No, FIAT does not refer to a micro-Italian car nor the snarky, auto-related acronym, “Fix it again, Tony!”
FIAT = fuck-it-all-tour. It’s a method of decompression we rediscovered last year on an extended walkabout in Central America. In short, a FIAT is a much-needed getaway from work and life. It’s a cleansing breath travel experience to regain one’s existential bearings. As such, it’s a non-pharmaceutical (nevertheless habit-forming) treatment that may well fit into your grander scheme. Ask your doctor if a FIAT might be right for you.
Though we didn’t dub it as such, we launched on our first FIAT back in 2001. Winding down a 15-year run with Patagonia, I was glum and off balance when my sexy, ski product line gig got relocated from snow-choked Montana to sand-intensive SoCal. Choosing not to get on the bus, I licked my wounds of job and income loss by bailing with my family to spend a year of healing on Hawaii’s Big Island (which morphed into two years). In the rearview mirror of life, that decision – to leave our cozy Bozeman hamlet, to go cold turkey on the outdoor/snowsports biz, and immerse ourselves in the middle of the steel blue Pacific – was damn powerful tonic.
So, a little over a year ago, my gal and I found ourselves growing weary of our long-burn jobs as well as all the attendant hoopla of being responsible adults. Dosed on nonstop digital noise and our self-imposed blur of busyness (can you relate?), all we knew for certain was we needed way more renewal than any two-week vacation, 100 sun salutations or juice cleanse could provide. So, we started plotting.
Part of our impetus came from our younger boy who’d just returned from a year of studying apex-fruits (durian) in Malaysia & Thailand. Additionally, he swung ice tools in Nepal and tapped into some thumpy Indonesian waves. We figured if this gap year trend was good for youngsters – trying to gain perspective and sort out a direction in life – it might also have therapeutic benefits for us post-middle agers. (Meeting all the AARP requirements, we began billing our decision to unplug as pretirement.)
Whether a FIAT, “adult gap year” or pretirement, the point is to guzzle a bottle of carpe diem. Line out a plan in pencil, with an eraser at the ready to modify on the fly. Initially, we planned to winter in Puerto Rico, but decided – mid-travels – to take volunteer work in Panama where we could trade labor for room & board. While I never anticipated gaining ninja machete skills, I was put to the task of pruning the monkey jungle into a feng shui’ed Zen garden. And, in my downtime, I surfed my brains out.
So, here’s my counsel, kids - take semi-regular respites throughout your life. Ideally these sojourns will be more lengthy and illuminating than your average, umbrella drink vacation. We studied Spanish in a semi-remote, fishing village in Nicaragua. In addition to seeking hammock consciousness and fine-tuning my bottom turn, it was satisfying to scribe fresh grooves in our brains while living lower on the food chain.
Surely you know the rejuvenating power of a wild hare road trip – loaded for bear to go shred in some faraway place. Go with your instincts, grasshopper, and delay not thy gratification. Save up a few ducats, button down your logistics, sell off your chaff and go off into the wild blue yonder. Every few years, rinse & repeat…
No doubt, we’re captive on a carousel of time, riding our painted ponies up & down. That is, unless you decide to step off this merry-go-round of madness.