I was in Edinburgh, Scotland in the late 1980s when I happened upon this particular street. Nestled in the oldest part of the city, it seemed ancient, yet its name still relevant as a message to passersby like myself at the time. The Berlin Wall had yet to come down and I had come of age under the threat of total nuclear annihilation that was the Cold War. So, although it had been a place that was aptly named a few hundred years ago as wanderers who left this old city gate were at the end of anything they’d ever known, when I saw it, it was, and even today, it remains a testament to the fact that perhaps every era feels some sense of the same thing.
“It’s the end of the world, and we know it,” R.E.M. musically chimed in during 1987, and even now, the World’s End Close is metaphorically where we continue to stand. Life on hold for more than a year because of a virus that put thousands in the hospital, killed thousands more, and left others feeling sick with a head cold for a few days.
For me it’s the end of the world and I feel fine (also, R.E.M.’s conclusion). But having weathered more than a year of quarantine and closures I never felt more itch to get out and about. Fellow travelers I’m sure feel the same. And even people who are not travelers may at this point be yearning to see something other than their job-mates on the computer screen, or the four walls of their own home.
There’s nothing else quite like the end of the world to propel a person to decisive inaction. In the ’80s that was big hair, vintage wares, and heavy eyeliner. Now my decisive inaction is planning, planning, planning. I have had complete and detailed itineraries for multiple spots on the globe, never knowing what will happen and where we will be able to go.
But until we have an actual trip plan, I have been planning the ethos of this new season of journeys. Our working careers have come to an end and we find ourselves wondering the usual things: What was the point of all that? and What do we do now?
We spent a couple of decades parenting as well, and now have an empty house, a decades-long habit of living frugally, and the old longings of a bohemian lifestyle. So, we have opted to retire early and travel slowly.
Gone are the two-week jaunts here or there. Now, we want to go slow. We want to see old friends, and meet new ones. Lord willing and the virus don’t rise we’ll also be true to our initials (Ron & Rebecca=R&R) and get some Rest and Rejuvenation. Here are the new guidelines:
Rules for Travels with R&R
It isn’t that we don’t want to return to our lovely Colorado digs, but we don’t want to be locked in to times and schedules. We want to take advantage of our freedom to spend inordinate amounts of time strolling new neighborhoods and meeting the cats, cooking new foods, talking with people who won’t get to the point (possibly they may not have one), learning new places with their signs and roads and protocols, cultures with their nuances and faux pas, languages with tricky verb tenses and weird idioms, histories both written and oral, and not ever being “afraid of our wrists.” That’s how an old Ecuadorian Indian man I once travelled with explained what he saw as a North American obsession with time. In his observation these people were looking at their wrists (watches) and becoming terrified of what they saw there when they did. Time passes. But with one-way tickets, we hope we won’t be so scared of it. We won’t be late. We won’t be early. We’ll just be.
And one-way tickets will also allow us to be more true to our inner-hippy selves. Without return tickets we are open to the next adventure that comes our way. This new philosophy has already worked to bring more adventure our way. (More on that later.)
Focus on the Sacred Ordinary:
It’s oxymoronic I realize, but this is the exact piece of life we are now seeking: ordinary days in new places, with different foods for breakfast, hot sun or rain, ordinary walks and sits, people and buildings to meet and explore, travel and stopping as it comes along. Ron has known this for awhile I think, but now that I have dipped into the decade of my 50s, I am also realizing more than I ever have that, ironically, the basics of life are also the most holy. Everything has worth. From major cataclysmic events like a worldwide virus, to minor, even minuscule happenings; like a dog yawning, everything has worth. That means that our most important work now, (and really even when we were working) is simply what we do every moment we’re alive. (More on this later, too, likely much more.) For now we will strive to be unabashedly fascinated with the mundane, observing it, soaking it in, perhaps thanking God for it, and, since we’ll be in another place, likely being inordinately entertained by nothing.
This is an idea that we both feel strongly about, not just for our travels, but for any travels, and for any kind of living, since we’re all traveling around the sun all the time anyway. It helps me to focus on God in order to love people. Because some people, well, they’re unpleasant. Practically, however, putting people first means not losing my temper with a gate agent. People are more important than time, or money, or aching feet. Putting people first means basing our plans on getting together with friends and family. It also means intentionally meeting new people. We also will strive to cohabit with the people who have already been living in the places we’ll go. We’d love to meet them. Hopefully, we’ll form friendships, stay connected and love well. That’s the “people first” rule. And while this is a sure challenge, it is also a certain guarantee for happy days spent together with those around us.
We sincerely hope you’ll be around us sometimes, too, either by reading the blog, sending comments or emails our way, or by making your own travel plans to join up with us wherever we are in the world. You know we’re quite serious about that.