Don turned 65 in October 2007 and thoughts of wanting to retire and travel more began to take precedence over his former enthusiasm for his work as a private-practice neuropsychologist. However, because of some very poor financial decisions we’d made a couple of years earlier he was not in a position to retire, so he recommitted himself to continuing to work until he was 70. By May 2011, now 68, he was almost at the end of his tether. He had begun experiencing problems with his heart and with his mental abilities. He had no enthusiasm left for his work, but could not see a way out of the dilemma: continue to work to maintain our current lifestyle and do a little travelling, or retire and live a very restricted life with little or no opportunities for travel. He was feeling constantly worried and anxious about money and financial security.
Don went to see a counselor and she suggested that he read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” and begin the exercise of “Morning Pages”, which involves writing three pages every morning immediately after waking up, of whatever comes to mind. The purpose of this exercise was to put on external speaker, as it were, everything that was troubling him. On the second day of writing Don wrote “As I look back on the past few months I see that I’ve been in a place of despair and hopelessness without realizing that the depths of despair and hopelessness about the future have tainted my every waking and sleeping moment and have caused my body, heart and mind to malfunction.” On the third day of writing he came up spontaneously with an alternative solution to working forever to pay the mortgage: sell everything, invest the money that we would realize from the sale of our home, and go travelling until those funds run out, and after that start spending our retirement savings. When he told Alison about this she was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. As Don wrote “By the time we’ve spent all of it (in 10 years or more) we’ll have both written best-selling books and be living in a beautiful home by the ocean.”
So that’s what we did: we put our beautiful apartment on the market. It sold quickly, right at the peak of the Vancouver housing market that year, and we made more than we’d originally expected after paying off the mortgage and other debts. We sold our car and sold or gave away most of the rest of our possessions. It was an amazingly freeing experience. By September 2011 we had put our few remaining possessions into a 500 cubic foot storage unit and were ready to begin travelling in earnest. That fall we went to Italy and Spain. For the first time Don didn’t worry about how much we were spending, we just wanted to have the best possible time.
We had similar bucket lists, places we’d always wanted to see: Italy (especially Tuscany), spending an extended period meditating at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India, and exploring the island of Bali. We did all of these things and more in the first six months of our travels after we sold our home.
In the past two and a half years since we became nomadic we’ve also been to Sweden, made another trip to India, traveled all through Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar), traveled around Australia, spent a few months in a seaside village in Mexico, and are currently spending six months travelling through South America, including Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.
The greatest gift in all of this travelling has been the inner growth that has come about for both of us. Travelling all the time has taught us to be much more flexible in our thinking and much more accepting of whatever happens, regardless of the consequences. It has also given us a much greater trust in the wisdom of the universe: to trust that we are always being guided to whatever is next. The more we travel the more we appreciate that unseen hands are supporting us the whole way, and so we live by intuition, feeling the way by the tips of our fingers. We’ve learned the miracle and power of gratitude. We’ve learned that people are the same the world over and that openheartedness is almost always responded to with openheartedness.