At Any Given Moment Who Have Two Options…

2 weeks from today….Friday, October 23rd I will board a plane and officially leave Connecticut. I will not fly directly to Florida, however. I fly to Washington D.C. where I will run the Marine Corp Marathon, then to Florida. In exactly 2 weeks I will move from the state I have called home for the last 35 years. I will fly to Erik, who has already arrived in Florida and reunite with him and Gunner after a month apart.

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While it has been a tough month with so much craziness and transitions, I have to say I could not have written a better script for my departure. First, with Erik and Gunner gone for a month when it is my time to leave it will make leaving so much easier.  I miss them so much it literally hurts. Second, I will be flying to run a marathon, which will take my mind off of leaving with the nerves and excitement of marathon weekend. Third, I am able to spend my last month with my parents, in the house (and bedroom) I grew up in. To go out on runs on the same roads I remember doing as a child and to spend this time with my parents has been a real treat.

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So, as my time winds down in Connecticut I am embracing this beautiful fall season, but also looking forward to the change. I have always known that I am not that girl who stays in her small town home and never leaves the comforts of all it has to offer. I’ve always had this tug on my heart to leave and go explore what this world has to offer. I have suffered from incredible anxiety in my adult life, and I am starting to understand it was largely because I felt trapped. I felt I was living a life that I was not meant to live. I only felt truly free when I was traveling and discovering small towns and unfamiliar areas. When I would return from these adventures I would feel homesick. What a crazy thing. I was homesick from the mountains, the woods, the places I only spent one night at. I was never homesick from “home”.

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So, now we start the journey of the unknown. Erik has already started working at his job and seems to really enjoy it. We will work seasonally in Florida, allowing us the summer months to explore and travel. To jump in our camper and discover small towns, mountains, and all the places I have never been but am homesick for. While I am experiencing a lot of sadness and some uncertainty about such a large move, I am overwhelmed with excitement. I feel this is the beginning of a new, happy life for Erik, Gunner and I.  More than anything I am proud of us.  We are the only ones who really know what it has taken to get to this place. The sacrifices we have made and the endless hours of working and saving. All with a goal in mind. And, as we celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary this month we celebrate 12 years of working as a team and accomplishing more than we could have ever dreamed of. A life of happiness, big dreams, freedom, and love. The love. That’s what means the most. Because what would all of this mean if I didn’t have my best friend to share it with. On the month of this 12 year wedding anniversary I am so thankful the young me never gave up on us. I am thankful I get to start the life of my dreams with the only one I would ever went to share it with.

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What The Road Has Taught Me

It’s amazing when you slow down and just “be” and take time to observe yourself and others, how easily answers can fall into your lap. When you remove yourself from the hustle and fast paced life that usually surrounds us and just settle into the quietness of your thoughts, you are able to reflect on life and yourself with a lot more ease. While what you may figure out about yourself in that reflection may not always be easy to swallow, it is definitely the defining step in happiness and peace within. So, I accept that this is my journey to finding myself and what I really want. I accept that what I observe about myself isn’t always pretty, but the fact that I can see my faults means I am much further along in my process than others.

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This week I lost a friend who probably taught me more about life than any friend I have ever had. He challenged me constantly throughout our friendship to continue to keep looking deep inside myself in search for the answers of why I say, feel, and do what I do. He would tell me that I have the ability to process my emotions better than most, and I know he was right. As I mourn his passing, I will take all he taught me about life and myself and continue to use it on my journey as I explore this world and my role in it.

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Here are some of the things I have observed and learned in less than 2 months on the road:

1) Follow your heart….PERIOD. Do what makes you happy and let the rest fall into place. You cannot overthink the what-ifs and try to plan every step of the way. That is what I started off doing, and quickly realized that it is impossible. You cannot plan for the opportunities that will fall into your lap along the way. You cannot predict the MAGIC that comes along with the process of taking the leap towards your dream. Just keep doing what in your heart you feel is right and the chances are very good that the rest will take care of itself.

2) Along the lines of the above statement, DO NOT WAIT until you think the time is right. This life is too short to put things off. Erik and I made the decision to do this now for one main reason…NOW IS ALL WE HAVE!! We had always had the dream to travel and thought we would save until we could “retire” comfortably and then go see the world. However, we soon realized that so many around us were a) retiring and not having the health nor the energy to do what they always dreamed of doing. They couldn’t see the sites or do the activities that they once would have been able to in their earlier years. And b) losing their lives to cancer and other diseases way too soon. Why would we wait to see things when we have no idea what tomorrow, never mind 20 years from now, would bring? How do I know we are probably doing the right thing? Almost every person we tell here (snowbirds) say, “Good for you. What you’re doing is so great.” I respect the opinions of the older and wiser, and they all seem to think we are doing it right.

3) I love being surrounded by people, but I also need my own time. When I would tell people what Erik and I were doing many would ask, “aren’t you going to drive each other nuts in such a small space?!?” I knew this would not be the case since Erik and I basically spend 75% of our time at home within 20 ft of each other. However, I will say that this trip has made me realize that just as much as I crave being near him, I equally crave my alone time. This has mostly come in the form of long runs/workouts and (here in Florida) stretching/yoga at the pool.

4) I love the secludedness of the woods, but also love the convenience and community of a bustling town. I have come to find that my ideal living situation is a private lot surrounded by woods and a small living space with plenty of stores and activities within biking distance.

5) Many envy the idea that we are able to do this at this point in our lives, yet very few would exchange the luxuries they grant themselves on a daily basis for what we are doing. We have had so many conversations with people our age here in Florida telling them what we are doing and they are so quick to say how lucky we are and how it must be nice. Like the Verizon employer, who then, I. The same breath, told Erik he needs to go buy me a nice Coach purse to fit the bigger phone she was trying to sell me. No thanks, I will keep my $9.99 TJ Maxx purse and Erik will find me that same phone on the Internet for $30 not the $120 you were selling it for. Thanks.

This is an area I am extremely passionate about, and probably one I will write about again. We are not able to do this because we inherited a bunch of money or have made an extraordinary amount of money in our life. We have lived WELL below our means and saved like crazy to get here. We never go out to eat, instead cut coupons and shop sales. We bought a condo and when we could afford bigger and better, we stayed put. We use the library for books, magazines and movies, and we haven’t bought a gift for each other in 8 years. Vacations have been mainly camping trips or visiting family for the last 10 years. We carpool and ride our bikes everywhere to save gas. The list is so long that I think I could write a book on “how we can afford to semi retire at such a young age”. But, the truth is, not too many would make the sacrifices we have made. For us, it’s easy. We don’t like going out to eat. It’s healthier,cheaper and cleaner to make a meal and bring it to the local river or our favorite park. We don’t need cable, we’d rather play a game of scrabble or research ways to travel on a budget. We don’t want a big house, it just means more time cleaning and more space to fill with “things”…we actually want to downsize our 1200 square foot condo. We live a simple life and enjoy the things that are not “things”. However, the large majority would rather the the life they have over ours. And that’s ok. BUT, don’t tell us we are lucky. With discipline, sacrifices, and lots of time researching cheap and free ways to travel many of you could do this too!

6) “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” This is something I have always thought to be true, but on this trip I have taken enough time to really examine it and find it to be mostly true. Whenever someone irritates me (mostly Erik) I take a step back and ask myself, “is this something I wish to change about myself”. At some deep down level, the answer is most always, “yes”.

These are just six things that come to me right now. The truth is, there are probably loads more of things I have learned about myself while on the road….I just need more time to process them!

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Working a Little, Living a Lot

We are two weeks into our adventure, and with each day I am realizing that I could have never planned this trip out. Every day something happens and I think back to the planning process and say, “I would have never thought that would have happened.” Like when I was stressing about wanting to have several campfires, but didn’t want to spend $5 on a stack of firewood each day. I would have never known we would be tearing down fences and be told to take the remnants because it’s great firewood. Or that we would find such fun in driving around the campground after campers leave and grabbing the left behind wood. Now, after many months of worrying about firewood, we have a stack that would get many through a whole winter.

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Much of what we stress about never happens. Such a waste of time!

Like how I worried so much about Gunner barking and upsetting the neighbors. What I didn’t know is that we would have THE WHOLE CAMPGROUND TO OURSELVES!! Literally, 1 out of 75 spots are taken. He can bark all day and only the passing Ranger will hear it.

As you can tell, things are going quite well for us. We have been working on some interesting projects. We couldn’t have asked for more fitting jobs. Our first couple of days we spent building a stone walkway with Mike, a maintenance worker here at the park. The walkway leads to the Nature Center and the major Trail Heads. Given the location we would see several people an hour, and it was so rewarding to hear each person compliment us on how good it looks. Such a satisfying job. We also loved the fact that there will always be a part of us left behind at Table Rock State Park. We can come back years down the road and look at the walkway, remembering how we fit each piece like a puzzle! We were able to learn a lot about setting the stone, and also about Mike. He was so interesting and we listened to his stories of walking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, all of which he walked several times along with his wife. So amazing.

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We celebrated Thanksgiving with a hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain right here in the State Park. This was technically considered “work” since we were scoping and clearing the Ridge Trail along the way. Again, this was a day I worried about for several weeks prior to the trip for no reason. I was concerned I would be homesick being away from home for my first holiday ever and spending it at a campground. Luckily, I think the excitement and beauty of our surroundings made it ok. Plus, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with both my family and Erik’s the weekend before we left, so I didn’t feel like I was missing it. So, Thanksgiving was a day full of hiking, cooking, and football.

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SAM_2246We spent this past Saturday exploring Greenville, SC. We first stopped at Paris Mountain State Park, the other park we considered staying at. We really liked it, but we were happy that we chose Table Rock. The campground was much more crowded and small. Also, you cannot beat the views we have here. However, this park is a known mountain biking park and we could see why. The trails were fast and winding and looked real fun. We will go back there soon to ride!

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After a nice hike, we went into Downtown Greenville. This is an area I have wanted to visit ever since I saw it listed as the #1 Place to Live in Outdoor Magazine. The minute we walked into this city we LOVED IT. I don’t know if it had something to do with the fact that we have been in such a secluded area for so long, or if it really was THAT beautiful, but I think it was the later. Falls Park on the Reedy was so enchanting. I have never seen a city like this. It seemed to be so well planned out from the river to the waterfalls, to the restaurants and the layout of the streets and signage. There is a restaurant for every taste, flavor, want and need. From first glance we fell in love with Greenville, SC faster than Asheville, NC…something I didn’t expect!

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Back at the campground we continue to work jobs we love. I have been given the task of painting letters for a sign, which has been so fun for me. They brought it right to our campsite so I spend time at night, listening to our music, campfire going, Christmas lights lit, losing myself in the task of staying within the lines.

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We have also been cutting down small trees around cabin 5 and cabin 7, giving each better mountain and lake views. Just what I had wanted, physical labor! I usually run every day, sometimes in the trails and at times on the road that goes around the park. This road route offers some great climbs, which don’t seem to get any easier. The trail route I usually do combines two separate trails, Carrick Creek and Lakeside Trail, both amazingly beautiful in their own way.

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The mix of having the whole campground to ourselves, jobs that challenge us physically and teach us something new, a camper that feels like home, our backyard the most beautiful state park I have ever seen, free use of all facilities, maintenance equipment, boats, fishing equipment, etc….this mix has made for an amazing first two weeks.

What I really love is how I am just surrounded by such love and reminders of friends from home. We drink coffee every morning out of mugs given to me by best friends. The cards I received from friends hang on the walls of the camper. The key to the trailer is on an awesome key chain given to me another bestie, Trish. I wear head bands, tanks and shorts given to me by clients. I burn candles from friends while we play board games given to us by Annette and Mom and Dad. We eat sweets at night that my book club girls gave me. A prayer flag and Tibetan statue surround the sink given to me by Loren, so I think of her every day. I write in my journal every day given to me by my best friend Bridget. I could go on forever. The point is, all day, every day I use something or see something that reminds me of home. This makes me happier than anything. While enjoying the solitude and alone time with my boys, I am still surrounded by so many of my loves at home!

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With that, I would say that the only negative has been NO CELL SERVICE and only Internet at the visitor center. I think this has been a blessing and a curse. I don’t want anyone to think I am not thinking of them or not reading their emails/texts/instagram messages but I literally cannot get any reception for more than 30 seconds. Very annoying, but forces us to disconnect, which is probably a blessing. So, please don’t take it personal that I have not reached out. In a few weeks we will be in Florida and I will catch up with you all!!!

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The Adventure Begins

We are beginning our 5th day of our adventure and it has been more than we could have ever dreamed of. We have had just about everything thrown at us and we have done a good job at rolling with it. We arrived in Asheville, NC on Tuesday to be greeted by record lows. The 15 degree weather ousted the previous low record by 10+ degrees. So, instead of the hikes we envisioned, we bundled up and checked out Downtown Asheville, strolling through the quirky, artsy shops. Asheville, you are beautiful but the weather Gods are demanding we come back again to check out your real beauty.

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Wednesday was the big day!  Heading to Brevard, NC to pick up the camper!  We woke up early and took the scenic route down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views were unreal, the woods surrounding the car made it hard to keep our eyes on the road. We stopped several times to take pictures, giddy like kids in excitement. Our journey was stopped short 15 miles in by a road closed sign. Oh well, turn around and see those beautiful views from another angle. Rolling with it 🙂

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Picking up the camper from Jim and Shirley was seamless. They were the sweetest retired couple, with a property we dream of owning some day. As Erik got instructions from Jim, Shirley and I chatted it up. After a stop at the DMV to exchange title, we were ready to go. Erik was a little nervous about towing the camper, his first time towing anything. But, we figured an easy 40 minute drive to the campground would be a good way to warm up. Ha!  We literally took a road that winded down and around the mountain….a road that would feel sketchy even in a car!  Erik handled it like a champ and we now know what this Pathfinder/Fun Finder combo is capable of.

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But wait, the worst was yet to come. We found the campground, turned into then entrance, only to find a sign saying “Campers must use West Gate Entrance, road too windy”. At this point we had no experience turning or backing a camper and performing a “K” turn that was asked of us was impossible.  We had 2 options: continue on the road we were warned to not take, hoping no turns could be worse than the road we took down the mountain. Or, try to back the camper into the busy road we turned from. We decided to go forward, which quickly brought us to turns so sharp and steep that I thought we would lose the camper. Luckily, we made it and found a parking area to turn into, while we contemplated what to do. Keep charging ahead, or attempt a K turn.  Just then a fisherman pulled up and we asked him to help. He owns a 32 ft trailer and within a few minutes had us on the road, heading back to the main road. We used the West Entrance, found our spot and luckily we could mostly pull the camper through. We hooked everything up,and began to unpack.

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We are obsessed with the camper and we are settling in very nice. Table Rock State Park is so peaceful and beautiful it feels like a dream. Another post will get into my thoughts about camping, etc but here are some pics for now. We do not have Internet or Cell Phone reception at our campsite, so blogging/texting is very tough.  I do INSTAGRAM as often as possible, so follow me there at “theworldismygym”  Click on the pics below for slideshow

 

The World is Calling and I Must Go

After 10+ years of visualizing, saving, dreaming and working hard to get to this point, the time has come. My husband and I are leaving the land of “normal” and stepping into the land of unknown. The land of uncomfortable. The land of freedom. The world of wanderlust. The life that I know I was always meant to live.

On Monday we will pack up our “stuff” and head to the mountains of North Carolina to pick up our “home” for the winter. A 2011 Fun Finder Travel Trailer, where we will explore the Southeast section of the U.S.

If you have read “The Story That Changed My Life” you know how this dream cultivated back in 2003. After reading this I started to question everything. It all started to make so little sense to me. Why would we work so hard to be able to buy things that we don’t need?  Why not just do something you love that will make you enough to survive and then spend the rest of your time enjoying life?

This thought lingered with me as I went through the next decade. In that time I started a fitness business with my brother in 2008, which expanded beyond our dreams in a few short years. This business was, and will continue to be, one of the best things I have ever done. Although I sold my ownership to him a couple years ago, I continued to work there as a trainer and instructor and I can say with confidence it is one of the best fitness facilities in Connecticut. Anyone who is reading this from Mission Fitness knows what I mean. It is more than a place with top notch fitness classes and trainers. It is a community. A family. It is one of the biggest reasons why embarking on this journey is bitter sweet. I love my clients and bootcampers more than anything and I really do think that this job along with my job (as a beverage cart girl at a golf course) are the best jobs.  I TRULY love my jobs.

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But, it just wasn’t enough. I knew there was a fire that burned inside of me that yearned to see new places and travel this world. The way some woman have a clock that ticks in them to have children, mine was replaced with a clock ticking to travel. And then through the beauty of the Internet I came across a blog So Many Places and it ROCKED ME. I read every post including ones like this and cried like a baby. This was the life I wanted. The life I NEEDED. Through her blog I found others. Who knew so many people were living this life? It isn’t just a fantasy, it is REAL!!  I would contact these full-time travelers and they would get back to me with the most amazing emails. Not only were these people real, but they were amazing!! So willing to help. So IN LOVE WITH THEIR LIVES.

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Then, I would step back into the reality of my current life and meet so many people that seemed to “have it all”, yet seemed so unhappy.  Spending so many hours slaving at jobs they hated, but would almost brag about how busy they are. How many hours they work, how they run around all day and night, like it was a badge of honor. Stuck in a rat race they don’t even know they are trapped in. Then I would get that email: “So Many Places posted a new blog”. I would savor it. I would wait until I was comfy and alone and read her words as she walked the Carmino de Santiago. Ahhhh. This makes more sense.

So, I would share these stories, these emails, these dreams with my husband and he was all in. He got it. He agreed. How amazing that I have a husband and teammate for life that wanted what I wanted.  So, we started to take small steps. Small steps that eventually lead to one big leap. A 5 month adventure where we will explore this beautiful land and spend time with nature. With the simple things. Living in 20 feet of space, owning only what we NEED!  Living free…no reservations, no solid plans, just chasing the beauty of the South.

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We don’t know where this journey will take us. We only know that it is what we need to do to fulfill that fire that is buried inside of us. No matter what happens, at least we can move forward knowing that we chased our dreams. I have a feeling that this world of travel is going to feel like home.