Bye, Baby

After five delightful years, we decided to sell our Itasca Navion motor home. We loved our house-on-wheels, but the painful truth that we discovered was that between my business travel, my son’s school, the demands that scouting placed on our weekends, and my wife’s growing preference for hotel rooms, we just weren’t using it as much as we should.

So we did the best thing for her and for us, and we took her back to the wonderful folks at Conejo RV, who had originally sold her to us, and they gave us a very fair price to pass her on to another (hopefully less busy) family.

I cannot say enough great things about either Itasca (which is to Winnebago what Lexus is to Toyota) or the Navion, or the dealer. We had an unforgettable experience all around, and (don’t tell my wife) I will be purchasing an RV again when 60-70-hour work weeks are no longer a regular occurrence in my life, and when the open road and solo camping are at least a weekend a month.

For now, though, my SUV and my pup-tent are my second home, as is appropriate for a scout leader with a day job.

Bye, baby. And thank you.

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A Pitch by Any Other Name

To me it always be “New Highbury” rather than “Emirates Stadium,” but the name is far less important than what this place represents: the home of Arsenal.

Defiantly unlike the curated star lineup that is Manchester United or Chelsea, Arsenal is a scrappy, idiosyncratic North London soccer team that develops players and combines them with overlooked talent from around the world. They are more Dodgers than Yankees, more Lakers than Warriors, more Steelers than Patriots.

And for all of those reasons, they are more lovable, especially to people who have built their success on a mixture of heritage, talent, and determination in the face of adversity.

Maybe I am projecting, but I don’t mind. These are the virtues I admire, I choose my heroes accordingly.

Arsenal won this match, as it happens, a win that bumped them up from 6th in the standings to 5th. An incredible day for me, one that served as a fitting preface to my sabbatical that starts after next week.

Arrowman at Last

Ever since I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s, I have always wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow. The national honor society for the BSA is selective: candidates are elected by their troops from among scouts who have reached the First Class rank, and once selected are then tested in a weekend-long process called an Ordeal.

I never made it as a scout, and never expected to make it as an adult leader. Adult leaders are elected as well, but their candidacy is not automatic: adult candidates are then reviewed at the Council level for suitability and for demonstrated commitment to scouting ideals.

Quite unexpectedly this year, my name was submitted by my troop, and I was called out at a special ceremony at the April Camporee. I couldn’t even be there – I was in China on business. But I accepted (naturally) and submitted myself on June 1st for Ordeal.

The specifics of Ordeal are a closely-held secret, known only to members of the Order. Suffice to say that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in four years as a scout and nine years as an adult leader, but it was also transformative in obvious and subtle ways that continue to manifest themselves months later.

It was one of my life’s great experiences, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

Sabbatical: The Introduction

One of the cool fringe benefits my company offers is a paid, one-month sabbatical after five years of service. I reached five years, and the company COO urged me in no uncertain terms to take advantage of the opportunity.

You would think that the most challenging part about such an opportunity would be figuring out the bet time to go. Not even close. For me the greatest challenge came when the time came to decide what to do with my month away.

The company’s stated intent behind the sabbatical is to do something transformative that you couldn’t do in the space of a normal vacation that would leave you refreshed and reinvigorated upon your return. All good.

But I’m too old and too out of shape to go riding a motorcycle up Highway 1 in Vietnam, or go helicopter skiing, or bungee-jump off of a bridge, and I’m not sure I’d be inclined to do those things even if I were of an appropriate age.

I love trains, so I thought about taking a cross-country round-trip on Amtrak in a sleeper bedroom. I priced it: $4,500 for seven days on the rails was more that I was prepared to spend for the experience. I had been thinking maybe half of that.

I looked up first class airfares to cities across the country that I might be inclined to visit. They were rather more reasonable than a haul across the continent by train. Given how much I travel for work, though, and that I was going to be out of the country for much of the month before and the month after my Sabbatical, I nixed that idea.

And then I realized something: what I really want is not a vacation in place, but a vacation in time. I want the time and head-space to think, to read, to work on my fitness, to hike, to take a handful of courses, and to write. And I did not need to pay an airline, a railroad, or a hotel group to do any of that.

So I decided last night that my sabbatical is going to be a dress rehearsal for an active retirement, and an incentive to shift to a more balanced lifestyle. I told my wife that I would be around if she needed me, but that much of the time I would be out, engaged in a kind of early mid-life-crisis personal journey.

Naturally, I’ll be chronicling the journey here, but if you wish to skip these posts, I will be titling them.

A Good Day (Thanks, Marriott)

It is never pleasant having to spend your birthday on the road, especially on a business trip. Not only do you forego doing anything fun, you are usually surrounded by strangers who just don’t know.

Clearly, though, someone at the Shanghai Marriott City Centre was paying attention. I got back to my room after a long day to find a chocolate cake, a bowl of fruit, and handwritten notes from the guest services manager and from the GM.

This was about all the celebration I got for #54, but it was more than enough. SOmeone remembered, and that made up for a lot.