And setting dates. Everyone told us when we first hatched this plan that it was important to set a date for departure. People who have ‘been there, done that’, said if we didn’t set a date it would probably not happen. That was about 3 years ago, and until now we haven’t set a date, although we’ve had a general idea all this time in our minds.
It’s just that so much needed to happen before we could go. Mike needed to work a few more years so we wouldn’t be destitute and/or have to dip into our 401K. Andrew needed to graduate from college. We needed to decide what to do with our home. And, of course, we needed an ocean-worthy boat. So we continued on with the vague idea that we would leave sometime in 2017, some moment in the distant future; a moment that somehow didn’t actually feel real most of the time.
But this week we had a bit of a wake up, a bit of a God-slap from the Universe. This week Mike’s boss, Jim, died. Mike had been observing him closely for a few months, wondering what could be wrong with him. He missed a lot of work. His coloring was very bad. But still, Jim soldiered on. Over the holidays he took a turn for the worse, became hospitalized, and then… he died. Just like that. Because that’s how death happens. Just like that. He was 62. And he worked his whole life. He leaves behind a wife and two children who are Andrew’s age, certainly too young in adulthood to stop needing a dad. Our hearts ache horribly for them.
Mike remembers how excited Jim was about this trip we are planning. He lived vicariously through our planning, through reading this blog, listening to Mike talk about the latest boat projects. We lived in a world he couldn’t relate to except that it excited and fascinated him. He used to say, “I’m going to come to work one of these days and you are going to be gone sailing!”. Now he’s the one who has gone.
This grieving for a boss who was also a friend has put planning for this trip into sudden hyper-focus. We don’t want to lose our opportunity to go and experience this thing called cruising. And the truth is shit happens when you aren’t looking; especially in middle age, when each day one is reminded of how the body begins to break down and betray the trust we have granted it in our youth. For now, we are healthy. What are we waiting for? That’s a good question; a question put into stark clarity by the passing of a friend.
The truth is that we’ve been waiting for our son to be more settled in adulthood, and for Mike to work until he is 57, having spent 20 good years at Boeing. We had a financial plan that made this a wise decision. But Boeing will no longer be giving pensions after 2016. So things change. And maybe on some level we’ve been waiting to feel ‘ready’ to leave our home and our family. Maybe we’ve been waiting for it to not be quite so hard to think about.
By the end of this year, the boat will be ready to go. We are not aiming for a perfect boat with perfect everything. We are aiming for safe and comfortable. Maybe she won’t get that paint job. Maybe I will have to live with the settee as is. Given a choice between working longer to buy more stuff for the boat, or just going, I think we are going to have to leave perfection for a different life.
This summer we will do a 5 week cruise up the west coast of Vancouver Island. That’s the plan. We will put our boat to the test that way, as well as ourselves. If we can do it in a Cal 34, we can certainly do it in an Olympic Adventure 47. If that goes well, then let the seriousness of cutting dock lines begin. It’s never going to be easy to leave our house or our family, no matter when we do it. The emotional part of this transition will not get easier if we wait longer.
This is the long way of saying that we have set a date of June 2016 to begin our long trip. That’s right. We’re going to try for an entire year earlier than we had previously planned because life is inevitably short. Can we do it? Well, we shall see, but if we do not give it a try, we will certainly not succeed. At the end of the day, the worst thing that can happen is that we get to June 2016 and for some reason we are not ready. We’ll take that chance I guess.
We got out the calender and began the process of setting monthly goals for getting the house ready. Sell or rent, the facts are the same. There is work to be done regardless. The process of sitting down and thinking about actually leaving brought up many fears for us both. Fears about not being ready, about leaving our comfortable home, about the concept of taking time off from working when we are this close to retirement age anyway. So many fears. But the fear of greeting death with an empty bucket in hand, having never lived this dream, is even worse. It happened to my father, it happened to Jim. We don’t want it to happen to us.