Farewell to Alstom

Red Wine Spill

Today was my last day at work. I have to admit it was somehow less emotional moment than I thought it would be. After all, it’s been almost fourteen years! In such time everyone grows accustomed and attached to things – the cubicle, the old desk phone or if nothing else, at least to that beaten up and broken chair. But there are also people. Your friends and foes, the funny and the grumpy characters, your office neighbors… Those, that were your family away from home, your colleagues. They were the people I’ve been spending more time with, then with my wife and kids. And for some reason,  the farewell didn’t seem hard at all. Just like going away for an extended weekend and saying bye to the team…

Did I become a soulless cynical bastard…? Some of those people were friends, some close as family. And yet I left them with a  handshake and a simple “keep in touch” at the door. My excitement and the promise of upcoming adventures overshadowed the sadness of leaving some good friends behind. On the flip side, it also looked like inmates waving their fellow convict goodbye, while watching  him leave the prison cell. Watching him with envy and jealousy, at heart wishing it was them. It felt a little awkward…

I’d like to blame my somehow emotionless attitude on high level of activity and enormous stress, we’ve been coping with in the last few weeks. Frankly, if I knew the price we had to pay to set sails for our journey, I’m not sure we would have taken this decision. But we did. And there is nothing stopping us now! We will get the house rented and we will hit the road soon! We might be suffering from a mild case of a reisefieber, which would explain my rigidity earlier today. I may need a week or two to get back to normal. But hey, what’s “normal” in my case, anyway?

I’d like to thank everyone for the good luck wishes. I received tons of them – in print, in email, through the blog and directly while doing my farewell round around the office. I received a lot of wishes from friends, colleagues and people I personally never met – I guess that has something to do with the fact of semi-accidentally sending a mass e-mail to everyone at Alstom (sorry folks, I hope you’ll forgive me!). All your feedback was very positive, supportive and encouraging. Through that e-mail I’ve gained a few new Facebook friends and probably also a few readers for this blog. As promised, I will update it as often as possible. In the near future, I’ll create a FAQ page to respond to all the e-mails I’ve received, but I’ll also try to respond to each of the emails individually. Just please, be patient it may take a few days.

In the meantime, here’s a toast to all the inmates I’m leaving behind! I’m raising a wine glass this evening to celebrate the moment of becoming officially unemployed, underfunded and soon to become homeless. But what the heck, lets have a drink to celebrate “just another word for nothing else to loose”…

OK, I might have one too many tonight, but it’s not that often that I quit my job. This was actually my very first time…

Road Trip Packing Strategies Revealed

Car Packing

This morning, I woke up on the floor. Fortunately the fall wasn’t painful, as I only dropped a few inches. Actually not even dropped, but rolled. I slept on an air mattress. No, not to practice before the trip. This has been a bare necessity, as my wife sold our bed the day before.

We keep crossing stuff off of the tasks list. The vehicles are sold, the utilities cancelled, most of our rubbish is either at Goodwill, at the Salvation Army or in our storage. The furniture keeps disappearing. People come and take it away. It’s no longer months and weeks, we’re down to a few days and it’s time to start counting hours. So far we’ve been unsuccessful in securing tenants for our house. It’s been on the market for almost a month now and even though the rent was calculated to barely cover the costs, we were forced to lower it. It means that we’ll actually pay for some people to live in our house! Other than that, I think we’re ready. There is still some junk in the garage and in our shed, but I’m sure we’ll be able to clean it out before departure. I think, we can start packing.

Car Packing
Car Packing

Disclaimer: The car pictured on the left is not ours, however we are seriously considering adopting similar packing strategy for our Sabbatical road trip.

We’ve been thinking about the most efficient way to pack the car. We’ll have a roof rack, in which we’ll carry all the camping gear and kitchen stuff. It’s fairly easily accessible and in the first part of our road trip, through the United States, we will use it the most. All four bikes will dangle on a hitch mounted carrier behind the car. That way, we’ll have the entire 57.5 ft3 (yes, I’m a geek) for our disposal. I’m not sure how exactly we’re going to arrange it. Leaving it to the Captain, it would be filled with three thousands pairs of shoes (each in their individual shoe box) and the rest of stuff packed in Wegmans shopping bags. Leaving it to our Explorers and it would be full of toys and garbage they can’t part with. Looks like yet another item on my to-do list… To keep things organized, I thought about stuffing everything into large, transparent, plastic containers. You can put them on top of each other, forming two layers inside the cargo area. Things used more often (like towels, bathing suits and sandals) will be sitting on top of stuff that we’ll only need sporadically (rain jackets or sweatshirts). Assuming all containers will be the same size and shape, packing will be no problem. Not even for the Captain… In case of emergency car sleepovers, we’ll be able to put an air mattress on the boxes and spend the night reasonably comfy (even though it might be terribly close to the ceiling). Accidental leakages will be contained to one box at a time. Same with unpleasant smells. Their waterproof quality will be helpful for packing and unpacking on those rainy days. Finally, once we settle for few weeks in a small apartment, we can stack the containers into each other and conserve living space as well. Obviously there will be some unused space in between boxes and the car, which I’m sure can be stuffed with smaller, soft items like  sleeping bags and pillows. I need to take exact measurements, but I believe we’ll be able to take 8 or 10 such boxes with us.

What are we going to pack? I mentioned the camping gear already. That includes a large tent, two large air mattresses, four sleeping bags, one large and one small tarp (to put under the tent), gas stove, lantern, flashlights and tons of other, smaller equipment. The kitchen will be reduced to a frying pan and a cooking pot, cutting board and a few sharp knifes, ceramic plates, bowls and silverware, first aid and roadside emergency kit, small toolbox, essential spares for the car and bicycles, ropes, bungees and a cooler. Those are all very typical road trip accessories, but we plan on taking also other items like laptops, wireless router, maybe a slow cooker or a juicer (or both?). And obviously hundreds of chargers and cables, because all of those devices use a different one. We will have a separate box for our Explorers books, toys and learning materials. Our reading and e-mail communication needs on the road will be satisfied by a Kindle (what a wonderful little gizmo!). Now we just need to think about a way to safely carry our passports and cash, especially once we cross the first border. Somewhere I also read that it’s a good idea to stop at a sign shop and make a copy of license plates, as they tend to be a hot commodity among some Latin American collectors. I’ll think about it in few months, once we get to Texas.

Those are our big travel plans. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this post, who have their own experiences with road trip travels. We are always eager to learn from others, so please feel free to leave your comments below. In the meantime, we are going back to packing our suitcases for a flight to Poland next Tuesday. Or should we use plastic boxes…?