Rick and I are fully involved in our van adventure across the country. After spending time in the middle of the country, we instinctively headed to Florida for a month. Today is the first day to wear a t-shirt. It has been unusually cold. Feeling the sun on my face fills me with joy.
Coming to Florida has brought unexpected thoughts and feelings. I was dying to be here, to be in warm weather. I have a history in this state with mostly good memories, so wasn’t prepared for this feeling of my past and my present colliding.
I was 19 when I met the man who would become my first husband. He was different from anyone I had ever met, filled with enthusiasm of life and a deep sense of adventure. He liked to do things and together we went on many escapades. He was the first one to take me to a circus, to show me the joys of 4 wheeling on the beach and to instill the love of travel.
It was his idea to take a month off from our jobs and travel to Florida, a place I had never been. We planned to explore the entire state, including Disney World, Sea World and Bush Gardens; all by living in the back of his pick-up truck. His truck had a cap over the back: metal-framed apparatus-with tiny windows on each side, a back window over the tailgate that opened and no insulation. We put a mattress in the truck bed, invested in a Coleman propane stove and added an old trunk to serve as our kitchen. We left on a Sunday morning in January before sunrise and did not return until mid February.
We had a wonderful time, camping all over. I learned to pee in the woods during the darkness of overnight and to make amazing meals in the two pans we brought. We were free from responsibilities and all we had to do was enjoy each others company and take pleasure in our surroundings.
We loved traveling so much; we decided to plan another trip next year. In between the year of planning, we did another adventurous thing… got married. For our honeymoon, we were off on three-week adventure through Florida again. Oh, how much fun would it be?
But this trip, our honeymoon, turned out to be different. We were a married couple now and needed to be responsible. Although we did have fun, we spent most of the time planning on creating the new business we would start. It was a promotional products company (advertising specialties as it was called then), based on my experience in the silkscreen t-shirt world. This business would be for both of us…he would be sales person, I would process the orders. We would seek our fortunes together.
Now, I probably should point out that neither of us had a business degree, business experience or any business sense. What we did have were fathers who ran their own businesses, a man who loved to sell and my two years experience in the silkscreen industry. Having a business of my own was nothing I ever desired. That part was his dream. However, we were both hard workers, liked spending time together, loved adventure so I readily agreed. I mean, how hard could it be?
I was a few months away from my 21st birthday and in love with a guy who wanted to make something of his life – what did I know? The honeymoon was nice, but I could tell something was different, something had changed, something had shifted. Well of course…we were married now! Responsibility ruled. Our honeymoon became a place to find suppliers and dinners were not spent looking into each others eyes, but for taking potential clients out to eat.
Over the years we returned to Florida many times, never again in the back of a pick-up truck. His parents moved here, my parents moved here, Disney with the kids, business conferences, lots of reasons to be here, but not one of those visits could compare to the first.
The business lives on, our marriage did not. There are many reasons a marriage ends. For me, in hindsight I can see the breakdown began on the honeymoon. I took a back seat to the business and took a back seat in all aspects of our relationship. I was never put first again. Oh, I’d get a bone tossed to me here and there. I would try to explain how I was feeling, but my viewpoint was never valued and my words were never heard.
I often spoke to him about selling the house and the business and getting on our motorcycles to tour the country. I suggested we buy a smaller house in Florida and come north in the summer. He didn’t want that. He loved being what he thought was a big fish in a small pond. But I was drowning in neglect.
Saying goodbye was not easy, but at 52 years old, I felt it was now or never. I had given him 30 years and I wanted to give myself at least a shot of happiness: of finding someone who wanted to be with me.
As many of you know, I found my now husband, my beloved Rick, a little over a year later. We’ve been together for almost 7 years. And here we are in Florida.
We often wonder what life would have been like if Rick and I had met when we were younger. After coming back from Vietnam, Rick met and married a woman; they moved to Hawaii to camp and live off the land. Seemed we both loved the simply life, camping and having time to dream and plan.
So now, some 39 years later, I am living the life of a camper girl in Florida. My surroundings have changed: I’m in a wonderful van instead of a pick-up truck. It is warm and inviting and I don’t have to climb over a tailgate to get out. But I do have to cook outside (I’ve got three pans this time) and there are many times when I do have to pee in the woods. I am with a man who suggested the adventure. We left most of our responsibilities behind (mortgage, electric bill, property taxes, etc.) and have taken on the job of enjoying each others company and writing–that goes for both of us. Although I will say the first month I shied away from work (just needed rest time), I am happy to say that I am back at the IPPW helm (internet permitting), and planning new projects across the country and back home as well.
I feel like I’ve come back home, back to the real me. I have no regrets on any part of my life, I am glad for all the experiences. I needed them to become the woman I am today. But now, 39 years after my first visit to Florida, I am feeling like a kid again. I love the camping life; enjoy cooking outside, traveling around the state and having the time to find myself again. Plus I’m with the right man, my soul mate. I’ve come full circle.
So now dear ones, the pondering question I ask you is this: Is there something that you used to do, that gave you joy “way back when” that perhaps you need to revisit? You don’t have to sell your home and quit your job in order to find the person you once where. But think about it; what was the time in your life when you were the happiest? What were you doing? Is there a way you can get back there? The answer might surprise you… it may be as simple as cooking outside or spending time in the woods. Follow your instincts…find your Florida.