One Day at a Time

On April 1st (maybe March 31st?) we will start our hike at Springer Mountain in Georgia. It will be spring down south. That's hard to imagine, as we are still living and loving winter.

What does it look like to be this close to our departure? In a word, busy. In five words, one day at a time.

We are still "doing life as usual" - Damien's web development work for clients, a bit of homeschooling (gearing down now), writing and blogging, skiing, cooking and eating. And the usual weekly shopping, errands, and Taekwondo schedule (we're finishing that the end of this month). And we're watching as much Olympics as our satellite can stream and our time allows.

On top of that is our video project work.

After putting a lot of January energy into our Kickstarter campaign, we're now onto the next phase, programming the infrastructure for that web series.

Damien is a technology geek by "trade" and he loves elegant computer programming, solving problems, and designing solutions. The delivery platform of this series is being written from the bottom up by him, and it rocks!

Damien's doing this while still working for our clients (building their web infrastructures) because it is our client work that is currently paying the bills.

(Since we left Maine, and salaried employment nearly three years ago, we have been in a self-employment building phase. It takes time to get on your feet when you go on your own, so that you're not living paycheck to paycheck.

We finally have a bit of breathing room in our life, meaning there is money in the bank before a new month starts. Hiking the trail will take us back to financial square one in some respects, using every available resource we have, but it will also build our online presence and our adventure experience, which is the direction we want our income-earning work to go.)

In addition to building the infrastructure for the video series, and related to that, we have been in communication with our Kickstarter backers; signing some on as beta-testers of the video delivery, surveying them for "burning questions" (which we will answer in our videos), and getting the information and graphics we need from the sponsor level supporters.

To deliver a video series we have to produce one, don't we? So we are doing that as well.

Like we explain in our videos, we've had a dedicated family project day since last fall where we work on the video series. Project learning and living.

Fridays continue to be project day, but of course the video project spills into every aspect of our lives right now.

This week the kids and I are doing video to answer the question everyone wants to know "what do the kids think about this hike?" Subscribers to our series will find out the answer to that question in the coming months.

And of course we're taking video of our gear preparations and packing. Part of my work is to capture the "story" of our pre-hike preparations.

The kids are working on the videos also, bringing their own talents and creative vision to the project. This is how we planned it. It's a family creative project. Subscribers to the series will get a front row seat to see what I'm talking about.

Every week I'm writing articles and guest posts for other online publications to help promote our project. I write our sponsor pages and can even talk gear.

Most of our gear was purchased before Christmas, in truth we've been getting our gear ready for years. Now we're down to the fine details (all of this will be part of the video series). Most of these "last month" purchases are going to our friends' house in the States where we will do our final packing, re-packing, and weighing.

Damien has been figuring out our technology for the trail. Each of us are taking an iPad. And then there's the cameras, batteries, battery packs. We've had a lot of help from an electrical engineer and one of our web clients in figuring that all out.

This is a huge responsibility that Damien mostly bears since technology solution finding is his forte, and not mine at all.

We spend a lot of our day communicating with people. Our programming clients, hike/trail/project related e-mails, and Kickstarter backers.

And sometimes our Internet doesn't work and so we pack it all up (the iPads and computers) and head to town for the afternoon and evening, timed of course with Taekwondo classes.

We're cooking and eating, that too. We share cooking. I'm kitchen manager and responsible for meal planning and cooking most suppers, a couple of which are eaten in town each week before Taekwondo. Lunch is prepared by Damien and the kids. The kids manage snacks, cooking or preparing something along with lunchtime prep.

The past two weekends we've been doing data entry in our accounting program for our 2013 taxes.

We're self employed and work with clients all over the world who pay us in US and Cdn funds. Our expenses are American and Canadian. There are multiple bank accounts and places to track expenses and income.

We're still figuring out how best to manage all this. And truth be told, I procrastinated a bit on my end of the bargain (tracking expenses) because it couldn't get a good system in place and so now I pay the price.

The good thing about the wake-up call of preparing taxes this month is that the conflict it created in my life motivated me to find a resolution. I think I may now have figured out a system for tracking our expenses that is portable, digital, and doable with my schedule.


Soon, very soon - once taxes are complete the end of this month - we must turn our attention to food planning for the trail. We are not doing extensive food drops and mailing ourselves stuff on the trail. That practice is not sustainable for long term adventuring. i.e.: if we have to prepare all our food in advance of every adventure we plan to do, we won't be going anywhere, it's too much work.

We have a plan for our food but we haven't set the wheels in motion yet. That's one of March's big jobs.

And we have to move - pack up our house and store our earthly goods for the duration of our hike. That's March's big job for me.

The first three months of this year are just one push after another. Deadline after deadline, all to meet the goal of staring this hike on April 1st.

We try to ski every weekend and we get outside every day, skinning up and skiing the hill as often as we can. And yesterday we took the day off and paid for a day of skiing at the hill. It felt like a vacation day.

And somehow there is a wee bit of time to Skype with friends and my mom, and read books. I can't live without reading. (For a list of what I'm reading right now see the sidebar.)

We see friends often. Our health and well being depends on these practices and these relationships.

Sacrificing our health to meet a goal is not something we are even tempted to do. Our regular routines of daily rest and exercise, simple healthy cooking and eating, and one day a week are ingrained in us from years of practice.

If anything, it's these foundations that give us the stamina and energy we need to do this push.

It's almost like the more you have to do, the better you get at managing your time to do it all.

Any one thing on this list would be "a lot" for us in a "normal" year.

We have never managed to finish our taxes by March 1st. We've never had the need.

We have never launched and successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign before.

We have never prepared to hike the AT.

We have never produced a video series.

We have never had to figure out how to simplify our technology needs down to a few pounds.

We have never had to figure out how to take our life to woods for six months.

These three months have taken one of our lifelong learning philosophy to the next level.

We learn to do by doing. Learn to hike by hiking. Learn to parent by parenting. Learn to ski by skiing. Learn to produce a video series by doing it.

It feels like being in university again. Papers and exams. Deadlines and time crunches all the time. I didn't like that part of university then and I don't like the deadlines and must-do's of right now.

But the only way to get where we want to go is by doing this work.

We're doing more this season than I thought possible and yet, there's a line.

"I don't want to always live like this, quite so intense and with deadlines looming on every horizon", I like to remind Damien. (In case he thinks that just because I'm doing it, and managing ok, means I want to keep doing it!)

"We haven't and we won't", he likes to remind me back.

Because there is so much involved in these three months, I am learning like never before (because my head will explode otherwise) to live in the present moment. I don't worry about next week or even tomorrow. I focus only on today.

There are dates and deadlines on the calendar. First video release, taxes, moving weekend, a 13th birthday trip next week to Quebec City! But the focus of our energies and actions is the present day.

If we don't live one day at a time we will be overcome with all that must be done (and all that could go wrong) and lose the focus and energy we need to do the things that are within our power right now.

Ironically, that is what our friend told us was the key to success on the trail. Three time thru-hiker himself, he has some clue about what he's talking about.

You don't hike the trail thinking about all the days you have to hike to get to the end. You only think about today, your goal for the present moment, looking ahead to where you hope to camp at day's end.

One day at a time.

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  • Matt

    Matt on Feb. 21, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

    I'm excitedly looking forward to the video series and vicariously enjoying the AT through you all!

    Regarding finances, have you looked into YNAB? We've been using it for a few years and it works very well. In addition to a desktop app, there is an iOS and Android app so you can enter transactions on the go. I use hashtags to track biz expenses (#hosting, #software, etc) as I'm a self-employed web developer also.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 21, 2014, 5:16 p.m.

      Thanks for the recommend Matt. Never heard of it. I had a great system figured out for all those years of salaried employment. This much came in, less went out, and each month we saved (and we lived off the previous month's income). Self employment is a whole different beast and the first 2 years a lot less came in than what we had been used to. Learning how to budget and account for variable income is my biggest budgeting woe, but the first big struggle was simply to bring enough in on a regular basis :)


  • Melonie K.

    Melonie K. on Feb. 21, 2014, 9:16 p.m.

    I love the artwork in progress and I'm amazed at how much you all are accomplishing in preparation for this big trip.  Wishing you happy travels.

    I also wanted to let you know that I started reading Of Dice and Men and I think it's a good read.  As someone who used to role play, it's making me laugh and reminisce, but I think it would also give good insight to my husband who has no clue what I'm chuckling about.  If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it! 


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 21, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

      The kids created a stop motion sequence to go in one of our videos and that's what those shots of the artwork are from.


  • Janet

    Janet on Feb. 24, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

    I third the YNAB recommendation - we use it as well. We have the app on our phones. It's a genuis system and we love it. Great philosophy from the creators as well. We just watched your first video!! Loved it!! My eldest 2 were so excited to see your kids!! We too will be living vicarously through your adventure!! 



  • Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz

    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz on Feb. 25, 2014, 3:32 a.m.

    We just finished our taxes too and like you I'm not good at keeping track of expenses! :) It took a few hours to track everything down from all of our accounts. It's going to be even harder next year because we'll both be self-employed. In an interesting turn of events, my husband is leaving his job of 9 years to go off on his own driving a cargo van we just bought. I can't even begin to wrap my head around all the changes, and being home with the kids by myself for weeks at a time. No idea how this will work, but I think it will be temporary. 

    I can't wait to follow your journey and to hear all about the AT!


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