This blog began in the form of group emails at the start of our travels, 3 years ago. Reworked and added to, it describes the adventures of a couple of middle-aged psychotherapists, who gave up their careers to become "jubilados," retired. Although both of us had traveled before, we had never left home for such an extended period of time (8 months), and it was for us, especially the first time, a big deal.
First came preparation. In some ways the hardest part of our journey came before we left home. In addition to the decision to undertake the trip(s), which was several years in the making, and involved considerable psychological teeth gnashing, (what else would expect from a couple of therapists), there were the demands of closing our practices, renting and moving out of our house, simplifying our finances, and arranging to do our bill paying on line. We moved out of our house in September, a month or so before we left for Guatemala, and saw our last patients about one week before getting on the plane. Obviously, bad planning. I don't think we fully took into consideration just how stressful and time consuming the process would be. While this would probably be true for anyone in our positions, with family, kids, career, etc., it was compounded because we couldn't just tell our bosses that we were leaving, but had to tell our patients, who were not always pleased to receive this news.
Many of the mundane details of getting ready to leave took far more time than I had assumed. For example paying our bills on line. All of the banks and credit card companies tell you how easy this is to set up, but for technophobes, this ain't necessarily so. Not only that, it wasn't all my fault. I had to mail in a check and a form in order to have my credit card deducted directly from my checking account. I did this several months prior to our departure. After I got confirmation from Chase, I went online to see if my credit card bill had been taken out of my account. Sure enough, the website indicated the bill had been paid, but strangely the money had not been deducted. When I called Chase, they said not to worry, there was always a delay of several days. About a week later, I checked again. Still no deduction, so I called back. "Oh yes," they said, the bill has definitely been paid and the money withdrawn. I went in to see the manager of my bank. After an hour or more on the computer and time on the phone, he concluded that the money must have been withdrawn from a different account by mistake. Several forms later, I was notified that someone had entered an incorrect account number, and the money had indeed been taken out of the wrong account. "Take the money and run," you say. I should have, especially, when Chase had the nerve to charge me interest because of a "late payment."
Shutting off my electric bill turned out to be more difficult than I imagined, as did the home phone number, garbage pick up etc. Nothing was simple and easy. Often I had to give an in depth explanation as to why I wanted to shut off service, a justification really. I thought about how hard it would be to start things up, when we returned, but quickly realized that this would not be a problem. Companies only hassle you if they're losing business.
The psychological teeth gnashing involved dealing with the anxiety of leaving our careers; who were we anyway other than therapists? Did we have enough money? Health insurance? How would our kids do without us? Our youngest was 22 and had just graduated college, while our oldest daughter, 26, was working. My wife was worried about her 84 year old mother who lived independently, despite a bad hip. Both my parents were dead so I didn't have that concern. What would we do with our two cats? What would happen to our 200 year old house over the winter. How would our friends feel? Would they still be our friends when we returned? How would it be to spend all our time together and never have a separate room to go to after a fight, or to sleep in because the other was snoring. I even had some concerns as to how I would stay in touch with my broker since it was apparently unacceptable to use email because of security concerns.
You get the idea. Two over-controlled analytic types, we over processed and dissected the decision ad nauseam.
Some of our friends said we were crazy. Others only thought so, but didn't say it. A few were admiring, others jealous. Our children were outwardly supportive. They had gone on some of their own adventures, some with us, and others, on their own. However, when the oldest asked us who she should list as an emergency contact, that gave us pause. It's one thing when your children leave home, but it's very different when your parents do.
We spent a good part of the proceeding summer painting and redoing the bathrooms because we thought it would make the house easier to rent. However, because we wanted to be back in Albany by the following summer, this meant we could only give a 9 month lease. We also wanted to leave all of our furniture, pots and pans, etc. As it was, we spent a lot of time getting rid of stuff accumulated over the last 19 years, and then moving our clothes and a few of our possessions into a back bedroom. Just when it seemed as though we might have to give up, along came the perfect family, other professionals with 2 young children, who had recently returned from abroad with no furniture and few possessions. For them, our stuff was an asset.
The night before our plane left, our friends threw a small going away party. We were finally relaxing a bit after all the last minute details and the packing(very selectively), had been completed. The phone rang, and it was the director of our Spanish school in Xela. "Don't come now. There's been a serious "tormenta" (storm), the remains of Hurricane Stan, and there's serious flooding here, and in the rest of the country." After several more frantic calls to our friend, Alphonso, who is Guatemalan, and about to leave for Xela himself, we decided to try and postpone our trip for a few days. We contacted the airline who said flights were landing in Guatemala City, but finally agreed to give us another flight a few days later. So our last night stretched into 3.