Isn’t it entirely possible that each of us harbors some sort of fantasy involving “leaving it all behind,” “it” being the secure job, the 9-to-5 existence, the totally tethered life, and heading out for unknown places as a romantic, risk-taking, free-spirited vagabond?
I think so, and recently I met someone who not only acknowledges those fantasies, but is doing something tangible to make them happen. It was at our public library’s used book sale, where I was working. I was in the “Hold” area, where people who fill bags full of dog-eared books they want to buy can temporarily stash them so that they can go out on the floor again, arms free, to buy even more.
When I got to the Hold area to begin my shift, I noticed about 20 bags full of books marked “T.Baker,” and wondered who this person was. I finally met her when she came to drop off another bag, and over the next few hours (as she dropped off probably 10 more bags) I got to know a bit more about why she was seemingly so book-crazy. She was in her late 20s or early 30s, and had driven in from a city more than three hours away to attend the sale.
When I first spoke to her, I told her I had come up with three possible theories to explain her mounting pile of bags:
1. She was preparing to move to an incredibly remote part of Alaska, where the nearest library, post office or Fedex station was a two-week journey by kayak and dogsled;
2. She was an insatiable reader, a literary nymphomaniac, devouring books like a drug addict pops pills; or
3. She was buying stock for a bookstore.
It turns out that the third scenario was correct, but the woman was not just dutifully buying stock to throw on the shelves of some dusty strip center bookstore. No, she has a full-time day job in a big city at a big corporation (which she despises) and knows that she is scheduled to get laid off in 2008. I’ve never met someone so happy (and eager!) to get canned.
Preparing for unemployment, she has started an online used bookselling business in her spare time, selling books through both eBay and amazon.com. That’s why she was buying all these books (more than a thousand dollar’s worth by the end). When she finally loses her steady job, she intends to sell used books full time, traveling across the country, hitting library used book sales, thrift stores and garage sales to buy new stock. She won’t get rich, she knows, but she says she loves books, and travel, and this is a dream of hers to combine those two. And, in her new career, every Ding Dong or Whopper or convenience store munchie she buys while traveling will be tax deductible.
I have to say, the idea of being able to head out on the road, at your own pace and on your own timetable, and go wherever your heart leads you, is a tempting one for me. Of course, if I tried to imagine the details of her situation at all, the picture gets a bit less rosy – the bad food, the smelly stores and rude people, living lean when sales are down, sleeping in cheap motels or even the back seat of the car to save money, being alone at night in yet another small town – some or all of that might indeed be ahead of her, but she isn’t worried about that now. She’s gloriously happy and excited by life, and it shows.
Given the chance, and even forced to do so by circumstance, wouldn’t we all be willing to leave behind the computer screen and the telephone and day planner and interoffice memos, and just fly away singing? At least on some days I think we just might, and damn the odds.