Thursday, June 25, 2009

Challenges

There has been a lot to take into consideration since I first decided last January to try to cycle across North America in the summer of 2010. And I've been doing a lot of thinking since my previous (and first) post - well, really over the past six months. Here are the most obvious challenges ...

Purpose
Why do I want to do this? I addressed the basics in my first post, but I need to deeply consider if cycling across North America is worth risking my currently stable employment and possibly going into debt. I'll try to avoid the typical clich├ęs of living in the now, living life to the fullest, living each day as if it were your last, but it's difficult not to reference them when they're the general premise of your goal. I turn 30 - and every other age - once, but 30 is a landmark. I am currently in good health (knock on wood). I don't have any responsibilities of family weighing me down. And as I get older, the window of opportunity to accomplish such a feat will likely continue to get smaller. As with my move-to-NYC goal, I really need to take a now-or-never approach. Get busy living or get busy dying, as they say.

Employment
There are two things for which I am very lucky: (1) I have remained steadily employed with the same company throughout the tumultuous state of the United States economy, and (2) I love my job. I also fortunately work for a company with a forward-thinking SVP of Human Resources, who - I have been told - supports family-friendly flextime and personal or philanthropic sabbaticals.

However, in this economy, eight weeks of unpaid leave can be a frightening request to make, and while my leave would be unpaid, my position would need a temporary replacement. I reached out to our Director of Community Relations, who is also a progressive thinker regarding the corporate environment and employee morale. Though I've always respected her as one of my more dynamic colleagues, she was surprisingly receptive of my goal to bike across North America in the summer of my 30th year. During a 20-minute meeting in her office a few weeks ago, she helped me brainstorm challenges and potential resolutions that I had not even thought about yet. Here is what I know and can currently share online:
1. I would love to return to this company after the conclusion of my cross-country bike tour.
2. I'm an executive assistant. My job is certainly not rocket science, but assisting an upper-level executive is tough and a lot of people depend on me.
3. I plan to have a desk reference detailing every aspect of my job updated for whoever sits in my seat - whether I receive approval for eight weeks of unpaid leave or whether - in order to achieve my goal - I have to consider resigning before the bike tour begins on June 20, 2010. I am extremely fond of my boss. I consider her my mentor and would not want to leave her or my colleagues with unfinished business or disrupt productivity with my departure so a fully up-to-date desk reference is a major priority for me.
4. I have a year to work with our Human Resources and Community Relations department on suitable alternatives that could potentially work for all of us.
5. I am not asking the company to sponsor me; I'm saving the money for the tour and correlated expenses myself. However, there are creative opportunities to make my eight weeks of unpaid leave beneficial for the company if our Director of Community Relations' ideas are received with the same positive foresight that she expressed during our meeting.

Money
The salary of upper-level executive assistants in New York City might be enviable by small-town U.S.A. standards; however, the cost of living in Midtown Manhattan (or anywhere within a 15-mile radius) can find you spending well over the generally recommended 1/3 of your monthly income on housing. This summer, I have several vacations and long weekends planned with my boyfriend, who plays professional basketball overseas, so I don't want to get a second job before he leaves the country again in September. But I will be seeking supplemental income this autumn as soon as he flies out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to begin a new 10-month basketball season.

Budget
Cost estimates for The Cross America North Tour hosted by America By Bicycle (AbyB) June 20 - August 9, 2010:
1. AbyB Registration Deposit - $250
2. AbyB 3-Occupany Tour Rate* - $6,750 (less the $250 deposit)
3. Access America Travel Insurance - TBD
4. Medical insurance if my company does not approve me for unpaid leave and I ultimately decide to resign - TBD
5. June rent* - $1150
6. July rent** - $1150
7. August rent - $1150
8. One-way airfare from NYC to Astoria, OR - <$500
9. One-way airfare from Portsmouth, NH, to NYC - <$500
10. Standard, diamond frame Touring/Racing bicycle - $600-1,500 according to AbyB
11. Bicycle shipping costs from NYC to Astoria, OR - TBD
12. Bicycle shipping costs from Portsmouth, NH, to NYC - TBD
13. Cycling gear (e.g. helmet, attire, small cycling back pack, miscellaneous equipment) - TBD
14. Athletic undergarments and socks - $50
15. Daily allowance ($15/day)*** - $750
16. Wireless cellphone plan with reliable nationwide service (with unlimited out-of-network texts for all my tweets!) - Cost of new phone, activation fee, and $75-100/month
*Assuming our rent doesn't increase when we renew our lease on June 1.
**My portion of the monthly rent for the two-bedroom Hell's Kitchen apartment I share with a roommate - just in case I cannot find a suitable renter to sublet my bedroom from June 20 - August 9, 2010.
***Overnight accommodations, breakfast, dinner and SAG stops are provided daily (minus rest days) throughout the 50-day tour


Total Estimated Costs: $15,000.00
TBD estimates will be updated as they are determined

Myself
Just the sight of all those zeros - while laughable to some Upper East Siders and The Real Housewives of New Jersey - almost makes my heart stop. In fact, I experience slight vertigo while punching in the estimated amounts on my calculator. Every time I hit the = button, I can feel the doubt and fear building. Fifteen thousand dollars is 1/5 of a down payment on a $400,000 500-sq ft Manhattan studio (something I won't ever likely find worth financing anyway). Fifteen thousand dollars is a year's worth of rent for my portion of a 2-bedroom apartment in Midtown. Fifteen thousand dollars is a fully-loaded 2009 Suzuki SX4 (sounds cooler than it actually is). Fifteen thousand dollars was the estimated cost per household of the economic stimulus plan back in February (I'm not really that news savvy; I googled "things that cost $15K"). Fifteen thousand dollars is the cost of a quality boob job (no comment; I'm just saying ...).

This very blog post is making me wonder if I really can bike across North America in less than a year. And I'm starting to wonder if this blog will become an online record of a failed dream. I suppose if I worried about what people thought or about experiencing public failure, I wouldn't have started a public blog. So here goes nothing ...

Get busy living or get busy dying? Fifteen thousand dollars to get busy biking is beginning to make me feel a little unsure about whether I'll be able to nod in the face of adversity like Morgan Freeman and confidently say, that's goddamn right.

That's a goddamn expensive nod.

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