The List

As we start on our little adventure, it seems the most common question we’ve been asked is,  “How did you plan and how are you doing this?” It’s a good question, a reasonable question. The answer is less so because it’s unreasonable to sell your house and most all of your possessions, pull your kids out of school, buy plane tickets all over the world and then just go. Almost everyone will tell you so. But, that is indeed what we did and it’s been a long, arduous road getting here.

It started about three years ago when we decided that we’d like to sell our house. Though we liked it well enough, the layout wasn’t great for 3 small kids and we thought that maybe we could do better. The market was up, a lot, and we figured that if we sold, we just might do pretty well on the deal. Our first thought was standard and logical, We’ll sell, wait for this hot market to cool off a bit and then buy something else. Perfect!  Somehow, though, things shifted. Both of us had been considering the idea independently of each other for a while, neither of us articulating it. It was one of those cloudy, subconscious thoughts dancing in the back of your head, never coming into complete focus, nagging, itching, always fluttering away just as you try to see it clearly.  And then one day one of us mentioned to the other that perhaps we should just take whatever money we could get and use it to travel the world instead of doing anything remotely responsible. And that was it! It was settled! Isn’t it weird how, sometimes in life, those things we need to do simply appear before us? The idea didn’t make any logical sense and yet it was so obvious that this was exactly what had to happen. It was as if someone walked into the room and asked the two of us what color the sky was and we both blurted out in unison, “Popcorn!” And so, before the best real estate agent in Redondo Beach, Chad Fahlbusch,  had even come over to talk about our house, we’d decided that we were going to take the money and travel the world with it.

“We should make a list!,” Catherine said early on. She was so happy at the prospect and so excited, giddy with the thought of it all. We both were. Looking back now, I laugh at those people. Like two teenagers dreaming about life outside of their hometown, we had no idea what was really out there, how hard it was going to be, how much work. And so we made a list; a list of things that needed to get done. It was a list of how to get rid of all of our belongings except what we could fit in a 6X9 storage unit, a list of how to keep our finances in order while away, a list of things we’d need to take with us on the road, a list of how to remove our kids from everything they’d ever known or loved and still keep them safe and happy and educated, a list of places we wanted to see and how to get there legally and economically, a list of how to cram our entire lives into a few backpacks that we could take with us on a plane…It was a long list. And that list slithered and snaked its way into every aspect of our lives for the next 3 years.

When we go to Costa Rica in March we’re staying at an eco-lodge that gives guided night tours to see some crazy jungle frog or something. They advise everyone to bring a headlamp for this purpose. “Nighttime Costa Rican frog viewing headlamps,” made it onto the list. Do you want to have a phone on your trip abroad? Me too. But, it has to be an unlocked phone that can accept SIM cards from anywhere in the world. On the list. Wanna read? Gonna need a Kindle. Heck, we’re all gonna need Kindles, I guess. So, five Kindles on the list. How about blogging? Another laptop, I suppose. And we want to document the experience, of course, for the blog and for posterity.  So, new DSLR camera, Go-Pro, Avid editing software, portable wireless router, portable phone and Kindle chargers, external hard drive, additional cloud based storage..all on the list. And that’s the fun stuff!

What about health insurance? Your insurance in L.A. is no good. You need an international policy. Put that on there. Immunizations for all the places you want to go to protect against all the crazy diseases that you’ve never heard of that are floating around in the air and could kill you all? That goes on the list for sure! You have to sell the cars. You need passports. You need visas in the passports. You need plane tickets but cheap plane tickets since you gotta buy 5 of them every time. So, you need a cheap plane ticket guy to help you. “Find cheap plane ticket guy,” goes on the list. And money! You’re gonna need a lot of it and it’s got to be set up just right. Certain credit cards are great for travel, giving tons of points and returning international ATM fees back into your account. Gotta figure out which ones those are and get them. What about expenses that simply won’t go away no matter how hard you try to simplify your life? You’re gonna need to have an account back home that still has some money in it so those things can slowly drain out while you’re gone. And of course, stuff will come up that you have to deal with even while you’re on the road. So, you’ll need a P.O. Box back home where mail can go and some friend to go and check it for you, (Thanks Kari and Vish Chatterji). And homeschooling! Nobody in Mexico is helping to make sure your kids are keeping up with common core math. That’s on you! “Figure out how to make sure the kids don’t get dumb”— put it on the list.

It’s a ton of stuff! And in order to accomplish each one of the things that I’ve listed here, a new list was born, a list filled with sub-categories and mind numbing minutiae, a list that tests your resolve. You try so hard every day to feel like this:

 

But you can’t. The lists overwhelm your life. And most days are more like this:

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And these lists, as they blossom and grow, seem to create their own identities after a while. I can’t tell you how many times, while at work in those last few months, I was distracted by them. A producer would walk into my edit bay to give me their long-winded ideas about how to make the show leaner and better and I might reply, “Yes, yes, your right but consider this, I still need thin, lightweight, waterproof pants that are perfect for walking in the jungle but also look good enough for a night out!”

So that’s how we did it and how we planned for it. It’s a tough road, a long road, and it’s not for the faint of heart or those who question whether or not it’s right. Actually, I would say, if you want to do it, fight it for as long as you can. And if it’s supposed to be, The List will choose you!

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