few days the new plan was put into motion, plane tickets were bought and we were starting about to head off into our June travels. Note that during our time in Reno we also consumed a TON of videos on “how to behave like someone who was not quite “F.I.R.E”, but living that way. We also watched a bunch of expat videos, best countries to retire in videos, just whatever as we were not sure if we were going to Expatriate, stay in the US, or just travel. We also came across this very interesting service called Trusted Housesitters which we were planning to use as a way of finding stays in out of the way places and to help cut some costs on lodging. I had this wild hair about living out of our Audi AllRoad for the duration as I saw it as a fun experiment in further minimalisation. So my “reconfigure” was taking just what I needed for guiding and living in a medium sized wagon. It was a lot of fun at the end of the day!
My first night back to the area I drove up Monitor pass and camped at the gate on the dirt road to Leviathan peak (near Topaz on hwy 89). It had been a couple of months since i had experienced quiet and this area was QUIET! It was soo nice to be back to one of my favorite zones to go hide! So not a lot for me to hit on with my job other then to say I had a ton of fun, and finally felt some real emotion again. This was in fact the work I want to do and I do jive with a lot of the mindset of the organization. I did a pretty good job endearing myself to the founder and ended up taking on a lot of responsibility other than just guiding. Given that we were based out of Donner Summit I spent a combination of nights between sleeping at Rainbow Bridge as well as playing “Jack Torrance” at the lodge GMC bases their operations out of. It was nice being in this position and it allowed me to help in ways beyond just being a guide, but yah I guided a lot and had some very interesting experiences with the youth and chaperones I was working with, but well this is not the point of this post other than to say going down this road was a very worthy left hand turn to the road we had originally pulled on to a couple of months earlier.
On the road and a new path started: Fast forward to August; after guiding was done for the summer I spent a little time with Jeremiah down in San Diego and reconfigured for Summer and Fall travel abroad in Europe with the inclusion of some backpacking gear as I was doing a few jaunts while Michele would fly back for a softball tournament in late September. Michele was working the trusted housesitters thing well having done Bruges and Amsterdam on top of her travels and sits in Northern France. I caught up to her in Brixton England. Remember how I noted the house sitting thing *should* allow us to visit some places that might turn out interesting, but also be out of the way? Brixton is both the birthplace of David Bowie and was the cite of a riot in 1981 that was commemorated in the Eddie Grant song “Electric Avenue”. Brixton’s history and cultural influence was very Caribbean in nature, however the past couple of decades of gentrification was starting to have it’s impact. So the point of this next bit is not to highlight every little house area we hit, but to illustrate the need for flexibility and fluidity especially in view of our desire to just “travel” with no real plan overall. Okay I lie, we did have a couple of specific locations planned out. We knew we were going to do a house sit near Cognac France the first 3 weeks of October, and I was doing the West Highland Way the last two weeks of September, but for the most part it was a “lets hit the last few places in England on our list and just wing it”. We did rent a car for about 10 days but we mostly slow travelled via the trains. In the first six weeks we were together we visited James May’s pub in Swallowcliffe, Diddly Squat farm shop (we actually went here twice), went back to Wells yet again, visited Port Isaac for the whole Doc Martin thing, and did other house sits in Looe (Cornwall), Lindfield and Monmouthshire. We did have to sprinkle in a couple of AirBnBs here and there as well. One in Pembrokeshire Wales that allowed us to head to the coast daily for some fun coastal walking!
You can go read the write up on the West Highland way later on, and I should do a write up on the week between sending Michele back to the states and me doing some hiking in the Lake District and in Wales but for the sake of time on to France.
France was a lot of fun, we explored Fontveraud Abbey, Cognac and a lot of the area around the house we were at. The Tawny owls were amazing as I had owls every night when I would go and wander. It was very nice being out that far in the country. I was really enjoying being on the road and just seeing what the various locations would open up for us. I managed to sneak in some SOTA in the Pyrenees. I did have to cut my part of this sit a week short however. Back in late August I secured a spot at a week long interview/field training with a Youth program in North Georgia. This program was quite a bit different than GMC and ultimately at the end of the week I opted not to take the job. I was just not ready to “come in” off the road, however it was totally worth it to end the travels after 3 months (for me) to at least find that out. We are finishing up a house sit in the Washington DC area, and are headed back to the West Coast for Nov/Dec. I did pick up a couple of weeks at GMC in Nov/Dec but we also want to sit down and review a few things and build a plan around Australia/New Zealand in March/April/May (their Autumn).
Key Takeaways and things learned: Fluidity matters. Oddly enough after bouncing from a couple of house sits in France, Belgium and Amsterdam in July while I was working Michele really took to this notion of “do we really even need a home base?”. To the point that during her Sept visit to the states she ended up buying us a used Ford Transit Van for travelling and living in. It does look like I will keep working for GMC over the next couple of summers. We have tossed a few ideas around maybe doing a tour of all the National Parks, and sprinkle in some campground host volunteer/work here and there. The Van does open up a lot of options for when we want to be in the States. The problem with this kind of freedom is for everything you want to do you really do need to pace yourself which leads me to my next thought.
While I love the notion of just winging it, it does help to have some type of plan, or at least a few destinations in mind. It is very easy to get around in Europe and just walk. I love to walk and I love to explore and well the radio thing helps too :D, there are pathways everywhere, and just so much history. For every location we stayed in there was no shortages of nearby hikes that had a story. I even added the GR10 to my wish list of long walks I would like to do. I also committed to a friend of mine who really wants to do the Portugeuse Compestella next fall.
It seems impossible to find small houses for a couple, it seems society has deemed it that if you are an empty nester you need to be moving into one of those over 55 condominium villages. Most of the neighborhoods we looked at on realtor.com seem to mostly have 3000+ sq foot super mansions, no thanks, not our lifestyle..too much to clean, and too much to heat/cool.
So for now as noted, we are going to play in the van and build a plan for our Spring travels to the Southern Hemisphere as well as the fall travel back to Europe. Central/South America and Africa are also down the road too. We are thoroughly enjoying this minimalist mindset and this whole “home is just whereever you happen to be at that moment in time”.
Teaching and mentoring is my bag, facilitating is okay however when it does come to executing the therapy program that is being written by a therapist/psychiatrist for a specific individual I tend to lose interest. I love the idea of teaching backpacking skills so I will try and dip my toe in that world as well. It might be fun to find someone who can hire me to do that internationally. Guiding the JMT, WHW or TRT could be pretty fun!
We always seem to end up in England so we agreed to take a 3-4 year break from winding up there. 😀 I love the Lake district for sure, but after my little jaunt in the Pyrenees and the time I have spent in the Alps and other trips I do have planned, it’s just time to stop going back to the old familiar and see what all these other mountains in the world do have to offer. I want to see if those mountains talke to me the same way the Sierra Nevada does.
For now I am going to say 73 and there will be more coming later on down the road.