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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Starting Is Easy. Ending Is Hard. 
14th-Dec-2008 01:10 am
charbonneau ghost car
Some thoughts kicking around my head after a conversation today. The ideas aren't new to me, but I think this is an interesting way to phrase them. Perhaps you'll find it helpful too.

When something's really bad, it's easy to make the decision to end it. Think of all the TV shows that get canceled after a pilot or two.

When something's really good, but has a clear time structure, bringing it to the right end is a situation for celebration and pride. Think of your favorite miniseries.

What's hard is deciding to end something that's got some good bits, got some bad bits, and not a lot of new excitement. Think of a TV show that was amazing when it first aired, but hasn't had a brilliant episode in a few seasons. Or think of the great movies that spawned a string of terrible sequels.

Mexican soap operas last six months and then end. U.S. soap operas go on for decades. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side ran for less than 15 years. How long have Prince Valiant and Mary Worth been in print?

It's important to periodically take stock of your major commitments and decide if they're worth continuing. "The status quo is okay" versus "Maybe there's something much more awesome" is a tough call. The former is certain, the latter much less so. Sometimes you go in search of greater and grander and find out what you had before was actually pretty good. Other times, you look back and wonder why you stayed in Lameville for so long.

Incidentally, I decided on a date to leave my job. April 3rd, give or take a week, will be my last day working for Eagle. (I've been saying I'm leaving for two years now, so it's time to rip off the tape, dammit.) The next stop is Central America for a couple months. Then I'll have the summer to find a more awesome job and go camping a bunch. Some people say it's a bad time to not have a job. I say it's a great time to visit a third world country.
14th-Dec-2008 08:19 am (UTC)
You are doing it wrong. It is not a good time to visit Central America. It is a great time to visit countries whose economies exploded. This includes Iceland and much of Eastern Europe.

I very much dislike Prince Valiant.
15th-Dec-2008 08:54 am (UTC)
This might also be a good time to visit Croatia, sure. But the opportunities for speaking Spanish and eating exotic fruits there are slim. And even with the financial meltdown, I think food and lodging is probably cheaper in Guatemala than in Iceland. The latter has better access to cod and avant garde musicians, though. A few more hot springs, too.
14th-Dec-2008 04:59 pm (UTC) - Great time for challenges
It's a great time indeed for the developing economies.......Especially for the adventure that comes with it...... :D
14th-Dec-2008 05:15 pm (UTC) - Mary Worth is pain worth enjoying
I know Mary Worth is painful, but it's the kind of pain that once you start doing it, you can't stop. Like plucking your nose hairs. I think Mary Worth is the funniest strip in the paper and blog about it at maryworthandme.com. Good luck on your next big adventure! Life ain't worth living if you can't take some chances.
14th-Dec-2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Central America sounds cool! You're lucky (or well-planned) to have a life that allows you to do that.
15th-Dec-2008 08:49 am (UTC)
The well-planned factors allowing me to do this:
* I don't have kids.
* I don't own a house.
* I don't have student loans.
* I don't spend all the money I make each month.
15th-Dec-2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
I used to be in that position, but last year I acquired a husband, stepdaughter and house. So now:

Kid - Check!
House (and of course, mortgage) - Check!
Student loans - Still don't have any, but my husband does, which effects the general financial situation.
Not spending all the money I make - got harder when I got a car, continued when I got a house, meanwhile there was a lack of raises at the struggling company I worked for, which now has laid off a bunch of people, including me!

Yeah, now would be a good time in my life to have a simple life, but I don't. So it goes. Go see some beautiful places!
14th-Dec-2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
As someone with the means to travel, nothing holding me back, and no sense of direction, I'm very interested in knowing how you decided on Central America and how much definition there is to that plan. You have friends there? Are you connected with Habitat for Humanity or Doctors Without Borders or some other group that's going down to do some work? Did you close your eyes and open an atlas at random? Is there a travel agent involved? How do you plan a visit like that?
15th-Dec-2008 08:45 am (UTC)
I've never been to a place where English isn't widely spoken but I can understand what people say. I was pretty good at Spanish in high school, but I haven't really used it since. A couple years ago, I thought "Hey, it'd be cool to go to South America some January so I can speak Spanish, dance tango, and minimize the amount of time I spend in the cold winter." About a year later, mollybzz said "Hey, I just got offered a job teaching English in China." So that winter (i.e., earlier that year), I spent a month of winter in southern China (which, while it featured a couple cold nights in drafty rooms at high elevations also featured eating palm fruits in the tropics), an adventure that I hadn't even considered 9 months before.

Several months ago, I asked Molly "Hey, what would you think about spending a winter in South America?" As a fluent Spanish speaker who lived in the Dominican Republic for two years, fondly remembered a certain monkey in the Amazon basin, and had spent the last year frustrated at communication challenges in a country with a billion people, she said "¡Sí!"

As we started talking about ideas for destinations, she suggested that exploring Mayan ruins in Guatemala and diving off the coast of Honduras would also be fun. Since neither of us had an overriding desire for anything specific besides speaking Spanish and eating exotic fruits, we figured Central America would be just as good as South America and somewhat cheaper (airfare-wise at least). As an added benefit, Guatemala's tropical climate means we could be angsty and plan-challenged, delaying travel past the months of ideal southern summer weather. Of course, the rainy season will start in late April, so we may end up spending lots of time socializing with villagers while our mud-soaked clothes dry. But hey, I've never been anywhere that was raining more than a busy June in Colorado, so it's another new experience.

So, in summary, I decided to go to Central America because I wanted to speak Spanish and meet folks in small villages in warm weather.
15th-Dec-2008 08:46 am (UTC)
How do I plan a visit like that? Well, I bought a copy of Lonely Planet: Guatemala and determined that the rainy season would make visiting most of the ruins highly inconvenient as spring wore on, so arriving by early April was key. Further planning will involve reading more Lonely Planet suggestions and ogling pictures on the Internet and coming up with a rough itinerary (at the level of "Let's spend a week in that corner of the country, I've heard they've got some neat mountains worth exploring"). In February we'll pick a date to have an airplane deliver us. Then we'll head in the direction of our initial plan and follow that until somebody tells us about something exciting or our route is blocked by monsoon mud slides and we decide it's time to check out something else in the area. Aside from Easter week, we shouldn't have any troubles getting lodging if we just show up. The fewer firm plans you have, the more free you are. (In some cases, this freedom can be quite a burden. But when traveling, it's pretty sweet.) My first night in China featured a total itinerary change, but the result was more fun than the initial plan would have been anyway. (Things that don't happen in the U.S.: During the busiest holiday season of the year, with 50,000 people hanging around a train station with all long distance trips canceled due to weather, walk up to a 24/7 airline window and buy a ticket in cash for noon the next day.)

With this sort of adventure, U.S. travel agencies are mostly useless given the advent of the Internet. We may enlist the services of an in-country travel agency to set up dives or jungle treks, but we'll probably figure that out a day or two before they happen. I'm not plugged in to a nonprofit group as part of this, though there are several that do good work in Central America and it's a good way to experience the culture of one area while having a familiar (English-fluent) group of people you can rely on. But while volunteer travel can be very rewarding, it makes it tougher to have grand and spontaneous adventures. I think we're still benefiting the local community by sharing our culture in a positive way and supporting the local economy in exchange for ravishing their exotic fruit supply. It's a far cry from the exploitative beach resort vacation one can easily take at any number of destinations in Mexico and south. It's all about sharing food, sharing stories, sharing emotions, and sharing space with interesting people who've grown up in interesting places. One of the best afternoons I spent in China was spent drumming and dancing with a Tibetan guy and a Chinese gal in a small, quaint town outside a (still fabulous) famous busy old town. There's no travel organization that will plan that for you.

In short, a plan is just a check list, a map, and dates I have to be at the airport. All I really need is hiking boots, a warm hat, a backpack with a few clothes, a small bag of toiletries (toothbrush! sunscreen! Thieves oil! dental floss!), a Lonely Planet guide, a camera, a few gigs of flash card space, a blank notebook, a passport, and an ATM card. And a current round of vaccinations, I suppose. Not sure yet if I'll bring my ocarina again.
14th-Dec-2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
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