Dearest EXPLORE Reader,
Sometimes I think that I’m going to sell all my stuff and move to Puerto Vallarta.
Yes, I’m kidding…but no, I’m not. I have actually sat down and scouted out available beachfront condos, investigated employment opportunities for tall gringos that can’t speak Spanish, and tried to understand immigration issues. When I do this, and the deeper I get with it, I invariably stop, laugh from my belly, smack my forehead and yell to an empty room “What in the hell are you doing?”
I throw the idea in the trash, I get back to my job, handle my responsibilities, but sure enough, give me enough time and I’m back to digging around at the logistical issues associated with an international disappearing act. If not Puerto Vallarta, then Montenegro. If not Montenegro, then New Zealand. The list is long, friends, but they all seem to involve beaches, blue waters, and a vision of tranquility for me.
I’m not sure when this all started for me (I’m lying), but the past few years has had me just staring out the windows of my office from time to time as I picture myself somehow magically uprooting myself from my hometown, selling everything I own, and basically starting completely over in a foreign country. Surely I can’t be the only to have daydreamed about this, but when I share this with friends, they look at me like I have a 3rd eyeball so maybe I am the only one.
If I wanted to keep lying to you, I would tell you that I don’t know where this secret desire to “disappear” comes from. I would tell you that I’m content exactly where I am, and my kids need me, and my job needs me, and my lawn maintenance needs me, but in reality, that’s not true. Sure, my kids need me, but they could come find me in Montenegro, too. I would tell you that only weirdos sell everything and try to live as tall gringos that don’t speak Spanish on Caribbean beaches, and you’d probably believe that I was sincere.
But since I won’t lie to you, I’ll say that I really, really do think about it. A LOT.
Here I sit in 2019, and I’m doing the same thing that I was doing in 2004. I’ve been married (and divorced), I’ve had kids (that are now teenagers), I’ve had good days (and days from hell), I’ve grown, I’ve fallen apart, I’ve cried, laughed, screamed, put my foot through the bathroom wall, and laid on the roof of my house and watched the 4th of July fireworks one summer. I’ve done a lot of things. But I’m still sitting here at 9:49pm on a Wednesday night, typing away on an old laptop some sort of nonsensical ramblings for this Publisher’s letter that 7 people will read. One person will write me and say that they appreciated it, and then 6 people will see me at the Daily Grind and whisper “That’s the weird guy that writes those creepy articles.” I’ll do this thing that I do, the same as I was doing in 2004. That bothers me. I’m not doing anything “wrong” – I’m just doing this thing that I have a knack to do, but I keep asking “What’s next?”
And so I think about Montenegro and New Zealand and I was even thinking about Chile the other day.
15 years ago I was sitting here doing this. And in 15 years I might still be doing the same. This terrifies me. It doesn’t provide me stability or warm feelings or make me appreciate my hum-drum life…it absolutely shakes me to my core that the past 15 years and the next 15 years could be spent doing the exact same thing. That’s 30 years! YIKES. Maybe some would find that attractive to be able to do the same thing, but I’m not one of those people. I get bored easily, and if it’s not challenging me, my motivation for it falls apart.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still motivated to do what I do, and maybe I’ll forever be motivated to write and meet local people that we feature in the magazines. But I can write without having a magazine. I can meet new people all day long without having to do articles about them. The intrinsic motivators might forever remain, but maybe the deadlines grind on me. So I think about spending my afternoons sipping coffee in a beachside cafe and watching the world go by with a most different view.
I remember having lunch with someone in my late 20s and he said “Ben, figure it out now. Make your mark and find the success you need NOW…because in a few years you won’t have the gas that you have today to hustle as much and then things get harder and harder to make it all work.” I still remember thinking “This guy is nuts. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me and I could change my plans 200 times and things would be ok.”
The problem is that I’m finding that in many ways, he was right.
I had the gas 15 years ago to claw away at life to wring out all the success I could find, and I did pretty well I guess. Can I do it for another 15 years? Do I have the gas for that? Man, I don’t know. Should I want to keep doing the same thing for the entirety of a career? I really don’t know that answer, either.
I just re-read this little letter and fear that you are going to think that I 1. don’t like my job anymore and 2. I want to quit. Make no mistake, I’m eternally grateful for what I do. Not many people get to sit at their desk in flip flops on a Tuesday and then leave early on Wednesday because I need to take a kiddo to basketball practice. I thank God every single day for letting me stumble into this profession, and have cherished it for a long time. There’s no way I could have pulled off this single-dad gig without a job like mine.
That said, surely I can’t be the only one that spins around in their office chair from time to time, looks out the window and thinks “Maybe I’ll sign up to be a deckhand on a huge shipping tanker and travel the world.” or “Maybe it’s time for me to be a fishing guide at the coast.” or “Man, Puerto Vallarta sure does sound nice. I could be the tallest bartender at the resort.” But so few of us ever actually pursue such thoughts, and that’s probably a good thing as it’s pretty dang reckless.
But sometimes I don’t know.
Life is a series of experiences, followed by our death that we probably wished hadn’t found us so fast. Our life isn’t financial security. It’s not a mortgage. It’s not safety and familiarity and a morning commute to a cubicle desk job. I have most of those things (just like you) and sometimes I just think about taking off those shackles and finding that LIFE. It’s real and it’s out there and it calls to me from time to time.
I’m not sure how my plan would ever look even if I did pull the trigger on it, but maybe that’s not important. I suppose if it were to happen, it would be because things just fell into place and everything just worked out. It may never happen, but the entire exercise of considering my ideas has initiated changes in me that I am confident are permanent.
I’m finishing this article up on a Friday early afternoon, and when I’m done I think I’m slamming the laptop shut and am taking the kids out to the Boerne lake. I have a million things I should be doing with the rest of my day, but nah. I’ll catch up on it later. It’s a pretty day and I wanna skip rocks and walk in my flip flops by the lake. I might put in some time this weekend to catch up, and I might not. I’ve got appointments lined up for next week, but I’ve found that I’ve begun limiting the number of those appointments I’ll set in a day. I didn’t realize I was doing it until I did. I want to slow down. Maybe it’s old(er) age, maybe I’m wore out, maybe I’ve got a small case of burn-out going. I don’t know and don’t really care.
I’ve just been finding that perhaps my definition of “success” has changed. What was once the pursuit of that fat bank account and the cool truck have been replaced by skipping rocks on a Friday and my twice-annual trip to go fishing at the coast. Maybe I’ve been looking at my life, and seeking the experience more than the stability. Maybe I’m watching my kids get dangerously close to graduating and leaving me, and I’m realizing that in another 15 years I’ll be pushing 60 and it freaks me out a little. Maybe instead of the advice my friend gave me about “hustling” when you’re younger isn’t really the truth – maybe the real goal is simply realizing as early as possible that it’s all fleeting, and that today’s adventure is tomorrow’s memory and that you never know how many tomorrows you are going to get.
And maybe, just maybe…it’s finding your best LIFE from the comfort of your office chair as you spin around and stare out a window. Whether it’s here in your current location or in Puerto Vallarta.
Because no matter where you are, there you are.
Welcome to July. It’s hot as hell just like every year and we all want to go tubing and cool down just like every year. But may you take this year and make it something amazing, may you EXPLORE this little life of yours, and may you experience all you can today, and may you appreciate it even more tomorrow. And if you book a trip to Montenegro, give me a ring.