Top 5 Reasons to Leave Your Stuff Behind

How does moving to an Island nearly 3000 miles away, versus a city 1000 miles away, change things?  We’ve moved across the country a time or two now….but this was going to be different.

We had a lot of questions at first. Do we take it all?  What would that cost?  If we don’t take it all, what DO we take?  Life was going to be different in St. Thomas….moving from a high desert to the humidity of the subtropics, a different lifestyle, culture, activities…rented housing vs. owning a home…possibly different priorities and concerns, i.e. sun, open windows, trade winds, potential hurricanes, power outages, lack of freshwater, did I mention humidity?

Deciding what to ship was a never ending stream of arduous judgment calls, but it got much easier with a little practice.  Working through my attachments, first intellectually, and then viscerally, I was eventually able to release each with a sense of wholeness rather than emptiness.  With every attachment I let go of, I seemed to recover a small piece of myself, rather than feeling each time like a small piece of me had been torn off.

The attachment I struggled with most was my beautiful iMac computer. With its deliciously glossy 24” screen, sleek aluminum body, it was my personal portal to the wonderful worldwide Interweb that helps beckon my soul to eventual manifestation as words on the page.  No matter what airline I ended up flying, I knew there was no way I could fit that miraculous machine in an overhead compartment, or under the seat in front of me.  I became concerned when I realized I was having trouble imagining pulling the plug and putting it in a box, not knowing exactly when we might be reunited.

I clamored for alternatives.  I considered everything, including trading it in on a laptop that I could carry with me.  With my data transferred to a laptop, we would never be separated, and  I could stay connected.  Symbolically, it was starting to resemble a security blanket, and I wasn’t sure that was a healthy sign.  Unfortunately, even when accounting for shipping costs, I couldn’t swing a net-zero trade, and I couldn’t justify spending additional funds on a “security blanket” at a time like this.

Again, the Universe conspired FOR me, and the day before I planned to ship my beloved iMac, I lost my Comcast High-Speed Broadband connection.  As frustrated as I was, with so much still to do, I recognized it for the blessing it was, and pulled the plugs, packed her up just like she was from the factory, and set her in the queue near the front door to go to Pak Mail the next day.

My advice to anyone considering a move to these islands is…. Leave your stuff behind and be prepared to make a fresh start of everything!

What happened next brings us to Reason #1 for leaving it all behind…..

Reason #1

This is what my iMac looked like when it arrived.  (I’m gratefully using Marty’s PC laptop, not without its frustrations, however…<urggghhh!> , which he hand carried down here, of course.)

I first packed it in its original manufacturer’s packaging. Then I took it to PakMail of Littleton, where they were to place that box in whatever their expertise dictated it needed to get to St. Thomas safely.

Fun facts:

  • FedEx is the only carrier that will allow high insurance limits.
  • FedEx considers shipments from the U.S. (Mainland) to the U.S. Virgin Islands “International.”
  • International shipping charges (including insurance) were about $400.00.  I’m hopeful I’ll receive a refund from PakMail.
  • Insurance values above $2,500.00 USD require the shipper to obtain a “Harmonic Code.”  It seems that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to know when anything of a higher value is leaving the Country.
  • Getting said code was taking way too long in this case, so I reduced the insurance value to $2,499.00 to keep the process moving.  I should be able to replace it

Reason #2

The USPS considers the USVI a part of the United States.  Anything sent from the mainland to St. Thomas is considered a domestic shipment, and qualifies for Domestic Flat Rate Shipping.

Fun facts:

  • Free Boxes!
  • Largest Box: 12” x 12” x 5.5”
  • Same rate up to a maximum weight of 70 lbs.
  • Postage: $14.50…. $13.95 if you create the label and purchase postage online (Tip: only enter one package at a time.) This was a plus for me because I was shipping a dozen boxes at once.
  • You can schedule free pickup from your location.  This really made life easier.
  • The (free) boxes are crap!   The long trip to the USVI seems to be brutal on just about everything we shipped.

Reason #3

We didn’t feel like spending thousands of dollars to have our stuff moved to and then palletized in Miami, put in a shipping container, put on a cargo ship, only to show up weeks or months later, if at all, potentially battered, bruised, or worse, at which point we would need to get the container up the mountain and down the steep, winding road to our place. In retrospect, I am glad our Mikasa China service for 8 will find a new home via the estate sale.

Reason #4

We realized we would have to repeat the same miserable exercise to get our stuff OFF the rock the next time we move.  In our case, this was paramount .  What if the airline suddenly reassigns us to a different island base? Or what if we decide we want to switch islands…give St. Croix a try, then Puerto Rico…????  What if, in a couple of years, Marty wants to fly around the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean?  What if we decide to move back to the mainland?  (It could happen????….)

Reason #5

The most important reason, to me, for leaving it all behind, is…..It’s just stuff!  For the last month I was on the mainland, the only thing keeping me away from my husband, turquoise water, and sunshine was….you guessed it, STUFF!  Sorting through and shipping or otherwise disposing of stuff consumed a lot of time and energy I would have preferred to have used elsewhere.

Never again, my friend.  I am finally willing to acknowledge that I have the spirit of a curious gypsy.  All I have to do is to start living like one, so that the next time Marty and I look at each other with that twinkle in our eyes that says, “I’m ready for a change.  What should we do next?”  we each will be able to pack one suitcase and set sail toward our next dream.

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Who said this would be easy????

As you might imagine, the phrase,“I’m moving to the Virgin Islands!” comes up often these days.

“Great! Piece of cake!” is not, however, the usual response. In fact, this is the one response I haven’t heard.  Is moving to the Caribbean easy?  Not so much.  Wonderful?  Yes.  Exciting?  Absolutely!   And, along with all of the wonderful excitement is a surprising amount of… pain.

I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t drawn a line between the word columns in my head associating ‘paradise’ with ‘pain.’  Joy, happiness, abundance, unspoiled beauty….these are the words that first came to mind.  I even anticipated ‘challenging’ and ‘discomfort’ (i.e. “you’re going to feel a slight pinch.”); however, when conceiving Project Paradise, ‘pain’ wasn’t one of the contingencies.

But I’m not IN paradise yet.  As it, and my husband, patiently wait for me to join them, I’m still in the process of getting from here to there.  And what feels like a dull ache has been with me since I put the first pair of pumps in the box labeled “Donate.”

Some days, the process seems endless.  Since we’re selling, donating, or gifting at least 95% of our earthly belongings, it’s not the actual packing that’s difficult; it’s the sifting.  Consider that when you self-fund a 3000+ mile relocation, and more than half of those miles are open ocean, you end up taking very little with you and letting go of everything else.  And deciding what 5% to keep is a lot like sifting through a mountain of sand, one grain at a time. (“Like grains of sand through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives,” says a deep voice in my head.)

Put another way, it’s a bit like having your life flash before your eyes, only in really, really s..l..o..w, agonizing motion.  At the end of each day, I feel like I’ve attended a funeral…emotionally drained, with a lightness of being that comes with finality and closure.

Before I continue, I can hear some of you groaning, “Is she really complaining about moving to the Caribbean?  Giving up a pair of shoes? Are you kidding me right now?”  (And the rest of you are smiling and laughing because schadenfreude delights you. You’re welcome.)

Believe me, I get how absurd it sounds.  But don’t give up on me yet, because if the whole idea of ‘paradise’ turns out to be a crock, and I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life, don’t you want to know? At least so you can save yourself and trade it in for a better dream?

I’ll admit to griping a bit.  At the same time, I’m doing it with a sense of gratitude (there should be a word for this).   And I’m willing to bet that griping is exactly what you would be doing if you were in my shoes.  And that is part of the point, wouldn’t you agree?  A chance for you to walk through the experience and figure out where reality matches the dream, and where it doesn’t?

So, true, this part of the journey isn’t easy. We all know it as a ‘transition,’ and, if we’re very fortunate, we are blessed with many.  And we all know that loss often goes hand-in-hand with transitions, which is why we rarely consciously sign up for them.  Instead, we usually come barreling up on them at 100 miles per hour with our eye on the prize.  Soon, we realize we will have to empty our hands of something we hold dear before we are able to pick up something new.

While this particular leg of the journey is turning out to be miles longer than it looked on the map, it is the road I chose.  So even on the day I was pummeled by the gut-grabbing news that our beloved cat’s health is probably too fragile to make the journey with us, I was able to re-center myself in a place of gratitude and acceptance for “what is.”

“Is it all worth it?” someone recently asked.

“Absolutely!”  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Ever thought about moving to paradise?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave it all behind, move to a tropical island, and live your dream?  Well, we have, too.  Now my husband and I are in the middle of relocating to the Caribbean. You know…. turquoise water, white sand beaches, palm trees, perpetual summer…..yes, there!

You may be thinking, “Who really does that?”  Of course, everyone is in love with the idea….but it’s nearly a violation of a sacred trust to actually do it.

Sure, like most of you, we’re aware that their are plenty of reasons for leaving well enough alone.  We were happy, living in a beautiful city along the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Good jobs, majestic mountains, four seasons, 300+ days of sunshine, good friends and family. Life was good!

Admittedly, our decision may not have been rational… it’s something other… a decision informed by things like dreams, intuition, instinct, and “callings.”

So, if you’re also in love with the idea of moving to paradise, or you’re one of those special people who believes in dreams coming true, then you’re in the right place to explore the possibility without all the mess and fuss.

I’ll save you the trouble of quitting your job and having your friends and family question your sanity. I’ve already left my job (with all of the mixed emotions you might imagine) and defended my mental health, and Project Paradise is full speed ahead.

Please, stick around!  I invite you to join me on the journey. I’ll do all the heavy lifting, and you can try it on, risk-free, and find out if the reality is anything like you imagine it.   I can’t promise that it will be, but I can promise you a true life story unfolding in real-time… a candid recounting of my experience leaving a conventional American life to explore the possibilities on a tropical island and ‘living the dream’ with the love of my life!

Come on, let’s order up a round of rum punch and have some island fun!

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Living our Dreams 2.0

Our normally scheduled programming was just interrupted, yet again, with an opportunity for a new adventure!

Marty was selected to begin Ground School Training for Seaborne Airlines on the island of St. Croix (USVI), followed by Simulator Training in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. God willing, he will then be employed as a First Officer flying inter-island routes for Seaborne Airlines!

If all goes well, come February/March, Bridget will be busy with the relocation; purging ourselves of most worldly possessions, packing up and shipping what’s left, and fixing up and renting or selling the house. We hope to be together again, in the Caribbean, in a few short months.

What we do know is that it is Bridget’s life-long dream to live on a tropical island, and it’s Marty’s life-long dream to fly airplanes. To be able to do both, together, is the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Living our dreams 1.0

When Marty and I began our life together, we made a choice not to live exactly the way modern culture seemed to suggest. We prioritized quality over quantity, people over things, simplicity over complexity, peace over chaos. We chose to live in balance. We believed that less could be more, and it has been. Above all, we vowed to view life as an adventure!

The recession has shifted that balance at times. It has meant that we exchange more time for less money, partly in case it gets worse before it gets better. We are being leveraged more, and are leveraging less. Through the grace of God and a few good friends, we are most grateful to have been provided with everything we needed and more.

Marty spent Fall ’08 rebuilding and fixing up a snow plow for the tractor.  He had to wait until Spring ’09 to use it, and boy did he! We don’t have quite as big a driveway as the plow would suggest, but the justification lies somewhere between bad back and big boys and big toys.

Bridget had the good fortune of starting a new job with a wonderful company in February. Over the past two years she has trained for a new position or role nearly every three months. It’s proven to be quite absorbing, fantastically enriching in unexpected ways, and surprisingly rewarding at times. She also continued her freelance work, and was recently hired to create a website for a local business, and has requests from several others.

In March, Marty was accepted to Federal Flight Deck Officer training.  FFDOs are pilots trained to carry firearms in aircraft, to prevent hijacking and other nefarious activity. He spent seven days learning close quarter hand-to-hand fighting, Vulcan neck pinches, and most importantly, how to shoot ‘better than an FBI agent.’ When he finished, the US government issued him a badge and a gun…your tax dollars at work. 

More change came in April. On the 9th, Mesa Airlines furloughed Marty due to a downturn in business.  A furlough is like being laid off with a promise to rehire if the business ever picks up. For the record, it hasn’t picked up and if anyone needs someone to fly an airplane for them, Marty would be happy to entertain requests.

Just in time to keep him from going crazy at home, Marty was blessed to find a consulting gig in May. His services have been in demand steadily ever since. In July he began consulting for Jones International University, the first accredited online University in the country. 

We had an unusually wet spring and summer. Marty’s Dad visited in July, and essentially dared Marty into digging a drainage ditch around the house.  Approximately 140 feet of ditch later, Marty was tired, muddy, and proud that “Lake Skjordahl” would no longer form in the driveway and courtyard during heavy rains.

Over the summer, we took a trip into the hills to find hot springs, and stopped in Hot Sulfur Springs, CO. Marty bought a car for Bridget in celebration of our sixth wedding anniversary. We drove the new car to Indiana for the Foltz family reunion.  Soon after, Marty’s cousin and aunt (Skjordahl clan) visited from Florida. Our house was burgled.  Friends from Chicago visited, but inclement weather and Marty being down with a bad cold precluded the annual hike up a Fourteener.

In the Fall, we spent a weekend in Glenwood Springs (our favorite hot springs), and even dressed up for Halloween!

A new tradition was started by celebrating Thanksgiving at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. We were fortunate to be able to fly in and spend a couple of days with family, playing board games, drinking hot cocoa, and enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner that none of us had to prepare or clean up.

The snow started falling early this year (well before Halloween) and we’re having a spectacularly cold winter so far. We’re staying home for Christmas and plan to celebrate with Bridget’s family on Christmas Eve. The prime rib & Yorkshire pudding traditionally prepared by Bridget’s Mom is Marty’s favorite meal of the year!

Admittedly, 2009 was a rebuilding year, and was remarkable in its lack of a really big adventure. We’re sure to make up for it in 2010! Stay tuned!

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Are you breathing life into your dreams?

Originally Posted:   Friday, June 26, 2009

A newly realized truth struck me today, just as I was celebrating my 48th birthday. I acknowledged that I have indiscriminately and compulsively spent energy solving problems and improving on ideas that were not mine. I realized that this is an enormous energy drain. It also serves nicely as a way to avoid facing my own dreams and desires.

The good news is that once I admitted to it, I was able to release it. Thus, according to 90 year old Joshua O. Haberman, I am already reaping one of the “benefits of growing old.”

According to this New York Times article by Paula Span, Haberman is a rabbi emeritus of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. Quoting from Haberman’s 6 Reasons to Grow Old; “The fourth gift harvested in old age is liberation from the compulsion or urge of setting everyone else straight.”

Admittedly, while not quite “old” (although it depends on who you talk to), I continue to grow in that general direction. I consider this sort of growth a good thing.

So, with the wisdom of Rabbi Haberman behind me, my 2009 Birthday Intention is this:

“With the exception of friends, family, and the wonderful people who engage my services specifically to do so, I release the desire to apply MY vision to dreams that do not belong to me. I use this recovered energy to breathe life into my dreams.”

Here’s my simple 4-step plan for following this intention:

1. Clarify the dream

2. Set the intention

3. Align actions to steps 1 and 2

4. Repeat steps 1-3 as often as necessary

What a wonderful age — fortunate enough to be experiencing some of the benefits of growing older, while not yet suffering much of the deterioration that we associate with aging.

My birthday wish for all of us is that we continue to find the benefits of growing old(er) in greater measure than we do the signs of old age’s decline.

Shalom.

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Happy New Year!

Wow, did you get a glimpse of it?  Like a shooting star, the past year seemed to bolt across the canvas of our lives as if it were only an instant, yet the distances we traveled were significant.

Marty spent a lot of time as a “road warrior,” continuing to enjoy and grow while leading Sungard Availability Services’ quality assurance initiatives. He reports the dubious honor of earning his way into the highest echelon of frequent flyer status on two major airlines. We’re always thankful when he returns home safely, and if it happens that he returns on schedule, and with his baggage, that is all icing on the cake!  He continued to provide for us as Bridget nurtured her holistic real estate practice in the midst of uncertainty, and the opportunities that come along with it.

Summer means Adventure!! so we embarked on “An Expedition of Southwestern Colorado.”  We took off on the 4th of July to explore some of the bounty this great state has to offer.  First stop: Glenwood Caverns, where we went deep under ground and inside Iron Mountain, crawling on our bellies and contorting our bodies to fit ourselves through some of the most unlikely passages leading from one naturally formed cavern to the next.  Marty was afraid they’d have to grease him up to get him through some of the holes we went through!

While Marty never did get stuck Winnie the Pooh-style, it was an exciting and amazing experience none the less. Entering into and crawling through an awesome natural phenomenon that is relatively untouched and undisturbed was truly thrilling. To see a variety of unusual organisms that live without any sunlight was life-affirming. To feel the darkest darkness that has ever closed over you is sublime.  To feel the lump of fear rising in your chest before catching somewhere in your throat as you realize that you are sitting alone under tons and tons of solid rock in a small dark chamber that millions of years ago was filled with acidic water and no exit is visible to you . . .  and you have now gone farther down the rabbit hole than you ever imagined . . .  is terrifying.  Letting go of that fear and allowing joy to take its place is exhilarating!

Such intense physical exertion had to be followed up with a long soak in the hot springs pool that made Glenwood Springs famous.  Feeling rejuvenated the next day, we enjoyed a beautiful drive down toward Gunnison to the rim of the Black Canyon where we stood in awe of Nature and Time, and could neither see nor hear any evidence of another human being.

Back in the car and on to Montrose, down through Ouray and into Durango.  All in all, it had to be the most magnificently scenic drive either of us has ever taken.  There are no pictures or words that can do justice to the majesty that is so abundant here.

At the end of the day, we rolled into Durango where the next day was spent riding the old steam engine train up to Silverton and back.  Marty found he didn’t much care for the rocking motion of the train.  Now, he doesn’t mind being thrown around every which way in an airplane, but give him the safe, comforting back-and-forth motion of the train, and he starts to get a little pale!

The next day, we left Durango and soon were climbing around in the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde to walk in the footholds of the Ancestral Puebloans.  That night was spent in peaceful Pagosa Springs and the next day was a full day driving home.  Whirlwind, beautiful, fun, and memorable!

The following week we were back in Indiana for the annual Foltz family reunion, always a highlight of our summer, and always much too brief.  It was bittersweet without Granny Foltz, who we laid to rest in the spring.  God wanted that piece of heaven back.  We truly miss her.

Bridget was so happy to get some bonus time with Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Monty when they stopped overnight on their way to Colorado Springs after having taken in the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Marty, unfortunately, was racking up those miles and missed the whole thing.

Marty began winding down the summer with the annual hike up one of Colorado’s fourteeners with friends who heroically made it to Denver from Chicago a day or two later than planned. This year it was Quandary Peak, elevation 14,265’, making it the 13th highest in Colorado.

Just before Labor Day we enjoyed some time together in Las Vegas while Marty attended a leadership conference.  Bridget found that lounging near a gorgeous pool for hours in intense, dry heat, bright sun, and quiet solitude was the ideal creative environment.

Two weeks later we were back in Nevada making our annual pilgrimage to The Reno Air Races, where aviation enthusiasts with spine and character congregate to celebrate speed, power, daring, and love of Country.  We’re sorry for all the Sallies who just couldn’t put on their long pants in time to be able to join us.  Better luck next year?

Thanksgiving brought us again to Indiana.  It is astounding what an inch or two of snow can do to a highway stretched flat across the Kansas prairie.  Bridget had her eyes screwed shut. Marty’s were wide open.  Luckily, Marty was the one behind the wheel.

Somewhere along the line we have been adopted by one, and then later, a second feral cat. The first we eventually named Roger after a character in a Comcast commercial.  The second cat immediately became known as Bob due to his . . . we prefer to use the term “inadvertently abbreviated” rather than “severed” . . . tail.  He found his way to our house during a barbeque we were hosting, and hasn’t been off of our property since.  He’s a little worse for wear: his long gray fur is a little rough and matted, his “meow” sounds like he’s been smoking two packs a day for the last 50 years, and yet he has a gentle charm that makes you want to keep feeding him day after day.

As seasons tend to do this far north, fall eventually fell into winter.  The rhythm of life changed, and the living arrangements had to as well when temperatures dropped below freezing.  Bridget crafted two cozy cat houses, each made out of a polystyrene foam container used to ship meat, duct tape, and a heretofore unopened roll of Con-Tact® paper that may possibly pre-date Marty.  Once filled with shredded newspaper and placed under the eaves in the protection of the courtyard, order and warmth were restored.  Bridget & Marty still sleep indoors.

The year in short:  We laughed out loud, learned something new about the world and each other, played with our food, served in the Civil Air Patrol, stared down fear at least once, shed tears of both joy and sorrow, were blessed with two visits with Jeff & Ilona, loved with our whole hearts, lost a water heater off the back of the truck on the way home from the store and had to go right back and buy another one, discovered new answers to old questions and asked new questions of old answers, celebrated 4 years of marriage, entertained new ideas and different points of view, made new friends, didn’t always do the best job at staying in touch with old ones but we keep trying to do better, believed in the possible and impossible, and danced to the rhythm of life as best we could with our hearts open wide.

And, here we are at the time of year when we all hopefully slow down and reflect on where we’ve been and, more importantly, where we’re headed.  May this find you safe and well!  We’ll keep you close in our prayers, and hold our vision of all of the good and wonder that is possible for all of us in the coming year!  Happy New Year!!!!

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