Welcome to my mid-life crisis. Mine is not taking the expected form of a sports car or face lift. Mine is a gap year (or gap 5½ months, really). It's also not so much a "crisis" as it is an "adjustment."
After working for 20 years and generally following the predictable path, I've chosen to veer off course. This is not in character for me at all. In general, I tend to follow the rules, stick to an established pattern, go with the flow. So far that "flow" has led me through college and into a career in line with my education. But about a year ago, I realized that I was ready to do something different - I just wasn't sure exactly what that was. And so my "adjustment" began.
Most of this past year was spent trying to figure out what I want to do next. For many months, that took the shape of updating my résumé, applying for jobs I thought should be the next step in my career… and getting lots of rejection letters. After awhile, I started realizing that I wasn't finding (or getting) that next job because I didn't know what it was I was really looking for. And then, one day a few months ago, an epiphany: I NEED A GAP YEAR! Andrew had one after college. Lots of high school and college grads abroad do. Gives them a chance to shake off school and have an adventure before settling into careers and families. Why should college kids have all the fun? And why should it only happen between school and career? Why couldn't it happen between career and next career?
And so, the planning began. Narrowing down potential destinations was hard, but I decided I'd rather stay awhile in a few spots than rush around to many. I also decided a year was a bit long - and summers in Portland are too nice to miss. I already had planned a trip to Costa Rica in February for a week-long surf camp (thanks to Michele for inspiring that decision!). Why not tack on a couple more months to travel around that country, volunteer at a sea turtle research station, and take Spanish classes? And since Costa Rica is on the way to South America - a continent I have never visited - why not head there next? I'll spend a couple months in Argentina, visiting Buenos Aires and Bariloche and staying awhile in Mendoza to take more Spanish classes… and drink my share of malbec. Andrew will join me for three weeks there. When he heads back to Portland, I'll head to Puerto Rico for a (relatively) quick 10-day visit before returning to Portland in July.
When I started telling my friends and family about this idea, I was prepared for raised eyebrows and double-takes. "You're going to quit a perfectly good job and do WHAT???" Despite the fact that I may very well be crazy, every single one of them has been reassuring about my plans (at least to my face!). I could not do any of this without their love and support, and I am particularly indebted to Andrew for his unfaltering encouragement and willingness to hold down the fort while I'm away.
They say planning is half the fun. If that's true, then my gap 5½ months is going to be off-the-charts amazing! One month from now, on February 14, my bags will be packed and I'll be on my way. Between now and then, I'll be wrapping up things at my current job and making a list of things I need to bring. (Hopefully it's a fairly short list. I'll be traveling pretty light.)
I plan to post on this blog regularly in order to share stories, sights, and discoveries. My hope is that my travels in the southern hemisphere (or, at least, very close to it) will allow me to regain perspective and that I'll return home with a clearer vision of what I'll do next.
This adventure will be my "Latitude Adjustment."