'13 going on 30

"Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares, and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy."
-- Sir Richard Francis Burton

2012 proved to be one of the most difficult year’s of my life, employment-wise.  In the beginning of the year I had a dead-end job worsened by a pompous boss.  I frequently & facetiously said “a toad with one testicle could do my job” which was not a lie.  My hours, between 08:00 and 17:00, were filled with repeating the same three tasks. All day.  Every work day. Without end.

The creative side of me rejoiced when I returned to a position in my degree field: human services.  I was earning the most money ever in my life, but it came at a higher cost: thousands of miles on my not-so-new car, at least two 12 hour days per week, the pressure of meeting quotas and being attacked by hellacious children with behavioral disorders and/or terrible family structures.  It was grueling, but I was so busy with work, that time flew by and money materialized in my travel fund quickly.

Therefore, when I was laid off from that agency in November 2012, my cares instantly piled a mile high. Where will I find a new job a month before the holidays?  I desperately need health insurance. How can I make ends meet let alone buy Christmas presents?  I reverted to the only thing a single person in my situation could do: substitute teaching.  It wasn’t dignified and didn’t pay well but it offered health insurance and temporary cash flow.

Now 29, I started over for the umpteenth time, and was flat broke like when I first graduated college at 21.  Yet, unlike the days of my early twenties, I had a savings account laying dormant.

With intermittent employment in the schools, I lived feast or famine.  Some weeks I earned enough to get back on my feet, only to be followed by a week with only one day of work, wherein I once again slid into debt. I began selling the hundreds of children’s books amassed through college. Instead of recycling my soda cans, I hoarded them and braved Ohio’s winter weather to stomp them in my driveway in hope of eventually trading them for qui.

I continued to struggle financially – rarely breaking even -- and in March 2013, my mother & I researched the rates for a vacation overseas.  The Arctic, specifically Norway, was astronomically expensive (even on sale!)  Mom & I let the idea of this major purchase mull for a few days.  There were so many other things we could do with the money.  She recently had to acquire a new loan for a car & the electrical in her house badly needed an upgrade.  I racked up my credit card over the holidays and had no foreseeable income for the upcoming summer months.  To put the situation into perspective, we instead could have cruised to Alaska for 80% less than this journey to Norway.

n the months that led up to April 2013 (when a decision could no longer be postponed), I was more gung-ho than my mother about using my entire rainy-day fund for a trip.  The Arctic would be the fruit of our labor. The climax to the last two years.  But now that she had this enormous chunk of change, Mom – understandably – did not want to part with it in one fell swoop.

We also heavily weighed plodding on with day-to-day life while putting money away for the Arctic in 2015.

Two weeks after much trepidation & the initial shock of the cruise’s cost, I cashed in all my chips. I withdrew my entire savings…from four digits to zero in a single transaction.  I redeemed the cash rewards on every credit card.  I hauled eight, sticky trash bags of aluminum cans to the scrap yard.  I returned anything in my room with a price tag still attached.  I raided the house for “like new” items to sell on eBay.
What finally sold both my mom & myself on going to the Arctic – and going now – was we were not sure how much of it would remain in two more years.  With global warming and the human population growing out of control, the Arctic had already suffered.  In fact, every documented glacier on this planet has been retreating for the last 30 years.  The Arctic’s prognosis was and is abysmal.  In practically 100% of future scenarios, homo sapiens’ impact will negatively affect the Arctic environment… including the wildlife.  Mom’s house would wait for repairs – like it had the last five years.  Visa would persist to suck me dry with its interest rate.  “Home” and “Habit” and “Routine” would endure as long as we stayed put in Ohio for the summer.  So in the beginning of May 2013, months shy of turning 30, I committed to an adventure almost 30 days in length with Mom.  To venture into the unknown.  To reach far-flung latitudes.  To see polar bears in the wild.