Just pack your bags and head to the first beach you find. Simple right? Backpack, bathing suit and plane ticket, check! Let’s go!! Uh, not so fast there Jack Kerouac. Taking a year ‘off’ from your ‘life’ is way more difficult than it sounds. Not that I’m expecting any sympathy, it’s just that there are so many annoying details to take care of it’s surprising and a little overwhelming.
We thought (mistakenly) that when the teacher’s strike looked like it was at an impasse we could expedite our plans to leave at the end of August and vamoose early. Just Go! That seems to be impossible because the quantity of to-do’s is bigger than Santa’s shopping list. Since writing the first few posts I’ve received a huge response from people who fantasize about pulling the ripcord too. But….this sentiment is always followed by a ‘but’. But the mortgage, but the career, but I’m embedded.
If you want to abandon ship or check out for a spell too there’s a lot you need to button down in advance. Such as but not limited to: Renting out our home for the year, farming out the dog, organize personal and business taxes for next year, health insurance, travel insurance, home insurance, international drivers licences, shots for Hepatitis A & B…that B is a bitch, tetanus and God forbid, rabies. There are long stay visas to obtain which require proof of financial security (nosey French government), proof of insurance, proof of health insurance, your sworn in blood oath that you will not work while in France thereby taking baguettes and brie off French tables, swear on that bible again that you will educate your children to high European standards (that one may prove a toughie), criminal record checks which require 2 pieces of government issued picture ID, re-negotiate next year’s mortgage early, budget, re-budget, freak out over budget, talk yourself down, notify credit card companies, update technology for travel, phones, computers, home school planning, sell and/or return leased vehicles, cancel phones, gym memberships, cable, Netflix (eeek!) power and find someone who’s willing to take on the big responsibility of watering your tomatoes. There’s more but whew…you’re probably getting tired of the tedium. I certainly am.
These are the niggly details that nobody particularly enjoys attending to whether you’re scramming or not. As highly functioning adults in our modern world we seem to all be operating like small businesses with a flow chart of divisions to manage. Home, children, parents, finance, health, communications, transportation. Did you know you are the CEO of “Your Life Inc.”? Congratulations!! You get all the responsibilities of a high-powered executive without the actual salary. I hate to say this but women tend to take care of most of this minutia. Not because we’re the Mad Men secretaries of 2014 but because we are very good multi-taskers and like to have a firm handle on our lives. We are the boss! Congratulations on your promotion sister.
Could we start the simplification process without having to go through the upheaval of job elimination or drastic life maneuvers? Do we really need 15 credit cards, 7 loyalty programs and 38 pairs of shoes with matching handbags? Maybe, but eliminating it all would be an interesting experiment. I’ve been struggling to simplify for years. Our family are frequent movers so we have paired down quite a bit in the process but there is still a lot of clutter. Experience over ownership has been a goal that has moved farther and farther out of reach as we move through life, gather more possessions and buy into our consumerist culture.
Wouldn’t it be great if life were as breezy as one of those desk-top-sand-box-zen-garden things? My utopia includes nothing to ‘tend to’ but health, food, family, creativity and community. Wait, did I put food before family? Whoops. Here is my idea of THE day. Have a cup of tea and a healthy breakfast, go outside, exercise, then family adventures til the sun goes down. Lather, rinse, repeat.
So the idea of packing one bag and existing with it’s contents for a year is extremely attractive. Three pairs of shoes, two pairs of pants, two dresses, five tops, a rain coat and some workout clothes. I’m really going to miss my pretty shoes though…and my BFF Netflix!