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Old 08-31-17, 08:54 AM   #26
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If I didn't have a small child when I was "PhDing", I would have done many long tours at that time. Alas, raising an infant with both of us working and going to grad school without using any day-care meant that I was lucky to ride at all, and all of it was transportational in nature.

That said, the OP mentions traveling to relatives for vacations. Why not ride? Just before my child was conceived, we rode 1000 miles to my grand-parents' golden anniversary (and then continued on for another 2500 miles). My parents and in-laws only lived 100 miles away, but we often rode to their houses or to meet them on the coast. We also rode to visit my grandma and uncle (and then rode on to Yosemite, which was reasonably close). Touring as transportation can be just as fun as touring as an adventure, imo.

Also, when you're gone riding, there is no housework piling up since you're not making any messes. Okay, weeds, but they grow no matter if you're there or not.
I live in New Hampshire and all my family lives in Ohio where I born and raised. Each of the four trips have included at least one week at my mom's house and in some case 2-3 weeks there. I always take a different route each year and see new country side. I've been in all OH counties north of I-70, half the counties in IL, all but two counties outside NYC/LI in NY, etc. I've been in all state east of the Rockies and 25 state capitals. There are only 4 state capitals east of the MS River I have been in on the bike in the time span 2012-15. Just always take a different route to go visit family and old friends. Why stick to a fixed route...pretty stupid if you ask me.
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Old 08-31-17, 07:43 PM   #27
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Wow

Everyone in this thread, thank you for your comments so far! @mev @Sangetsu @Machka, @Happy_feet, and others, thank you for your personal accounts. I greatly appreciate the diversity of aspects brought up here. There are many words I can say, but I will try to summarize things a bit in order to not drown this thread.

As for (not) waiting until pension. The grandfather I am told to be very like-minded to realized one of his young-age dreams in his 50's (motorcycles). In a way I am glad, he did realize his dream, but on the other hand, his life ended in a crash caused by a car soon after. So 'no' to just waiting it out (and no to motorcycles, but that's a different story).

I am doing a PhD because it gives my professional side a meaning. For that, I am already 'taking a hit' on income, as Engineers can have pretty decent careers with less degrees. That is compensated but not wanting to go after the big life expenses anyways (no car, no mortgage), living a simple life as far as consumerism goes (@bikenh: are you telling me I should let go of all my bicycles?? I am on your page, currently there is not a lot of work my 'employer' has to pay me for doing it). I know that I am not longing for the big career, but I do enjoy working intensely for something that allows me to invest my talents in and to work for making a meaningful contribution to this planet. @mev, I really adore the approach you have taken and I will use your post to remind myself of taking the opportunities when they are there. I have had experiences such as the one you report about being a valuable employee multiple times in my group.

Incorporating (smaller) tours into common other trips, such as visiting families. I WOULD LOVE THAT!!! That would be a 2x 3500km tour across Canada and a 2x6500km tour to Europe, unfortunately involving the Atlantic Ocean. But yes, there is a good point: The next time I'll just fly to a place nearby and go from there. I'll think about nearby destinations

As for quitting jobs (@tspoon) you say you plan for afterwards. How much do you plan and how easy is it for you on tour to let go of what will be afterwards?
I am saving now so I can get a big tour in after finishing my PhD, but many of my colleagues are plagued by 'I can't let go without knowing if I will have a job before the end of my savings'-fever. I presume that the situation between jobs is not completely different.

This conversation is getting me thinking.
  • I will be able to structure next year's work milestones soon. That is a chance for me to think of ways blocking a month off if I can make a good case around it. This might be a candidate for a tandem tour with my girlfriend (towards Gaspe, QC)
  • My girlfriend got enthusiastic for a second tour idea, which came to mind yesterday as we were chatting about this thread. Stuff to dream about.
  • It's a reminder to put my own non-professional desires up on the table. There has been a time more recently where I just had no big inner push beyond a pretty ordinary life. This came after the maybe most intensely lived years in my life so far. I long to get to some more intensity again (*PhD comics speaking? No, but it there are points in them)
  • I do like the idea of trying to aim for a tour every X amount of years. However, I know that my priorities (and life situation) are not as clear and focused on just that. Mev's approach resonates with me, and Sangetu's way of going about it seems more integrative of all the other priorities that I also share, as well.
A thinking and dreaming alias5000.
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Old 08-31-17, 08:31 PM   #28
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As for quitting jobs you say you plan for afterwards. How much do you plan and how easy is it for you on tour to let go of what will be afterwards?
When I quit my job to tour Australia for 3 months, I had reached a point with that job where I wanted to move on to something new.

My parents offered me a couple rooms in their basement if I wanted to start my Bachelor of Education, which I had been talking about doing for years and years.

So ... I headed off, did the tour, and when I returned to Canada, I moved into my parents basement and took a temp job more or less in the field I had been working in for 7 months, and then started my BEd. I worked part-time during the school year, and full-time doing temp work during the summers. Because I already had education and experience, the temp work I picked up paid well, and was something I enjoyed doing.


When Rowan and I quit our jobs to tour the world for 8 months, we needed a break. In 2009, Victoria Australia was devastated by a bushfire. Rowan lost his home, I moved to Australia, and we spent a year living extremely rustically in a cabin at the back of the property where Rowan worked. Then we moved into a nearby little town. As soon as I could work, I got a temp job which morphed into a 2-year contract position in bushfire recovery with the local council, and when we moved into town, Rowan got a job in Parks & Gardens which entailed some bushfire recovery work.

By 2012, bushfire recovery was wrapping up, and we really needed a break from it. Doing something like that is intense and emotional.

My contract was up anyway, although I might have been able to extend it, so we decided it was a good time to take that break.

About a month before we returned to Australia, I got an email from my main manager wondering if I would be willing to a) house sit for her upon our return for about a month while she took leave; and b) take on a 6 week contract to continue doing what I had been doing and tidy things up and wrap up some loose ends, etc. So that's what we did!
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Old 08-31-17, 09:11 PM   #29
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When do you guys do your long tours in your life?
I'm in no position to tell you how to prioritize your time. I can't tell you to sacrifice your work or family or whatever. But if you can't take 1 week off for an active vacation, then that sounds like something is out of whack.

For something that short, you just have to commit to it, and you just tackle the rest. That's not hard.

Longer trips, well... Unless you have a job that gives you an extended break (e.g. US primary or secondary school teacher), or can negotiate an extended leave of absence (not easy), or are retired (lots of free time but can involve spending constraints), that much time off is going to require some kind of sacrifice. You might have to schedule a trip while in between jobs, which can extend your subsequent job search. (Though you'll have a good story for interviews). You may have to spend time away from family.

It's certainly doable, but it requires the same thing as a 1 week trip: Commitment. You have to be willing to look for an opening, or create one. You have to be willing to take a risk. You have to choose how you will prioritize your time.

For now, I stick to shorter trips. I have other priorities, and I'm fine with not spending 3 months on a bike. Maybe that will change, maybe not. We'll see.
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Old 08-31-17, 11:16 PM   #30
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We're lucky enough to be salary and only work 8 months of the year at most. Usually October to May. Lately it's been 7 on/5 off. Definitely enjoying it while it last
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Old 09-01-17, 07:45 AM   #31
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I used a variety of methods to go on longer bike tours. I requested leave without pay on several occasions, and it was usually granted. I often combined a few weeks of paid leave with unpaid leave. One time when I was changing jobs, I negotiated a later start date for my new job. Twice after being laid off, I took the opportunity to go on tour and study Spanish in language schools in Latin America. When I was just out of college, I worked for a few years and saved my money, then quit my job, and then traveled for more than a year on 3 continents, mostly bike touring. One time, I negotiated additional annual paid vacation when I was starting a new job.
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Old 09-01-17, 01:01 PM   #32
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Outstanding!! I had to send this to my, currently applying to grad school, daughter.
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Old 09-01-17, 01:21 PM   #33
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I am doing a PhD because it gives my professional side a meaning. For that, I am already 'taking a hit' on income, as Engineers can have pretty decent careers with less degrees. That is compensated but not wanting to go after the big life expenses anyways (no car, no mortgage), living a simple life as far as consumerism goes (@bikenh: are you telling me I should let go of all my bicycles?? I am on your page, currently there is not a lot of work my 'employer' has to pay me for doing it). I know that I am not longing for the big career, but I do enjoy working intensely for something that allows me to invest my talents in and to work for making a meaningful contribution to this planet. @mev, I really adore the approach you have taken and I will use your post to remind myself of taking the opportunities when they are there. I have had experiences such as the one you report about being a valuable employee multiple times in my group.
Try basic science for some real money-making opportunities -- not.

My last substantial bike tour (until this year) was right after I finished grad school.

After that, I threw my life into the fire, packed four panniers with what I really needed, put them on my touring bike, put my bike on a plane, and off to Cantab I wende.

Four years later, I returned from Cambridge with my bike, a pregnant wife, a new faculty position, and half a container full of stuff.

I didn't get even one stinking mile of touring done in Europe during my postdoc, or for about 20 years after (with one or two extremely minor exceptions).

There is a lesson in this. I am not sure, however, what it is.
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Old 09-01-17, 01:27 PM   #34
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A Ph.D. is a job ticket (if you're in a good area, at least!). Finish that first.


Start with shorter tour(s). Plan with your gf to do a week with families, a week at Christmas, and the other week go touring. It's relaxing, at least mentally, and let's face it, there's not a lot of Ph.D.s in manual labor. Let that be your time off.


If you're not married or expecting when you've got the parchment, that might be a good time to take a few months off for a long tour. After you've got a spouse, potentially children, a mortgage, and a job, it'll be a while before you can take a lot of time away from all the above. (Teachers have more time off, but often less pay to carry them through the summer, especially when just starting a career.)


Touring with the last child to graduate college the summer after they finish has some benefits. Mortgage will be reduced or paid off, no more college bills to look forward to, and with luck you've accumulated some leave and spare cash.
All true, I encourage, push, my kids to do all of they can now as all that you mentioned makes bicycle touring next to impossible unless your spouse also wants to tour add kids to the mix and free time dramatically decreases. I still haven't found the time to do more than a week and even that's pushing it. I'm fortunate that my college age daughter likes to bicycle as much as I do so I don't get any family stress when her and I take off for a week to ride. I'm fortunate in that I live less than a 5 minute bicycle ride from the GAP so I can at least keep the dream alive while I wait to have the time to tour.
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Old 09-01-17, 01:44 PM   #35
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Africa I did as a supported ride with TDA who took the following route:
Could you expand a bit on this? I've contemplated the idea but it is a bit too rich for a family of four and probably too difficult physically as well.

I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about (1) the level of difficulty (looks like 120+ kms/day. Probably not easy on lousy roads in hot weather).

(2) Is the idea of supported tour essential (for security, or because some segments would be logistically difficult) or would you rather do this on your own?

(3) Cairo to Cape Town is amazing. But if you'd have to pick a 2000kms segment, where would that be and at what time of the year?
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Old 09-01-17, 02:12 PM   #36
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There is a lesson in this. I am not sure, however, what it is.
"Don't go to grad school" ?
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Old 09-01-17, 04:22 PM   #37
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Could you expand a bit on this? I've contemplated the idea but it is a bit too rich for a family of four and probably too difficult physically as well.

I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about (1) the level of difficulty (looks like 120+ kms/day. Probably not easy on lousy roads in hot weather).

(2) Is the idea of supported tour essential (for security, or because some segments would be logistically difficult) or would you rather do this on your own?

(3) Cairo to Cape Town is amazing. But if you'd have to pick a 2000kms segment, where would that be and at what time of the year?
(1) Difficulty: The rough parameters are ~120 days with 24 (20%) of them as rest days and the remainder are riding days. Around 20% of our ride was off-road and the remainder was on asphalt of varying quality. It was never below freezing, but we had a variety of hot/cold, wet/dry weather. The average distance on those riding days was 120kms with some days more and some less, e.g. off-road might average somewhat less and a flat on-road day might be more.

What I found different from my own self-supported riding is the agenda is more fixed. When riding by myself, I might adjust to take a shorter day if there is a headwind or rain or I'm not feeling 100%. I might make a longer ride if there are tail winds or I'm feeling great. On the supported ride, the choice is more about riding or if you can't then riding in the truck.

During our year, ~1/3 of the riders were EFI and had ridden every f* inch. The remainder including myself had at some point ridden the truck. For me it ended up being three different things: (a) one day riding in Sudan was extremely hot (my bike computer read over 110F for a few hours) and I got heat exhaustion (b) my right leg got infected in Malawi and needed time to recover (c) once I was no longer EFI, I also made occasional choices to ride half day when it would otherwise be a real slog.

If I had cycled self-supported, I would have gone at a slower average pace and been more able to vary my riding days according to conditions.

As far as overall difficulty goes, it will depend on your conditioning and mindset but overall I found it to be a pretty intense experience (and more intense than my longer but more relaxed trips around Australia or across Russia).

(2) Prior to this ride, I had cycled across four other continents self-supported (North America, Australia, Europe and Asia). My motivation was logistics - particular dealing with 10 different countries, multiple languages and a developing infrastructure.

After completing the ride, my perception was that north of the equator (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenya) are considerably more difficult than south (Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa). There are people who ride Africa self-supported but if I did things again, I would make a similar choice - particularly north of the equator where geography/weather/long distances/politics/security make the logistics more difficult.

I am still in a "young and invincible" mindset so security by itself wasn't my motivation - though with 10 countries there are some hot spots to watch. Our year Egypt was still new with its upheavals, Sudan had been sanctioned and Kenya had an election as well as some tribal regions that are always volatile.

Other logistics are really a trade-off. One is on a trip with medics, bike mechanics, drivers and cooks and the biggest responsibility left is go pack up your tent, eat breakfast, wash your dishes and then get on your bike and ride. A lot of other details like route finding or grocery shopping/cooking are done and your gear is hauled. Depending on your mindset, that is either nice or a bit frustrating if you want to otherwise do these things yourself.

However, as overall logistics go, TDA does a good job. This is their flagship tour and the year I went was the 11th time they had done it. Each year gets a few tweaks, but they've figured out how to do this ride well.

(3) I am not as good at picking a time of the year, but let me answer by pointing at notes I wrote up in my blog immediately after the trip: Cape Town Rest days, a few notes/tips reflecting on the trip | A bicycle ride across Africa Depending on what type of trip you were looking for, I would make a case for Namibia, Tanzania or Ethiopia but those would be three fairly different places.
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Old 09-02-17, 06:00 AM   #38
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I would make a case for Namibia, Tanzania or Ethiopia but those would be three fairly different places.
Thanks for your detailed answers. And great blog. (I was surprised by the number of suggested spares.)

So, yes, we'll read about these destinations, and hopefully find the time/resources.

Thanks again.
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Old 09-05-17, 09:53 AM   #39
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"Don't go to grad school" ?





I told both my children, "If you're going to graduate school, write down why you want to go to grad school BEFORE YOU START. At some point, you're going to wonder, 'why am I here?' and having the answer written down will help you get through those times." Neither one did it, or even remembers me telling them (but my wife does!).
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Old 09-05-17, 10:55 AM   #40
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Time to tour? OP, you visit relatives on vacation? Not my cup of tea per se. I make biking part of my lifestyle. Kids older. 1 back in the house, working after graduation. All my tours have been 2-5 days, most just rolling down my driveway. Covered so much of new England that way. Also, no lost time to travel to start touring. All solo as well. My pace, my time. Most folks in established jobs get 3/4/5 weeks vacation these days? Just make time, add a day or 2 on a long weekend. I like my maps, both paper and " ride with gps" stuff. I usually have a plan and a direction, but nothing fixed after the first nights stay. Did some of the XVT( a mostly off road route the length of VT) Great forest service roads in Southern VT, but so many hills of length. After 2 full days of bikepacking road, dirt and singletrack, made my 3rd day a rest day after 110 miles in the first two. Touring? Just start somewhere. Make a plan. Pedal from your house for 2 days, turn around and pedal back for 2 days, on a different route.
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Old 09-05-17, 03:16 PM   #41
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I'm kinda the opposite of a teacher. Self employed stone mason in Pennsylvania, so things get real slow from December til the weather breaks, usually mid March. All the kids are out of the house now, so even though I'm not retired yet, I have about three months to put a substantial tour together. Somewhere warm.
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Old 09-05-17, 03:48 PM   #42
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I told both my children, "If you're going to graduate school, write down why you want to go to grad school BEFORE YOU START. At some point, you're going to wonder, 'why am I here?' and having the answer written down will help you get through those times." Neither one did it, or even remembers me telling them (but my wife does!).

Lol. I lurk in this forum occasionally, but I've found this thread particularly interesting as it addresses issues I'm facing now. I'm the first one in my immediate family to go to grad school, so I didn't get any advice from them when I started. This would have been a great idea. What I did get was from a friend of mine with several advanced degrees- she told me, "Don't ever ask how much longer someone has before they finish their thesis. And, by the way, this is the only question you will be asked- even with the Master's program." She was right .

Great thread, BTW.
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Old 09-05-17, 08:05 PM   #43
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I told both my children, "If you're going to graduate school, write down why you want to go to grad school BEFORE YOU START. At some point, you're going to wonder, 'why am I here?' and having the answer written down will help you get through those times." Neither one did it, or even remembers me telling them (but my wife does!).
This is very good advice. Had I not such a thing, my life would much easier fall into the mood wgscott's comic on page 1 describes - taken as written. And: only purpsue a PhD, if you have something that gives you meaning and(/or) extreme joy from going for it. That can come at different times and from different sources.

Certain elements of biking have become a counter-balance to my PhD life. It is extremely important to have something that can help balancing this highly one-sided style of working. Cycling and working in a volunteer bike shop is one element of it.
@Leebo and others with a similar comment ('just go for a few days'): this is what happened this weekend somewhat. I started this thread, because it was the only week I could squeeze out to take time for rest and a week-long tour felt super stressful in that framework. In the end, I did a (metric+imperial)/2 - century to the next big city towards the end of that weekend and cycled back - decided a few hours before leaving. Visited people there.
There were touring plans with a friend in May which did not end up being realized because two individuals are twice as complicated as one - so to speak. Waited for the situation to get better, but it never did. Now, it has gotten difficult to squeeze in that tour (~1.5 weeks at a fun pace) before winter. I will have to live with waiting for it until next year.
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Old 09-05-17, 08:21 PM   #44
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The nice thing about touring is the ride is always available next year or the year after that. I had great plans to ride around Oregon earlier this summer, but had to change due to family priorities. No big deal. Oregon will still be there next year, as will all the other places I'd like to tour. Instead, I'll have to be satisfied closer to home and plan the next trip. For me, planning is half the fun anyway, so putting it off until the stars align is not a 100% loss.
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Old 09-06-17, 05:56 AM   #45
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Life works out differently for different people. Everyone's path leads to a different end. As much as we think we know what we'll want in the future, and strive to get to that future bliss, its never the same when you get there as what you have always imagined it would be.

There's always the hindsight 20/20 adage. If I had the opportunity to PhD in my 20's - knowing what I know now - I'd have churned the education into some serious $$$ for later, and retired at 45 or so, and tried to accomplish every dream.

I am a double retiree. USAF in '96, and worked as a machinist engineer for the last twenty. Between my 401k, military pension, corporate pension, and employee stocks splitting several times, I've become comfortable enough to retire at the ripe old age of 58. The world is my oyster.

@alias5000 :

1. work your ass off now.
2. save every penny
3. stay healthy
4. retire early and enjoy some delayed gratification for the rest of your life.
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Old 09-06-17, 10:21 PM   #46
tmac100
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Bin der ...

At 58 I had my PhD and the career was pretty well completed - as far as retirement was concerned. So one summer (2006) I went to Australia and bicycled The Sawannah Way. Never toured before - just did it with little prep. After 2 weeks I was in Normanton and in shape to meet the dirt road. A month later I was in Darwin and it was time to return to Canada and work.

Move forward 5 years... I was teaching overseas and the marriage was ended. My ex was not interested in any sort of travel and wanted to stay home. I was back in Australia (July-Aug 2011) doing more unsupported outback touring. Then again in 2014, 2015, and by then had gone from Perth to Adelaide to Sydney. All self supported.

Next year it is Cape York: Seisia to Cairns. Then of course there is "The Outback Way" after that - in a couple of years maybe.

By the time I stop unsupported touring I will be no longer working and will be 73 years old.

Got the picture? Stay healthy. Keep life in perspective. Cherish what is important to you. Wake up every day.
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Old 09-06-17, 11:29 PM   #47
tmac100
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
"Don't go to grad school" ?
Going to grad school (or not) is quite the red herring. Grad school is not necessarily a sure-fire predictor of future monetary/career "success". Bin der too....

You cannot plan your future, so just keep waking up , DO GOOD THINGS (and especially in your employment) , harm as few as possible and see what happens.

Oh, in addition: wear a bicycle helmet and a high-vis vest while bicycling, and if in a motor vehicle/airplane wear a seatbelt ... This is the best lesson I have come across.
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