Coming Home & What’s Next (from Ben)

As we have both shared, over the last 4+ months (and hopefully over the last 30+ years together) feelings of gratitude have been somewhat overwhelming during this journey – which perhaps ‘officially’ ended with reunion weekend at Nobles earlier this month. So some thoughts about the trip – and about what comes next (if anyone is reading and/or at all interested).

First – the trip. I love data (simple data, however!). So here is some from the trip:

  • 11,448 miles driven on American roads
  • 50% (roughly) of miles NOT driven on interstate highway
  • 30 states traveled to or through
  • 2 incredibly beautiful countries – the US and Chile
  • 332 (approx) miles hiked
  • 440 (approx) miles biked
  • 14 Nobles graduates visited along the way
  • Favorite new national park – Capital Reef (UT)
  • Favorite new US city – Nashville (thanks, Ned!)
  • Most surprising/impressive state park – Palo Duro Canyon (outside of Amarillo, TX – go there if you can!)
  • Favorite new country – Chile. Wow. (It was also the only new country – but, man, it was amazing)
  • Best protest witnessed – International Women’s Day – Santiago, Chile
  • Most fun Sarah discovery – downhill skiing again! (Thanks, Parizeaus!)
  • Ben’s favorite Memory Lane moment – biking/hiking in Cedar Run, PA (the Bowdoin crowd will appreciate this)
  • Favorite hike – too many to name just one (we get asked this regularly)
  • Biggest physical challenges – the W-Trek/Torres del Paine and Cerro Castillo – both in Patagonia
  • Longest single drive – 833 miles from Hattiesburg, MS to Amarillo, TX
  • Most meaningful conversation – so many, but learning from the director of the Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, AL was an important one
  • Most powerful museum – The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice (otherwise known as Lynching Memorial) in Montgomery, AL – a place for all Americans to learn
  • Coolest wildlife – elephant seals in Cambria, CA
  • Most generous hosts – Julia/T/Aunt Nancy in Santa Fe (thank you!) – who knew we’d swing by three times!?
  • Most patient person – Sarah by far for putting up w/ me. 

    A former colleague always talked about “getting after it” with young people – be it on a team, in the classroom, or in life. It feels like we “got after it” on this trip and looking back, it seems like we took pretty full advantage of the opportunity. 

    Second, home and my ‘next chapter’. 

    Certainly, this trip gave me time to think about what comes next. What was fairly easy to do was come up with five ‘buckets’ of priorities.

  • Bucket #1 – Family and friends – It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) the highest priority for this chapter is making time for the people who matter the most and having the flexibility to create the time to be together whenever possible.
  • Bucket #2 – Fitness, health, fun – For both my physical and mental health I need to put the time into this part of life and especially build in time to be outside. One of the best parts about the trip was simply being outdoors for big chunks of every day. 
  • Bucket #3 – Meaning – I’ve been so fortunate to have meaningful work be integral to my professional and personal lives. I need to land on something(s) that can be built into the day to day but not interfere with buckets one and two. 
  • Bucket #4 – Learning – There are so many things I’d like to learn. Where (in person? Online?)? When (daily? Weekly?) Experiential or academic? Both? Lots to think about. 
  • Bucket #5 – Community – One piece of the timing of stepping away from Nobles was to have enough time to build a community in the Upper Valley. We have a number of good friends yet need to continually expand the circle. 

To be able to live in this beautiful place (just follow Sarah on Instagram and you’ll see sunset after sunset) is a gift beyond compare. And to know that we have the resources to travel, to support a comfortable life, and to support some causes we believe in is something few people in this world have. 

At the same time, there will be two major adjustments for me. Other than sabbaticals, I’ve basically worked full-time (when not in school) for forty years – and to not have that routine will be both a welcome change and require some attitude tweaking. That said, my work life has been so incredibly interpersonal (literally hundreds of interactions every day) and has generated so much positive energy and meaning for me, that I need to figure out where that energy and meaning will come from. I’m not sure yet and while I know I need to be patient in finding those things, my natural impatience could get in the way. We’ll see…and the bottom line is that it’s good to be home, to sleep in the same bed every night, to marvel at the natural beauty, be with my best friend and person I love the most, and be grateful for all we have. 

If you get this far, thanks for reading, listening and being part of our journey.

So much good time together and with people we love
So good to get back to these two ❤️
And these two ❤️

Two weddings on the horizon—so fun!

Stay safe, everyone ❤️.

3 thoughts on “Coming Home & What’s Next (from Ben)

  1. Beautiful post, Ben! I have loved following your journey, and celebrate your home going. One bit of data I wanted to know after reading your list: #of days away from home.
    Also, I appreciate your musings on retirement and offer only these small bits of unsolicited advice from one who’s (basically) retired:
    1. Take it slow and let it unfold. Leave room for the “messy middle.”
    2. Let go of the “should” in terms of meaningful work. Not that you don’t want to continue to be engaged and make a difference, but a) your career with young people has made a huge difference in the world, so you can be proud of that and celebrate it, not necessarily needing another big cause, and b) open to the surprise of what form that meaningful engagement may take. I find myself, for example, following this new passion of open water swimming, being an unofficial mentor to many women of varying ages simply by living my life and listening to theirs.
    I wish you peace and joy and “good trouble.”
    And I want to come see you in Vermont!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ben – love the updates. You are clearly making the most of the next chapter!

    Last night was my last Nobles Board meeting and it brought back a lot of memories. I want to let you know I learned a lot from you over the years. In particular, the overriding importance of the mission and seeing outside the walls of Nobles I always enjoyed being in a break out session with you because I knew it would be enlightening. At any rate, it was a rewarding experience for me and you played a big part of it, so thanks.

    Speaking of service for others and thinking global, my daughter has expressed interest in the Island School. She is a thoughtful, adventurous, and caring kid who has straight A’s at Needham High and loves helping others and protecting the environment. I don’t know a ton about it and am not sure how competitive it is, but I know you have been a huge advocate. It seems like the majority of the kids are from private school, but perhaps that simply the type of applicants they end up getting. Love to pick your brain on it some day.

    Talk soon

    All the best,

    Brian O’Neill

    Sent from my iPad



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