Always Listen to Bugs
“I think we shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque.” I didn’t realize it the first time I heard Bugs Bunny say it, but I learned the lesson soon enough. There will be times when you don’t end up where you thought you were going. Times when anything can happen. These are the moments when you learn about who you are. Things rarely seem to go according to plan. It’s how you respond that matters.
That Could Have Gone Better
“My car died! I’m on the side of the freeway waiting for a tow truck with Highway Patrol behind me so that no one slams into the back of me.” It wasn’t the phone call I wanted to get from Mimi just three days before we’re moving to Europe. We had plans on selling her car that very next day. I had just sold my car, less than an hour ago, and was waiting outside of CarMax for her to pick me up when she called to tell me the news.
We had timed it so that I would be finished selling my car by the time she was leaving from her last day of work at Disney. She knew what time her exit interview was, and we had the whole day planned down to the last detail, but does anything ever really go the way it should? Not when it’s important it doesn’t. On to plan B. A totally new plan that we hadn’t made up yet.
Weird, But Effective
Sing It Aretha
Freedom! It was May 4, 2016. I remember because instead of my annual nerd club required Facebook post, “May the Fourth Be With You.” I cryptically posted, “It has begun.” It was still too early to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t wait to get home to Mimi. I had an important question to ask and how she answered could change our lives forever.
I had wine chilled and ready to go with champagne in reserve. When she got home I waited for her to get comfortable and once she was relaxed, I brought her a glass of wine. We clinked our glasses together, toasted to my nipples (as we sometimes do, simply because it’s strange… and why not? The looks we get when people overhear our toast is worth it.)
We took a sip of our wine and she set her wine glass down. I stayed clutching mine, a little bit nervous about what I was about to ask. I thought I knew how she would answer but this wasn’t just any question. It was a life changing question. So, I just asked. Most people would recognize how crazy the idea was and say no. She saw how crazy it was and asked, “When can we leave?”
I remember the feeling of not being able to stop smiling, while at the same time feeling like I would burst in nervous excitement. Holy crap, is this really happening? We had just agreed to sell everything we own and move to Europe. It had been a dream of ours for a long time. We drank the wine. We drank the champagne. We danced for hours in the living room. Our minds raced in every direction. It was really happening, and life gave us a new, clearly defined understanding of the word surreal.
We suddenly had a lot to do. Decisions had to be made about everything. Where we were moving to? What were we taking with us? How soon can I quit my job? What’s the deal with traveling with cats?
Slowly but surely, we answered the questions we could, as we kept adding to the list of questions we still had. We had considered certain things about our move for quite a while but once our decision had been made, there was a lot more to figure out. We packed, sold, or threw away everything that had been accumulated through ten years of our life together. Our friends Patrick and Elizabeth were probably the luckiest of our friends. They were the happy recipients of nearly fifty bottles of wine before we left.
Everything we sold added to our savings, so we tried to sell everything we could. We gave our plants to the friends we knew would keep them alive, probably far better than we could. We gave away special items to friends we knew would appreciate them. We donated a ridiculous amount of stuff to Goodwill. And in the last days, after we sold or gave away everything we could, I started making countless trips down the elevator to the dumpsters in the parking garage of our North Hollywood apartment building.
We were lucky in the respect that several other families were moving out at the end of that month as well. So after the move, when the apartment complex tried to bill me for the crazy amount of trash and furniture that was down there, I just blamed it on all of the other families that were moving out. Hopefully they blamed it on us when they were questioned, and no one had to pay anything. Frankly the place wasn’t worth what they had raised our rent to anyway, so I feel they got their money regardless.
Working for Disney
Many people thought we were crazy to give up our jobs at Disney. In some ways, maybe they were right, but we didn’t think so. There were a lot of good things about working them, but they weren’t enough to keep us from making travel our priority.
We were passionate about the two weeks of vacation we got every year.
We would research, save our money, and plan all year to find that perfect destination that allowed us to experience as much of an area as we could in the short time we had available. Over 9 years, we went on several glorious vacations to Amsterdam, Caribbean, France, French Polynesia, Ireland, Whistler, and the UK. We realized that two weeks of vacation a year was never going to be enough to see everything on our growing list of places we wanted to see.
Some people become disillusioned with Disney when animated animals fail to show up and sing songs with them while they work. Before you start, you image it to be the happiest place on earth. Maybe that’s true if you work at one of the theme parks, spending your days in the Goofy costume, but working at the studios in a corporate situation is completely different. It’s as cutthroat as any other corporation. Don’t get me wrong, there a lot of perks and benefits to working there, so we weren’t complaining, but a cubicle is the least exciting place to spend your day when you compare it to working in a café in Europe.
We found a countdown app on our phones that we looked at every day. It was torture for a while until the number on the counter finally got into the single digits. Then it was terrifying. That’s when all the fears and doubts really start to set in. You begin to question everything. Are we making the right decision? Are we crazy for giving up great jobs? What are we getting ourselves into? These were just a few of hundreds of questions we asked ourselves. There are a lot of quotes that tell you to face your fears or do something that scares you every day.
It’s all very inspiring. Like many people, we always agreed and appreciated that idea. Actually doing something that scares you to that degree is far more difficult than admiring the quote from afar. Fear is a natural emotion that is closely linked to the even more important instinct of self-preservation. That’s a hard thing to ignore.
Beneath the turmoil of all of those emotions was the growing feeling of excitement. We could not wait to get to Europe.
We really wanted to experience Europe without the frantic pace of trying to cram as much as we could into a short amount of time. We wanted Europe without the dread of having to go back to work, feeling jet-lagged and slightly depressed about being back in a cubicle with only your vacation pictures to comfort you. We were finally going to become part of a place dear to our hearts and we were ready.
We stood in our empty, North Hollywood apartment with everything we owned packed and stacked next to the front door. We each had one suitcase full of clothes. I had a soft case that housed both a guitar and bass guitar. I had a hard-shell case that housed my keyboard and guitar effects. There was a backpack with both of our computers and accessories in it. And last but not least, there were two Sleepypod Air travel carriers with our cats, Walter and Olive, unhappily stuffed into them. We felt like the Clampetts from the old Beverly Hillbilly reruns. It was time to load the taxi and go to the airport.
We gave our empty apartment one last nostalgic look and turned to each other.
I don’t think either one of us have ever been more thankful for each other than that moment. We make it a point to let each other know, almost every day, how much we love and appreciate each other but that moment was different. It was special beyond words. Looking into each other’s eyes we knew that we about to embark on a life changing experience. And in that moment, we also knew that there was no one else in the world that we would rather do it with.
Let Me Sum Up
You see it on motivational posters everywhere. Authors and speech writers have made careers out of it. “Follow your dreams” is a mantra that been repeated time and time again. The whole idea sounds great but what’s always missing is the “how” to follow your dreams. The truth is, the “how” is different in it’s details but the same in its general idea, for everyone. In general terms it’s easy to latch onto a cliché or motivational catch phrase: “Carpe Diem” or the translated “Seize the Day,” “Just do it,” “Go for it,” “The world is your oyster” etc. etc. Pick whichever one you’d like or none at all. It’s good to find motivation wherever you can get it. What you really need is to give yourself permission to start. It’s easier said than done in most cases and the only way to truly latch on to a dream is in the details. It’s the “how” am I going to “seize the day” without getting myself killed or ending up homeless, that’s really the question.
How you accomplish this is all up to you and it will require hard work and planning on your part if you’re going to feel good about your decision. The best way to overcome the fear of such a drastic life change is to be as prepared as possible to embrace it. Everyone’s situation is different and that’s why there is no single blueprint. You have to find the path that works for you. Our dream was to travel, so we started working a side job as audio editors that we could do online while maintaining our career at Disney.
We saved what money we could and researched where we wanted to go. We planned everything we could realistically plan. We found solutions for imaginary problems and possible obstacles that we might face. We prepared ourselves for as much as we could, realizing that we could never completely anticipate everything. When our side job got busy enough to become our only job, we knew it was time to act.
Confidence comes from knowing you can handle any situation because you’ve made yourself ready. Then it’s just the letting go.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the hardest things to do. What you have to remember is that your current comfort zone wasn’t always so comfortable. At one point, that was a new beginning too. It’s okay to follow your dreams, in fact you’ll be happier for it. Just be prepared, so that you give yourself every chance that you can to succeed. It probably won’t be easy, but we know you can do it. And one day when you look back at all you’ve accomplished, it’ll be the best feeling in the world. If it helps, know that there will always be two travelers out there somewhere who are cheering you on.