When a 5-year plan has 1 year left

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Becoming a Nomad Family

“If it scares you, it may be a good thing to try.” — Seth Godin

In 2017, I made a five-year plan. I was living in Connecticut with 4 kids, 2 partners, 1 dog, and 2 cats. I made the plan with my partners. In five years, Jeanne would retire from her job with the state, Zoë and I would reduce our involvement with our business, and we would travel the world. Just like that. It was a plan.

Of course, that was all 5 years away, and it didn’t seem to matter that neither our 19-year-old nor our 17-year-old were showing any signs of wanting to leave home or travel with us. If we thought about Ryan, our 15-year-old in all of this, we just figured that he’d be 19 by then and either join us or go his own way. That left our 4-year-old and, of course, he’d come.

That last thought was actually the easiest one since Daxton, our then 4-year-old, had been traveling to shows with me and Zoë since he was 2 weeks old. He loved going places and being Adventure Family with us. As it turned out, he still loves traveling and can’t wait to go travel the world.

Our eldest ended up moving to upstate New York in the Summer of 2017. He was going to visit friends and returned to say that he wanted to move into their apartment with them. One child out of the house. At the time, I didn’t think of this in terms of the plan. I was happy to facilitate his move.

In the Summer of 2018, our next eldest moved to Arizona. He’d never been to a desert before the move, but said he loved the desert and that it was calling him. He’s been there ever since, and he loves it.

In the Winter of that year, both our dog and one of our cats died. They were both old, so it was not unexpected. We were sad, but also glad that they were with us for so long.

Suddenly, it hit me that what might have been obstacles to our now 4-year plan, were resolving themselves. Of course, I still had 4 years to get everything ready for our big adventure.

That doesn’t mean I’m ready to go right now. I’m happy that we still have a year to get everything in order.

Zoë, Daxton, and I continued traveling around the United States. We sell beads to knitters and crocheters and mostly go to the same shows each year. We try out a few new ones each year, but our routes are pretty set. Along the way, we stop in different places and always explore new places near the shows or on the road. At some point, in the middle of 2019, Felix, our eldest child, decided he wanted to take on a bigger role in the business. He had been sporadically helping out, but now he wanted to cut back his hours at Target and become a yarnie — the affectionate name people in the fiber world call ourselves.

What a wonderful idea. We began buying more stock and display so that Felix could do some shows by himself while we were doing other shows. We showed more of the business end of our job and brought him to more shows so he would be ready to operate the front end as well. 2020 was going to be his big year. He’d start doing shows by himself in the Spring. We all know how that story ended!

Even after 2020, with its border closures, mask-wearing, and social distancing didn’t stop our plan. We worked on projects in the house, bought a rental property, and started, slowly, to tackle sorting all the things we own. 

Now it’s 2021. Our finances looked good. We have more than one income stream. Jeanne’s retirement date is set. Ryan wants to go to college in Boston. We are almost there.

Wait? It’s 2021? I have so much to do. I am in no way ready. What about getting medicines on the road? What about the house? Do we sell it? Do we rent it? Is our banking going to work while we’re on the road? There is still a lot of stuff for us to go through in the house. 

Have I mentioned that our 5-year-plan is now a one-year plan, and I am finally scared? What if we hate it on the road? What if Daxton misses his friends and is miserable? What if someone in our family has a health crisis? There are so many working parts!

In trying to overcome this fear, I’ve been thinking about my previous travel experiences and the things that have gone wrong. I got a terrible stomach ache with vomiting and diarrhea in Guanajuato, México. It was a Sunday. I had no idea if there was an open doctor’s office or even emergency clinics. Zoë and I took Daxton and headed down the main road toward the center of town. Not half a mile from where we were staying was an open doctor’s office. I waited for 5 minutes. I got diagnosed and sent next door to the pharmacy for some meds. The total cost was US$10. (That’s less than my copay in the States.) Problem solved.

After a little over a week in Guanajuato, we decided we were over the unusually cold weather, so we booked a flight to the coast. We found a cheap flight and an Airbnb that was a half-hour bus ride from the beach. Problem solved.

Each problem I think about ends with ‘problem solved’. I know that once I’m on the road, I am happy. If I didn’t have to worry about the house, I don’t think I’d be in the least unhappy to just keep going. Maybe I’ll be OK traveling full time after all.

That doesn’t mean I’m ready to go right now. I’m happy that we still have a year to get everything in order. We need to get health insurance that covers us abroad. The house issue needs to be resolved. I need to finish going through all the things in the house. Some of those will go into storage. Some will be sold or given away.

The bottom line is, if I hate it on the road, I can always settle down. If I get panicky about being year 4 of a five-year plan, I can talk myself off the ledge. (Or I can get someone else to do it!) Either way, I’ve spent (almost) five years working on this dream, and it’s going to happen. 

Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know how it works out!

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