Like anything you do in life, practice makes perfect. And so it is with your life jumps – the first jump is the hardest.
My first jump came at age 32. I had been in a relationship for 2 years, finally completed my college degree, and gave up a 3-decade life in my hometown of Louisville to follow my partner to Washington, D.C. Looking back on the move, it now seems like nothing. But it was a big change for me at that time. I left my family, friends, and all that I thought I knew to explore life elsewhere. What if I didn’t like it in D.C.? What if the relationship fell apart and there I was all alone in a strange land? What if I failed? Of course, none of that happened. Since then Steve and I have made many jumps, in our geography, in our careers, and in our outlooks. And that’s the thing about jumps: Over time they become easier and easier until you are able to take subsequent jumps without all the questioning and insecurities and make them with joy, excitement, and a vision to the future.
Our lives in Washington were fun because things were so different there. I never had it on my radar to live in the nation’s capital, and the plethora of opportunities to work and enjoy life were exciting to me. But ultimately neither of us was satisfied with our careers – Steve’s work writing speeches for a Congressman left him disillusioned, and I was fired from my hotel restaurant management job for being gay. Three years into our D.C. lives we “discovered” Key West on a vacation trip. Here were many more people like us – open and clueless. So like so many people who return from vacationing on that idyllic little island, we talked about making another move and relocating to the Florida Keys.
In August 1992 we made like the “Beverly Hillbillies” and loaded up a truck and moved to Cayo Hueso. Our second life jump saw everything we owned locked in a U-Haul behind the old green and white Key Wester motel, where the Beatles once stayed. We know because the place was festooned with photos of the iconic band in Key West and in their rooms at the motel, with plenty of placards explaining it all to us.
We found a house rental and jobs, in that order, in the first two weeks, and stayed 15 years, with one two-year break in Chicago, where I worked for the best business leader I have ever met. To this day I always ask myself, “What would Rich do?”. That life jump to Chicago, brief because we missed Key West, was one of my best if for no other reason than meeting and working with Rich Melman.
When we finally were able to tear ourselves away from Key West, we decided our next life jump was to be either to Tucson or St. Petersburg. We scoped out both with visits, and decided St. Petersburg afforded greater opportunity for house flipping, which was what we wanted to try next. We had a great time until the recession hit. We saw the writing on the wall and ceased flipping and went back to “real” jobs.
Hated our jobs, hated our lives. So in 2010 it was an easy decision to make a huge life jump – for certain the biggest yet. We had wanted to open a Bed & Breakfast for a number of years, but found it impossible in the U.S. due to the high costs. Then it hit us: Italy is affordable, and what a fabulous place to live! So in September we moved to an old farmhouse we purchased in the Le Marche countryside, fixed up the house ourselves, and had, without doubt, the time of our lives. We ate cherries, figs, grapes, persimmon off the trees on our property, and enjoyed fresh vegetables from our garden all that next summer.
But the recession soon came to Italy, as well, so we were forced to modify our B&B dream and make another life jump. We sold the house and found Merida, and that has been the best thing that could have happened to us. The B&B has been a dream, business is great, Merida is fantastic, and nowhere will you find finer people.
Now we talk about life jumps as easily as we talk about going to the grocery store. What and when will be our next? Who knows? But once you jump, you won’t look back.