Well, here goes…

22 May

Over the years one or three of you have suggested that I write a book, or at the very least a blog. As I am whole-heartedly behind doing the very least… a blog it is.

However, this is probably not what you imagined. I intend to write about as many different subjects as possible, but since I also intended to be an astronaut you’d do well to not be too disappointed if things don’t go to plan. Odds are this little endeavor will eventually skew toward my daily adventures as an investigator for your friendly neighborhood private detective agency. I like NASCAR, maybe I’ll write about that. I’m a recovering actor big into Roman history and Doctor Who.  Might write about some of that. By a happy chance I have just returned from a three-week vacation in Europe with my lovely young bride so I will definitely be writing about THAT.  In fact I am pretty sure this will be a travel blog for the foreseeable future.

Some of you are writers. Actual honest-to-goodness-“People-pay-you-for-the-words-you-put-on-paper” WRITERS.  I am not. I did have a poem published in a journal of formal metrical poetry about 1,236 years ago. I got a proof copy of the journal and a nice letter but nobody sent me a check. I am well aware that this doesn’t make me a capital W Writer any more than stalking your ex on Facebook makes you an investigator.  So, I would appreciate your feedback should you choose to give it.  I do plan to eventually write that detective novel using my personal experiences as the framework for a fictional story, but I know enough to know that I don’t know the first thing about writing a book.  I’m taking a stab at the “Chuck ‘em in and see if they swim” school of writing.

And so…

In the summer of 2001 things were going really well for us.  Julia temped for law firms and trading houses downtown and worked for a theatre upstate in the summer months.  I made an absurd amount of money working as an investigator for a detective agency inManhattan.  We’d saved up a nice chunk of money and decided we needed to take a trip. On the whole we weren’t the take-a-vacation sort. Generally the only reason we traveled was to visit family around holidays and birthdays.  We’d just discovered NASCAR and would soon start going to one or two races a year but we never went somewhere, you know, just to GO somewhere. We always had a very specific activity in mind that dictated the destination.

We decided to take A Trip. We decided it would be A Big Trip.  We decided to go to Ireland and spend 10 days riding across the country on horseback, staying each night in a different castle.  We had the money, we had the flexibility in our schedules at work, so why not?

We were in the early planning stages of this trip when some terrorist assholes killed a few thousand of our neighbors.  Everything was put on hold. The agency I worked for slowly imploded. We gradually emptied our savings to pay bills. Eventually we moved to another city, rolling into town just about flat broke and having to start all over again.

We went back to being the people who traveled just to see family.  We flew home for birthdays and Christmas and to go to a NASCAR event on the East Coast once a year (Which also eventually became a family event).  We went to other cities to visit people or to work, not just to go.

About 8 years went by before we again entertained the notion of taking A Trip.  Julia bought me a copy of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. We looked through the book.  We picked a few destinations. We decided we wanted to take A Big Trip. We figured out we didn’t have enough money.

Having been in this very spot before we became determined we were going to make our trip happen this time. Oh and by the way, this wasn’t going to be just A Big Trip but A BIG FREAKING TRIP and that meant some Advance Planning, some Organization, and more than a little Fiscal Discipline.

Fortunately Julia excels at this sort of thing.  We sat down and did a rough sketch of the trip we wanted to take. After checking a few travel sites for hotel and flight prices, looking at exchange rates, taking a stab at budgeting for food and local travel, adding a percentage for inflation and a general wiggle factor since it was ME doing the math I came up with a number. That number was $10,000.

That was a big damn number. We didn’t have $10,000.  Coming up with $10,000 wasn’t even close to being in the cards anytime soon. This is the point at which this could have all very easily fallen apart but for the fact that I have Julia on my team. Julia came up with the Fiscal Discipline/Organization part.  It went like this;

We set a date three years in the future. We’d have to wait to take the trip we wanted, but that would mean getting to take the trip we wanted.  We made saving for the trip a priority. This is actually the really important part, the deciding to do it part.  Once we committed to the trip being a top priority the rest was just math and being patient. Seriously, if you take nothing else from this rambling missive remember this: You can take a big damn freaking dream vacation if you decide it is more important than some smaller things and if you are willing to wait a couple of years.

Julia calculated the number of pay periods in those three years and then divided 10,000 by that number. That was the amount we needed to save out of each check. We set up an ING Savings account online and had the amount automatically deducted from our credit union account each month. That would give us the $10,000 in three years time (Not counting the small amount of interest we would earn. Ah how I remember the heady days of 6.5% APRs on a basic savings account… god I miss the 90’s!). We set monthly budgets and any savings we realized were put into the vacation account. The grocery is the best example. I set a weekly budget for food.  At the end of the month if I managed to come in under that amount the difference went into the vacation account. I re-started the accounting every month.  We kept up monthly payments on obligations that were paid off, “Paying ourselves” a car payment for example after we got the title to Julia’s car. We were already adjusted to paying that amount every month, so it was no great hardship to simply add half that amount to the automatic monthly transfers to ING. I also got a credit card with a cash back reward. There is a big trap that is easy to fall into with these, so it is important to pay the card off every month, otherwise you are paying more in interest than the card company is paying you back (Which is exactly what they hope will happen).  I used the card mostly for reimbursed work expenses (Particularly gasoline), so by and large I was earning a cash reward on money that wasn’t coming out of my pocket. By the time we got on the plane we had actually saved over $12,000.

Once we set the savings plan in motion we had a couple of years to wait. That gave me time for the Advance Planning. Boy howdy do I loves me some Advance Planning!  Seriously.  I’m a “Worst Case Scenario” contingency plan kinda’ guy.  What could go wrong right this very moment? What’s your plan of action for when it does? It’s been 23 seconds… the situation has changed… what’s the new plan?  I like to know as much as I can know in advance.  How do I get from Paris Saint Lazare Station to Paris Nord Station by subway? How do I get from Centraal Station inAmsterdamto the hotel via tram? These are things I was able to sort out from my dining room table given three years to plan. When I was 12 my family went to Disney World. My stepfather got a little booklet that described all the rides and what type of tickets they took (If you know what an “E-Ticket Ride” is congratulations… you’re old).  I pored over it for months, reading it again and again and studying the map of the park so that when I got there I would HAVE… A…PLAN. Not much has changed.

Things were pretty fluid until I made that first reservation.  It happened that I spent a semester in England when I was in college.  For 4 months I lived in and attended classes at Harlaxton Manor. I very much wanted to spend at least one night there, and to show Julia the manor.  I contacted the Events Coordinator for the college eight months before the tentative start date for our trip and asked about getting a room. There was a room available on May 2, 2012. That was it. May 2. So everything else had to be booked around that date.  Not too much later we learned our niece would be graduating nursing school on May 12, 2012. That gave us a “Must return by” date and I was offski!

More on planning and the actual trip later. As you can see my prose could use some polishing, particularly in the “Bringing the narrative to a close” department.

(Truth is, I’m writing this in the van and my battery is about to die)

More soon.

Take good care.










© 2012 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator


4 Responses to “Well, here goes…”

  1. Bradley May 22, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Looking forward to you witticisms.

  2. Sherie May 24, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Loving it…I’m not a writer, I’m a list maker. Loved seeing the pics you posted of the TRIP.

  3. click June 6, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    Wow! This website is awesome. How do you make it look like this .

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