If there is one thing everybody learns eventually, it is that nothing is under our control.
We might think we have control as we work to earn money to pay bills, keep our lives organized, and discipline our wayward children. But just as every child is unpredictable, so is the rest of life.
In 2002 I read The Female Nomad by Rita Gelman. It was her memoir about going from rich movie producer’s wife, living in a big house in LA, to owning nothing more than she could carry. She began an adventure to live at large in the world. During the next 20 years she visited every continent and now speaks several languages.
The book inspired me to get back in touch with my own wanderlust and to make plans for full-time travel. I had an opportunity to retire early from Honeywell, at a reduced pension, and I took it. Money was a concern of course, but I’d learned to live frugally in college. Foreign travel was easier than I thought. It wasn’t expensive to live in furnished apartments found on the Internet where I could cook for myself. I spent my limited travel money on more important things than hotels and restaurants.
Luckily, I didn’t postpone traveling because recently my mother had a stroke. She was 83 years old and living alone at the time. Fortunately, my sister found her in time to get help. She was also fortunate to have been healthy and has been able to make an amazing recovery.
Since I’m the only one of her children who is available and retired, I’m now her 24-7 caretaker. She’s fairly independent and can do lots of things on her own, but she doesn’t drive or cook and has trouble reading. From my perspective, it’s similar to mothering a six-year old. She isn’t allowed to live alone again, a situation she has accepted much better than I.
Although there is some resentment that I have no control over the situation, I don’t feel that I’ve been forced to give up my dreams in order to take care of her. I was able to take advantage of a time when Mom was still living successfully by herself, and I could retire early. I knew the day would come when my freedom would be curtailed, and that day has arrived.
But I have adventures to remember, photos to look at, and ideas to write about. I can live vicariously through the blogs of other travelers. Friends, around the world, are still out there encouraging me to come visit when I can. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend my mother’s last years with her.
I’m also grateful to writers like Rita Gelman who literally invented a new concept for their lives and then ventured forth to live it. They bravely bucked the trend of accumulating wealth and possessions by selling everything. They trust themselves to deal with an unpredictable world, a trust that developed because they didn’t let fear put their dreams on hold.
Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Rio Rancho and has been traveling solo in the Americas, Europe, and Asia since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who leads tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website: www.mexadventures.com
Follow the continuing adventures on the travel blog: http://sherryhardagetravel.blogspot.com/
Hardage welcomes comments via email: email@example.com