T-minus 100

I am now less than 100 days away from putting my “normal” life on hold for six months. And by normal, I mean having more than one pair of skivvies at my disposal.

The thought struck me while I was paying bills today (the essence of time, not the value of clean undies.) I realized I could save a little money or perhaps more realistically—redirect it—by suspending a few of the automatic deductions and subscriptions during my time away. Then I starting thinking what else I need to address that has nothing to do about hiking, but everything to do about being gone on an extended trip. And holy cow! I’ve got only three months left to get my ducks in a row.

Disclaimer: This article is written from my perspective as a 50-something, self-employed business and home owner. Many points will be applicable to any age group, while others will be associated mostly to old geezers left holding a lifetime of irons in the fire. 

First Up: Household/Personal Stuff

The credit card bill included our current family membership monthly deduction. Since I won’t be using the YMCA for six months, we can change it to a less expensive individual membership for my spouse.  Our Y is very accommodating and all I need to do is fill out a small form a few weeks before I leave. If only all of my automatic deduction changes could be just as easy peasy, but more on that later.

At one time our yard probably could have graced the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. It came with the house when we bought it 17 years ago. Way back when, we even won a village beautification award just by living here. While I like how landscaping looks, I detest the time it takes to maintain it. I will mulch in spring and lamely weed a few times over the summer. The husband deals with it even less. It has the potential—and opportunity—to turn into the setting for Where The Wild Things Are. Even though everything is now blanketed under a cover of snow, the plantings, meaning weeds, are just dying to grow. And grow. And grow—perhaps not so much as Max’s forest, but still. Coincidentally the growing cycle for plants happens to overlap exactly with my hiking schedule. I fully expect agrarian anarchy upon my return.

I next pondered about other annual beautification projects that will end up being out of my control this year:

  • Is there any hope for cultivating summer tomatoes or basil for winter pesto?
  • Will the two annual flower beds adjacent to the front door even be planted in 2016?
  • Ditto for the back porch potted plants and the usual hanging planters that I’ll never see this year—
  • How can I help ensure that the indoor plants are kept alive?

I don’t expect the husband to care about or maintain the same things I do in my absence, except for the indoor plants. And the basil.

In addition to all the household responsibilities my spouse already manages, he’s going to have to take on dusting, a task he may have done once, if ever, and wash the floors—another division of labor I handle. But then, there will only be one person knocking around in this empty house. Maybe it won’t get all that messy while I’m gone. Although odds are extremely high that it will get dusty.

Other things requiring attention prior to departure include:

  • Pay any personal bills in advance and/or be sure my mail/email is being read and due dates responded to timely (including paperless bills) or things like student loans and car payments
  • Document and know where all passwords are kept
  • Record numbers of credit cards that will be carried, to leave at home as a reference
  • Pack the health insurance card and check what is covered (or not) out of state
  • Bring copies of optical prescriptions/medications
  • Set up an email auto response message
  • Avoid the start of any crazy rumors by letting the neighbors know when I am gone and why
  • Make plans to have the car started and used from time to time so it isn’t sitting there idle and unloved

I suppose you could take this list one step farther and make sure your will, living will and/or power of attorney are all updated. But I WILL be coming back all in one piece. Plus, those things are already done.

My cellphone and Internet bills are run through my business. I’m still going to need both of them kept alive while on the trail, but they are already a fixed expense and automatically paid. I’ll just need to leave enough money in the account and have payments tracked for me. If I could suspend either of these accounts, I would, to save redirect, money.

Speaking of Which: Business Stuff

All my clients and vendors were notified about my leave of absence, some as early as a year ago.  I won’t be able to do much about any new business leads, but perhaps I’ll nab one or two new followers through the RSS feeds posted in my email signature as part of my perpetual out of office notice.

Other business tasks one (or I) need(s) to remember to do:

  • Put a temporary hold on automatic IRA contributions. With no money coming in for six months, there will be no money sitting in my account to go out.
  • Pre-file six months of state sales tax as zero

That leaves just two other subscriptions to manage that get billed monthly to a credit card—Google Apps (nonimal fee) and Adobe (an expensive monopoly that I loathe more than FaceBook’s sponsored search ads). I could spend an entire post ranting about Adobe’s crappy policies and non-existent customer service, but I’ll wrap up my to-do list with these last items:

  • Pre-pay Google Apps, if possible, or leave signed checks for credit card payments
  • Spend several more days attempting to temporarily suspend, yet retain my current Adobe account and software downloads, without paying $59.99/month—for half a year— just for that convenience

With the clock ticking, the idea of simply throwing a pack on your back becomes more complicated when you are tethered to bills and responsibilities.

Now, the only thing left to remember as we head off to the trailhead come April, is to turn the stove/lights/water off before the door closes.

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Comments 3

  • Mark Nunez : Jan 10th

    Hello, Katina.
    I have subscribed to your posts. Seem to have similar thoughts, responsibilities, etc on my mind as I prepare for a thru-hike attempt myself. Long, long time ago did 2 section hikes and covered Springer to Damascus (didn’t even know people were attempting thru-hikes until that second hike from Springer to Newfound Gap). There were no cell phones and no internet. It was the good-old-days, 1978. Anyway, more importantly, I am wrestling with making a decision whether to try the old school tradition and NOBO from Springer, or break the obsessive compulsion and flip-flop beginning Harper’s Ferry. There seem to be quite a few advantages in doing that especially for the “older geezers” (especially the easier elevations and less competition for resources). I am an early sixty-something, my wife and daughter support team back home, hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream. 🙂

    • Katina : Jan 12th

      I’ve been watching some YouTube NOBO trip videos which are helping to reinforce the flipflop decision further. When the hiker pans the location (e.g. Springer, some popular waterfall, etc.) you see hordes of people. I’m not opposed to seeing people, but hordes? And the potential party atmosphere? Yes, that bothers me. Unless you are really starting late, the competition for campsites and lean-tos/hostels (come bad weather) will be fierce. (Not to mention what the outhouses will be like by then…) I’m also am liking the idea more and more of starting out at the easier elevations and well into Virginia (maybe that will help avoid the Virginia Blues too?!). Thus far, I’ve read no reports that anyone who has done a flip flop wishes they hadn’t. Another psychologically reinforcement. Good luck with your decision and enjoy every moment regardless of where you begin!

      • Mark Nunez : Jan 14th

        Thanks, Katina.
        Your posts have been very helpful in weighing the pros and cons of an alternative thru-hike vs. a traditional NOBO. I still cringe a little at the thought of “giving up” on my original dream of a magical start at Springer, but a flip-flop starting at Harpers opens up several options as the hike would progress. I feel like I would have unwavering confidence to reach Katahdin if starting at Harpers (an amazing, successful hike in its own right). If still “feeling it” I can return to Harpers and hike the “Virginia Blues” to Damascus, and, BOOM, I’m a 2000 miler (by way of 4 section hikes). If I’m still feeling it, I hike Damascus to Springer, repeating those 2 sections from 1977-78 (NOSTALGIC), and successfully complete a THRU-HIKE! I really like the “OPTIONS” but they all seem to be whispering “Well, JUST IN CASE things don’t work out to complete the thru-hike … “. Thanks for listening.


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