jumping off a moving sidewalk

A Life With Moving Sidewalks

Childhood Memories

Am I alone in this, or do you also have vivid memories of riding an escalator when you were a kid? 

Do you remember…

…That apprehension as you approach your first encounter with the beast, wondering exactly where to place your foot on that moving belt?  That fear that somehow you’ll not survive if you put your foot on the seam?  Squeezing your parent’s hand as you place your foot on the belt, quickly followed by your second foot as the belt pulls you away? Watching, watching as that flat surface forms into a step, and thankful your feet are, indeed, solidly on the flat step section?

…That wonder as you move, without any effort on your part.  Somehow defying gravity as the miraculous belt moves you up, up, up while you remain, strangely, in the same place on that step.

…The terror as you realize the end is approaching, and the sudden fear that your foot will get severed if you don’t get it off the belt before it disappears under those man-eating teeth.  Grabing your parent’s hand a bit tighter, then timing your death-defying jump to safety.

What is it about that moving staircase that creates such vivid memories?  


The Moving Sidewalk

The same wonder extends to the moving sidewalk, does it not?

In the final years of my career in international business, I found myself (too) frequently in airports.  Whenever possible, I’d ride those moving belts between terminals instead of taking the trams.  The fascination spawned in childhood continues with me to this day. 

There’s something enjoyable about walking at normal speed, but watching the world go by in double time.  

Personally, I most enjoy the higher speed walkways.  Especially as you approach the end of the belt…

Admit it, we all pay attention as we near the end of the ride.  

At the end, there’s that strange “compression effect” when you move from the speeding belt to the solid ground.  It’s a rapid deceleration, in spite of the fact that your legs are moving the same speed.Your knees sense the shift, your body tilts a bit as your forward momentum slows, and you adjust to your new reality.

For some reason, I like to increase my walking pace as I approach the end of the belt.  It maximizes the “landing” effect, and it’s kinda fun.  Yeah, I’m just weird that way…

Stepping off a moving sidewalk takes an adjustment. Your body feels the compression as you adjust to your new reality.  Pursue moving sidewalks in your life. Click To Tweet

pursue a life of moving sidewalks

Pursue A Life With Moving Sidewalks

At this point, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this post.  Bear with me…here’s the application to our lives…

As many of you know, I’ve been on sabbatical for the past 3 months.  My wife and I just completed a 10,000-mile cross-country RV trip (with our 4 dogs!) which we titled “The Great American Road Trip”.  (BTW, I appreciate the support I’ve received from so many of you, and the interaction to the photos I’ve shared on Instagram and Facebook.)

It was a “Moving Sidewalk” Experience.  

A thought came to me last night when this post was born. I realized that there are moments in your life where an experience somehow alters your typical day-to-day reality. Where, perhaps, your impression of time is impacted.  Where you take a break from reality.  Where you face a re-entry adjustment.

Just like a moving sidewalk, only bigger.

It’s a moment you’ve been planning for, anticipating. A moment that starts when you step on that proverbial belt at the beginning of the adventure.  There’s that long, fun ride in the middle where the scenery is always changing.  Finally, in the end, there’s that strange compression as you make the adjustment from your surreal experience back to the world of reality. 

The moving sidewalk is an analogy for all of us. Regardless of where you are in life, there's value in pursuing moving sidewalks. Click To Tweet

How To Find Moving Sidewalks In Your Life

A “Moving Sidewalk Experience” can be anything which takes you out of your routine.  Something with a clear beginning, followed by a non-routine experience, and wrapping up with an adjustment as we return to the “reality” of our lives.  A vacation is an obvious example, but there are many others.  It can be as simple as trying something which is new to you or traveling someplace you’ve never been or joining a club you’re interested in.  The list is endless, but it’s within your control.

What’s important is that you work on becoming intentional, and seeking out experiences which…

  • …Bring variety to your everyday reality.
  • …Give an element of excitement, changing the pace of your life for a while.
  • …Provide a change of scenery.
  • …Require an adjustment as you step off the moving sidewalk and back to reality
Pursue a life filled with moving sidewalks. Savor the apprehension of stepping on and enjoying the ride.  Welcome the adjustment when the ride is over. Click To Tweet

I Just Stepped Off That Belt

The #GreatAmericanRoadTrip meets that criteria and I consider it a Moving Sidewalk Experience.  In fact, I’m going through the “adjust to reality” phase as I write these words. 

The strange reality is that a few days ago we were sleeping in a box with wheels in the Rocky Mountains, and now we’re not.  We’ve stepped off the moving sidewalk, and we’re feeling that strange compression as we return to our “normal” reality.

Coming home is a big change, and it’s all good. It took us a while to adjust to life on the moving sidewalk in the RV, and it’ll take us a while to adjust to life back in our retirement mountain cabin.

Forcing yourself to make adjustments is a good thing.

The value that the road trip brought to our lives is difficult to quantify, but it clearly made our lives better.  I suspect I’ll never write words which will adequately communicate the reality of what it’s like to go through an experience of RVing across the country.  At this point, I’m not even sure if I’ll write about it.  

And, really, that’s not what’s important.


What’s Important Is This…

Life is short.  

Grab hold of it with both hands.

Use the analogy of the moving sidewalk to challenge yourself to find something new to mix up your routine.  Every time you get on an escalator or moving sidewalk, remember this analogy and challenge yourself again. Find a way to jump on a moving sidewalk as often as you can.


Conclusion

It’s been strange to be away from the keyboard for the summer.  I’ve enjoyed the break, but I’m also glad to be back.

I was riding a moving sidewalk, and it made my life better.  I suspect they’ll make your life better, as well.

Find a way to break up your normal routine.

Find A Moving Sidewalk.

Enjoy The Ride.

24 comments

  1. I remember the moving sidewalks at the 1964 Worlds’ Fair. Stepping on was surreal enough but not knowing where they’d take us made me giddy.

    Our trip to Australia was full of moving sidewalks. We often had only a slight notion of where we were going and what we’d find when we got there. Often it was the journey that was the most beautiful part, except for the flying, LOL. But the coastal and mountainous roads, and the ferries were magnificent.

    1. Mrs G, your trip to Oz was most certainly a Moving Sidewalk Experience! Retirement’s a great time to find new ways to break the routine, thanks for stopping by with a great example. (And, congrats on the first comment, brings back memories of the old days. Wink).

  2. Hi Fritz! We own an RV and also love the “life change” that living in a home on wheels for weeks brings! We travel with a purpose of building homes with Habitat. It has a program called Care A Vanners that we think you would enjoy tremendously. You learn a lot about the various stages of home building and work with like minded volunteers. You eat together, camp together and sweat together. The benefit to our hearts is far greater than the time and effort we expend. God bless all of your readers. May your tomorrow always be a gifted time to you. Thanks for all you do.

    Steve, retired USN sailor and Logistician Engineer

    1. Steve, thanks for the tip on Care A Vanners, we’d talked quite a few years ago about considering that in retirement, but it’s slipped through the cracks. Worth a revisit to the theme, though likely difficult to do with 4 dogs in the RV all day! We’ve done several Habitat builds and have always enjoyed the experience, great example of something out of the ordinary for folks to consider in retirement! Safe travels!

      1. I still get excited about using escalators and I especially enjoy putting my feet on different steps so when they even out, your legs seem to move in different angles at different times. It’s a funny feeling. Anyway, as for your analogy, I’m glad you found a good way to apply this because there are times in life when you feel you’ve landed on a moving sidewalk, without any intention to do so, and you just have to ride it out. Like people who suddenly develop medical conditions that take them on a new, rollercoaster track of diagnoses, check ups, blood tests, consultations and then a huge medical bill in the end when you finally get off the sidewalk and return home after your treatment. So in the FIRE context, I guess it’s a reminder that you need to have an extra fund to deal with moving sidewalks, intentional as well as non intentional.

  3. What a wonderful analogy — one that I wholeheartedly agree with. Nicely put. I’m so happy you were able to experience such a wonderful journey. And life in the retirement cabin is pretty darn awesome, too so … well.. reality really doesn’t suck! I hope you’re enjoying your retirement life and hope we can see each other again soon.

  4. Welcome back Fritz. Glad you are back safe and sound. I still have the feelings you describe on an escalator. Hahaha. I really enjoyed your pics on Instagram and my husband I are now into our 2nd week of 6 of our Out West Journey. We’ve already experienced so many awesome sights can’t wait for what the rest of our trip brings beside visiting family and dear friends. As always I SO enjoy your blog…..

  5. Great to have you off the moving walk for a spell Fritz! You are right on about the break in routine. That’s one of the reasons long stretches of architecture are appointed with columns or other visual devices…to create a sense of rhythm and interest….stimulation….it shakes things up and forces us to think. Welcome home…for now….

  6. I love this analogy. With the freedom we’ve found in early retirement, I find that it is the transitions that are the hardest. Like you, we enjoy travel trailer trips, although our current record away is 23 days. Four months — now that is quite a moving sidewalk. I love hearing about your adventure and being inspired by it.

    Beyond travels though, the concept of doing new things and shaking up your world is very exciting. Thank you for the idea!

  7. Sounds like you had a great trip! I’ve enjoyed your articles and I’m taking the plunge at the age of 52 and leaving the corporate world in less than a month. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  8. HI Fritz, Welcome back!

    Unfortunately (not by my choice) I had to jump off the moving sidewalk of my employment during the first week of this month. My employer decided to reduce the workforce, and I as well as 200 of my colleagues worldwide were caught up in the endeavor.

    As a long time employee (25 plus years), I can’t help to feel that someone hit the emergency stop button before I could get to the end of the sidewalk itself.

    Fortunately I have been astute financially and I am not in any kind of crisis mode when it comes to expenses and daily living. That being said, like most people who have been through this experience I am walking briskly to find the next moving sidewalk that I can jump on to and my faith is helping to guide me through that process.

    May be your next blog contribution could be about the “sudden sidewalk stoppage” that could occur for a variety of reasons and the importance of financial preparedness for dealing with that surprise without warning condition.

    Take care and thanks for your timely contribution.

    The Middle Aged Investor

    1. C, Ouch! I can’t imagine getting cut with 25+ years experience. Emergency Stop, indeed! Thankful that you’ve been “astute financially”, yours is another example of the benefits of being financially responsible. I can’t imagine how folks go through something like that without a financial buffer in place. Thanks for the tip on a potential post, I actually did write one highlighting the fact that 60% (!!) of folks get forced into retirement earlier than they’d planned (https://www.theretirementmanifesto.com/27-will-you-forced-to-retire-early-chances-are-the-answer-is-yes/), but it’s an old post that I should probably think about doing a rewrite, given the importance of the lesson.

      Keep the Faith, let me know how things turn out?

  9. Glad you’re back! I would love a moving sidewalk right now, or any sort of routine during a summer that consists of no childcare, moving halfway across the country, buying a new house and fixing it up, and selling a former house. Next week school begins and maybe things will start to settle down again (I hope!).

    Are you going to FinCon? I would love to meet you finally!

  10. Love it! Mom and I did a 3 week trip last year and 16 days this year. Life is different on vacation and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get more of that in normal life.
    I’ve enjoyed public transport in other places, but it isn’t the same in my area. If I had a reliable system I wonder how it could transform my commute, as that is my least favorite part of daily life.
    Welcome back!!

  11. Hi Fritz,
    Welcome back from your “moving sidewalk” trip. The analogy is very apt. It describes our “readjustment” to “normal” after a life-changing experience. Normal, I think, is a shifty devil. It is whatever we have become accustomed to and can change perpetually…in fact, perhaps, change is itself the normal.
    Still, experiences that alter our perspectives and change our expectations can create that sensation of stepping off the elevator or moving sidewalk. You have described it quite well. We have had a lot of “moving sidewalks” experiences this first year of retirement, including that big step off the sidewalk into retirement.
    Have been off my blogging game these past couple of weeks myself following some surgery…waiting for some pathology tests that may (or may not) push us off our current sidewalk. Heartily agree with a “savor each day” mindset.
    How are the doggies? How is the fundraising going….is your wife finding her purpose in this?

  12. Timely article and I love the walkway analogy! As a kid, I was always pretending to surf those moving walkways! We’ve done several smaller “moving sidewalks” this year. We did 22 days in Seattle, WA, 3 days in Charleston, SC, 30 days in The Florida Keys, and we just got back from 18 days in Bar Harbor, ME/St John, NB/Halifax, NS just two weeks ago. We (then) quickly followed up with a short 3 day trip to Williamsport, PA for a few days at the Little League World Series with friends. Jumping on and off that proverbial moving sidewalk! It’s been wonderful traveling in early retirement, but also wonderful to return home each time. We are now preparing for 7 days on Topsail Island, SC next month, and a short trip (3 days in the late Fall) to a beautiful log cabin in the Smokey Mountains of NC. I say, “Surf the walkway…and surf it hard!”

  13. The thing of it is to fail and fail often. It’s not a failure if you learn. That’s what I wind up walking away with from the grab onto both handles in this analogy. (Be smart about failing but don’t be afraid of failing). Life is worth living if you don’t tie yourself down to a series of events.

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