Van Life before #VanLife
I didn’t want to end up like so many 50-year-old bike industry executives. They decide to do something extreme for their 50thbirthday and end up dead from a massive heart attack. It didn’t seem so far-fetched. After more than 20 years spent chasing the elusive dream of becoming a famous fashion designer, the stress was catching up. I was no longer the svelte bike-racing babe I had once been. My muscle had turned to fat and the stress eating had added another layer of fat on that. All the liquids I consumed after work had a “__%” or “proof” clearly displayed on the label. My daily rides had turned to daily runs, slowly morphing into daily walks, which in turn became daily strolls. There were times when I could feel my heart trying to burst out of my chest, and it wasn’t for some hot new man. I decided I needed to get out while I was still young and not yet a candidate for a massive heart attack.
Closing my business was the hardest decision I ever made. I didn’t dream of being a famous fashion designer until I had graduated from university and moved to San Francisco. It wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. I learned to sew when I was five years old. I continued designing and sewing clothing for myself throughout college. It wasn’t long before the daily grind of temp work had me hungry for something more than phones, files, and keyboards. I had to make a decision: fashion, photography, or writing. The decision was simple, fashion had been my life-long passion. Once that became clear, it was only a few short months before I was heading to Los Angeles to earn yet another degree, AA in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. I graduated in 1989 but got tangled up in LA for another year before escaping to my beloved SF. Shortly after my return, I traded my sewing services for my first industrial sewing machine. For the next eight years I flowed in and out of jobs, all my spare time spent on creating my own fashion label. Finally, in 1997, I rented my first solo warehouse and hung my shingle as a freelance designer and patternmaker. I will never forget the feeling of being paid to do what I loved doing! For the next few years I tried to find the elusive balance between the two (money and too much time spent on other people’s dreams/no money and plenty of time spent on my dreams). In 2002, with $40k in credit card debt, I fired all my clients and turned my attention to cycling apparel. Finally, it was like swimming downstream instead of spawning, it was incredible! The journey was amazing – until it wasn’t. The obstacles to growing my small business were getting taller and my goals seemed to be fading from view, disappearing beyond the horizon.
It was heartbreaking to walk away from all I had created, but I tried to convince myself that I was just going on sabbatical. Once I returned from my odyssey I could pick up where I left off with renewed energy and enthusiasm. That is what I told people, but deep in my heart I knew I was done.
I decided to do the only reasonable thing – run! Run as far away as possible. But I couldn’t run without my faithful companion, Luna, so I had to run away in my car. North? Nah, too expensive and too cold. East? Nah, too many Americans. West? Impossible given I was living in Oakland, it would be a short journey. South? Hmmmm…. South sounded pretty darned tasty – beaches, jungles, ancient ruins, guacamole and margaritas, beaches, cute brown boys, colonial cities, beaches… South would be a fine destination.
The plan was in place, but there was much to do before our odyssey in the Odyssey was to commence…