Is it a gap year? A sabbatical? An early retirement? Well… kind of. It is what I like to call a gappaticaltirement and it’s what I’ll be doing starting this July. I have a string of adventures that I want to do that I can’t pull off with a house and a full-time job. So, after five years of blissful homeostasis, I’ve sold the house and I’m winding down my job at Creare. In six weeks (June 18) I’ll once again be homeless, unemployed, and on-the-move. It feels right, and I’m really excited to get started.
My plan is to use this blog to keep people informed of my travels; to solicit their ideas and advice for what to do next; and to keep a diary of what happens. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about gappaticaltirements.*
* These questions may or may not have ever been asked.
What is a Gappaticaltirement?
The gappaticaltirement has been a dream ever since I began section-hiking the Appalachian Trail in high school and wondered: “Will I have to wait until I retire to have the time to be a through-hiker?” I thought about taking a gap year after high school and again after college, but I didn’t have the money and I don’t think I was ready to give myself permission to do it. If I had been a professor, I might have taken a paid sabbatical to undertake some self-study, travel, and personal enrichment. Or, if I had decided to have kids and truly settle down, I might be putting off some of these ideas until retirement.
But luckily, conditions have come together for me to combine all three into what I call a gappaticaltirement, and which Tim Ferris might call a mini-retirement--one of what (I hope) will be several chances I have to take a step back from my career and pursue something different for a few weeks, months, or even years.
Why and How are You Doing This?
The idea has gained momentum over time. It started with multi-day hikes and my semester abroad in Perth, but it really came to life when my friend Tavi let me join him in China in 2006 for part of his post-college world travels. Then, after leaving grad school in 2010 and driving across the country homeless and unemployed and then visiting India for a month, I realized that long-term travel is something that I enjoy, and that I can do successfully on my own. Other trips to Tanzania (2011), Argentina (2013), and the UK (2014) just deepened my wanderlust.
A couple of years ago, I started seriously saving money just in case I decided to go through with this, and I noted my 5-year anniversary at Creare (July 2015) as a reasonable time to get started. A few months ago I finally decided to go through with it, and instantly knew that it was the right decision. I re-homed my two dogs (a very tough decision), began moving all of my records and organizational systems online, informed my supervisors at Creare, and started downsizing. Then in the last few weeks, I sold my house and started making any final preparations.
I’ll especially miss the relationships and awesome projects I got to experience at Creare. I’ve gotten to work on amazing projects with incredibly competent people who have become my close friends, and I was afforded a ton of freedom to learn and to try new things. I wish I could pull off the gappaticaltirement without leaving, but alas, it cannot be.
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What Adventures are You Planning?
I’m planning to keep a list of some of the adventures I’m thinking about on this blog, and I expect that they’ll change a lot as I get underway. But for now, I’m pretty excited about:
- Doing a long Spanish-language immersion course in South America - maybe Peru or Colombia -and then traveling around South America, Latin America, and Spain to further improve.
- Through-hiking all or part of the Pacific Crest Trail, or maybe a different mega-trail in Chile, New Zealand, or Europe.
- Do a long-distance bike trip in Europe.
- Travel and do some long meditation retreats in Southeast Asia.
If you have any other ideas, or think that these ideas are stupid or awesome, please tell me on my Travel Ideas page.
I’ve heard that long-term travel can get wearisome, so I’m planning to settle in for an extended stay wherever and whenever I feel a connection with a place. And, especially in those places, I’m hoping to join co-working spaces to do freelance software development to help pay the bills and stay up-to-date with new technology.
How Can We Stay in Touch?
I plan to keep this blog up-to-date (don’t we always?), and I will share my posts on Facebook so people can keep up with them. But, if you prefer, you can always subscribe to e-mail updates (see links to the left, or below).
Also, I’ll be reachable via my usual phone number and email address. But, I wouldn’t recommend sending me postal mail for a while.
Thanks for reading and check back for more updates!