Cutting Loose
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Real dreams don't require you to abandon your family, quit your job, and move to Tahiti with your paintbrush. They just require that you search your soul for that deep dream you put aside and go for it. And watch your life light up.
                                                                                                                       --Barbara Sher

Dear Reader,

     A new lifestyle trend is emerging. Increasingly people are quitting unsatisfying situations, places and unfulfilling jobs—jobs from which they might get downsized at any time. They are defining their own personal dreams by getting in touch with their passions, their deep interest and how they really want to live. Then they are willingly taking risks to bring those dreams into reality!

      The individuals that I interviewed for this book from all over the world—ordinary people like you and me—opted to do something decisive about their lives, rather than continue to put up with unsatisfying jobs, places, relationships and the harried, “commuter treadmill” rat race.

      The old American Dream—that the next generation can have it better and that by hard work we can enjoy the fruits of an ever-rising standard of living along the road to secure retirement—is dead. Globalization, greedy CEO's, pandemic downsizings, takebacks and the frozen, if not declining real income during the past 20 years have killed that dream.

      People are choosing to do what they really can get enthusiastic about, even if it involves risk. If you were one of the 55* million Americans who was downsized out of your job since 1979, or if you are one of the 9 million who is currently unemployed or underemployed, then you know from personal experience that there is no such thing as job security anymore.

      “Why shouldn't I go for my dream, do what I want and take  risks?” is how one woman justified her lifestyle change. “Life is too short to be hanging onto a frustrating, stifling job, waiting to be downsized!”

      So if your life isn't all you would like it to be, or you are just looking for a good read, come with me on a series of adventures—to explore fascinating lifestyles all over the world and get to know people who are leading the kinds of lives you might enjoy.

      Our initial stopover is St. Lucia, one of my favorite Caribbean islands. There are a bunch of people I'd like you to meet.

      The first person I would like you to know is Jeff, who was groomed for a vice-presidency at American Express. He is now teaching sailing at less than a third of his former salary and couldn't be happier (Profile 1). A few doors down from Jeff lives Cheryl, a former comptroller who turned her back on the corporate world for a life in the tropics. You will meet her on page 102, Profile 11.

      Wouldn't it be great to fall in love with your dream person and then cruise the Caribbean or even sail around the world? That's precisely what happened to Sally (Profile 2), whom I interviewed on her boat.

      Would you like to take your children away from our toxic urban environment and instill in them the right set of values and habits? Then you have to meet Paul and Linda (Profile 3), on whose boat I crewed all the way to Grenada. Along the way, at Tobago Cays, I met Scott and Donna (Profile 5) who were just returning from a seven-year, around-the-world sail with their two small children.

      But before we leave St. Lucia I want to take you to Rodney Bay, where John G. (Profile 4), a former warrior turned entrepreneur, is ensconced in his three-level condo overlooking a pier where his yacht is moored.

      If traveling around the world on land is your preferred mode, then you must get to know Doug and Karen (Profile 7), who took off for an extended period to see the world up close, and reassess.

      Or are you a DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) for whom life has grown a bit stale? Then you must meet Roger and Nicky (Profile 8), who sold their thriving computer business, reconditioned an old ketch and have been cruising the Mediterranean and Caribbean since. In the Mediterranean they got a big surprise.

      What is your secret dream? Fancy sailing the Atlantic single-handedly on a 22-foot sloop? That's what Pascal did. And he asked me to tell you that it wasn't such big a deal, and that you could do it as well. In fact he is describing how you could pull off something comparable, in a book he is writing on his adventure, which I have previewed for you (Profile 6).

      Speaking about writing, have you ever thought of bagging your present job and writing the great American novel? Bill, a successful U.S. Attorney, quit his job to write a novel - even though he never had anything published before! And his gamble paid off (Profile 9).

      Ever wondered what it would be like to be a perpetual traveler? Go all over the world and live in places that fascinate you, while doing what you enjoy. Mark is roaming the Earth with one suitcase and no home base ( Profile 10).

      Are you harboring secret fantasies that you may never have dared to share with anyone, such as joining a Zen monastery, a Trappist abbey or a commune? Come and experience them with me. I've lived at all three and I'll tell you all about it in Part II.

      Or do you think that the Peace Corps might be more your cup of tea? In that case, let's pick up on our Caribbean island hopping and disembark in Grenada. I want you to get acquainted with Sandy (Profile 12), a former consultant who escaped to the Peace Corps after his marriage broke up.

      You'll find many other intriguing profiles here. But by now it probably has become clear that this book is not just entertainment: it can open you up to new possibilities.

      It has been said that since we only go around once, we'd better live our dreams, follow our bliss. But they fail to distinguish between real dreams and escapist fantasies. Living our real dreams is about reconnecting with our authentic selves that might have been buried under an avalanche of our parents' and other people's expectations. It means unleashing our passions and deep interests and crafting our distinct, individual lifestyle around them.

     Cutting Loose, then, is not about people who took off on a whim to indulge in their escapist fantasies. Most, finding their lives seriously wanting, did considerable soul searching as to what they want to do and how they preferred to live. Then they proceeded to plan and make the necessary preparations before embarking on their new lifestyles.

      But as author Barbara Sher points out, "Real dreams don't require you to abandon your family, quit your job, and move to Tahiti with your paintbrush. They just require that you search your soul for that deep dream you put aside and go for it. And watch your life light up."

      But dream lifestyles, like everything else in life, aren't meant to be forever. Most of the people here, after achieving and savoring their dreams for various lengths of time, were ready to move on to their next challenge, their next dream lifestyle.

      I am dedicating this book to these individuals I interviewed, who shared their hearts and souls -- the most intimate details of their lives -- so that you and I could profit from their courage and examples.

      Your state of mind when you wake up in the morning is a good barometer of your life. Do you get out of bed eager to take on the world? Are there things that you just can't wait to get at? Or do you have to drag yourself out of bed most mornings? Traveling around the world researching and writing this book has got me out of bed early and enthusiastically.

      One suggestion. If your life is not all you would like it to be and you are looking for more than just entertainment, read this book actively, pen in hand. Turn Cutting Loose into your own, interactive workbook. Put yourself in the shoes of the people profiled here and write down in the margins your detailed reactions and what you would do if you were in their situations. By the time you get to the end of the book, you may be primed to do something decisive about your own life.

      If you have a partner, take turns reading each individual profile, jotting down your precise comments with different color pens. And then immediately, while the specific profile is still fresh in your minds, discuss it in depth.

      When I was in the middle of writing this book, somebody asked me what it was about. A minute into my description, I noticed her eyes glazing over. She is a single parent who had been downsized and was on the verge of becoming homeless, until a few months ago when she got "this lousy job." She now identifies herself with the guy in the apocryphal story who was up to his armpits in a swamp fighting alligators and didn't want to be reminded that he should have drained the swamp. Since she was barely surviving, talking about dream lives didn't seem relevant.

      But that was just it. Unless she finds a dream to hitch her life to, that gives her hope, direction and motivation for walking out of her personal swamp, she is likely to be fighting alligators for the rest of her life!

      Someone else who saw the draft of this book commented that it seemed a bit heavy on the tropics, sailing and scuba diving. There are a number of reasons for that.

      During my research, when I asked people about their ideal places where they would like to live, most expressed strong preference for the tropics or locations having at least a mild, year-round climate. In fact many of them echoed the sentiments of the person who told me, "I want to live in a place where I can wear a bathing suit the year round without feeling out of place.”

      As to sailing, if you have ever been on a sailboat during a stiff breeze when your boat is humming along in perfect harmony with the elements, you get an inkling of why sailing has such a universal appeal. But ocean sailing is much more than that.

      It challenges you to the limit by pitting you and your boat against the vast ocean. You are in charge of all that you survey. You have no one else to depend on but yourself, should anything go wrong. The unpredictable is mixed with the spirit of adventure. Venturing to exotic places, meeting unusual people, learning about strange customs and unique cultures. It is escaping the crowded, noisy urban environment and finding time for solitude to contemplate what life is all about.

      Scuba diving throws you into an entirely different realm. As you glide effortlessly in a near-weightless state among dazzling fish, stunning plants and magnificent coral formations you realize that this may be as close to heaven as you'll ever get in this life.

      But sailing and scuba diving in the tropics are not for everyone. You will get to know many other people in Cutting Loose who have realized their dreams in other domains and are getting their flow experience in entirely different ways.

      Looking at the broader perspective, marriage, family, job/career, and ultimately a financially secure retirement used to be the foundations we could build our lives on. With half the marriages breaking up, and downsizings and takebacks becoming a permanent part of our economic landscape, these foundations have crumbled. This book offers you a more solid base upon which to build your life: discovering your passions and what your real dream is and committing yourself to bringing it into reality.

      Were you, by chance, one of the millions Americans whose job was eliminated? If not, are you afraid that it eventually might happen to you? Or are you graduating from school, are you in the midst of a mid-life crisis, contemplating divorce, about to retire or are in any other period of transition? Before doing anything else, read Cutting Loose actively.

      Why go for another uncertain job, ordinary lifestyle and continue with the rat race? Why not, with the aid of this book, take the time to examine what you really like to do, what gives you flow experience, and where and how you really like to live. The many, varied profiles presented here could be just the catalyst to spark your imagination and get you moving in the right direction. This is your opportunity to enrich and upgrade your life.

      So if you are reading this collection of lifestyle adventures for entertainment, have fun! But if you are also perusing it with the idea of enriching your life, finding your own dream or escaping your personal swamp, good luck!

                                                        Copyright 2010 Al Louis Ripskis

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