You just have to trust your own madness.
I can remember the moment when the idea cemented in my brain. On a Tuesday night, a half-glass of Cabernet sat on the kitchen counter with my tiger tabby cat Calisto standing guard over of it as I completed the finishing touches on dinner.
The shuffle mode on my iPhone landed on a song that sent a lightening bolt up my spine.
I’ve been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
But I’ve always found my way somehow
By taking the long way
Taking the long way around
(The Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks)
The lyrics swirled in my head and goose bumps rippled from my ponytail to the tips of my blood-red toenails.
What if I actually did it? What if I actually fired on the thoughts and plans I’d been mentally incubating for months on end? What if we could actually make it come to life? What if we took the long way around?
I can admit it–I’ve had my share of crazy ideas…
- Leaving the comfort of home at age 24, flying 4,000+ miles to live in Valencia, Spain, clumsily finding my way around the Valenciano transportation system with my less than stellar Spanish and very little cash in my pocket.
- Taking on training for IRONMAN (140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running) without having completed a single triathlon or endurance event, all while working 12-hour days as a Personal Trainer.
- Building studio s while still in my 20s with no real chunk of change in the bank, no business background to speak of, and opening the doors smack-dab in the middle of a recession.
- Committing to running 50 consecutive miles on the trails of Wisconsin’s glacial moraines despite not being an experienced trail runner and having to undergo training in the midst of working 80 hours+ a week to build my newish business.
- Signing up for a multi-day stage race across the Colorado Rockies even though my last high-altitude running adventure left me with piles of throw-up and my first-ever DNF (did not finish).
Some may call these stupid, foolhardy risks–but I don’t. These pursuits came not out of an impulsive superego drive, but out of a deeply inspired process of listening and reflection. I may have executed on them quickly once they were spoken aloud, but they actually took a long time to internally ponder and accept. Despite the overwhelming amount of trepidation I feel when I encounter the idea, I’ve come to see the process I must go through as my secret recipe that always delivers.
Even though these ideas were exceedingly scary and mysterious to me, I was able to muster the strength to bring them to life and, as a result, they also brought me life. I followed through not because I had anything to prove to anyone, not because I thought I should do these things, not because I followed someone else’s idea of what life is supposed to look like, but because they were ignited by a distinct intuitive stirring that I can hardly describe. It goes way beyond wanting to do them. I simply couldn’t go on existing without doing them. There is a sense of honoring a guest that comes to visit me. I can’t just turn them (the ideas) away.
Based on past precedent, I’m not afraid of what lies ahead even though I know it will be arduous. I’m not afraid because I already know that having to find a way through the tough stuff—never having enough money; working until the wee hours of the morning and getting up to repeat the effort at 4:30AM; maintaining sanity, health, and relationships while taking care of others; keeping tough in moments when I just want to crawl in a hole–that is what makes living meaningful.
It feels weird to say that the tough stuff is what makes living meaningful, but I’ve come to find that it’s true. We don’t remember easy. We don’t really value easy. Easy does not help us grow into better people. Easy doesn’t teach us what we really desire or how strong we are. This isn’t a new idea. The philosophy of stoicism was based on the value of hardship and the sense that what we are able to endure is what ultimately defines us.
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
When I felt the lightening bolt rise up my spine on that random summer Tuesday night, I knew my “mysterious guest” was ready to come out into the light.
“I want to take a trip around the world … AND … I want to run an ultra-marathon in each place … AND … I think we should try to hit all of the continents … AND … I think we should find people in each place who’d be willing to host us … AND … I think we could create something big out of this.”
A few days later, I took my husband out for tacos (and maybe a giant margarita) to unveil the idea. I knew I was ready to let it loose but I also knew I might have some explaining to do. Even though I supremely appreciate that Chris is always game for adventure and he’s always in my corner, I had a feeling he wouldn’t be initially hot on the idea of taking this much time and effort for ourselves. He has a history of being non-self-indulgent. This is a guy who spent two years in a monastery and whose “guilty” pleasure is hummus (but that’s a topic for a whole different blog)! And sure enough, when I tossed it up for a hit, I got a flat response of, “Wow! Um … if I’m honest … it just feels too self-indulgent.”
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic on living a creative life (creativity defined as any inspired task). At about the same time that Chris and I were having our conversation about self-indulgence I read this, “Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.
The poet David Whyte calls this sense of creative entitlement ‘the arrogance of belonging,’ and claims that it is an absolutely vital privilege to cultivate if you wish to interact more vividly with life. Without this arrogance of belonging, you will never be able to take any creative risks whatsoever. Without it, you will never push yourself out of the suffocating insulation of personal safety and into the frontiers of the beautiful and the unexpected.
The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it’s the opposite; it is a divine force that will actually take you out of yourself and allow you to engage more fully with life …”
To an outsider it may seem like, Geez, that must be nice to be them. Wow! Who are these people that can just take off for an around-the-world trip that easily? But, that’s just the point–WE CAN’T. Currently, we don’t have the means or the time to do so. We have a business to run, employees and co-workers counting on us, a mortgage to pay, loved ones who deserve our attention, four pets (who we will miss like crazy) and an all-around normal life. But what we lack in resources we make up for in resourcefulness– including passion, internal drive, and community. There is nothing automatic or entitled about this endeavor. But, what if we could turn the impossible into the possible? If we actually believed it were possible, what might it look like and where would we start?
Adventure is worthwhile.
So, here’s what we’ve established as of 1/16/16…
- 6-9 weeks, 6-7 countries/continents, 6 self-routed/ self-supported ultra-marathons (30-50 miles in each location)
- proposed trip departure mid-Feb 2017
- raise & save $20,000 by February 1, 2017
- We are challenging ourselves to eat 99% of our meals at home, spend $0 on personal items (except for groceries, toiletries, house repairs, emergency expenses) as well as find alternative means of entertainment. Our first goal is to make it six months on this plan (three weeks so far have been a success).
- rent out our house by late summer 2016 to save $ and to practice simplicity
- complete the four-page list of home improvement tasks (the Mike Tyson of “punch lists”) one month prior to rental
- rent house for 6 months to 1year & co-habitat with local parents (experiment in longhouse living)
initial cost, ticketing research and short list of locations–complete
- secure final locations/ hosts by end of March 2016
- proposals to potential sponsors by early summer 2016
- purchase flights by late summer/ early fall 2016
- finalize running routes, cultural missions, & travel details by late winter 2016
- smuggle across the oceans the un-exchangeable, un-obtainable cultural recipes for ALIVENESS
- identify and train surrogate puppy and cat parents to foster our babies while we’re gone
- oh … and train for the ultra-marathons
Here’s what we know we need help on (I’m sure there is more that we haven’t thought of) …
- people who would be willing to host us for a few days or a week in Melbourne, Australia & Capetown, South Africa
- securing sponsorship to help cover the Around-the-World-Ticket airfare of ~$4000/ per person
- any other ideas on people or companies who’d be willing to sponsor the adventure in the form of gear, supplies, hospitality or ideas
- sharing our story and ongoing process with anyone who wants to play a part
We feel that our trip has already begun and that the creating of it will be half of the challenge and half of the fun. We are committed to being transparent and straightforward about the entire project so our community can experience the process rather than simply the product. We want this endeavor to be an exchange of ideas with our friends/family/community, the countries we will visit, and our hosts.
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.