A Glass of Champlain Please Oct08

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A Glass of Champlain Please

It was time to stop, drop and roll. We hadn’t caught fire, but we had started to recognize that we were in fact, burning out. We thought the nice long stay in Chicago would fill up the tanks, but a week later both of us were still feeling “off”. Even when we spread out our agenda and padded it with down-time, the touristy life we were having was still busy – fun, but not very deep or nurturing. It’s like eating chocolate chip pancakes every day for breakfast. One morning they’re in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head, the next day they’re giant stars. Very cool, but always fleeting, sugary calories that leave you hungry and zonked out 2 hours later. It was time to talk turkey and eggs and nuts – we were in need of some life-protein.

On our drive deeper into New York we found ourselves in the middle of Amish country. It was clear by the look on this fellow’s face that we caught him by surprise as we rattled by him at 50 MPH.

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We had booked a three night stay in Plattsburgh, New York with the plan to just drive the SUV up to Montreal, Canada on one of the days. However, on top of feeling the burn out, we had gone horribly over budget in July and we were racking up equally dismal financials for August. We either needed an increase in revenue or a cut in expenses. Ali offered up some creative ideas for immediate revenue generation, none of which were exactly legal. So since were we still bitter with Canada over our last border crossing and we’d heard that Montreal didn’t have the best reputation for friendliness, it was an easy decision to lay off Montreal. No severance.

What the heck is there to do in Plattsburgh, New York you ask? Well, go to the beach and make big life decisions – that’s what! We had a terrific spot at the Cumberland State Park on the banks of Lake Champlain.

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The fresh water lake is bordered mostly by Vermont and New York, but also the province of Quebec which is why we were pretty much surrounded by French speaking “Quebeckers” they call them. I guess it’s a popular summer destination for them and I could easily see why. Warm water, a long, sandy beach and a terrific campground.

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For us, two chairs at the edge of the water made Lake Champlain the perfect conference room for life-planning and negotiations. All afternoon and again the next morning over a long walk up the beach, we talked through our needs and wants. We pulled them out of ourselves in large blobs and then helped each other with pointed questions to sculpt them into smaller more recognizable shapes. The two biggest need blobs were the money blob and the purpose blob.

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We’re not in trouble by any means with regard to money. It’s only that we promised ourselves we’d stick to our budget for this trip and keep a certain amount sacred and set aside for starting our next thing. We each have our trip money, our “next thing” money and our retirement accounts, three separate funds that we hope to keep dedicated to their original intended use.

Sticking to a budget, even a generous one, has been an eye-opening experience. We use coupons now, we compare brand names to generic and look for the best value, we’ve joined every grocery and drug store rewards program available, we shop at Good Will for clothes, we color and cut our own hair, and we have an app to help us find the best price on gasoline. We do try. And then we don’t when we’re in places like Vancouver. Let’s just say we wholeheartedly blame Canada for our budget overages – gas, food, campgrounds, everything was more expensive.

A lack of purpose was the other blob. Relaxing, getting to know ourselves again, being happy, being outdoors, all of that had been our purpose for 6 months. Check! Done! It boiled down to this: we were ready to start some serious work on our next thing. It was time to stop letting our bucket list drive us all over the country and time to point ourselves in the direction of a new, more permanent life. Namely, that meant we stop spending so much money on gas and lodging, identify a few cities, our potential new home towns, and go stay there for a while. But FIRST, maybe we could earn some money working for Amazon’s Camperforce for the holidays?

We’d read about Camperforce and other work-camping options for full-time RVer’s who needed extra income. Being a camp host in exchange for a free RV spot seemed an OK option, but I’d already been seriously wooed by Amazon. Free campsite, $10/hr, employee discount and I would get to be part of a team in one of the premier warehousing operations in the world. When we looked up all the details we found out that one of their warehouses was in Kentucky, which was very close to where we’d be at the end of September. The logistics and timing seemed to be telling us to go for it. Ali was mostly in it for the money, but also because she saw how excited I was. They say that baby goats are the happiest things on the planet. That afternoon we applied online to work for Amazon in Kentucky and it made me feel a little like a baby goat.

We also needed to work on our travel expenses and itinerary. A lot of us talk about our bucket lists, all the things we want to see and do before we kick the bucket. I don’t know how much “voice” your bucket list has in your life, but Ali’s bucket list has a big personality. I imagine a Fran Drescher-like character blabbing at her ear, hard to tune out. But we worked together to make some cuts. We’d already laid off Montreal, so we nixed some other cities and scheduled a few boon-docks (free nights in Walmart parking lots), but at this point, our itinerary was pretty much worked out through the end of September. We’d still be tourists for at least one more month.

Even though we blamed Canada, we agreed to keep Quebec City on the list and face one more border crossing. After Plattsburgh and Quebec, we planned a week in New England, then we’d drive down to the Bed & Breakfast conference and visit with my parents in North Carolina, followed by Ali’s birthday in New Orleans and the last week of September we set aside for Nashville, TN. Then if Amazon accepted us, we’d figure it all out from there.

The next day with our new shift in perspective on board and a feeling of accomplishment, we decided to take a drive out to the Ben and Jerry’s factory which was just a ferry ride away over the lake and into Vermont. We packed a lunch and picnicked on their grounds, then timed our tour so that our free sample of Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream made the perfect dessert.

Even the Fedex Truck fits on the ferry

Even the Fedex Truck fits on the ferry

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While we were floating back across Lake Champlain on the ferry toward our campground we both got an email from the Amazon recruiter. They were delighted that we were interested in working for them in Kentucky. They were still hiring, but the next work group didn’t start until November and would we please print out and sign the formal employment application and NDA. After they received that paperwork they would schedule a phone interview with us.

They liked us! Yippee! We didn’t have a printer. Poop. The November timing threw us off just a little bit, since we’d hoped to finish out our September itinerary and then start work in October going straight from Nashville to Campbellsville. But we knew it wouldn’t be that hard find something to do for the month of October. The only problem now was coordinating all the printing and faxing in order to get the paperwork back to Amazon. At the Plattsburgh, NY Staples we got everything printed, we filled it all out while we were at the Quebec City KOA and then faxed it in from the local office store in Newport, Vermont. It was a multi-city, multi-state, multi-country application process, but that’s just par for the course when you’re livin’ the VAN PLAN!

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