I've been there!
Something that makes me happy is watching a television show or reading an article and they feature somewhere I’ve traveled. I get especially excited if they are in a specific place, a museum, a restaurant, an attraction or street location, where I have stood. With no one around I still yell out, “I’ve been there,” with a little bit of astonishment each time.
I’ve been to all 50 states, most of them multiple times, so this is not uncommon, and it still puts a smile on my face every time it happens.
Like last night as I tuned into one my guilty pleasures, Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. Its new season kicked off and is entirely located in Alaska. I’m especially excited to see future stops along the way in Talkeetna and Fairbanks.
During my 2017 trip to Denali I flew in and out of Fairbanks, spending most of the day prior to leaving skipping around the city, including a jaunt just southeast of there to North Pole, Alaska. I’m a Christmas nut so how could I pass up that opportunity?
I also took a day to travel the 150 miles from Denali to Talkeetna and back to my motel. I loved Talkeetna and it was well worth the drive. I’m really curious though to see how Great Food Truck Race stages the competition there. The population is barely over a thousand so it’s not a big place, to say the least.
It appears it will be the next-to-last stop in the competition so there won’t be a lot of trucks left by the time they reach that point. There is a park in the middle of town so they may just locate them all in the same place. None-the-less, as small as Talkeetna is, there’s no doubt I will have been wherever they are located which I’m pretty pumped about.
Similarly, I recently finished reading John Lewis’ book, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Early in the book he writes of walking through the Arcade on Fifth Avenue in Nashville, on his way to some of the first sit-ins held during the Civil Rights movement. I visited the Arcade in 2019 when I was in Nashville for a Mumford & Sons concert. I had no idea until now that it was such a part of history.
Reading Lewis’ book has inspired me to visit some of those sites he wrote about, that played such a large role in the Civil Rights history of the fifties and sixties. Places like Montgomery, the Edmund Pettis Bridge, Birmingham and Neshoba County.
In fact, if I were already retired, and I already had my vaccine, I would most likely be on my way. It’s the sort of trip that grabs my attention and I’m instantly wanting to pack my car and hit the road. It's definitely on my short list of things to do in the future.
It’s also a big reason why I am retiring.
I mentioned in my first blog post that covid was a major factor in deciding to retire now, that I am retiring a year, maybe even two, sooner than I had planned. I’d mentioned it feels that covid has stolen a year from my life and when you’re in your 60s, a year means a whole lot more than it does when you’re in your 20s.
What I didn’t mention is how it brought some things into focus about my life and what I was doing with it. Again, these things mean a lot more when you are at this point of your life journey.
Over the last few years work has become far too dominate in my life to the point, even setting covid aside, I haven’t been able to travel nearly to the level I would want and it has really come to weigh upon me. Travel, experiencing new adventures, is one of those things, along with being creative, that make me who I am. They are my soul.
Three years ago I was preparing for an eight-day trip to Colorado and onto the Grand Canyon. Days before I left, work forced it to be cut to a four-day trip. Instead of leaving on a Thursday and returning home a week-and-a-half later I left Thursday night after work and drove the 12 hours straight back Monday so I could be in the office the following Tuesday. I would have cancelled the whole thing except I had non-refundable hotel reservations and tickets to a concert at Red Rocks.
Since then I haven’t even tried to take more than two days at a time. Even at that, my next trip a few months later ended in a similar experience when the Nashville visit I mentioned above became a three-day weekend one instead of four days. Again, I left on Thursday night after work, instead of taking that whole day off. Not the first time I had to pay for a hotel room I never used because it was after the cancellation deadline.
The one exception to my two-day rule was a week-long trip to the Smokey Mountains and Asheville, NC, in November of 2019. That one I scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving, when our offices are closed down for three days, so I still only took two days of actual vacation time.
I share that not to be whining or complaining, I made my choices and will live with them. That's the point, I made my choices. I haven't been focusing on what's most important in my life. I haven't made the choices that are most important to who I am.
As I’m sure you’ve read many times, no one dies saying they wish they spent more time at work. That sentiment is hitting a lot more closely to home for me these past several months.
I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth. I especially don’t know how many healthy years I have left. Even though, financially, retiring now might not be the wisest choice, it is the best choice for me.
I’ll be able to cover my expenses which is more than many people can say. As I write this I don’t know how much money I will have, that all depends on what the 401K looks like in four months. Right now it’s going in the wrong direction but we all know how quickly that can change both good and bad.
I do know that even if I don’t have as much retirement income as I had hoped, I will still be able to travel. Instead of flying all over the country, and maybe a trip or two overseas, it might be more long road trips, more regional trips, and more time in between each, and that’s ok.
The idea I might have to find ways to more affordably go on adventures is a little exciting to me. I like to camp, I’ve never been one to intentionally book expensive hotels, Best Westerns are fine by me, and I've recently been scouting some Airbnbs that look pretty cool, so it will be a fun challenge.
Regardless of how much traveling I will be able to afford, the worst that happens is I have time. That's a wonderful thing. It almost feels like a miracle.
My daughter and I were in a life discussion not too many years back, while she was driving us down an LA freeway, and I told her then that given the choice, I would rather have more time than money. It was my way of telling her to have fun in life and make the choices that made her happy.
It’s now time for me to put my money where my mouth is and make the choice that's right for me.
P.S. It was fun watching the last two episodes of Great Food Truck Race the past couple of weeks. Not surprisingly, Talkeetna is so small I had been everywhere the show filmed during that episode. I was surprised to see that in last night’s finale, the Breakfast for Dinner food truck parked outside Lavelle’s Taphouse where I stopped by during my night in Fairbanks before flying back home. It’s a nice place if you ever find yourself randomly wandering through Fairbanks some night.
P.S.S. Coincidentally, in another “I’ve been there!” siting, I was watching an episode of Top Chef just this morning and much of it was filmed at the Getty Museum near Los Angeles. My Darling Daughter lives south of LA near Disneyland. She’s in theatre design and we spent a day at the museum during one of my visits to see her.