I just realized we've published seven articles and haven't answered the first question everyone asks us:
Where are we going?
We fly out to England August 21. We'll spend a few weeks there with Erin's parents at their second home in Cambridge (Grantchester, actually, for you PBS fans). In mid-September we move on to our first house-sitting gig, also in England near Leeds.
We're trying to find another house-sit for early October, then we have our second house-sit at the end of October in northwest France.
That's all we've figured out so far. Where we're going is actually the least of our concerns at this point, as we try to get everything done just to get ourselves out the door.
So that's it for the update. Now back to the usual pontificating our readership has become accustomed to.
After France, we've been thinking about heading south as the weather gets cooler, possibly to the Greek Islands. Thinking about the Greek Islands has made me think about one of my favorite architects, Daedalus.
Daedalus was hired by King Minos of the Greek Island of Crete under a non-negotiable design-build contract to construct a large prison complex containing just one unusual prisoner. The prisoner was the king's son. The king disliked his son because he had the head of a bull and liked to eat people. In those days that sort of thing could get you behind bars.
The prison Daedelus conceived did not have bars, though. Instead, it was an elaborate three dimensional maze called the Labyrinth. The king's monstrous son, known as the Minotaur, was trapped at the center, feeding on human tributes cast into the Labyrinth by the sadistic king as a sacrifice.
Only Daedalus knew the path to the Minotaur. He conspired with the King's daughter Ariadne to send her lover Theseus to slay the Minotaur. When King Minos discovered this betrayal, he imprisoned Daedalus in the Labyrinth.
Daedalus found himself trapped in this maze of his own design.
I've often thought of aspects of our narrow life in this way, as a kind of trap.
I've tried to identify our captors, but the truth is that, like Daedelus, we are the ones who have built these walls of obligations around ourselves.
Why did we ever start building this Labyrinth that now constrains our path forward? What monster were we trying to contain?
The Minotaur in our lives is fear - fear of failure in our careers; fear of disappointing our clients, coworkers, and employers; fear of underachievement; fear of financial insecurity; fear of inadequacy as a friend, as a parent, as a husband or wife; fear of satisfying our own needs and desires when there are others we should be sacrificing for.
We contain these fears with our commitments. We commit to working long hours. We commit to investing in our house, our cars, our kids' schooling, our distant retirement. We commit to insuring our health, wealth, and stuff, all of our precious stuff, against the slightest changes in our fortunes. We commit our time to our friends and family.
In this maze of commitments, we lose ourselves. The more commitments we have, the less able we are to satisfy any of them. With each new commitment, we pile another stone on the walls of our Labyrinth. The path gets narrower and narrower.
And at the center of it, the Minotaur of our fear still awaits. We can build the walls higher to create a better trap for our monster, but we remain trapped along with it.
Daedalus gave Theseus direction for finding the Minotaur to slay him. Keep going forward and downward, never left or right.
This is the narrow path we're following, always forward, ever deeper, chasing our fear. But as long as we're in this Labyrinth, we can never find that man with a bull's head to slay. We just find ourselves treading through more and more bullshit.
Daedalus would not let himself be contained.
He started collecting feathers, then fastened them together with string and wax to form a pair of wings. When he strapped on the wings, he could lift himself up into the air, above the Labyrinth, and away to freedom.
In the weeks since we decided to take a year off to travel, I've been having this out of body sensation, as if I'm looking down from above to watch myself navigate the maze of my daily life. I can see the path I'm following, and I can see where it ends. The way to end the fear is not to contain it or slay it, but to escape the Labyrinth altogether.
But this path of escape we've chosen is not without fear either.
Daedalus made a second pair of wings for his son Icarus, whom the king had trapped in the Labyrinth with him. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sea where the feathers could get wet, nor too close to the sun where the wax could melt.
Icarus found flight so thrilling that he forgot his father's warning and flew too high, towards the sun. The wax began to melt, the wings fell to pieces, and he plummeted to his death in the sea as Daedalus watched in horror.
There is comfort in captivity. We are trapped, but the Labyrinth of our narrow life gives us security. There is fear, but we know what we are afraid of and how to contain it.
During our escape we will be vulnerable, exposed to the elements without knowing the limits of our flight.
Will Erin's remote work arrangement be workable, or could we lose our only source of income? Will we have to spend more of our savings than we've budgeted? Will Oliver understand and enjoy traveling? Will he miss his friends and preschool activities? Will his social and emotional development lag in their absence? Will Vera tolerate the disruptions to her routines? Will we be able to keep the kids safe in strange places? Will we be able to navigate and communicate in those places? Will I be able to manage taking care of the kids and household needs? Will I like it? Will Erin resent working while I'm off with the kids? Will I be able to get a job when we return?
Perhaps the biggest thing we have to fear is returning to the Labyrinth of our narrow life a year from now. The fears we are leaving behind will still be there when we return, to pull us back deeper inside it. Hopefully our flight up and out of the Labyrinth will give us the perspective we need to better navigate it.
We need to have faith that the fragile wings we're stitching will be sturdy enough to carry us beyond these fears, and that we'll learn how high we can fly once we lift off.