In Between Here and Gone

DDay: December 26, 2016

Our departure date of December 26 looms near. In some ways, it seems like eons ago that we finished work and began the “final” preparations for departing from DC for the start of our road trip. At the beginning of our retirement, we dedicated weekdays for work on trip preparations, leaving the weekends for “play.”  We thought that this would provide some structure and leave ample time for packing up the house.  In short order, we learned that the time allotted for packing was much more than adequate and we were about 80% done by late October, still facing nearly 2 additional months before our departure with little on our “to do” list.  On top of finding ourselves with “extra” time, we were also learning to adjust to our new retirement budget.
This period coincided with the period just prior to and after the US Presidential election, a time when we found ourselves tied to watching and listening news to the point where it was difficult to extricate ourselves . . . I started to feel like I was tied by a gigantic magnet to CNN, the New York Times, 538 blog, Facebook postings and more.  It was difficult to pull away and yet, it was just as difficult to stay put.  Folks commented to us about why we even cared since we were soon to be “out of here,” not acknowledging that regardless of our residential address, we are and will remain US citizens, with friends and family here and deep care and concern for the future of this country.

Our DC Swan Song

 We determined to break away from the election coverage and turn our attention back to the twilight of our time in DC, one of the best places to spend time without spending lots of money. So we took advantage of drives through Shenandoah National Park to see the foliage, bike rides when the weather permitted on the Mt. Vernon Trail along the Potomac, eating at new restaurants, visiting various Smithsonian museums and more.
The time was also spent beginning our farewells – an amazing party in early November, hosted by dear friends, gathered many of our closest friends for a beautiful evening of Panamanian food, conversation and the sharing of memories as well as wishes for safe travels.  Shortly after, Thanksgiving became a celebration of the holiday, of birthdays, and retirements as well as a family bon voyage to us, shared by 40+ family members from all over the country: California, Texas, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and more.
November, with farewells to friends, family and DC, was a sweet time. We edged closer to departure but with little time spent packing since we were in stasis – hovering between here and gone – and needed to keep our home mostly intact until the final push to pack and prepare the house for our furniture to be picked up by A Wider Circle, a local nonprofit which houses homeless and the displaced.  We opted for donating our furniture and furnishings over selling for many reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to have our life-long collection of belongings go to those who needed them.  It was so gratifying to hear the good folks from A Wider Circle tell us that our things were in such good condition that they were sure the items would likely stay on their warehouse floor (where clients can make their selections) for only a day.

Packing and Moving

For the days between Thanksgiving and the pick up by A Wider Circle, nearly all of our time was spent packing and culling, and culling and packing, followed by schlepping and hauling both inside the house and to various locations outside. By the time were were finished with 4412 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC on December 8, we had made a minimum of 12 separate donations to Goodwill, the Priceless Gown Project (black tie dresses), A Wider Circle, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, The Animal Rescue League of Washington, DC. (linens, towels, etc.), Center for Urban Families (suits, coats and professional clothing), Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative (Wii system, TV, home theater sound system) and the Salvation Army.  We also rented a UHaul truck and, on a separate occasion, a UHaul trailer, to haul items, arranged for bulk trash pickup, filled huge trash and recycling bins (multiple times), and surreptitiously tossed the last 2 items that remained in the truck – rejected by Goodwill – in a dumpster (not ours).
(Note: donation lists and receipts were scanned immediately upon receipt on our phones using the Genius Scan app and uploaded to Dropbox for ease of access when completing our tax returns for 2016).

Our Interim Crash-Pad

Since we were renting our home in DC and because I have parents who winter in Florida, we were able to avoid the challenge of precisely coordinating the departure from one residence to the beginning of a massive road trip. The beauty of having an interim place to crash and organize final trip gear was an enormous offset to the days of dawn-to-dusk physical work of the weeks leading up to the move. Thankfully, my parents have a large garage where we have plopped our trip gear and further culling and packing continues,  largely by Roque, who has been tireless in his efforts, earning him many praises and the well earned title of “Packing King.” (The guy has this scarily uncanny ability to scan piles of belongings, sort them into organized and related piles/packages, and find room for them in every nook and cranny available to us inside and outside the truck – a skill set he has used on many occasions, to similar praise from others less biased than me).   What started as tons of  miscellaneous stuff thrown hastily into whatever last minute containers I could find (among which were 5 or so laundry baskets) evolved into neatly organized and practical bags and containers of things to be taken with us or left behind.  Meanwhile, we were finding our way around an unfamiliar home, doing laundry, cancelling accounts, changing addresses, arranging for mail forwarding, attending social events, and making last minute purchases.
Perhaps this explains why I have not had time to post on this blog for weeks.

The End is Near

The physical demands have been great and the emotions we are experiencing as we begin our nomadic life are difficult to neatly express.  Yes, there is growing excitement and some apprehension – just yesterday, I realized that if we chickened out of the trip now (or shortly into it), we would  have very little in terms of possessions with which to begin a new brick-and-mortar-life, for example.  Typically, Roque and I experience real excitement when we hit the road, whether it’s en route to an airport or getting on the road in the car/truck so I figure that the excitement will hit, in earnest, when we set out on December 26.  For me, the major (identifiable) part of the swirling mixture of feelings as we near D-Day is gratitude.  I am so grateful for the chance to take this trip and to have a life partner equally as keen on taking this trip and attending to all of the details needed to make it happen. I am grateful for the opportunity to see this country, to pace ourselves in whatever way works for us on a moment-by-moment basis, to visit friends located along our path and to make new friends, to be with my best friend and love of my life for uninterrupted days on end, and to visit places with names I don’t even know yet.  I am grateful for our health – physical and financial. I am grateful for the many hours of planning, shopping, exploring, reading, and researching undertaken to prepare for the trip and our life on the road. I am grateful for the generosity of my parents’ loan of their home while we pack up the truck (and I believe that they are grateful for the things that we are bringing to them, forgotten when they left for their winter sojourn south).

Mostly, though, I am grateful for the support, love and well-wishes from our friends and our family who have created the opportunities for farewells that were nothing short of perfect.  We may not know what lies ahead but we sure know what we have here and that will sustain us for the miles ahead and the distance between visits with the people who make our life here sweet, rewarding and fulfilling.

Conjugating the verb “to test”

To Test

Shortly after Roque finished work in mid-August, I received the news that I was able to retire as of October 1 rather than wait until November 1. Initially, this news left me with anxiety rather than a shout of celebratory delight. I was conflicted by the news: Wouldn’t we benefit by additional salary? Didn’t my clients expect me to stay through the month of October? Would this affect our schedule for packing and departure? Drawing from lessons learned from Roque, I decided to sit with this news over the Labor Day weekend and at the end, concluded that leaving work a month early had more pros than cons. My clients were already in good hands with my replacement; reducing work by a month mean fewer nights spent in the sea of brake lights that has been my commute for many years; and having an additional month to pack, organize, prepare and spend time with friends, city, and family was welcome. I decided to make the plunge and have been instructed not to look back.

Having some vacation time to burn, I left work at the end of September and shortly after, we headed out from DC on a road trip planned several months earlier to Chicago, with stops contemplated with family in Cleveland, then onto Toledo/Detroit, Pittsburgh and a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater before returning home. The trip had multiple purposes for us since we could visit these northern cities while the weather was still hospitable (these destinations were on the original road trip plan for Alaska-to-Panama) and it provided a perfect opportunity to test more equipment acquired over the past several months.


The initial part of the trip (Cleveland and Chicago) was spent in homes (family and AirBNB) and the other parts were planned for camping. On board, for the first time, was gear accumulated for the DC-Alaska-Panama and 5 of the 9 nights on the road would be spent in campgrounds, testing gear as well as seeing the sights.  It would give us practice with urban stops, where we needed to bring much of the gear inside to prevent against theft, and rural stops with proximity to places we wanted to visit.  It seemed a perfect opportunity for testing our gear and road-readiness.


After visiting in Cleveland and Chicago, we traveled back eastward toward Toledo with the goal of spending some time seeing some of where Roque spent his residency some 30 years ago and touring some of Detroit’s sights. We chose a campground at Maumee Bay State Park, just outside of Toledo and on Lake Erie and stopped in to chose our camp sight once we arrived in Toledo. We had experienced intermittent rain on the road from Chicago but were lucky to have a break in the rain as we began to set up camp — a break that, regrettably, didn’t last through the entire camp set-up. We were lucky that the rain was light but by the time we set up the tarps, screen house and tent, we were fairly wet and the sun had set so the dampness of our clothes meant we were pretty chilly.  My McGuyver husband, knowing that a campfire would be fairly futile at the time, lit the camp stove and there we sat, darkness around us, making PB&J sandwiches by the fire of our propane stove. We moved from testing to testiness in the span of a few short hours but the warmth of the 2 burner stove helped, creating enough heat to renew our senses of humor and gratitude that we were, at least for that moment, dry beneath the tarps and about to become warmer under the sleeping bags and the dryness of the tent.

This,too, was not long lasting, and we awoke in the early morning hours to the knowledge that the overnight rain and wind was so fierce as to have allowed for the tent and tarp stakes to come up from the soggy ground and caused the tent to nearly collapse upon us (to say little of the now-collapsed tarps that came crashing down on our kitchen and dining area). Unflappable and ever-positive Roque pulled on clothes, ventured outside and secured the tent adequately enough to allow for another couple of hours of sleep, notwithstanding the leaks that we were experiencing in the tent, wetting portions of our sleeping bags and pillows in ways that made us contort toward the dry areas where we could continue to catch a few additional zzzz’s. I fell back to sleep composing some of this blog post in my head, wondering how I would explain our continued willingness to camp while traveling en route to Alaska and then to Panama, having just experienced the misery of rain soaked tents and uprooting of support stakes.  I admit to some feeling of dread as I considered the days and months to come.

The dread left me during my sleep but the testiness returned when we awakened fully for the day to inches-deep puddles in the tent, soaking my hiking socks past wearability, and requiring us to remove all of the tent contents to sweep out the puddles and begin, again, the task of setting up our campsite – with new tarp placement, many efforts to re-stake the tent and tarps to securely hold these items in place, and to try to dry out various pieces of our camp gear (thanks to momentary breaks in the the rain).

The rain continued through much of the day but we remained dry and warm while touring the Toledo area, by car, and the Toledo Museum of Art, a fabulous (and free) museum that few cities are lucky enough to boast of, by foot. It was a great day, even if not a dry one, and it was topped off by a cooked meal at the campsite that far exceeded the culinary skills required of the previous night’s PB&J sandwiches.  We retired to our tent with full bellies and an optimism amplified by some liquid courage imbibed with dinner.


Waking after night 2 in the rain, we found more puddles in the tent and our bodies achy from the nocturnal contortions created by our sleeptime avoidance of the drips caused by the leaks in the tent seams.  Over breakfast, we talked about the day and built into the plan a trip to the store for deeper tent stakes and how we might try to re-seal the seams of the tent – the obvious source of the leaks.  As we left the campsite for the trip to Detroit, the rain of the previous several days turned into glorious sunshine, immediately brightening my spirits and reminding me of why I love to camp: living in the outdoors, dining next to the trees, with the sounds and the smells of the fresh air around me, makes me happy and the simple act of sitting with a book, the quiet broken only by the sounds of nature, fuels my spirit.

Spirits fueled, our day in Detroit, spent at the Motown and Henry Ford Museums, ended with a trip to the camping goods store for more tent stakes and while there, we relented and opted to buy a new tent rather than attempt more repair/restoration of our tent,  recognizing that it had served Roque (and later me) well and couldn’t be begrudged for the previous decade+ of service.  Arms filled with the new tent and additional heavy-duty stakes, we quickly set up the new tent and immediately appreciated having an entry “foyer” into the tent that allows for floor mat and entry stools where we can now sit and remove our boots/shoes before entering the tent. Having never had a mud room, I was beside myself with happiness about our ability to keep the tent floor clean and dry.  Ah, the little things that make me happy!

Testiments to Testicular Fortitude

Nights 3, 4 & 5 in the new tent were dry and comfy and secure, spent at Maumee Bay and then Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, a short couple of miles from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Through the trip, we continued to refine campsite placement and design, adapting to the change each campground/park presents, tweaking aspects of living that made improvements in comfort and ergonomics. Each camp set up and break down becomes easier, faster, more organized and streamlined. Our gear worked beautifully – our solar-generator-refrigerator set up were HUGE improvements over ice cooler and the charging of devices in the vehicle and permitted us to cook while stationary and picnic while moving. Armed with new heavy-duty stakes, the putting up of tarps, tents and screen room was improved and strong. Our cots kept us off the ground, with no mid-night need to reinflate the mattress, and the foam on the cots made for comfortable nights of slumber.

Comforted by the adequacy of our gear, we returned home feeling that we had survived this test with adequate grades. This trial run reassured us on many levels and prepared us, at least some, for the flexibility and fortitude that will, no doubt, become essential linchpins for our overlanding travels. Once home, we discarded extra gear, focused on the packing that will be needed to ensure space for everything once we leave, and have begun the task of wrapping up our DC life in exchange for the nomadic existence we are excited to start and a life in retirement that we have yet to embrace.

Will these be the end of our tests?  Surely not but we are no longer untested, detesting the contests that make us grown in protest.

Whose groaning now? 😉

120 Miles to Go or The End to a Sea of Brake Lights

When we started this blog at the beginning of 2016, Roque and I had 270 calendar and approximately 188 work days until our planned retirements. This blog was started then to chronicle some of the thinking, planning and preparations for the overland road trip along the Pan American Highway, from DC to Alaska through Mexico and Central America to Panama, Central America, where we intend to relocate as expatriates or, in Roque’s case, as a repatriado. Our retirement date was thus established for November 1.

As we all know, life does not always follow the schedules and routes that we so carefully create and in our cases, this is not always a bad thing.  Roque was able to retire earlier than we originally expected and he left his employment in mid-August, filling us both with a huge sigh of relief given the considerable trials and few tribulations of his last year of work.  Freed from the daily workday requirements, Roque turned his efforts during most of the last month to packing, sorting, errands, and some other family related obligations which has made him busier than he was when working.  Meanwhile, I continued to work and we both looked forward to the day when we would both be retired and able to attack the long list of things that need to be done before we take off on the trip.

When I received some new information just before Labor Day that made it clear that I, too, could retire earlier than November 1, it surprised me how initially unsettled I was about chopping off a month of work: I wasn’t sure that I was “ready” and I felt obligated to stick to the retirement date that I set with clients and my office.  Roque was his usual supportive self, not pushing or prodding but content to make sure that I did what was right for me.

We spent the Labor Day weekend camping in Virginia and had another opportunity to set up new gear and to see how it would work on a daily basis. In the meantime, I spent the weekend enjoying our beautiful camp site, the company of my incredible husband and mulling over the decision of whether to retire a month earlier than originally planned. In the end, as I am sure you have already guessed, it was a no-brainer decision to leave early. After all, this gives us an extra month to dispose of our household and pack for the trip and gives us the beautiful and usually mild month of October in which to schlepp what I’m sure will be many trips to donation centers, the landfill, and related places.

Once the retirement papers were filed, I had a short 15 working days left in my career owing to some vacation time that needed to be taken but this was more than sufficient to finish some lingering projects, begin the process of saying my farewells, and ensuring that everything was scanned, copied, mailed, printed and saved for when I leave the office where I have worked for nearly 30 years.  Yes, I am a dinosaur; one of those vestiges from the past – an employee who joins a company (in this case the State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General) and remains employed until retirement.  I stayed for many reasons, most of which relate to the satisfaction of the work that I have done with the AG’s office, a practice as rich, diverse and challenging as any I could have imagined. Over that career, I have generated a lot of written work, both professional and personal, and it was a considerable task to make sure that everything that might be important be saved where I could access it later. Addresses, phone numbers and contact information.  Letters and receipts. Copies and required annual filings.

I’m sure that I will miss my career and the people with whom I have worked and whose relationships and friendships I value so much. I’m nervous about how I will see myself without the professional tag attached, without the structure of an alarm clock ringing while it is dark, without NPR accompanying my morning and evening commutes and without the work calendar and cell phone constraining me even when outside of work.


This has been my view for more days and years than I care to count, morning and evening – just the highway rather than city version. This I will not miss. One day, with some extra time on my hand, I did a rough calculation of the miles that I have commuted and the hours that I have spent in my car while commuting to my work in the Attorney General’s office. Not counting time in private practice, work travel and the bazillion of other times that I spent in the car for, near, from or to work, I figure that I have spent roughly 4 WORK YEARS — more than 8000 hours — commuting by car.  And when you consider that there were long stretches of time when I lived only about 15 minutes from work, you can start to see just how weary I am of the daily grind of commuting.  Even with NPR, books on tape, satellite radio, Pimsleur Spanish lessons, Bluetooth phone connections and podcasts, time in the car, starting and stopping, is hard and a waste of time, money and the environment. I wish there were decent public transportation options in this area but, alas, for most of my career, there were none available to me.

I am delighted to be leaving this sea of brake lights; at this moment, I have roughly 120 commute miles remaining in my work life. A round trip and a one way trip home tonight will finish out my life as a commuter. Tomorrow is my last day of work!!

Yes, my life in a motor vehicle will not come to an end with the close of my career. We have thousands of miles to go, and hours and days left to travel on the road trip to Alaska and Mexico and south. And I am certain that I have not seen the last of my fair share of brake lights.  But with the coming of astronomical fall tomorrow, I will be in the spring of my retirement.  Let the shoots emerge from the soil and the new growth begin!


Don’t Mistake Our Radio Silence for Inaction

​We apologize for the weeks of quiet on the blog-front but this muted blog time should not be confused for behind-the-scenes inaction. Quite to the contrary since there are times when the lists, the chores and the brain-power that it takes to keep all of the details, large and small, from overwhelming us have been considerable. Sometimes it feels like we are working on an ice sculpture, trying to carve away little tiny (and some larger) pieces in a way that is fluid, logical and intelligent while racing toward the time when the ice will melt, leaving us to try to remember if we did something or already or whether it remains on the “to do” list. (This is a problem with having lists on too many devices).

​The past weeks have been active, mostly orineted toward gear and people. The people part we have described before; this is our time to make sure that spend as much time as we can with the people who we hold dear. For us, this has changed our social pace, which is generally fairly languid, into a flow that is more outward-focused and scheduled. At other points in our lives, this may have left too little “down time,” as both Roque and I are people who like the time to recharge our batteries in a somewhat more solitary way but with the recognition that the clock is ticking down toward our swiftly-approaching date of departure, we have been spending more time with friends and family. Between the social time with others, the shopping and organizing time, there hasn’t been as much time for writing. And sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be that much important stuff to write about or exciting photos or discoveries to share. We know that will all change pretty soon.

​We are now approaching our 45-ish final work days before retirement – the last day of work, which we thought we might never see – is October 28 with an official retirement date of November 1. Our fabulous friends are planning a send-off in early November and our family is planning a Thanksgiving event that will celebrate the holiday and provide a bon voyage for us at the same time. Our piles of gear are growing and our Amazon-wish list (my handy way to keep our running list of things still to be acquired) are slowly shrinking. (Goal Zero and cables? Check. Microfiber towels? Still need. Delorme Satellite messenger? Check. 3 emergency road triangles (needed for entry into several countries)? Still on list. You get the idea.)

Many of our thoughts are on “last times” such as “this is the last August that we will spend in DC” and “this is the last birthday celebration that we will have in this house” and things that are not rueful as much as they are intended to have us focus on the moment and celebrate the richness of our lives here. And as we continue the planning for crossing off many places in this country from our bucket list, we also keep a smaller list of things that we want to still experience in DC such as certain restaurants (Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow) and a visit to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open on September 24.

​My mood is mostly excited with a generous sprinkling of apprehension mixed in. We are on track in all major ways with our planning and completing the goals we established before we left. We have plenty of time, once work is completed, to pack up the house and dispose of our household. We have programmed our finances, have scheduled donations of furniture and have allowed for paperwork to be completed on time so all is positive. The worry, if it can be called that, is simply of the unknown ahead. Can we slow down the pace and how long will that take? Will be have sufficient creature comforts along the way to permit months of camping not to get the best of us? Will we be able to take advantage of moving with the seasons so that our camping weather will be kinder to us than this summer has been to us in DC? How will we have our prescriptions renewed without flying home to see our doctors? Will we have enough energy stored in our battery to run our electrical needs when boondocked? Will we feel too scheduled or too unscheduled?  

​I’m big on asking these kinds of questions; my husband, who is always the voice of calm and reason, calms the nerves by hearkening back to an experience that lends insight into how we will behave in the future, or cautions me against worrying about things that I cannot control (yup, still working on that one). The balance between us always gives us both the needed “let’s see how it unfolds” attitude applied against the list-making and the borderline overthinking that usually yields awesome results. My head knows this and my heart will follow. I just need more practice. As usual.

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.

Six Months and Counting – Those Who Have Inspired Us

Have I Told You About My Friend Holly Carter?

While I have discussed a little about our decision to expatriate to Panama, I have been remiss in only giving a small mention to the significant influence that Holly Carter and her blog, Let The Adventure Begin!,  had upon our early research and decision-making. Today, I read Holy’s blog post, celebrating their 3rd anniversary of their move to Panama, and I reflected, AGAIN, on the friends we have and the friends will WILL have.

Yesterday, Roque and I hosted a party ringing in the unofficial beginning of summer here in the Mid-Atlantic region. As we begin counting down our last 6 months (+/-) in DC before we head out on our road trip, we have decided to make sure to see and spend as much time as possible with friends and family here before we depart. It was a great time, filled with lots of conversation about our itinerary, gathering hints from those gathered about places to see and full of discussions about how many will travel vicariously as we crisscross the US and parts of Western Canada before heading south. Continue reading “Six Months and Counting – Those Who Have Inspired Us”

Trip Map North – Round 2

Not satisfied with being able to display only a very limited portion of the planned drive from DC through the US and Canada, I continued to work on it and this map shows the whole US-Canadian part of our trip.  (Regrettably, the Google My Maps layers showing segments of the driving will not allow for any more points than 10 and so the planned way points show only as A-J and then restart.)  When enlarged, the map shows the driving plan (as of the moment).  What the map does not show is the ferry route from Anchorage to Juneau and then to Bellingham, WA – on the Alaska Maritime Highway system – that was too much for poor Google maps but which your imagination can complete.

While we are traveling without fixed time limits, we know that we need to get to the US-Canadian border for the travel to Alaska by July, at the latest, and our goal is to be in Vancouver by Labor Day (or thereabouts).  Depending on when we depart, we will be covering the first part of the US (DC to Montana) in about 5-6 months.  On the southern part of the journey, where we will be visiting a large number of the US National Parks on our list, we will have no time constraints and, with luck, will be visiting after schools start and the heaviest of the tourist travel season is past.  If things work out as we hope, it will make for a wonderful fall season of travel through the West and Southwestern parts of the US and perhaps an early winter entry into Mexico.

This blog started when we were 188 working days away from our retirement date; we are now nearing the halfway mark between then and the “end” and things are starting to get real.  We are planning our packing (and revising the list over and over), purging the house of things (thanks to great advice from other Pan American travelers who advised to do this gradually), purchasing gear for the journey (last weekend, a Delorme inReach Explorer – a satellite messaging device), and trying to take advantage of time with friends and family here.

Trip Plan – Part I

One of the most challenging things for me has been trying to work on aspects of the blog BEFORE we leave on the trip. Road mapping? No problem. Making endless lists? No problem. Sorting through belongings in garage and itemizing for donations?  No problem.  This embedding of maps and way points – well, let’s just say that for me, it’s more difficult than mastering phyllo dough or organizing a party for 100 . . .

I have learned how to use Google My Maps to create layers and to show the way points planned for the trip – I even got as far as showing the driving route from DC to Anchorage. But alas, THAT map won’t embed in this blog, as far as I can tell (at least as of this moment). So today’s experiment is with embedding a map – next task is to learn how to embed a map with ALL of our planned way points and not just a portion of a trip.

Plain ol’ Google Maps will allow for a certain number of points to be shown on a driving map and this is what is displayed below.  As I experiment, be patient.  I continue to learn, whether about solar energy, satellite messaging devices, bull bars or bug net hats for Alaska.  Behold the result of some of today’s lessons.

Dr. Seuss and Solar Power

The More that You Read,

The More Things You Will Know.

The More that You Learn,

The More Places You Will Go.

˜ Dr. Seuss

A year ago — no a MONTH ago – had you asked me about solar power, I would have given you a blank look.  What a difference a month makes and shows that the more that I read, the more things I will know and armed with that learning, the more places Roque and I will go.

From the scores of Overlander blogs from we have read and studied over the past couple of months, it seemed pretty clear that life on the road will be a whole lot more comfortable and enjoyable if we have a 12 volt refrigerator with us.  Not to be confused with thermoelectric coolers, 12 volt refrigerator/freezers are true refrigerators and have the capacity to maintain temperature required for real refrigeration, regardless of external temps.  Not only will this allow us to have fresh veggies, beverages and meat food on hand for days, it will allow us to save leftovers, etc. without having to deal with the inconvenience of locating ice and dealing with the melting, to say nothing of the spoilage that inevitably results from days of camping with coolers and ice.  Not a necessity, for sure, and relatively expensive (certainly compared to the cost of ice), but having such a fridge is a luxury we figure will be a great investment considering the amount of time we will be on the road and the unknowns of locating fresh food and ice. Continue reading “Dr. Seuss and Solar Power”

What’s your lodestar?


The convergence of a theme emerged last week in ways too coincidental to ignore.  Alternatively, it’s completely possible that once a seed is planted, you begin to see it grow in many aspects of your life and is less coincidence than thematic, if only for a short time. Regardless, at dinner with close friends, the upcoming road trip was discussed when one friend offered that she was envious of our plans to drive to Alaska and then to Panama, reflecting that she was happy to envision more time with grandchildren and lead the relatively quiet life she leads but believing that she “should” want more travel and exploration as part of her future.

Justice, Equity and Dignity

Later in the week, due to circumstances too tangential to this blog to mention here, Roque shared with me that he has led his life according to three principals: justice, equity and dignity.  With all of the time that we have spent together, and with the myriad conversations and topics we have discussed, it seemed somewhat remarkable that Roque never shared this before with me – at least, in this particular way.  If you knew Roque, it would be no surprise to  hear him articulate these specific principals since he walks the talk in every fiber of his being.  What was most intriguing to me about his articulation was how much this resonated with me in connection with the earlier “should” conversation when my friend mentioned her envy about the trip that Roque and I are planning.

Discarding the “Shoulds”

To me, among the most important aspects of our impending retirement and road trip, including the plan to expatriate to Panama, is that we have largely discarded the “should” from our thinking and focused on our lodestars.  And while Roque’s principals of justice, equity and dignity may seem somewhat disconnected from the concept of “should” or, frankly, expatriating to Panama via an overland adventure, they struck a chord with me by how important it is to be guided by an internal compass and how retirement, if not before, is a perfect time to discard the “shoulds.”

Roque’s guiding principals suggest an outward approach to those who he has sought to serve but they can and, of course, are, his internal guideposts as well.  I might choose different words or, even, different principals.  But whatever they are, they have guided me in all that I do and all that I am, much as they do for everyone else.  My connection with Roque, his with me, and with the people who are dear and important to us, are cemented by our lodestars and the power of those connections are, I believe, stronger or weaker depending upon how closely our lodestars match with others in our lives.  I see this in nearly every interaction I have and it helps me to understand why I feel the powerful connections to near-strangers and, sometimes, the distance I have with close relatives and co-workers with whom I spent enormous periods of time.

Alongside these principals, however, at least for me, has always been the “should.” The “should” has often competed with my internal lodestars and, perhaps embarrassingly, has sometimes taken over – not to the compromise of any of those principals I hold dear – but certainly when it comes to being true to myself.

With my friends who have apologized for how long it’s been since we saw each other, I have always said that no apology is necessary, further noting that the way that we spend our lives is often the best snapshot on what we truly value the most. Whether it is family, career, leisure activities or nothing at all, I think that we might benefit by paying more attention to the things that actually drive us rather than some sense of “should” coming from external sources.

Whether the “shoulds” come to us because of our birth order, or because we are products of our generation, or due to our gender, it is worth reminding ourselves that whatever leads us internally requires no apologies.  I say this, in part, with the hope that if I repeat this mantra often enough, I will believe it more fervently with every reciting.  If Roque and I followed our “shoulds,” it likely would not have resulted in a decision to expatriate or to overland to Alaska and Panama. Roque has admonished me from time to time that what I characterize as “selfishness” is more self-focus.  That resonates for me, even if I am still trying it on for size, since self-focus requires serious inward attention to those things that drive me and fulfill my soul.

Whether one prefers the company of grandchildren, or the excitement of the unseen road, or the peace of time at home with family and friends, we should listen carefully to our inner voices and substitute the compelling driving forces within for those things that we allow to influence our considered and careful pursuits.

Roque and I are unsure how it will feel to be on the road, away from familiar things and the people who are the cornerstones of our footing. But for us, this feels like the right thing to do. If it does not evolve into what we are hoping for, we can always turn back.  For those who are not so impelled, I offer this blog to travel virtually with us.