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May 16, 2020

As Coronavirus hit and the U.S. and subsequently the Army reacted, I just so happened to change out of company command… Literally the Friday before all of the stay-home orders and new protocols took effect.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, I have essentially been given several free weeks of leave. Sure, I’m doing a little work here and there, but it is nothing in comparison to my responsibilities before. A burden has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m thankful my bosses have truly given me space as I transition out of the Army. Not much is expected of me right now, and I don’t have an official job title. I’m kind of just in a weird “hold-over” status. I’m a short-timer. So no one wants to give me any projects, and any contributions I could’ve made have just been complicated by the fact that everyone is teleworking.

Needless to say, I’m absolutely loving my life right now. For the first time in nearly 12 years, I’m getting consistent, restorative sleep in excess of seven hours. I’m able to cook all of my meals for myself. I’m getting to work out twice a day and focus on a healthier approach to fitness. I’m getting organized and planning out the next couple of years and getting some great sunshine.

A lot of friends and people I know have asked me what my plans are. It’s a pretty normal question people ask when you’re getting out of the military. People are always curious about what their friends are going to do with their new-found freedom.

Well, my plans have developed and become slightly more refined since I wrote The Tentative Plan.

So in a few weeks, I will start an internship with JBLM Fish and Wildlife. This will last approximately three months and the program hosts students from eight local universities studying anything from wildlife biology to environmental policy. I’m quite excited as I think this will be very informative for me as my first work experience within wildlife conservation.

I’ve been able to connect with a few people at Washington State Fish and Wildlife and am also planning to do ride-alongs with some of their enforcement officers. I’ve just got to wait for Corona stay-home orders to end.

So during this three-month internship, the plan will also be to camperize the van and get it road worthy! Summer will be a great time to work on the vehicle and I’ll document all of it.

Once September 2020 rolls around, I anticipate that the van will be coming along nicely, and my Army terminal leave will start. I’ve saved up over 90 days, and will officially be off the Army’s books in December 2020.

Ok, so initially I was thinking it would be feasible to take my two years of a planned gap period and essentially make it an amalgamation of short-term volunteering, domestic van traveling, and international traveling wherever I could fit it in.

As I began to think more about how this would actually play out, it’s practicality began to fade.

If I’m driving around the country and end up in the southeast somehow, and all of the sudden an opportunity to go overseas and volunteer presents itself, well, then I have two options. I can drive the van ALL the way back to Washington state to park it at my trailer park lot for storage. Or I can pay to store it someplace where I’m currently at. Going back and forth to other countries, dealing with van storage–or being limited to drive back to Washington will get costly with both money and time. Ain’t got time for that.

A plan like that would require a very intricate plan with a LOT of moving pieces that would easily derail if anything fell through. It’s simply not very flexible. This would also put undue pressure and time constraints on the gap period–in particular the van-tripping portion. The last thing I want to do is fall into a rushed adventure trap.

What I’ve decided to do instead of dividing these next two years into a bunch of small random pieces, is to divide the time into two categories: domestic van travel and international volunteering.

I will give myself an entire year to travel the entire continental U.S. and some parts of Canada, and set some other intellectual, physical, and self-developmental goals. This is much more practical and will provide space for learning, leisure, recreation, and challenges. But it can all be done at my own pace.

The idea for the second year includes international conservation volunteering and some hands-on education in off-grid farming and permaculture. I’ve recently realized that my interest in health and nutrient dense food also derives from an interest in sustainable food production and self-reliance. So right now, I’m looking at wildlife conservation volunteering in central Africa, South America, or Southeast Asia and checking out some farms in South America. There’s a useful website called Workaway that was recently introduced to me by a neighbor. On this site you can connect with hosts and make arrangements to work (in nearly any job you can imagine) in exchange for food and accommodations all around the world.

I have not actually started to use the site yet, because it requires a small fee. However I have perused all of the public areas of the site. It seems very user friendly and I’m excited to try it out. One example, I found an off-grid farm in Argentina near Patagonia where I could arrange to stay for a while and work. Pretty cool! Once I delve into this a bit and am able to use it, I’ll be able to describe the process a bit more.

At this point, the plan has changed some, but the overall vision remains the same: Identify a personally meaningful space to contribute through doing my best to approach travel, people, and experiences with humility and an open heart and mind.

The path may wind back and forth and include confusing detours, but my destination remains unchanged!

As I talk to more people, get more data points, and have more experiences, this plan will continue evolving. It’s probably tempting to be a little skeptical and think, “Your plan is always changing!” Well yes, it is. If you don’t learn and evolve in accordance with the stimuli in the environment around you, you get left behind and eventually die. So change is good. And that’s the beauty of having a flexible plan that facilitates evolution.

Thanks for taking the time to read–I’m going to continue to write, so stay with me!