by; Lori Gebbie
I always admired the people that took to the road, experiencing America and the World. But I always had too many commitments to pack up and leave. Rent, bills, family, friends… there just never seemed to be a way. Of course, I did my fair share, I’ve lived in Germany, South Carolina, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and for now, Washington State. While I’ve seen a bit of the world, there was always the hunger to keep traveling.
When I moved to the PNW (Pacific North-West), I knew I was here for a reason. Looking out the airplane window as it crossed the Columbian River to circle into PDX airport, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of “HOME”, it brought tears to my eyes. Just 2 short months later, I met Robert, and my life felt oddly connected to his in so many different ways. We talked about art, history, photography, life. He was an artist who had given up his craft, and so was I. We both knew intimately, the rush from a creative burst, getting exactly the right angle, hitting the note in the sweet spot, and the thunderous applause from a crowd of admirers. We also both knew the pain that goes with setting your tools down and walking away from your art. But two Creatives getting together can only spur that spark so much before it sets hold. Within a few weeks, Robert finished this art piece that he had put down almost 2 years prior. And, he took a few pictures of me for an online profile on a chat site we belonged to. We put them up, and a few of our friends said they wanted new pictures, too. So, slowly we started doing pictures for friends, just one or two here and there, nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just a good image of friends.
In the meantime, Robert and I were both working, set up in a cute little duplex, waiting for the sale of a house he shared with his ex-wife to go through so we could settle and buy our own home. We moved into the duplex, telling the landlords that we would probably only be there for 3 months, as we were awaiting the sale of a home. Everything seemed set in place for us to continue to prosper as an American Family.
But Robert was working with a 50% disability from a chronic back injury, and all those hours on his feet started getting to him. He walked all day at work, on hard concrete floors, and would come home hobbling almost every night. And I was trying to work through my own medical issues. I stopped working first, and did what I could to manage our household and take care of his aches and pains so he could continue working. But all those aches and pains add up, and he would find himself out on temporary disability, flat on his back for weeks at a time, trying to prolong another operation. That worked for a while, and then he contracted the MRSA virus and was out again during the month-long quarantine period. By the time he got back to work, the company was in a bit of an economic mess, and started laying off employees. When they got to Robert’s section, they were going to lay off the swing person and give Robert that position. But the swing person was healthy, had a young family he was trying to support, and was already used to the hours. And Robert knew that he would continue to be out due to his disability, and now MRSA, for blocks of time. So he took the hit and went on unemployment. By this time, we had already started poking around stock photography, and figured we’d either find another job or make stock work. So we went full steam into our project, while looking for work. But the unemployment numbers kept rising, and the longer we were out, the more unemployable we became. We cut down to bare bone basic necessities, and lived a very frugal life, shooting stock, and shooting portraits for clients.
Meanwhile, for the last five years, the house sat, in limbo, on the market, hoping for a nibble here and there. We never counted on the house selling, we were even planning on releasing his ex-wife from the house and moving into it ourselves, until the market got better and we could sell it then. Then, a few weeks ago, we got a phone call. “Robert, can you come sign some papers? Someone put an offer on the house.” The house sold!!
We looked at our bills, looked at our home, dreamed a dream, and decided to buy an RV trailer and hit the road with the kids. We are retiring, and traveling America! Well, I say retired, we’re just taking our cameras on the road. Being stock photographers, there are always pictures in demand, and right now they happen to want travel photos. So, we’re going to do our best to oblige them.
But packing up your entire life to fit into a suitcase isn’t always that easy. We tend to gather little things along the way… A photograph here, a letter there, someone gives us a cute figurine, and what about all the serving plates and candlesticks? Not to mention Robert’s shop, all the tools, compressor, and then there’s the professional gym he has. We’ve had to delay our start just a bit, as we finish packing everything that we MUST have into our vehicles, and all the rest that we have to keep is going into an 8x10 storage unit for a few months until we can figure out what to do with all of that.
So, here we sit, at 90%, trudging thru the last 10% of our things so we can clear out and head on our trip. We’re still rolling full steam, just taking a little longer to get out of the gate! We’re hoping to be on the road in 2-3 days, now it’s just a matter of running to storage, bringing the last box into the trailer, washing walls, and turning in keys.