Judi Romaine: It’s Never Too Late
A Landmark Graduate Follows Her Dream
by Diane Borgic
Judi Romaine was alone and terrified. She was 500 miles from home, spending the night in the small, used camper she had bought a couple hours earlier. She had to tow it home. She had never towed anything in her 69 years, and she had just found out her used SUV, which she had owned a week, had the wrong kind of hitch; the camper’s seller said he didn’t know how she was going to make the trip.
“I was having nightmares all night. How was I going to get this back to Indiana?” she said.
Here she was once more, meeting yet another challenge demanded by her dream.
The dream had come to Judi as a vision two years earlier, when she lost her job and was faced with living on just $700 a month. She was panicking. A conversation with a Landmark course leader empowered her to transcend her fear and change her life.
The course was the Self Expression and Leadership Program, for which Judi was a coach.
“I see myself in a little trailer, sitting outside in a lounge chair at dawn, drinking coffee, looking off at the mountains in the distance, and I’m up in the high desert. And I see myself just traveling around like that.”
That image carried her through two years of preparing and downsizing. “Every time things would get hard, I’d say, oh wait, there’s my vision,” she said.
Picturing the desert was the first of three practices she created for guidance. The second was to get rid of at least one item from her house every day. She sold some items and gave the rest away.
“The third practice was to let it show up in dialogue, in my speaking with other people, how this was going to go, what it was going to look like,” she said.
She determined she needed to get a certain amount of equity from the sale of her house. The first two realtors she talked to told her the house was not marketable. “The third one was willing to be enrolled,” she said.
She was almost stopped by the cost of the repairs her house needed, but within hours, she gave up the notion that fixing the house was going to be hard. The next day a friend called with the name of a contractor who would barter his work. It cost Judi her little red sports car and some antiques to get her house ready. The work was done in a fast six weeks, and the house sold before it was put on the market. She got the amount of return she needed.
“I say this is what happens when you’re living inside of a vision,” Judi said.
She paid her ex-husband, with whom she is close, to build an addition on the back of his house so she would have a place to live when she wasn’t on the road.
She knew she needed a reliable car, and she found a great deal on a late-model, compact SUV. She spent six months scouring the Internet for a suitable, lightweight trailer, which she bought sight-unseen because she had learned that used campers are snatched up fast.
The trailer was in Iowa. The harrowing drive to Bloomington, Indiana, took Judi 12 hours. After her first hour on the road, one of the trailer’s tires blew out. The trailer’s brake lights failed, and she didn’t know it. When she reached Indianapolis, she had to navigate through rush-hour traffic. When she got home, she didn’t know how to back in. She pulled into the drive, walked into the house, gulped a glass of wine, and threw herself into bed.
“The next morning, I was back to picturing the desert,” she said. “It was all perfect, the scary things that happened, in getting me ready to go.”
Meanwhile, Judi had gotten an offer to house-sit for a friend near San Francisco, and that provided excellent motivation to drive across the country. In late September, after practicing hitching, pulling, and backing the camper (“It was terrifying,” she said), she set off for the West.
“So, here I am at close to 70, breaking free, letting myself be afraid, and doing it anyway,” she wrote in her blog. “And tonight I had my fire with my chair sitting beside it, listening to the very loud owl hooting in a tree behind me and watching the stars. That’s what I had in mind when I thought of camping; not completely alone as there is a tent family a thousand feet away and a large motor home over yonder, but alone enough to listen to the owl and the crickets and watch the sky, listening to the wind still blowing hard through the trees.”
Towing the trailer was a daunting, arduous crawl. Judi avoided the interstates but still had to cope with traffic, thundering trucks, and winds that almost blew her camper off the road. She hated her trailer, hated hauling it for the first two weeks of driving, until after she had done the house-sitting in California and was on her way to Arches National Park in Utah.
“The trailer transformed from being a monster following me that I had to watch out for to this little orphan I had adopted who was tagging along, trying to do his best to do whatever I needed. I fell in love with it in an unexpected way,” she said. That night, she decorated the trailer with a string of Christmas lights.
“Perhaps,” she wrote, “I’m reclaiming a self I created in 1991 while doing the Landmark Advanced Course: I can have a life. Not that I did not or do not have a life, but I can have a life that is an expression of creating something, not just the automatic life I inherited and can depend upon fulfilling.”
Judi’s first adventure lasted 46 days, and she’s home in Indiana for the winter. “I can hardly wait to get on the road to wide open spaces in March,” she said. “I gave up being an old person. I’m a master of the road.”
“I discovered the self that was always there, but hidden behind the unseen expectations life – our culture, our family, and especially ourselves – gives us.”