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.
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.
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.