Lessons Learned – Part 1

DC SW Waterfront
12th Annual DC Jazz Festival at the Yards – Southwest Waterfront

Double Digits

As we count down the remaining workdays before we retire and begin the final preparation for leaving DC on our road trip, Roque was happy to report to me that we are now in “double digits,” having crossed the threshold from 100+ remaining days to “double digits.”  As we begin the process of crossing off the days remaining in our work lives here, the trip, end of work, and relocation plans are starting to feel real.  It is both energizing, exciting and scary.

Reality kicks in at various times.  Years of thinking, planning, researching and list making are starting to coalesce at unpredictable moments. For instance, we have begun to collect (i.e, purchase) a number of items on our gear list and having satellite messaging device, solar powered generator/inverter, 100 watt solar panel and the necessary cables, etc. makes us anxious to get out and test drive the solar set-up. (Wow – this is starting to feel like it’s really going to happen!)  The storage boxes that will carry our belongings for our new life in Panama are resting comfortably in the garage, awaiting the clothes, kitchen and general household items to be packed for the long haul overland from DC to Panama. The cap for the truck bed is ordered and it looks like our space planning is on target – space for the storage boxes, camp kitchen, camping gear and more appears to be sufficient and we are excited about our belief that we appear to have enough space to carry extra tents and gear with us — as backup and to accommodate friends and family members who may want to meet up with us along the way to camp.

I am particularly proud of the efforts that we have made toward reaching our financial goals before we leave, thanks to the expert budgeting and planning that is the particular specialty of Roque.  Similarly, I am proud to see the fruition of my research related to gear starting to come together.  When folks ask us questions about a variety of subjects having to do with the trip planning, retirement issues, financial planning, gear or whatever, we nearly always have an answer and having at least an answer makes me smile with the realization that we have thought through many, many things.  In other words, this is no fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants operation.

Lesson #1: Don’t Let Opportunities Pass When You Can Reasonably Accommodate Them.

As reality kicks in, so is the realization that we are approaching the “last” times when we can do or participate in certain things here and this heightened awareness has made us acutely aware of grabbing the gusto while we can.  For us, this has meant paying a lot of attention to the bounty of things to which we have access in the metro DC area: exhibits, festivals, museums, events, restaurants, friends and family among them.  The DC Jazz festival, now in its 12th year, did not pass this year with an after-the-fact realization that we missed it (again).  This year, we attended no fewer than 4 free events and one ticketed event – at wonderful places such as the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, Kennedy Center, the Phillips Collection and at the DC Southwest Waterfront among them. Nary has a weekend passed without visits with family members and/or friends, a bike ride and a wonderful meal. We have been swimming, have steamed crabs 2 times so far this season, have visited local National parks as first-timers, and have even found time to attend to the tasks of preparing for our trip.  It’s June 22  — the second day of summer — and we are feeling that we have made excellent progress in terms of trip prep without sacrificing time to engage in local events and visit with the people we cherish.

Carrying Lesson #1 Forward

As my mind bounces back and forth between work, daily tasks, research and planning — oftentimes with the speed and seeming lack of coherent theme that makes me look like a gnat alighting from place to place – I toss things at Roque that must make him feel like he needs a map to help him navigate from one thought to the next.  Last week, as I was considering our loose itinerary for the umpteenth time, I realized that we would be headed from Florida westward at a time when we needed to be mindful of Mardi Gras and the challenges attendant to being in or around New Orleans at that time of year.  Roque immediately seized on this opportunity and declared that since neither of us had ever attended Mardi Gras, this would be the PERFECT time to do so.  While each of us been to New Orleans on multiple times, why not join the craziness next year?  Having carefully curated hotel points over the past couple of planning years, saving them for just this kind of occasion, we have now booked a free hotel suite in the CBD for several days overlapping Mardi Gras.  Carpe diem.

Reflecting on Lesson #1 leads me to Lesson #2, or perhaps better expressed as Lesson #1.1: Practice Lesson #1.  Simply repeating the mantra of Lesson #1 – Don’t let opportunities pass when you can reasonably accommodate them – is something that I need to practice, over and over.  I have found that this is easy for me do when we are on the road and pass a sign that says “This Spectacular Thing is Up Ahead at Exit 3.”  We’ve taken many a detour based on signs along the way or schedules of events that we stumble across as we are exploring an area. But I need more training and practice when it comes to actually seeing opportunities when they come my way.  Shifting paradigms will be an ongoing exercise for me. When traffic or crowds or expense trigger an avoidance reflex in me, it is likely that I will have to find ways to reassess, while traveling with no fixed schedule, whether these are the “big deals” that they are to us now.  When time is always at a premium, I usually try to take the fastest routes home, make lists of errands that are methodical and avoid doubling back, and practice efficiency in everything I do.  After years of practicing economy and efficiency, it is undoubtedly going to take a lot of practice to start slowing down enough to see opportunity when it presents itself.

I’m not daunted by this because, among other things, I have a life partner who is great at slowing down, reminding me that we are in no hurry, and is always willing to take a road less traveled if it means seeing things that we might not see otherwise.  I look forward to the practice.  And the opportunities.

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