The World is My Lawn Mower

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Back in my corporate slave days, I worked with an engineer named Greg. Though he was almost twice my age and we had very little in common, we got along famously. And thankfully, given the long hours and road trips we endured together.

He was quite talented, insofar as I knew, given my lack of engineering knowledge of any kind. I just knew that he was very respected and easy to work with. It also helped that he obviously really loved his work.

Oh, how I envied him. We both battled the same congested traffic in our daily commute, stared at the same grey cubicle walls for hours upon hours, yet for him it wasn’t the raging battle as it was for me. Greg enjoyed it, being a mechanical engineer was his destiny. He once told me a story of dismantling the family lawn mower and putting it back together at the age of twelve just to see how it worked. That was his gift.

I am not one of those lucky humans who have a specific genius to guide them. I consider myself to be good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing. I was the one in high school whose aptitude test produced oddly scattered results: I was told I’d be a good pediatrician or farmer. Basically, I was lost.

I went into business school because it would mean a good, safe job and a solid future. And hey, I was good at it.

*****

It was four years ago this week that Pete and I drove away from the last place that was truly our “home”. I had already quit my job, Pete was in the last few days of his, and there was no turning back. We had given up our six figure incomes, sold the roof from over our heads, and were about to begin the biggest adventure of our lives.

I am not one of those lucky humans who have a specific genius to guide them. I consider myself to be good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing.
Our first stop: Bolivia

Our first stop: Bolivia

It is interesting to look at this week as our vagabondaversary – to reflect on our green selves with our backpacks as new and shiny as the world before us. We’ve been through quite a cycle of sentiment since then: the highs of those perfect travel days where everything clicks, the lows of being sick and homesick, the new friends gained all over the world, the painful distancing of those back home whom we naively thought would love and support us forever. This adventure has been full of positively life-changing experiences, but not without some very hard sacrifices.

Travel can also be boring, and hard. Not every town has world-class sights to behold. Nor is a deep, soul-nourishing connection made with locals on a daily basis. Getting lost is not always “half the fun” – sometimes it is all the misery.

Sometimes it includes hard commutes and scenery akin to grey cubicle walls.

But there is a difference.

The world is my lawn mower.

Getting lost is not always “half the fun” – sometimes it is all the misery.

*****

I think I’m pretty good at my new life’s work, but still not great at it.

Please don’t ever ask me for packing tips, because I don’t have any. My backpack is not light, nor does it fit in a plane’s overhead compartments, like many long-term travelers state it *must* for the best experience ever.

We sometimes show up in a town and stand perplexed for several minutes with no prior research done and no idea where we are going. We bicker about which of us didn’t do our homework (eh, it was probably me), while rain pours down on us and our stomachs roar with hunger.

I sometimes finish blog posts just minutes before they should be posted. I say: “Ah, it’s good enough,” more times than I would like.

But I’m strong enough to carry my too-heavy pack, good enough to learn a few foreign phrases to ask for directions, and proud of my work more often than not. I don’t have the wherewithal or genius that Greg did for his craft, I can’t understand all the moving parts on first glance, but the intense love and desire I have for the ongoing journey of discovery spurs me on.

Because today I sat in Istanbul. I sat with my laptop in a cafe, drinking Γ§ay, basking in the sounds of the call to prayer, peeking up at my favourite building in the world, the Blue Mosque, just off to my left. On this day I answered emails from readers excited about house-sitting and I enjoyed drinks with friends who we met once before in Sicily. I laughed with the waiter who laughed at my butchering of his language, and we chatted about parts of his culture I was not aware of, despite being in Turkey for several months.

I got to do all that today.

Tea-and-laptop

Give me the grey cubicle walls of unimpressive scenery. Give me the boring days, the sick days, the rainy days.

Give them all to me, and I will reflect on them with appreciation. Because today I was privileged enough to figure out another moving part of the lawn mower, and sappy enough to shed a tear for this journey I’ve been on for the past four years with my love.

And one more grateful tear for you, our friends and readers, for being along for the ride. Thank you.

29 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Do they say congrats on such days?? I’m always happy to read such posts! Gives me one of the needed pushes to continue doing what I’m doing, with hopes that I’ll be “good enough” at it.

    Keep up the good work, and here’s for plenty more years to come πŸ™‚
    Someday I’ll Be There – Mina recently posted..a Pyramid, a Camel and a Tout – No Business

    • May 28 2013

      Thanks Mina – and I’ll take that congrats! We’ll see how many years we have left in us.

  • May 27 2013

    Great post. What’s the saying? The worst day fishing is better than the best day working?
    We have been ‘retired’ for almost 17 years. It’s not always easy to create a life without the safety of a routine. And like you said, sometimes it’s boring nd even painful.
    But. I wouldn’t trade back any of it.
    It’s good to hear you feel the same way.
    Thanks for sharing your journey…

    • May 28 2013

      Thanks Colleen – and that saying definitely applies here. Traveling like this isn’t everyone’s ‘lawn mower’, obviously, but for us, it is the ONLY WAY! πŸ™‚

  • May 28 2013

    Beautiful and congrats on four years. Each time one of us finds our lawn mower the world shifts and expands and becomes better.

    • May 28 2013

      Thanks Kim! And congrats on your one year. πŸ™‚ If we all could find our lawn mower and live the life we love, the world would be such a better place.

  • May 28 2013

    Hard to believe you ever have to say, “Ah it’s good enough!” Seems like everything you write has been taken apart, put back together, and you know exactly how it works.
    I think you’re great at it.
    You’re packing on the other hand….
    Steve recently posted..Why Travel Can’t Wait

  • May 28 2013

    Love that analogy – the world is your lawn mower. Perfect and I’ll take that imagery with me each day no matter where I go.
    Maria recently posted..Comment on Wordless Wednesday – Peru by Maria

  • May 28 2013

    That is such a great analogy. I am the same way–lots of different little talents amounting to no specific path. I have friends who love children and became teachers. Who just “get” how things work and became engineers. Who are great at taking care of sick people and became nurses and doctors. And they love their lives. I always wished for that, but now I’m seeing the opportunity that lies in having a variety of interests–I don’t think we’d be doing this if it was any other way.

    Thanks for sharing your ups and downs of travel with us!

  • May 28 2013

    What a great post and what a great picture of the Blue Mosque! Thanks for sharing both, as well as the encouragement and that came along with them. Beautiful things: finding your passion, a “cubicle” with an awesome view(!!!), encouraging others…nice work! πŸ™‚ Congrats to the two of you!

  • May 29 2013

    Interesting blog title for this post! And thanks for admitting that your backpack is too heavy:)
    Grace recently posted..A rolling stone gathers no moss

    • June 2 2013

      Haha, yes, it is definitely too heavy for me. And, we won’t even get into how heavy Pete’s bags are – oy vey! We are not packing experts!

  • May 30 2013

    Wow. 4 years traveling. That’s amazing!

    Here’s to many more to come.
    Amanda recently posted..In Photos: The Canadian Tulip Festival

  • May 30 2013

    I have been “out here” for two years tomorrow. What an amazing life. Yes, frustrating sometimes but “wow, what a ride”!
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted..Global Citizen Media

    • June 2 2013

      I truly believe that if you love what you are doing, the frustrating days don’t even matter. They make the good days even better in comparison!

  • May 30 2013

    Well said Dalene – its all out there for the taking, many bon voyages….to you both

  • May 31 2013

    Keep rocking πŸ™‚

  • May 31 2013

    I feel the same way. Boring desk job wanting to see the world. Good at a lot of thing but not excellent at one. It is like you are reading my mind. Kudos to you for leaving it all behind to travel the world. I hope one day I will be able to do the same. But for now, I will live vicariously through full time travelers like yourself.

    Cheers!

  • June 1 2013

    I hope I can make it to year 4. Can’t see myself stopping soon, so I think it’s going to happen. We all learn and grow during this ride. That’s what makes it a journey. I’m glad you travel and happy to follow you guys along the way.
    Sherry recently posted..Solace at the Hawaii Lantern Festival

    • June 2 2013

      Thanks so much Sherry. I’m not sure why four seems so monumental to me (after three, I thought of it as no big deal at all)! You are making it work too – I think 4 is in your future!

  • June 4 2013

    Congrats on your 4 years of freedom! You are wrong about not being great at any one thing. You are great at communicating your emotions through this blog. You are a great writer and I am always eager to read what you and Pete have to say. Looking forward to another 4 years!

  • June 16 2013

    Greaaaaat post! I can totally and utterly relate. This passage in particular is 150% me as well: “I am not one of those lucky humans who have a specific genius to guide them. I consider myself to be good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing. I was the one in high school whose aptitude test produced oddly scattered results: I was told I’d be a good pediatrician or farmer. Basically, I was lost.” I am still lost, and I also wish I had that one thing I was totally passionate about. What is that answer? I’m not sure yet, but I’m living abroad and testing myself to see! Good luck on your travels!

    • June 18 2013

      Thanks Kristi – good luck to you too! I think we may be some of those people who may never truly know (even if I am much more comfortable in my role as “world explorer” now – ha). The best part about it: we get to try lots of different things!

  • July 25 2013

    “I am not one of those lucky humans who have a specific genius to guide them. I consider myself to be good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing. I was the one in high school whose aptitude test produced oddly scattered results: I was told I’d be a good pediatrician or farmer. Basically, I was lost.”

    This is basically how I feel, too. I don’t have a calling or one major passion that I feel I can grasp on to to help change the world in a specific way. Though I do want to have a positive impact, I’m just not quite sure how…

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and it’s interesting to hear how similar your experiences are to mine. I’m so excited for you two and that you’ve been able to travel the world and find a way to live like you want to live. Keep it up! πŸ™‚
    Kim recently posted..Life in Alaska :: Photo Gallery (June 2013)

  • Trixabelle
    September 7 2013

    oh you know…heart swelling with pride. πŸ˜‰

    xo

  • April 26 2015

    I really needed to read this today. It’s a grey day in Spain and I’m bored. Like ‘oh, god I can’t stand this place any longer bored’. Reading this made me realise this is what I do, and sometimes it sucks but I’m. In. Spain! Not in a cubicle selling my soul. It’s Monday morning back home, I’m pretty sure if I was back there I’d give anything for a grey day in Spain.
    Emma Healey recently posted..Book Review: The One-Page Financial Plan – A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money

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