Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Creating the Life You Want

When I heard about this woman who dropped everything to live on the road--then traveled all over the world and wrote a book about it--two words came to mind:

Soul Sister!

Margaret "Meps" Schulte

I knew I had to talk to her. She has a fascinating life...and great advice for living the life of your dreams.

The title of your book is Strangers Have the Best Candy. Why do strangers have the best candy?

By "candy," I mean a positive encounter, which might range from a smile to a home-cooked meal to a conversation that starts a lifelong friendship. When we encounter a person we know, we have some idea what to expect from them. The good things we get from strangers are always a surprise, and they can have life-changing consequences.

You hit the road as a young woman. How long have you been living a traveling life? How do you balance the joys of the road and a yearning for "home"?

I've left the corporate world for an open-ended adventure twice. The first time was in my twenties, when my husband and I put our stuff in storage and traveled in a Honda Civic and on bicycles for a couple of years. When it stopped being fun, we settled in Seattle, got jobs, and started saving as much money as we could.

After eight years, in 2003, we took off a second time. We moved aboard a sailboat in New Orleans for five months, then sailed across the Gulf of Mexico and up the eastern seaboard. After we left the boat, we drove 6500 miles in our van, the Squid Wagon, from Florida to Newfoundland to Seattle with our cat. That was just the first year -- I haven't stopped traveling since!

I don't yearn for "home" in a traditional sense. I have friends all over the world, and I'm on a nonstop circuit of visiting them and making new friends out of strangers. Sometimes, I wish I could settle down long enough to take a class or unpack my Christmas ornaments, but when an opportunity for adventure comes up, I forget all about that.

The hardest thing about traveling is saying goodbye too often. I have to console myself with a reminder that there is always a hello on the other side.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Live overseas. Forget Russian -- learn as many foreign languages as you can that use the Latin alphabet. Play the harmonica instead of the accordion; it's a lot easier to carry. Don't stop painting. Always wear comfortable shoes, so you can walk for miles.

What advice would you give to people about living the life you really want to live?

Examine your choices every single day. Don't take anything for granted! For example, I didn't like celery yesterday, but I might like it today. I had a friend who hated jewelry on men. He went out and bought a gold necklace and never took it off. It was a reminder to him of the power of changing his mind. Change one small thing, and see how it feels. Then change a bigger thing, and a bigger thing, until you have created the life you want.
Also, don't say no when adventure knocks on the door. Be flexible, prepared, and self-sufficient, and everything will be OK.

Quitting a well-paying job was so scary, I called it "jumping off the cliff." Today, I have absolutely no regrets about saying yes to adventure, because my parachute opened on the way down. Now my life is measured in friends and awe-inspiring moments, not dollars and possessions. My security comes from being flexible and accepting reality.

Meps' next book, The Joyful Bear, will be released this fall. Co-authored with Frank Lloyd Bear, a large white teddy bear who has been traveling with her since 1993, the book features Frankie's unique wisdom and philosophy. To follow her adventures, check out Meps' website.

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