Adventure: A Second Life

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Back in the early 1990s, I was working as a photography assistant. Assisting was like a paid, second education that proved invaluable again and again. During a shoot in Palm Springs, California I met a hotelier who turned out to be a super-cool guy. He and I remained friends after the shoot, and seeing that I was living in Laguna Beach at the time, I was close enough to make return trips to visit him. His philosophy about marketing was simple; don’t. If you are an interesting person you can easily keep your hotel filled just by telling the right friends. And he did. Over the years, I met some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met at the wooden table in front of the hotel.

After I had known him for some time he pulled me aside and said “Dan, you are someone who needs to live in two places.”

He went on to explain that living in two places was like having two entirely separate lives. Two sets of friends, business acquaintances, and two sets of adventures. It was after his prodding I approached my wife and said “I want out of California.” Several months later we were the proud owners of a tiny footprint in Santa Fe, and well, the rest is history. Knowing what I know now, I should have made this move decades before. Like buying a van, you live and you learn, sometimes the hard way.

I now sit in a small town in Maine. I’ve been coming to this town for twenty-seven years. I got married here. The guy who owns the trolley business, a neighbor of my uncle-in-law, just drove by and honked as he saw this same uncle-in-law, and me, sitting on the patio out front. My wife and I rode the trolley with the wedding party all those years ago. This same guy gifted me a canoe paddle and is letting me sand it in his garage. He let me store my motorcycle in this same garage last year. His wife and I talk cycling and swimming. After a check-in snafu back in early July they allowed us to park our van in their yard overnight. But before we parked they made us dinner, poured us drinks and then continued with breakfast in the morning. If you look up the definition of “fortunate,” you will see two knuckleheads in a silver van.

Arriving to this town now means honks and waves. The lodge owner, the former sales director of a major outdoor brand, a publisher, a surf instructor, a jeweler, a librarian, a handyman, fellow van owners from north of the border, a surf family, and many more. I see parents who were childless when I first saw them but who now have grown kids, all hitting the exact same beach at the exact same place at the exact same time. A tribe of sorts, and we are better for it. Everything here is different. The accents, the dress code, the water and the landscape are unique to the United States. Pink shirts with the collar up, deck shoes, “paaark the caaar at Haaaavaaaard yaaard,” accents roll here and there. Massive tidal shifts allowing for long walks over exposed ocean floor. And this morning, I spotted a Brown Creeper on a tree not ten feet from my favorite reading chair. Yesterday, I waved to the former first lady as she took her daily stroll. I rode forty-five miles in high humidity, arriving back home caked in salt and teetering on shaky legs. And the rain, have I mentioned the soaking rains? Ya Toto, we ain’t in New Mexico any more.

I’ve by no means perfected this second life strategy. And now my mind races with thoughts of a third or fourth possible foothold. What would THAT mean? Or is this just fantasy driven by a life of being spoiled by opportunity and wealth? (Relative) If this idea sounds interesting to you just know that your primary base should be a place you dream about even when you are away, so the thought of returning home is one of positivity and excitement. Also know you don’t need to own property to do this. Renting works just and well, and in many ways, is the best option. And you don’t need to buy anything to get started. Take what you have and just go, try it out. If you are looking for perfect you need to have a nice, long conversation with yourself before you go.

Perfect is an illusion.

Do more and just go should be the mission statement for most us. We all find reasons NOT to do more or to go. We dangle “But I need “X” before I can do that.” No, most likely, you don’t. But what you do need is time. Time to slow down and to stay long enough start to understand your second home, time to blend in, time to NOT do something because you have long enough to not be in a hurry. And you need curiosity and the ability to adapt, improvise and suffer. (slightly) Yes, suffer. There is a learning curve people, and the post-COVID world is messy in ways it never was before. (COVID isn’t over, by the way) My goal with this story is to encourage you to stand up and move forward. Your second life could be across town, up the hill or down the alley. No need to travel far. Wherever it is works. Wherever it is, is where it should be.

Comments 13

  1. Indeed, and you could be writing the plot behind my own life, with only the names and the places changed to protect the innocent.

    It hit me at 43 years of age. We had just shot a calendar in the Bahamas, and two weeks later were in Mallorca doing another. Both shoots had me in contact with boats. During the Mallorcan shoot, we were asked aboard by a retired Englishman who summered on his yacht in the Balearics and wintered in Switzerland. I asked him what the mooring fees were, and it turned out that I was paying the city fathers more for the pleasure of living in my own house in Scotland. We’d also met a couple in Rhodes who lived on a yacht; he was an American painter and she a French PR girl who would hire rooms in fancy hotels in ports they’d visit, and there she’d mount exhibitions and sell his paintings. The boats and freedom were too much to resist, and a couple of years later we were in Mallorca, where we’ve lived ever since. The original idea (well, my part of it) was to buy a boat and do much the same, as I already had a stock contract with Stone, in London, which became Getty’s first big foray into the stock business. My wife refused to put money into a sinking asset, thank God, but was all in favour of buying bricks and mortar, which considering I had no idea how to sail, was pretty good, fundamental thinking.

    Sadly, my wife died twenty-seven years later, but for quite some time we were able to make at least annual drives back across France to Scotland, and without a doubt, having two places where we felt comfortable was good, but best of all was crossing from the UK back into Europe, knowing we were headed back southwards like the wintering birds. Having regular access to other places eventually frees the mind of mostly misplaced ideas of national superiority. We should all travel more – long enough, and with open eyes.

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      Wow, what a story. Mallorca sounds damn good about now. Maine ain’t too shabby either. Maybe it’s just about adventure, getting out of routine, turning off the TV and realizing your savings mean nothing if you don’t actually live.

  2. It’s been a while since I commented, hello from Vancouver. 👋🏼

    This post feels dreamy and grounded at the same time. I love the familiarity of the relationships you have in your second home. Just solid, salt-of-the-earth people. I think I have to find my second place and find a way to make it work. Gets trickier now that we have a wee one. But would love for her to have these life experiences.

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  3. Dan, my post may have been a bit misleading: to get to live in Mallorca meant we sold our house in the UK. Our regular drives to and fro were to see family, (for work we always flew) and the eventual demise of both sets of parents meant there was not really any convenient place left to spend our six-weeks breaks, quite apart from the fact that my first heart attack was enough to make my wife refuse to countenance any further transeuropean drives: she blamed road stress, but there was no stress as I loved the road; the actual cause was physical: cholesterol. However, as I had a second one, she was right: it made no difference, the cause – just to have any attack on foreign shores wasn’t ever going to be a good idea. I’m glad that when it arrived I was in my own bed, we both knew what was coming, and my wife already knew how to get to the hospital. We didn’t wait for an ambulance: she just drove like a bat out of hell. For once, she had the perfect excuse. 😉

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      Ya, long drives can be great or not so great. Same here in the US. Get lucky and get a good one. Get not so lucky and just suffer the entire way. Too many vehicles these days. Hence the moto for remote places.

  4. That‘s truly a relatively fresh idea to me – but an intriguing one.
    All my live I thought, there is home – the one home – and then there is adventure. Two very different worlds.
    Never go to the same place twice. There is too much in this world to explore.
    But as I grow older, I see myself and my wife visiting some of those adventure-spots again and again.
    There is a deep allure by something that is not a home in the sense of same-old, same-old, but a familiarity, comfort, a sort of safety while still being fresh and a change of perspective and position and, of course, scenery at the same time.
    It took my 50-something years to even consider going to some adventure-place twice. But for some years now I see the depth and actually the broadening of a horizon by knowing two distinctively different places intimately.
    @Rob: I don‘t know you, except for these comment sections here, but your post about you two traveling south and back north like traveling birds and the freeing effect of having regular access to foreign places resonates deeply. The thought of losing a partner which one have shared such travels breaks my heart. „We should all travel more – long enough and with eyes open.“ – very well said! Or as the „Holstee Manifesto“ says: „Travel often – getting lost will help you find yourself.“

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      I’ve always been a go back to the same place guy especially photographically. Too easy to hit the surface of new places and never really reach any level of understanding. But then again, I shoot for myself and no for social media which pushes people to do things they otherwise might not.

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  5. Wow. Damn. Now you’ve planted a seed. I feel like a “second place” would be a thing I could get into. While I love travelling, I’d also love another place to go to, to get to know. I experienced this on a smaller scale as a single guy, early 30s, having NJ beach houses in the summer with some buddies. We weren’t Animal House type tennants, more like coffee, the WSJ and tennis (albeit, yes, gin and tonics in the evening) but just the drive to the beach, knowing I had a house there (at least for 8 weeks) was freeing. Getting to know the neighbors a little. A different grocery store. A new yin to the work week yang. Now, early 50s, single again, I could use a getaways place like that. And, like you said, maybe rent or AirBNB it. OK, now I need to plan. BTW, give The Stolen Coast a read. A heist in the making book, taking place in Massacheusetts, so the whole “caaaaarr in the yaaaard” type people. Quick read. Good characters. Lotsa atmosphere.

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      That beach house is a great thing. Known but unknown, familiar but still fresh. Getting out of our routine is essential but it doesn’t have to mean restarting each time.

  6. Pingback: Read: The Stolen Coast | JerseyStyle Photography

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