Monday, January 26, 2009

Conflicted

Date: Jan. 24 and 25
Mileage: 11 and 42.2
January mileage: 686.7
Temperature upon departure: 16 and 15

Frost had started to form on my sweat-soaked hair as I heaved my bike over a four-foot cliff and stepped gingerly onto ice-coated roots to climb up beside it. I gasped and grunted and pushed the bike's rear wheel forward while I clawed at petrified snow with my bare fingers. I stopped to catch my breath and look up at the trail - a continuing series of steep "steps" just like it. As a hike, the lower portion of the Mount Jumbo trail is a relaxing jaunt through the woods to gain 500 feet in a half mile. Throw in a big, awkward bike, and it becomes quite the grind.

But I knew it was all worth it because at the top of that small climb lay the Mount Jumbo muskeg - a fairly large area of stunted trees and open space that was, for now, covered in the most ideal kind of concrete snow. The kind of snow that's so smooth and icy hard that you don't even need a packed trail to ride your bike. You can go wherever your heart takes you. You can weave through trees, circle up a hill and back down, lock up your brakes and spin donuts. You can do anything you want. The world is your trail.

As I crested the last pitch, I set my bike down at the edge of the muskeg and wavered a second. I took a deep breath. I thought of Ken Kifer. Ken Kifer was a prolific Internet author and career bicycle tourist who was tragically killed by a drunk driver in September 2003. Back in 2002, when I was barely a skilled enough cyclist to keep two tires on the road but aspired to become a long-distance bicycle tourist, I considered Ken Kifer my mentor. I read his extensive site from start to end and e-mailed him for advice, which he was always kind enough to give. One anecdote that particularly resonated with me was an exchange — of which I'm sure he had dozens like it — with a person who questioned how a 50-something-year-old man could afford to devote so much time to traveling by bicycle.

"I've never had much money," Ken replied, "so I've never had much need for it."

The doubter scoffed. "Well, I wish I could ride my bicycle all the time."

To which Ken replied, "Why don't you?"

Ken's words struck deep as I moved to make major changes in my life in 2003 - quit my job, explore Alaska, ride my $300 Ibex bicycle across the country. I wanted to live my life like Ken. I wanted to earn miles, not dollars. I wanted to to accumulate experiences, not stuff. Not because miles and experiences are necessarily superior to dollars and stuff, or even mutually exclusive. But I was enamored with miles and experiences. I did not care about dollars and stuff.

This simple truth creeps back in as Geoff and I discuss our future. We have, for a while now, been formulating our exit strategy to leave Juneau. We wanted to move back to Southcentral Alaska, a more centralized, less-isolated region from which to conduct future adventures. There are, of course, many pros and cons to shifting from Juneau to Anchorage. But it was easy to think about back in September, when the rain never stopped coming and the promise of endless opportunity loomed large around the big city. Then the economy landed in the toilet, the newspaper industry settled even lower, and Geoff and I started to talk about not only leaving Juneau, but going away, for six months or so .... Out ... to briefly let go of our grip on dollars and stuff in the pursuit of miles and experiences.

The more we talked about it, the easier and more appealing it sounded. The terrible economy actually pushed our drive. "I've never had much money," I pictured myself saying to concerned family members, "so I guess I don't have much need for it." I gave notice to my employer some months ago. I thought a long resignation notice would give them the time they needed to make the transition as smooth as possible, and possibly give me a bridge back if I needed it, once my dollars and stuff dry out. Instead, the long notice has given them ample time to try to prevent the exit altogether. My new boss, a driven reformer whose workaholism I respect because I believe work is what he truly loves, told me, "I'll give you an offer you can't refuse." I was offered a raise, which I refused. I was offered a better raise, which I refused. Then my boss came back recently with a promotion - a big one - and a raise - a startling one. I would have to work 60 hours a week under my current salary to earn it. "I'll even give you a month of unpaid leave for your race," he said.

The promotion would be salary pay instead of hourly pay. I strongly suspect my 40-hour workweek would eventually increase, possibly significantly. I would be working days, which wouldn't just put a dent in my current cycling adventure habits. It would put them in a shredder. Except for the brightest months of summer, I would either have to ride a lot in the dark, a lot indoors, or quite a bit less than a lot. Much in my life would change, but many parts, maybe not the best parts, would stay the same.

And yet, I have temptations. I have doubts.

In many ways, I feel like I have been pushing my bike up the Mount Jumbo Trail for several years now. Sweat is frozen to my hair and I'm gasping for air, but through the last row of thick forest I can see that frozen muskeg, smooth and inviting and glistening in the noon sun. Only now I face a choice. I can set out onto the frozen muskeg, ride wherever I want to ride, go wherever I want to go, on seemingly endless but actually finite trails of my own making. Or, I can continue on the same steep forest trail, pushing my bike further up the mountain, with the hope that there is something even better up higher.

I'm fearful because I don't know where I should go.

I'm even more fearful because I think maybe I do.

66 comments:

  1. leap and the net will appear.

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  2. Whatever you do, don't enslave yourself. Money changes people, be cautious. Let the passion in your life decide your trail.

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  3. Growing up is a bitch, don't do it.

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  4. Anonymous4:40 AM

    My husband got laid off once again - high tech in Ottawa sucks at the moment. We have two kids in college, two dogs, two cats and a horse. I would sell the horse, but its actually my daughter's and would put a cramp in her competition hopes. To make a long story short, our responsibilities require us to have money, but that is the path we chose. I discovered cycling about 10 years ago and fell in love with every aspect of it. Choose your path wisely. I am caught up in the corporate world and it is so unsatisfying. Show me a hill to bike up, I get to the top and feel that I have a accomplished more at that moment than I have my whole week at work. You are an author. A good one. Don't give up on your dreams.

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  5. Ray from Ohio4:49 AM

    I faced that same decision 25 years ago. I have very few regrets. What did I do? What I thought I had to at the time. Now 25 years later and spending time dead on an operating table I still do what I need to based on my family and myself. Somedays that includes an all-day ride sometimes not, either way I have been trying to cherish ALL of life.
    Don't Look Back, otherwise you'll run into something hard and immovable.

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  6. Anonymous5:29 AM

    Mike in WI says,

    Take the Job offer...it will not kill you to stick around awhile longer. Save and invest the extra cash...you will need that mad money for future travels without having money worries in the decision process.

    Just my .02 cents worth.

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  7. Anonymous5:37 AM

    careers and adventures are not mutually exclusive.

    you may not be able to ride your bike all day long... but are you planning on doing the iditarod every year? you may not need to train all day in the future.

    do you enjoy working at the newspaper? maybe that is your next life adventure. i'm sure you have professional writing goals that you would like to achieve and that are just as important to you as endurance cycling.

    life's adventures don't always have to be extreme sports in the outdoors. it's about setting personal goals in activities that you enjoy and then striving to acheive them.

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  8. Richard5:52 AM

    What you really enjoy is writing; enroll in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Iowa City isn't a bad place and there are lots of adventures to be had in the midwest.

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  9. Anonymous5:56 AM

    GO. (though I'll miss the blog posts!)

    There is no telling if the new newspaper position will also be part of the lay off string later on....usually the higher salaries get cut faster. I actually had the same epiphany this past month - I dont have much money now....maybe I dont need a lot of money in the first place...Happiness is not spelled with dollar signs. I always think of my grandmother when in these situations, the end of her life was beautiful regardless of the hardships she had faced in younger years. I'm sitting in my own cubicle in Boston while i write this. (half my company got laid off 2wks ago). So, I'm also planning a back packing trip in the white mountains....

    Go.

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  10. If there's one thing that my life has taught me, it's that you never ever know what's going to happen tomorrow or even today.

    You have good health and the capability to go on long adventures now. If that's what you want to do now, I think you should take the leap.

    A decision made now doesn't bind you for the rest of your life. There may be a point later when you want to combine adventures and writing, or some other undertaking. When the time's right, you'll figure out a path toward your goal.

    Carpe diem.

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  11. Maybe a different door to adventures opens with the new job? It's really not all about the bike ya know! And in your part of the world, there is lots more to do than just ride a bike (not that there's anything wrong with that). And remember, if the new job ends up not being a good thing, quit. I mean, what were you going to do with your current job?

    Andy

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  12. This is probably terrible advice, especially in a bad economic time, but I'd go with plan A. If you are in a place where it's easy to pack your stuff and hit the road, DO IT. Go for adventure while you're still unencumbered by a mortgage, by family, by other responsibilities. Those are all things you can do later, but being free to just go with Geoff and have some adventures? If that's something you can do now, DO IT.

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  13. Anonymous7:25 AM

    More high drama.

    You know, you're actually lucky that you have a boss that would try and get you to stay at your current job, even though your biking seems more important to you than your work. I think your location and the scarcity of people to take over your position might play a big part of it. Anywhere else you might go to in the 48 states you might have a dozen or more people that would be more than willing to take over your position. A manager at a job interview anywhere else might see the "I want to take some time off to ride my bike" as a person who isn't dedicated to their career, or serious about their job.

    In the end it doesn't really matter what you do. You can stay at your present job, work more hours, and cut back on your bicycling, and it won't really matter because you're not a professional cyclist, you're not getting paid to ride, and how well you place in your races really doesn't matter if you're only doing it as a hobby.

    It also doesn't matter which path you choose because either way you don't have much to lose. If you stay at your job and wind up working more hours the worst thing that could happen is you wind up like pretty much every other adult in America who has to work for a living. If you choose to quit your job, go off on some cycling adventure, or spend your time training for amateur races, the worst thing that could happen to you is that you run out of money and have to live with your family again until you find another job. So, your two choices really DON'T have any big dire consequences like they would if you had a house to pay for, children, and lots of bills coming in each month.

    You and Geoff have similar personalities, so I think you two are a good match for each other. Neither one of you wants to be tied down with alot of responsibilities, or what other people might consider adult concerns. You both actually seem to deliberately run from things that might tie you down. You both also derive more personal satisfaction in life from your running and biking than you do from work.

    Anyways, just to restate the main point, whichever path you choose it's really not that big of a deal because you don't have that much to lose either way. You're just making mountains out of molehills. Even if for some reason down the road you'd lose your current job it wouldn't be the end of the world, or that big of a loss, because you don't have alot of personal responsibilities to worry about.

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  14. Gee Jill, I can't wait to read the exciting stories of your working 60+ hour weeks at a paper that may fold or downsize anyway! Oh wait, maybe they can get somebody else to do that. But nobody else could've written "Ghost Trails." I think you already know what to do. I look forward to seeing you on the trail.

    BTW, you've already raised a ton of $ for Team Fatty, so I wouldn't worry about bailing on doing that actual ride in Seattle. The timing of it conflicts with something slightly longer that you were born to do.

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  15. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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  16. I love my job, I love to bike.

    I was just talking to my wife about a very similar situation I find myself in.

    I chose the great job—and I love it. I make way more than I did three years ago. but with that, I have far more obligations, far less time, and far fewer experiences.

    I do find time to bike, but only a handful of hours a week. Seven, in fact, according to my current training schedule. I have plans to do a 50 mile trail ride this summer, and maybe a century ride in a year or two, but that's about it.

    I wish I had more time to ride, however, with the extra income, I'm able to do more than bike, have more skills in case of a layoff, and enjoy insurance in case of catastrophe.

    I don't have an answer for you, but good luck as you look for one!

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  17. The only real question is, do you want to procreate? If so, you'll have to gain some stability sometime and give to that little someone else. If not, It's all about you and what makes you happy. Sounds like, in the absence of children, it's clear you'd like to bike and write and there'd be little reason to doubt that path. So, it's not really molehills. It's the big question. Do you ever want to start a family and if so, when?

    Getting way too personal, sorry.

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  18. If I knew the answer to this, I would tell my own self what it was, and then do it.

    For me money means not defaulting on staggering student loans, which is important to me. I can't walk away from that debt obligation, so I chose the "real" job that pays "real" money over my passion (acting, just as non-money-generating as cycling!)

    It's a tough call. Money buys you bicycles, and bicycle gear. And as you can see from the Fat Cyclist (where I linked from), a day job does not prevent avid cyclists from pursuing their sport. But the bulk of your life and energy couldn't be devoted to that anymore - it would have to go to work. It's hard and takes a lot of discipline (which you clearly have!) not to come home after a 9/10 hour day and flop on the couch. Especially if you are surrounded by a bunch of people who do just that every day.

    You will make a choice. I think the most important thing to remember is that you are not locked in to the choice you make now. Honestly, you could probably be happy in either life, you will have regrets regardless which way you decide, but if the choice you make leads to bitter unhappiness, you can always chuck it and go for the other, down the line. Good luck.

    And I love reading this blog.

    - Gillian

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  19. Only you know what will make you the most fulfilled in this life. Hard decisions, but from where I am sitting, it all looks positive. Good luck.

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  20. Whatever you choose i'm sure it well work out. But as a dirtbag vagabond mtb'er I'd have to choose the bike over $$.

    All I can say is its nice to have two very cool choices to make!

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  21. elaine9:17 AM

    I love reading your blog, I live vicariously through your adventures while I am between my own. I am 29, work full-time, proud weekend warrior. I truly enjoy my career as part of my life and participating in society and my community. Plus with my time more crunched I feel more motivated--I don't have time to sit around! My choice was like yours, about 5 years ago. I had about 1.5 years of wild fun beforehand, but worried... So I did get it out of my system. But this is me... Just wanted to share. Either way you are going to be living life to its fullest, no doubt! :)

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  22. Jill ~

    Discernment is a journey that is a part of your adventure.

    When you are at peace, you will know.

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  23. Take the job.

    Take the money.

    You can always quit later.

    People are losing jobs left and right. In this economy, you'd be nuts not to take the job.

    You are a writer. You clearly love that as much as you love biking (more??). Somebody is paying you to do it.

    This opinion comes from someone who left a 10 year career as a lawyer to move to Bozeman, Montana to snowboard and become a ... wait for it ...financial advisor.

    Besides, money is good for stuff like buying new tires and plane tickets to Hawaii.

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  24. If I where in your shoes and your age and circumstances....I'd do the job for one year and save your ass off. Then... I'd hit the road.

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  25. Jill, that is one hell of a job offer, but you need to get some kind of insurance that you will have time to ride.

    I had a great job that I quit a year and a half ago. Sure, the pay was great and the job stability for my career is unbelievable, but I didn't have a life. I didn't have the time or the freedom to leave my town and go build trails an hour away (I was on call a lot). I fought with my boss for days off for races and I was tired of being made to feel guilty.

    I quit and my last day was a week before my favorite race. I camped in a friend's yard for over a week and I felt so rejuvenated. Living quite simply in a tent made me happier than making a lot of money.

    I think taking the job for a year may be a great idea, but absolutely do not let yourself live up to your income. Keep is super simple so you won't miss the money when it quits coming in.

    Good luck. :-)

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  26. Decisions are tough and only you can make it. If it were me I'd take the job. You can always quit the job if it gets out of control. Sounds like the job offer will only be there right now. Pray about it. He'll help you make your decision and won't lead you astray.

    Mike

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  27. I always wanted to be a dirtbag climbing bum. I married and let them push me away from my dreams (some of them actually told me that it was money and not dreams that was important) - they're rich, i wasn't (now i am - with their money ha ha ha suckers -- eat it!). anyway i regret being pushed into working my ass off basically so that i would please them and be the right person for their beautiful little girl.

    anyway, not that i'm at all a bitter old man with baggage...

    my one point is that you shouldn't let go of career entirely - because i look at the dirtbag climbers when they are 40 and it's not pretty and nobody cares anymore that they climbed hard, and now what. so you have to maintain a livelyhood and invest in work that you will continue to find interesting as you get older.

    did somebody say happy medium? i think they did!! my solution was to work on increasing my hourly wage while decreasing my hours worked, and to be able to work from home since i can't stand to look at their sorry faces at work all day, sad bastards. it sort of works but now i have a kid and another on the way and frankly i don't care about climbing quite as much. and i;m about to take the spring off to climb before new baby. i go to the desert and eat flowers.

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  28. i cant believe the closest we got to a bikini photo was you lying on patch of snow. rip off!

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  29. OneBikeWonder11:58 AM

    Wow, it's stunning how many presume to know your best option. I've no idea what you, or anyone else, should do but I wish you all the best regardless.

    With sincere thanks for your blog.

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  30. Wow did you spark some opinions!
    Looks pretty clear to me
    You have no dependants, relativly young, advanced rider who needs to make the choice between living day to day for the remainder of your years or starting a career. up until now it sounds like you have had a job. Big difference, is this what you love, are you willing to halve your saddle time? Or are you ready to go pro on the bike? Have you ever thought about road racing? My guess is you would shock a lot of people out there.

    Hey look on the bright side, if you choose career, I might be able to match milage. No I still will get whooped!

    If you hit the road, love to have you and Jeff visit the GSMNP

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  31. Anonymous1:18 PM

    Follow your dream not the green back.

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  32. Hey, I know I already commented on this post but I came across these lines in this book I'm reading and I think it might apply to your situation. I'm going slowly through this book, I'm going to be reviewing it, but it's really good and I'm rationing it out like a bunch of peanut butter cups in the back country. Anyhow, the author, who is this awesome woman biker up in Alaska, writes:

    "Life was good again on the bike — simple and self-sufficient.
    As the sun shock and fatigue wore off, I remembered the bike’s appeal, the
    exhilaration that drove me out there in the first place. Life on a bicycle was a life that moves in moments. Everyday life always seemed to march with a more tyranical version of time. But on a bicycle, time became distilled. Instead of seconds, I had pedal strokes. Instead of minutes, miles. Time was freer when I only owned what I can carry, and clearer when pedaling and surviving were my only jobs. A
    clearing in the forest, a sandy wash in the shadow of sandstone cliffs, a weathered picnic table in a city park — these places were my homes as surely as any apartment I had ever rented. And where Geoff and I moved, life moved with us, with the moment."

    Anyhow, this woman seems pretty smart to me. I'm sure she'll be successful whatever trail she chooses.

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  33. I came across this e.e. cummings quote the other day...perhaps it will help:

    To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else— means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

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  34. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Looks like everybody's making this so-called tough decision to be more than what it really is in reality, what with this talk of being true to yourself, living the simple life, living your dreams, and personal freedom.

    Let's keep things in perspective. You have two choices:

    1. Get paid more to do the same job you're doing now, and get a month's unpaid vacation off, and the only drawback is you'll work a few more hours each week, and maybe ride your bike a bit less.

    2. Quit your job, go on some adventure somewhere, do it until you run out of money, and then go back to working again wherever you have decided to move to.


    Those aren't tough choices. A tough choice would be if you were an inner city single mom with children and you didn't make enough money and had to decide whether to to pay the electricity bill, or put food on the table for your kids. In comparison, your so-called tough choice is about the equivilent of deciding whether you should have chocolate cake or caviar for dinner. It's NOT that big of a deal when you step back and look at your life from an outsider's perspective.

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  35. Your money or your life. Sounds like a threat. Run.

    DG

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  36. holy shit, you people are freaking me out.

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  37. I bet you will make the most of whatever you decide to do. And you will know which choice is right for you - follow your heart.

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  38. Anonymous4:52 PM

    I stumbled into cycling to stay in shape for my real passion which happens to be surfing. When I was about your age I was at a similar crossroads, continue the corporate climb or apply for a passport and liquidate unnecessary belongings. Fiji was awesome, but Australia is what really did it for me. The corporate world isn't going anywhere, it will always be there as an option. I'd rank the year I spent vagabonding in the top 5 best experiences of my life.

    my nickels worth .. dig your blog!

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  39. What a beautiful post. Good luck in everything you choose to do. :)

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  40. Julie in Alaska5:18 PM

    I think that thinking of work and a job as your livelihood gives it the proper amount of dignity it deserves. I don't think of work as "making money" or I will end up in a place that only will allow me to reject it. Nothing wrong with having a livelihood, and nothing wrong with giving yourself financial security, or, at this point, rejecting security and livelihood in exchange for more fun. Isn't it about fun? It's okay to have it...but also responsible to provide for your livelihood, too. Ah, there's the rub.........good luck! As long as you can actually support yourself, you can do it anyway you please. Besides, does one really exclude the other? Great post, Jill. You are thinking overtime, here.

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  41. You're young, if you want to time some time off to explore the world in all it's craziness, do it now. I've got parents who have never really see Europe, and want to - but traveling kinda sucks with arthritis.... Might as well get some good life experiences in now, then write a book about it. I'll read it, and I bet a lot of other people will too.

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  42. Doyle in NM6:57 PM

    I think NIKE offers the best advice ever.....Just Do It!
    There are so many of us who read blogs like your's and live out our missed adventures from those like you who are really doing it!
    And if you don't..... you will find yourself sitting in front of your computer reading somebody's blog asking that question ......What if?

    Good Luck

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  43. Wow, big decisions. I'm sure you'll make the right choice for you. Good luck!

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  44. Anonymous8:04 PM

    I've been there. Pretty much in exactly the same position. The thing about choices though, is that they provoke anxiety, until you realize that you should never have regrets, and the worst thing that could happen is that you decide its not right for you, and change your mind. Some of the comments have been talking about children and responsibilites, yeah, it is freeing to be out on your own, living your experiences- I wouldn't take mine back. There is always that fear that comes from being around people that are grounded in a different way than you when you're grounded, that you've missed out, missed out on some sort of natural growth to want the "normal" things that you've been missing. Going out "on the open road" can leave you both fulfilled, and sometimes...feeling empty. I say you live once- do what makes you happy now, and when you want something else, a day, a week, 10 years from now, do that. you're lucky that you have geoff, not that you need a man, but the support you guys have for each other is great, and your journey doesn't seem like the rug will be pulled out from you, mid travel. Go for it- whatever it is- or you'll just wish you had.
    I heart you guys - n

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  45. Some big decisions!

    I know you have never relied on a large income, but it does help to have money to pay for essentials like food, shelter, and all your gear. Think about the present and the future and go with whatever makes you the happiest.

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  46. For the last 14 years I've pushed farther up the mountain. There wasn't anything better up there. The longest I was between jobs was when I was still single and went to the Grand Canyon for a week but I knew a better paying job was waiting for me when I returned.

    The first month after I got laid off, I was stressed I didn't have a job. Now it's been over 2 months and I'm not sure I want to go back to the grind. Maybe like you, we can learn to live on a lot less. I'm sure there would be a lot more fun.

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  47. I'm some random guy on the Internet, so take my opinion for what it's worth...

    I think one decision still allows for the other, but whereas one excludes the other. Like others have said, if you take the job and find that it sucks, you can always quit later and still go on your cycling adventure. If, however, you take off on the bike and find later that you need the $$/insurance/security that the job provided, you probably won't find it just waiting for you to come back. So I say give the job a fair chance, and if it doesn't work out, so what? Then you just take off...

    Of course, all this assumes just your role in the decision. The other question is, which you didn't really raise here, is what are Geoff's feelings on the potential postponement of this adventure, and how much do his feelings affect your decision? If you take the job, will he still say, "Well, I gotta go."?

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  48. That was supposed to read "...whereas one excludes the other.", not "...but whereas..." :)

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  49. Anonymous4:41 AM

    What Fonk said about Geoff brings up an interesting point. Why worry about what Geoff thinks at all ?. Last summer or fall he took off on his own little adventure from Alaska with no real plans on returning. Sounds to me like Geoff is more concerned about his own needs and wants, and constantly running off on his little adventures, than anything else. Who's to say he won't do it again ?.

    There's tons of outdoor and sports oriented guys in the world. With the way Jill is she could have another boyfriend in 30 seconds if she wanted to. However, there aren't many girls in the world that would put up with Geoff's choice of lifestyle. So, the way I look at it, Jill is in the better position job wise and relationship wise. Maybe that's why Geoff decided to do this little return to Alaska thing, because he needs Jill more than she needs him ?. Maybe Jill thinks she needs him in her life, and that's why she has this adventure trip idea ?. The way I look at it is that Geoff doesn't want to be tied down, doesn't want any long term goals or commitments, and doesn't want any outside expectations or pressure put on him.

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  50. it'll all work out. :)

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  51. Nice post, Jill.

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  52. Congratulations on making yourself so valuable at work that your boss is offering you scary pay raises to keep you in these tough times! It seems to me that the two options you are considering are both good ones. And as has been pointed out, the work option does not necessarily exclude the full time adventure option, just delays it until the time is ripe and the savings account is plumper.

    Several years after getting married I dreamed one night that I was back working in Grand Teton National Park. When I shared the dream with my wife she said let’s do it. So we jumped off our budding career paths, sold our house and her car and moved to Wyoming for a couple of years and worked for peanuts. For us it was a major setback in our careers and we are still lagging behind our peers on that front but it was worth it. For you, it would parlay into your next career phase nicely I bet. Hell with your books and blogs and potential sponsors you may be able to stay in the black while you travel to Patagonia and back.

    If you decide to make some beans for a bit first then my suggestion would be to push the envelope on your salary and benefit negotiations. What have you got to loose?

    Btw, I really appreciate how you stick with your primary themes on this blog. All these things have been going on in your personal life but you don’t drag us through it day by day. Rather, you slip it in an excellent post months after the fact. I think that’s why your readership comes out of the wood work to weigh in when you do give us a glimpse of your personal quandaries. You inspire us and we care about you. Us long-time readers know that "Up in Alaska" is only a little slice of Jill Homer's life so in that sense, who are we to give advice? On the other hand, it is a blog and you did kind of ask for it and we are the peanut gallery after all.

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  53. michelle8:50 AM

    Jill,
    Whatever you decide, isn't life supposed to be about living it and enjoying it while it's happening? Planning for the future is really great, but don't miss out on what today has to offer by getting too invested in tomorrow (whatever that might mean for you personally).
    I find the majority of people aren't living the life they dreamed they would be years before. That's because life is always changing and throwing us curve balls. It's impossible to know what the future holds. Live it and enjoy it every moment and try to make decisions that enhance what is happening today.
    The basic point I'm trying to make is, it really isn't selfish to make decisions based on what will make us happiest. And that should be the biggest question you need to answer.

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  54. Anonymous10:43 AM

    this is too funny and relevant to not share. Please just appreciate the humor :)
    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2009/01/11/120-taking-a-year-off/

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  55. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Jill,
    I went through a similar transition in 2005. I am glad I quit my job and followed my hearts desire. Speaking from someone that was in a similar position at that time as you are now, I would like to suggest that you follow your heats desire. Remember you have your HEALTH now! You can count on your health NOW. When I was in Europe I saw retirees traveling and they were miserable. They didn't have the health and vitality that your age has. I embraced my hearts desire and my life is magnificent in ways I never even had concepts for. If you are blessed you will be around this planet for another 60 years or so. Plenty of time for a desk job, eventually. You may not be in top health all of those 60 years, but you are now. When your body slows down and wants a desk job, get it then. Know that, even though I am encouraging to “do it now”, I fully support you in which ever decision you make.
    Joy to you and yours,
    DC

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  56. Jill, your life will be full of adventures. Stay put and see this one through.

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  57. "But I knew it was all worth it" Quote from http://arcticglass.blogspot.com/

    :-)

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  58. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Just ride.

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  59. Just dont be one of those people who look back with regrets.

    No regrets..

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  60. Anonymous9:40 PM

    I just sat and read all these posts and as I was reading I new what I wanted to say and Anon above stole it from me.

    JUST RIDE.

    This is exactly what I was going to say, alot of people have given you alot of really good advise...my .02 worth is to just forget. Forget about all the advise, Forget about the iditarod, Forget about training, Forget about how many miles you want or need to put on, Just go take a really long ride and think about nothing, Nothing but where you are at that moment and take in all that is around you, all the beauty. When you come back your head will be cleared and you will follow the path that you choose. Just keep in mind that all paths eventually intertwine...You can always choose another at whatever crossroad comes along. Just remember to have fun!!

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  61. Well, you've had plenty of advice on the job. I was just going to say that I've never thought of riding on the muskeg, but your post made me think of a recent walk on the frozen muskeg in Sitka. Bikes would kill our muddy trails most of the year, but you've finally made me want studded tires again - to ride in the woods and through the muskegs!

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  62. good lord, I can't even believe the amount of people who read your blog that are saying "take the job," whatever...

    you can write, it's your gift, you'll always have it. you might not always be able to bike and you don't get younger with age. you only live once.

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  63. Jill,

    I don't think this is a decision that can be reasoned out. Don't try and solve this conundrum you face by applying logic.

    I think you've told your boss (and us) where your emotions are and what your heart is saying. I say follow your heart.

    In the blink of an eye you may be old, and unable to get so physical as you do now.

    My credentials. I'm 54 and didn't follow my heart when I was younger. I took the path which said be sensible, accept your responsibilities and build for the future. As someone else said, as you age it's the things you didn't do that you most regret. At 54 my body shows signs of failure and now make the active, outdoor choice so much harder to follow. Sometimes now I just have to stop.

    go 4 it!

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  64. Jill...in your situation...either choice is a winner. What is in your heart?

    That is what truly matters. You have your whole life ahead of you to worry about $$ and stuff. I have $ (not a lot), I have stuff, but I also have regrets. Things I wanted to do but didn't because of responsibilities and the want for $$ and stuff.

    Whatever you decide to do will work out.

    Best to you!

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  65. welshcyclist3:03 PM

    I discovered Ken Kifer back in 2004, though I didn't find out he was deceased already, until a year later. Like you he inspired me, even at 54, and awakened dreams in me that I hope to fulfill. Good luck with your contemplations, about your futures.

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  66. Hey,

    I respect your work very much. Well worded talent goes far in the journalism career. Keep up the good work, so far I've clearly understood and followed up with your writings and I just want to throw some kudos at you, very good to hear people putting their mind to words the clear way :)

    Anyways, until the next time I run across your page, c ya' ciao!

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