|Hair Jennifer and Justin|
|Climbing Towards Watership Down|
Anyways, it made me think that I should jot down a few of the highlights that I’ve learned so far about planning or imagining such an adventure. This is for those other dreamers among you who are toying with the idea.
|The Atomium in Brussels|
- Direct Deposit. This is the easiest (and most practical) part. Direct deposit part of your check into your savings and pretend that money doesn’t exist. I’d suggest no less than $100. Also, pretend like you don’t get a tax return and just make all of that money disappear directly into your savings as well. Like it never happened and it’s not there. Even if your boyfriend faces some traumatic medical emergency that you have to bail him out of – that’s not money that you have… That’s not true, bail out your boyfriend. You’ll still be glad you saved the money.
- Be in touch with what you want. This is not something that I did very well and I wish that I had prepared myself for it more gracefully. I didn’t even know that expatriation was part of the plan until somebody suggested it and suddenly I wouldn’t relinquish the idea though I hadn’t planned for it at all. Basically for four years I had this vague notion that I wouldn’t always be taking notes in conference rooms, but I didn’t really know what the rest of the writing life looked like. I suggest dreaming more lucidly than I did: imagining what environment would be good for you to create in, researching places that might suit those goals (keeping in mind that many of your ideas might be compromised or should remain flexible), sketching outlines or character studies for your project. I think reminding yourself why you’re doing this throughout your waiting period will not only keep you sane, but will also make you more prepared when it comes time to actually plan your escape.
- Caretaker.org is a great resource. If you’re looking to live abroad, but you want to be able to sustain yourself on a reasonable budget, I would suggest caretaker.org. It is a monthly online publication that you pay a yearly subscription fee to. They post want ads for free living situations for people all over the world: from Bel-Air to the wilds of Costa Rica, for a few weeks or for years. It also has listings for every state in the U.S. if you want to keep it domestic. And hey, if you want to borrow my login for the rest of the year, message me. J
- Don’t hate on the social networking. Look, I agree with a lot of the criticisms about what social networking might do to our relationships and personal interactions, but I have to say that it has bailed me out numerous times. In fact, thanks to Facebook, I’ll be visiting a friend in Gibraltar and another one in Italy during my time away. I’ve gotten back in touch with some truly lovely and important people who are making this trip possible and it’s all been through Facebook, email, and good ol’ word of mouth (thanks for asking your Welsh cousins if I could stay with them). Most people won’t be able to offer you more than good luck and advice, but you need that, too – so put yourself out there as much as possible through as many networks as possible and new opportunities are sure to turn up. This isn’t a secret plan after all. Go ahead and share.
- Understand your visa issues. Okay, I have to admit that I cried over this one. Of all the logistics that are difficult to manage, this is one of the most maddening. I can only speak to what things are like for travel to Europe, but I’m sure this is information that you’ll need for other destinations, as well. It’s all basically one Europe now (referred to as the Schengen region) and your time in any European country counts towards your time in all European countries. You cannot travel in Europe for more than 90 days in a six month period (although it doesn’t need to be consecutively). The consequences are variable and are basically determined by who’s letting you through the border. I am dealing with this problem by visiting the U.K. for about a month and therefore not counting towards those 90 days.
- Read things that inspire you. Especially if you’re going to be alone a lot (and I think that you should be), you should read often. These guys will be both your mentors and friends while you’re on your own out there. I also like reading things from or about the region. Also, if you want a good practical guide to wandering the planet, I suggest Vagabonding. Also, you’re a writer, so you like reading anyways. Indulge yourself.
- Patience. I hated waiting. I’m still terrible about it. I hope I wasn’t grouchy for all four years (and apologies if I was), but let me remind you now that one of the things that makes this is easier is that there are a lot of other things that you can do while you’re waiting for quitting day to arrive. I traveled to Haiti, wrote lots of poems and short stories, and founded an arts non-profit with my friends. These things make the time pass more quickly and will, I’d wager, give you other things to write about.
This is not to discount, of course, the enormous amount of good fortune and help I've received from the people around me and I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say as the trip unfolds, but until then, this is just a reminder that you don’t have to be jealous (if you are). You’re probably smarter and better off than I was. You probably already have a savings account that you can start from and better first starts in your writing drawer. Also, this very practical five-year plan isn’t the only path, either. Some people read The Secret and suddenly achieve their dreams. In any case, “Get thee to thine writer’s retreat!”