It helps to have goals

Travel is my passion. What's yours? This is Ayuttya, old capital of Thailand.
Travel is my passion. What’s yours? This is Ayuttya, old capital of Thailand.

A goal is the place you want to get to

Americans are amazingly inventive. If we know what we want to accomplish, most of us can figure out a plan to get there. But first you have to decide where you want to go. Today’s challenge: write down your goal and take one step toward it. I’m on my path. How about you?

I’ve recently shared how I started weaning myself from having so much stuff that I couldn’t find things and didn’t even know what I had. I’ve posted how I subdivided my house and now live in a 500 square foot studio located in the basement of my condo. I’ve explained how my renter pays my mortgage and given you some ideas of how I reduced what I owned to fit the space. This has allowed me to pay off all my bills except my house, AND save a nest egg.

But it’s just money. And this is a lot of trouble unless you have a good reason. Saving money is good. Living frugally is good and even fun for me. But not enough. This post is about WHY I did those things.

Yup, that's the pyramids in the background
Yup, that’s the pyramids in the background

Follow your bliss

My goal started out as a silly thought. I kept thinking I should be happy. I’m healthy. I have a job with benefits. I have friends and family. I can afford to travel on my vacations, have low debt and can afford all the things I really need and most of my wants. I’m lucky. There is a lot to be said about “growing where you are planted” and appreciating what you have.

And yet, I wanted more. I still want more.

I’m bored and I feel unchallenged. Yeah, I know. Most of the world strives to have the kind of problems I have. But I know I’m actually happier when I’m working hard toward something. You’ve heard it said, Follow Your Bliss. But can “what makes you happy” also pay your way? I hope so. Because that’s what I’m working toward. It might not work out. It probably won’t work out the way I plan. Few things do. But I don’t have anyone to worry about except myself, so here goes.

I took this during a balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey
I took this during a balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

I won’t be bored

I want to be wanderer, fulltime. I want to be a nomad of the world. Hence the name of the blog: Wander For Life. I may never own a home or a car again, nor many more possessions than I can fit into a couple suitcases. I may move to a different place every year, or every month. I want to meet people from other cultures, eat food I can’t pronounce, form my tongue around words I never heard growing up in the Midwest. I expect I’ll have more real problems, but fewer imagined ones. I’ll probably be dirty and lost and confused a lot. I’ll probably never have a lot of money again. But I won’t be bored.

I don’t have every single step figured out to accomplish my goal, but this blog is part of how I’m going to get there. Part of the blog is documentation. It’s also part marketing tool. Eventually. And it’s a place to solicit ideas. My guidance counselor in High School didn’t have “Wanderer” on her list of job titles. Heck, there wasn’t even an internet when I went to High School. I’ll have to feel my way. But I’ll need help. Your help. NO ONE DOES ANYTHING ALONE. I’ll need ideas from you.

That's me in the great Library at Ephesus
That’s me in the great Library at Ephesus

Plan B

It’s not all mapped out, but here’s what I plan, more specifically:

  • First I want to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. It will take me about 6 months to walk the 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. I’ve asked for that time off my job next year, but the odds are slim that I’ll get it. I’m selecting my backpacking gear now.
  • I want travel, to live in a different country every year. On the short list is South Korea, Turkey, Thailand, somewhere in the former Soviet Union, somewhere in South America and somewhere in Africa.

I think I can pay my way by teaching English, supplemented by blogging, selling ebooks and tour services online. I’m also willing to wait tables, work at hostels, be a barista at a coffee house or tend bar. I’m willing to try any reasonable/legal means to meet my goals, even some that might seem a bit extreme. None of the ideas will make me rich, but I should have a very rich life.

This will involve a lot of change and at some point I’ll just have to stop planning and step off into it. This won’t be an easy life. As Donna Freedman says, “I can say with some authority that sometimes, change really stinks. But I can also say that while change is scary, it is not the end of the story. Change is the chance to rewrite the story – or, rather, to take it in a new direction.”

So here’s to new directions!

Today’s challenge Write down what you want and take one step toward it. If you write it down, it’s less a dream, more a goal. If you take even one step toward it, it’s a path.

I’ve taken my beginning steps: I’ve chosen a goal. I’ve saved money to fall back on and–aside from my home–have zero debt. I’ve gotten rid of many of my possessions and continue to do so (more on that in future posts). I’ve paid down my mortgage so that the odds are good that I can sell the house free and clear when the time comes. I’m refining the gear I’ll need to hike the AT (much more on this to come)  I’ve started this blog. I’ve connected with YOU!

I’m on my path. How about you?

Atlanta’s banker and builder, Joel Hurt

This is part of my continuing series on Atlanta history, as told through the residents of Atlanta’s Historic Oakland Cemetery.

A young Joel Hurt, courtesy of Wikipedia
A young Joel Hurt, courtesy of Wikipedia

Joel Hurt (1850–1926) was a key businessman and developer in Atlanta. He was the last of that bread of great “movers and shakers” of the South: entrepreneur, inventor, banker, engineer, builder and railroad man. His work helped to shape the city we see today. He’s responsible for local banks, the first electric street car in Atlanta, the city’s first skyscraper, the neighborhoods of Inman Park and Druid Hills, and his masterpiece—The Hurt Building—still stands in downtown Atlanta. Inman Park named a street after him and the city commissioned a park downtown.

But as with the fortunes of many great men, Hurt’s wealth and fame was—at least partially—built on the backs of those less fortunate. Though born after slavery and the Civil War, Hurt still managed to enslave others. Convict labor—mostly black men—was exploited to construct many of Hurt’s projects. These convicts were harshly disciplined and cruelly deprived of their most basic civil rights. The Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief Douglas Blackmon’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Slavery by Another Name revealed the extent to which Joel Hurt’s fortune was built on this practice. It was made into a PBS Documentary of the same name.

Joel Hurt, circa 1900, courtesy of Wikipedia
Joel Hurt, circa 1900, courtesy of Wikipedia

What is perhaps even more shocking to us today, Hurt admitted to full knowledge of this crime against humanity. According to Wikipedia, “Hurt was unrepentant in hearings in 1908 that brought out the shocking abuses in the Hurt family convict labor camps. His callous indifference to evidence that many of his workers had died of abuse and his viciousness in asserting that convict workers could not be beaten enough horrified even contemporary Georgians. These hearings led in large part to the banning of convict leasing in Georgia.”

Was he an Atlanta hero or a villain? Both. Hurt’s life is an example of the complexities that make us the human race. We are all of us capable of hard work, grandeur and petty greed.

Joel Hurt’s name and gravestone just might come up during the Oakland Cemetery Special Twilight tour, Pioneers of Atlanta: Meet the founding sons and daughters of a town originally known as “Terminus.”  Wander among the graves of the first farmers, lawyers, early mayors, and town commissioners. Hear stories of accomplishments and failures, civil strife, gunfights and interaction with other developing communities that made us a community of people, not just an economic center. The tour is conducted these select Saturdays at 6:30p: 6/15, 7/20, 8/17, 9/21.

courtesy Larry Felton Johnson's photos of Oakland Cemetery
courtesy Larry Felton Johnson’s photos of Oakland Cemetery

The Joel Hurt Cottage still stands near Elizabeth and Euclid Streets in Inman Park.