Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Priorities - or how I made my own "luck"
"pri·or·i·ty (pri-ôr'i-te, -or'-) n., pl. -ties. 1. Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency. 2. a. An established right to precedence. b. An authoritative rating that establishes such precedence. 3. A preceding or coming earlier in time. 4. Something afforded or deserving" from The American Heritage dictionary.
So many times, people have told me that "You're so lucky" to have been able to have this experience or that experience. In reality, luck rarely has anything to do with it.
In the same vein, I've also had many people wonder what kind of company would "give" me the time to travel as I have. Once again, when I was working, I was never given the time to travel.
I had to work at my job to earn the time and money to live as I have. No luck involved there. I had to prioritize to be able to save as much as I did. No luck there. Likewise, my job never "gave" me the time; I had to take it but only after I had earned it.
While working, I managed one ten week vacation to China and Nepal, plus I also managed to take one six-month unpaid leave to hike the Appalachian Trail. When I wasn't going on one of these major trips, I usually took my standard vacations two or three weeks at a time.
For each trip, whether long or short, I had to plan far enough in advance to allow my employer to plan with me for my absence. Usually, it was up to me to show my employer that I could responsibly hand off my projects to be handled effectively in my absence.
As for taking long trips, especially those that require more than your allotted vacation time, you have to make them a priority. By the time I asked for a leave-of-absence to thruhike the Appalachian Trail, I knew I would leave the company if my leave request was denied. By then, the hike was a priority. I was willing to let my job go before I asked for a leave of absence. If I got the leave, great! I knew I would have a job waiting for me when I finished.
If I did not get the leave, I would then have to decide whether or not to leave anyway. At that point, if I wanted to stay and forgoe the hike, I had to consider whether having asked for leave would affect my career. If my employer thought there was a chance I would take off anyway within the next year or two, would having asked about the leave make them suspicious of how long they can rely on my presence? Obviously, this can be more of an issue for some types of jobs than others. It can also be more of an issue in some locations than others.
After 15 years of working at the same high level tech support job, I retired in 2002 at the age of 36 when I conveniently got laid off before my planned PCT hike.
Even though I was in the high tech computer field, I never benefited from stock options. I'm financially responsible, not rich. Rather than saving 15% of my income as is often recommended for those intending to retire around age 70, I saved closer to 50%. By doing so, I learned to live on less than half my income. Knowing I could live on less also meant I needed to save a lot less before retiring.
How did I live on so much less than my peers? I don't buy much in the way of material goods. Even though I was a computer professional, I've never bought a computer (old cast-offs are good enough for me). I don't have a cell phone, i-pod, mp3 player, flat screen monitor, etc. I borrow books, videos and dvds from the library rather than rent. My TVs, DVD player, etc. were castoffs or gifts. I limit my meals out to those I enjoy with friends. When on my own, I eat at home - and not take-out, either.
If you live in an area with active craigslist or freecycle communities, you can get everything from sofas, to washing machines, to air conditioners, to carpeting and more for free or cheap. I also sublet my fully furnished apartment while I travel so my expenses at home are reduced to nothing while I'm away. Depending on where I travel, it can be less expensive for me to travel than stay at home.
So, it really does come down to priorities. If your career is your priority, the rest of your life must be lived to conform to the requirements of your career. If you make your family, or your travels, or your hobbies, etc. a priority, then you can figure out how to live the rest of your life to maximize your time spent with whatever you deem to be important.
In 2013, this page was succinctly summarized in a fortune cookie: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Last updated, August 4, 2013.
Tips and Tricks
Gear Reviews and Discussions
AT FAQ and Stats
Trip Reports Gear Lists Mail Drops About Me Acknowledgements Photos Updates Fun Email Mara