10,000 Miles And More: A journey to discover America, and myself as a mature woman.
Although I’ve always lived a rather eccentric life overall, I did follow for a while, some so fairly normal paths.
Shortly after college I got married and eventually started a career, after discovering I didn’t make a good housewife. I was successful and by the time I was 32 I could call myself a millionaire. But I wasn’t happy so I got divorced and dropped out. I lived the next decade in the wilderness in a little 16 x 16 log cabin, off the grid, in the wilds of central Oregon. I rarely left my sanctuary, and would be called by some a recluse. When I did leave, it was usually to take month-long trips to exotic third world countries such as Nepal, northern Patagonia, Central America, and such. I discovered a lot about myself during this decade of living simply, in order to conserve my savings. However, I also learned that when a lot of one’s assets are in real estate, it doesn’t take long for the cash to disappear, even when eating apple sandwiches using week-old bread and apples from the trees in my yard.
The last two years of this pioneer lifestyle was with a man who I loved, and he loved the simple nature-based lifestyle that we both embraced. Although I’m mountain woman and he’s a surfer, somehow we made it work. But the ocean was a little too far away from our cabin in the woods, and I had run out of money and my passion for being a pioneer woman of the 21st-century. So we moved “back to town”, which was the city of Bend about 120 miles north of Aspen Ridge Ranch.
I started a small literary company, and Bob had finally given up wildland firefighting to become a database designer. We engineered both our careers so we could live anywhere in the world working on computers, as long as we had Internet access. However my company morphed and grew and became pretty successful. While it was nice to have a comfortable bank account again it also meant working 50 to 70 hours a week. I opened an office, hired a bunch of staff, and for a decade I made a good bit of money, and lost a good bit of my soul.
During my 59th year I decided enough was enough and I spent much of that year downsizing my business laying off much of my staff, moving into a smaller office and hoping that these changes would free up a lot of my time, take a lot of responsibility off of my shoulders and allow me to start living, once again, a simple nature based lifestyle. There was more balance, but still too much work and not enough play.
During my nearly 20 years with Bob, we managed to take several wonderful, adventurous trips including several 3 to 5 week camping trips to Baja. A nearly 3-month sojourn to southern Africa. And some less adventurous trips to various countries in Latin America.
However, during all of these trips we had laptops and mobile phones and were rarely disconnected from our jobs and the cyber world for more than 24 hours. As a compromise between living at the ranch and living in the city, I had bought a 10- acre farm 10 minutes east of Bend. We raise endanger livestock breeds, and grown heirloom fruits and vegetables; enough to feed ourselves and some friends and family. Between the farm and my job there wasn’t a lot of freedom to travel, and I was working as many as 80 hours a week. I was exhausted. As my 60th birthday was looming, I downsized the farm along with downsizing my business still more. We had built a small guest house which we could use as a caretaker cottage if need be. This would allow us to bring on some live-in help to tend the animals and manage the farm so we could go on a trip. By September of 2018 it was my plan to check off one of my bucket list items, that I’d been want to do since I was 14. We would hit the road on my birthday (October 1) to spend one to two months traveling around the United States. The month prior to our departure, however, I had some health challenges, my father got sick, and work wasn’t going so well. On top of that my beloved brother-in-law had developed cancer and wasn’t sure how much time he had to live. So we canceled the big adventure and once my health was better, along with my fathers, Bob and I flew to Alabama to have one last visit with my brother-in-law. My bucket list trip to New England for the fall colors would have to wait. I’ll never regret this decision as we spent more than 2 weeks with John reconnecting and reminiscing, then he died a few months later.
The summer before my 6lst first birthday one of my author clients had a movie produced from his novel. I was back to working 60-hour weeks, with a staff of one and a half. Once again I found myself exhausted and not living true to my desires of a simple nature-based lifestyle.
The movie came out in early August and was a wonderful success. This also took the novel to number one on the New York Times bestseller list. And when the hubbub was over I decided on September 1 that the bucket list trip to New England would take place this year!!
We closed the office, moved everything to the farm, downsized our livestock numbers still more, let go of all but one part-time staff, upgraded the van, and prepared to hit the road. Departure date set for Tuesday, October 1, 2019.
America had changed tremendously in the past three years with a president who has undermined my beliefs in Americans, and the democracy that Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton created. I’d grown up for the most part in very rural America. Most of my fellow students parents were loggers, ranchers, or somehow employed in the agricultural industry. I thought I knew what rural America stood for. Somehow it seems they’ve lost their moral compass. I want to travel across the country and see if this is true, or is the Internet not a good barometer for the truth. In addition, I had just spent my 60th year being challenged by health, injuries, aging, dealing with octogenarian parents, and not paying any attention to who Dawn is as a senior citizen. As much as I try to deny it, I am not young anymore. I’ve even lost that young-at-heart mentality. Is it still there?
In my teens I considered myself an athlete, an introvert, an intellectual, and I knew I was eccentric. In my 20s I tried to conform and become a wife, and ended up a successful business woman, which stretched a bit into my 30s. Then, for more than a decade I got to live life on my own terms, and I really fell in love with that chapter of Dawn’s life. I’d embraced a new wealth paradigm that gave much more value to happiness and health, than money and things.
But I noticed the pendulum kept swinging back-and-forth, from rich, to poor. From workaholic, to playaholic. I realize I keep getting closer and closer to finding a balance between these two. But lately, money–and the security it would provide in my old age–seems to always overpower my true desire to live an adventurous, simple nature-based lifestyle. One day I woke up and I was 60 years old. My knees hurt, my back hurt, I was overweight, I had wrinkles and age spots, I couldn’t remember things, and my zest for life seems to only find an outlet in binge watching great television.
My dad is just recovering from back surgery and getting around better. My fitness is poor but my health is pretty good so now it’s time to hit the road see what America and its citizens are like outside of the cyber-sphere. And I want to see if I can discover who I want to be. And how I want to live my life in this next chapter, as a mature semi-retired, somewhat eccentric woman as the world is slides into the middle stages of the 21st-century.
So here I am 10 days and counting, before we leave. I have always been a storyteller, and anyone can be a decent photographer these days. Although I study photography for four years in college and briefly tried to make a living as a nature photographer. So it only stands to reason that I will keep a journal of our trip which nowadays means sharing it on my online journal, along with posting photos on Instagram and Facebook 🙂 Along with noting the adventures along the road, the sites and people we see and meet, and my introspective musings, I plan to share our new pup’s adventures too. Our English Shepherd, Riley, is seven months old and this will be her first big road trip, which I’ll be documenting for her on Facebook and Instagram. We’re calling it “Riley’s Road”.
I’ve always considered myself to be living somewhere outside the box. I’m sure many people have called me weird, though I prefer, eccentric. I’ve been journaling off and on at OutsideTheboxx.net so I plan to share this journey with those who care to follow along, on my journal, a.k.a. blog, in a fairly lengthy way. As many people know, I tend to be a bit wordy. Also, I’ll be posting photos and occasional brief stories on social media.
In 4 days we leave Bend, Oregon. We don’t know every place we’ll be going but we know we’ll end up in New England to visit some adventurous friends of ours who are posting up for the winter in New Hampshire and Connecticut. They are taking a couple of weeks off to travel with us throughout New England to enjoy the colors and beauty–and hopefully some Indian summer weather. If all goes well at the farm, and we can keep up with our downsized jobs, we will continue our journey heading south to Florida along the Atlantic seaboard, looking for sunshine and warm water. Eventually we’ll turn west and head home, taking our time seeing the southern parts of the United States
If all goes according to plan we’ll cover some 10,000 miles and more. Hopefully discovering America, it’s land and people, and figuring out who I want to become as I move through my sixties and beyond.