Sometimes it comes up in conversation and I tell people we had a gap year, living in our campervan for twelve months and travelling around the southern parts of Europe. Most people’s reaction is, ‘I would love to do that’ with a dreamy look in their eyes and I don’t deny that it was a fantastic experience. I have noticed that lots of people buy in to the romantic idea of the freedom of the road in a campervan and want to be part of that. I don’t wish to trample on anyone’s dreams but if our conversation continues I often add that although I understand that everyone has specific circumstances that might explain why they can’t drive off in to the sunset, if we can do it then lots of other people can.
If the gap-year enthusiast is still with me I might mention that the trip was at least three years in the planning, that we saved a lot of money, sold everything we didn’t need, downsized the house and gave up secure jobs to do it and that fortunately Mr BOTRA and I love each other very much and so don’t find sharing the [lack of] space in a small campervan a problem. At this point many people start to lose enthusiasm and reconsider, realising they don’t really want to go to that much trouble just to travel around in a tin box. If they stay with me I might refer to how much we missed our son and daughter-in-law and friends while we were away and a few more fall by the wayside. The final nail in this conversation can be when I explain the amount of effort we had to put in to find new jobs when we returned. Of course, lots of other people do get organised and plan and execute a similar / longer / more adventurous trip and I am happy to share any useful experience I have with these folk; they are not just dreamers but are people who make things happen.
No matter what personality test I take I have always come out as a doer. I used to co-run workshops for community groups and organisations where we took them through a visioning exercise, thinking about their community or organisation in five or ten years time, mapping that vision and then supporting them in planning the multitude of steps required to make that dream a reality. To me this sort of planning is second nature but it became clear that some people were good at the vision but hopeless with the planning and even more struggled to get beyond the first couple of steps on the path to their dream. Staying true to an idea through the tiny steps of the planning stage can be a struggle and needs perseverance and strength, an ability to pick yourself up when you get knocked down and a willingness to be adaptable when circumstances change along the way.
There are as many different dreams out there as there are individuals and I would love to be able to congratulate everyone who has ever had a plan and made it real. The Financial Independence and Early Retirement community is not dissimilar to the [later life] gap year in a campervan community; they are people who have a dream or a vision of a different life and make it happen, even though the planning and saving to achieve this dream might take many years.
Although when travelling I like to see where the road takes me, in terms of life I like to have a plan and so my favourite life quote is from the great story teller Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, when Alice met the Cheshire Cat:
“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”