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September 17, 2010

One More Long Plane Ride...but What a Year It Has Been!


34,000 ft above the Shetland Islands

It is officially over…the dream, the chance of a lifetime, the adventure, whatever you choose to call this past year, it is now over. We have stayed in our last cheesy hotel room, eaten our last over priced airport sandwhich, bought the last “Norfolk Sheep” snow globe at the tourist kiosk. All that is left now is to get home.

To be sure, the “adventure” will continue for us over the next few weeks / months as we re-adjust to our “normal” life at home…a life that involves working for a living, the school play, and eating meals on the run. But the real “meat” of this dream has come to a close. As Laura and I talked about this over a cup of coffee this morning in the Dusseldorf airport, in a paper cup…with a plastic lid…we both share the same the same vague emotional response…not one of sadness as we are returning to family, friends, and a very comfortable life, but one that embodies the realization that living this dream has changed they way we look at our lives… what they are, and what they will become.

We have had conversations with the kids about what our life will be like when we get back…moving back into the house, seeing our friends & family, starting school, going back to work…but both Laura and I have had the same thought that is lurking in the back of our minds, a thought that is at the same time frightening as it is alluring. We both fully expect that we will rapidly re-enter our old lives with a sense of comfort and ease. Eating ethnic food whenever we want…morning conversation with our friends in the local coffee shop…talking shop on the cell phone for the entire 1- ½ hour commute home from work…you know, a “normal” life.  But the frightening / alluring thought is that within a year… year and a half max, we will be jonesing for another adventure.

Travel can become an addiction. I can see clearly a future where driving to work on the same traffic congested road, responding to yet another inane e-mail, worrying about who has the field set up for Saturday’s early morning game, will just not have the ability to hold my interest the way it once did. We have seen and experienced so much this past year that we may simply not be able to go back to the comfort and security of our old lives….like I said, it is a thought that is as frightening as it is alluring.

We also talked about how much our kids have grown and matured over the past year. They are comfortable speaking confidently in 2 languages as they demonstrated this morning as they conversed easily with the Spanish shuttle driver … in Germany. They are experienced travelers who, at 8 and 10, know to separate their liquids before going through security and can navigate their own way in any international airport. They are not intimidated by the prospect of having to ask “where are the bathrooms?” in Turkish…or Spanish…or Italian…or Croatian…or British for that matter. They have far exceed our expectations for this year and we are both so proud to see them growing and developing into the confident, adventurous’ and “worldly” people we hope they will become. Well done Girls!

We have also used this year to formulate our next “5-year plan.” It involves working for the foreseeable future, but then buying and developing our “15 year” home in the Sierra foothills. Our dream is to become the “gentleman farmers” of Murphys. A great hacienda style home overlooking the vineyard, and orchard with a wide variety of fruit trees, a garden, my shop to satiate the eternal tinkerer / artist in me, and integrating into a locally produced community. This plan has an offical “start ate” of 8 September, 2015…my 55th birthday. We’ll keep you posted on the progress as we plan this next adventure.

After that, who knows what other adventures this life will bring, should I be so fortunate to continue to enjoy good health, enough to eat, and the mind to greet each new day with a sense of  joy and wonder. I read, just this morning on the plane, an article that discusses the well-planned life vs. the summoned life (international Herald Tribune, August 3, 2010). We have lived the well planned life (see above description of the next 5-year plan..por ejemplo) but the counter point to the well planned life is the life we enjoyed over the past year, the summoned life. In the well planned life you set goals, creat a plan to achieve them, monitor progress, evaluate all available options and adjust the plan based on exogenous shocks…a very Harvard Business School way to live your life.

In the summoned life however, the life we experienced and enjoyed very much this past year, you live your life based on what is happening around you. You move in a general direction towards “self-fulfillment” but the course flows and ebbs, twists and turns all based on the events that are taking place around you. This seems to embody the mediterreanean culture we have experienced and it doesn’t seem like a bad option to us…if we could stand the uncertainty of it all!

To put the 2 in context, the well planned life is like swimming in open water. You see the opposite shore in the distance, calculate the current, the water temperature, the distance and then jump in and start swimming. Periodically you lift your head, set your sights on the shore, grab a breathe and then put your head back down and keep swimming. As the journey progresses, you monitor the progress, make adjustments, but with the goal clearly visible and un-changing.

The summoned life however, seems more like floating down a river that is going somewhere, but you’re not exactly sure of the ultimate destination. So you grab an inner tube, a cooler full of beer and you jump in and go with the current. If you chose, you can paddle with your hands towards something on the bank that interests you, if not, you can pop open another beer. If you see a riverside bar or a  restaurant you can stop for bite to eat …or not. If the river dries up, you stop and wait til next season’s rain. If it is flowing to fast, you can chose to ride the rapids or “eddy out” until the flow becomes more to your liking. Not a bad way to live if you ask me.

Both options obviously have their advantages and dis-advantages. Laura and I have lived the well-planned life so far in our 13 plus years together, and have lived it well, but we have also now tasted the summoned life…and we liked it. For us, the future is a blank sheet of paper. We will choose to fill it with either the account balances, speadsheets and critical path schedules that we so love, hoping that they will lead us to a happy life. We may also choose to paint it with watercolors in a slightly blurred, multi-hued vision of what the rest of our lives should look like. But, what ever we choose to do with the future, this past year has been like living in a dream. It was a dream that many many people have, but only a few are brave enough, confident enough, or crazy enough to actually realize.

But that is us baby, The Lowell Family,  Livin’ the Dream.

The End

51 weeks later...we lived the dream!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lala permalink
    September 17, 2010 4:33 pm

    Bravo!! Bravo!! I can’t wait for the encore in 5 years, or maybe 1.8 years?

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us all. Love and admire you guys, you are very inspirational!

  2. SHARON JIMENEZ permalink
    September 18, 2010 5:43 pm

    I am so sad the blogs have ended. What a wonderful year it was for the Lowells. LOVE, GRAMMY

  3. September 20, 2010 12:19 am

    La aventura nunca se acaba, sólo cambia de rumbo. Con gente como vosotros, que llevais el espíritu aventurero dentro, cada día nos proporciona una razón mas para admiraros. Enhorabuena.

    El blog puede que finalice, pero los recuerdos y las emociones permanecen para siempre.


  4. Mike Tellez permalink
    September 22, 2010 7:01 am

    Rick, welcome home. I hope we get to cross paths again. It was a pleasure working with you, and reading your travel blog. I felt like I was there every week.

    Drop me a line sometime.

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