Dropping off

I’ve been out of town for the past week, and I really have not wanted to do an iota of work. Though try as I might, so much has been swirling around in my head that I’ve wanted to figure something out.

There are seldom clear-cut answers to life’s tough questions, so I have some serious mulling over to do. Being in NYC and enjoying my (probably) last trip to Philadelphia for a while helped me clear my mind a bit. But the long, stale-aired plane ride home added only a hazy fog of confusion to my psyche. So many wonderful, powerful things to consider in our future.

My apologies if I’m being cryptic (or hippy-dippy), it’s not entirely on purpose–right now. I feel a bit like I’ve been tossed into the gladiator pit of decision-making and I hardly have a sword. I’m drowsy, drunk on too much homemade pizza and baseball, but I’ll elaborate more tomorrow.



A popular theme

Saving up, quitting your job and jet setting is definitely a popular daydream circulating in a lot of our minds, sure. Do we always do it? More often than not, something gets in the way, holds us back or scares us away.

It’s funny I mention that (well, convenient, actually), because this past weekend I was watching Sam Mendes’ beautiful 1950s period piece from last year, Revolutionary Road. The story, mostly a pastiche of bickering dissonance between two adults arguing like children over not getting their way (I’ll take Mad Men over it any day), did have an interesting subplot that emerged a quarter of the way into the film that is very relevant to us would-be world citizens: Laying it all on the line and leaving it behind.

It seems that suburbia, as Mendes would have us believe, is a stifling lie we’ve bought into (not exactly forging new territory here) and that drastic measures are required to break free. For the intellectual or the artist and what have you to really, truly exist on a exquisite plane of understanding and connectivity with The Universe, we must, as the main characters do, hatch a plan to escape. In their case, it’s to Paris, since, it seems, “people are alive there” (their words) — as opposed to the walking dead of America? I digress.

While a little hackneyed in the film, the central idea (minus the inflated self-loathing of it all) stands out as an important one. In one scene, Kate Winslet’s character suggests that Leo is a true “man” to “go after what he really wants.” And though I don’t subscribe to that particularly philosophy on gender, I do think that you can accept what you have, or subvert your circumstances and try again. The age-old cliche–“you can’t fail if you don’t try”–should serve as an antithesis to all of us determined to keep moving…to keep trying.

Now, the plan they hatch is, admittedly, a tad far-fetched when you consider the excruciating social norms of the time period. Winslet’s character suggests to her neighbors’ disbelief that she will be the breadwinner in Europe, giving Lil’ Leo some time to “really figure out what he wants to do.” You can imagine their unreasonably horrified reaction, and honestly, it makes your stomach churn in a “how quaint” kind of way that leaves a bitter, disturbing aftertaste.

The neighbors, and everyone else for that matter, seem incredulous (and a tad jealous) that a pair of young Americans would want to throw away the 9-5 dream, the suburban decadence and all, to root up and mosey on to France. A place not only full of…well, French, but one with no clear prospective opportunistic nuggets. Well, you might go as far as to think that this kind of idea would be left in the dust with Howdy Doody and all, but truly, not all that much has changed.

As I slowly reveal our plan to friends and people outside of my social circle, I get a lot of the same questions (funny how analogous they are to Mendes’ characters’ as well). These seeds of doubt, perhaps tinged with jealousy or relegation to failure are interesting, to say the least. Even I, at times, in those impossibly dark hours of the night, potted on drink or whim, think of how crazy…how stupid this could all possibly be.

But those are fleeting moments, and should be dismissed as such. It takes a lot, actually. More than you think. Doubt is as powerful as you let it be, and its strength only grows in those dark recesses. It’s time to turn on the light.


But I want that…

Not buying is so much harder than you might think. Back in February, I adopted a rather hardline approach to my finances and declared: “I am no longer going to buy things I don’t need” (since we’ll be getting rid of everything next Spring). So easy, right?

Well, what might that entail?

Superfluous purchases, of course: Nice dinners out at restaurants instead of cooking. Going to the gym. Buying clothing that we won’t take with us. And so on.

How’s that going?

Yeah, not so well (I’m trying). But not entirely horrible. I did quit my gym, though I still assert that the YMCA is much better than any corpo-gym conglomerate out there (no soul sucking contracts and they do help the community). I started running in my neighborhood and doing half-assed sit ups in lieu of the treadmill and workout machines. No progress on the gut-o-meter yet, though.

Eating in is always difficult when you live in an area that has so much good food. Two nights ago it was Burmese, last night Tapas, and just now (for shame), a French soul food lunch (I did leave my turkey sandwich at home). I’ve tried to be diligent with grocery shopping, and I really do love cooking, but lately it seems it can be just as expensive to make your own food.

Everything does cost more in California.

As far as clothing, I know I will go utilitarian once we leave. I look forward to having 5 shirts to my name. It makes life easier, and I doubt anyone would notice, since I wear the same thing every day.

And in that, I realise the absurdity of living in the first world, where we worry about having TOO much…and ponder TOO many choices. We are truly lucky.

The least I can do is donate all of my clothing on our departure. Though, I’m sure there are better ways to do it than just going to Salvation Army (will have to look into this).

Streamlining to save is indeed quite an arduous task. It takes discipline and focus. Two things I’m hoping Mia will help me with once she returns to the Bay Area in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I should probably go patch up the holes in my shoes.


That’s the idea

An interesting read over at the Frugal Traveler blog (see, I don’t always rag on him) today about extending your vacation into a several month journey. While not exactly quite the plan we have, this is an interesting article that may inspire more people to unshackle themselves from corporate America’s hit job on leisure time.

Read the full article

Spotlight: Montenegro

This could be a fall destination for us. Isn’t it gorgeous?

photo via flickr: alphatangobravo

photo via flickr: k.ivoutin

photo via flickr: ooojasonooo

photo via flickr: ooojasonooo

photo via flickr: senol demir


Look what came today!

Officially, a few of the hurdles of getting underway are done. Last year, I lost my wallet and my ID, and since then, I have slacked considerably on getting a new California ID.

I finally got my birth certificate in the mail in February, then got my state ID in March, and now the passport has arrived. I suppose it’s probably about that time we start looking into traveler’s health insurance. Not something I’m very excited about. More on this later.

Still not much of a reprieve from work, but I hope to be able to have some more updates this week.


Spotted by locals

I can’t believe I hadn’t come across this site before, but Spotted by Locals is such an awesome resource. From cities like Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Paris, Madrid and so on, you get a slick blog feed that is written by (you guessed it) the locals.

Wondering where the good vegetarian restaurants are in Madrid? This is the sort of resource you can turn to. It’s also teeming with cool, local pictures and great insider descriptions of things going on in each city.

I see this being infinitely helpful when we get to some of these cities and are looking for cheap or free things to do. Though there are only 21 cities available now, they seem to be growing at a good clip.

Check it out!