Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Equally awesome in its own little way

I have become a modern day nomad.  A science nomad, as a friend of mine has pointed out.  A friend with a patch that reads, "Not all who wander are lost".

Courtesey of wiktionary:


Wikipedia has an article on:
nomad (plural nomads)
  1. a member of a group of people who, having no fixed home, move around seasonally in search of foodwater and grazing etc.
  2. wanderer

I'm not alone in embracing a nomadic existence this year.  I can think of two friends who are similarly taking advantage of flexible work situations (telecommuting or contracting) to have some adventures.  One has taken the plunge and purchased a very fine looking RV for her humble abode, while the other has taken a more international focus to her wanderings.  I've admired the fearlessness both of these women have shown over the years I've known them, and it makes me happy to include myself in a list of similar adventures with them.  Of course, I've taken the comparatively tame approach of loading the back of my truck with supplies for 3 seasons across the country, but it certainly wasn't an easy decision.  

To see how I arrived at this particular hare-brained scheme, it's worth a look at the past 12 months.  (Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you aren't interested in the details.)  In my last post here, I had no idea what my job prospects would be after my position ended in December.  Sadly, the grant to stay longer didn't come through (always take the word of higher ups in any administration with a grain of salt), but I did have options.  One was a temporary position, in which I would share my area of expertise with a large scale govt/ private sector project, letting me keep one foot towards academia while getting a taste of how I might like an alternative position.  The other was a short-term position in Alaska, doing the very things I love and have done for the past 10 years.  Both incredible opportunities, I made plans to do first one and then the other.  Things were looking good.  However, due to both personal and professional reasons, I eventually decided that moving to Alaska was not in the cards. 

It's tempting to think of the adventures I'd be having if I chose to move to the far north for a year. There's something incredibly terrifying about not doing "the next step".  But then you realize that the things that "they" think you should do are really just coming from inside your own head, and sometimes you need to re-calibrate to find your own voice.  And catch up on writing some papers.  So, I put most of my stuff in storage, and hit the road with my dog and a very full truck.  The Tacoma only gets about half the mileage my Civic did, but since it doesn't get the challenge of Alaska I had planned for it, it's earning its keep hauling clothes and books and various important items like Clue.

Looking at a map of family and friends, I realized that I could make a loop around the country.  Working 40+ hours/ week in between drives and visits, it's a slow trip in the best way possible.  I get to visit some of my favorite people, hang out in my favorite cities, and see those last 7 states (now 4) on my bucket list.  Here's a purely logistical look at my route and what I have planned.  Pictures and stories to come.

Northern Segment (Montana to Pennsylvania):  completed

Bozeman, MT
Rapid City, SD
Des Moines, IA
Ann Arbor, MI
Milford, PA (extended base for side trips)
  • New York City, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • various locations in NJ
Cambridge, MA
  • Burlington, VT
  • Lincoln, NH
  • Portland, ME
  • Salem, MA
Southern Segment (Pennsylvania to Arizona):  up next

Takoma Park, MD
Charlotte, NC
(Savannah, GA)
Naples, FL
Baton Rouge, LA
Austin, TX
(Las Cruces, NM)
Tucson, AZ

Western Segment (Arizona to Montana):  tbd

Pasadena, CA
Santa Cruz, CA
Portland, OR
Seattle, WA
Bozeman, MT

To tide you over for the more entertaining posts, here's a picture from the farthest north-east corner of my trip:
Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine


Sara Elizabeth said...

I've been to that lighthouse! I hope you are enjoying journey and keep posting.

Heather Huggins said...

Hey! I'm finally catching up. Here's to a Pasadena visit in late fall/winter!! Happy travels.