One day, sometime in the Minnesota Winter of 2014, Mel came home from work at her usual 8:30 PM and pulled on the same god-awful Land’s End polar fleece pullover she had worn EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for the last 5 months.  Walking past her vomiting cat and her two children, who were oblivious to her presence as they were busy constructing an aquarium in Minecraft, she found her husband Greg and said, “You know that thing that we thought would be fun to do someday, in the future, when we had nothing else to do?  Let’s do it NOW!”

And so it begins. Hopefully.

This blog is mainly for our family and friends. And mainly because Mel has some sort of distorted sense of justice in that she feels guilty for deciding to pursue this opportunity, despite the fact that years of study and hard work (and LUCK!) on both her and Greg’s part has made this possible.  That’s the American dream, right?  Someone has to live it, or what’s the point?   Faced with pending liberation from a very demanding job, and uncomfortable without any obligations to fulfill, Mel has cleverly manufactured some to fill the void.  This blog will be one of those commitments, providing all the details needed to allow her family and friends to live the adventure, albeit vicariously.  That way she can enjoy the experience without guilt.

You see, Mel is a little crazy.  She even refers to herself in the third person.

But you have to be a little crazy to do this.

And so this blog will be the story of how a crazy couple burned out, quit our jobs, and thawed out.

So where are we at on the list?  Let’s see.

Step 1: Decide to do it.  Check.

Step 2: Resignation letter.  Check.

Step 3: Start a blog. Check.

Step 4: Learn to sail.  (This normally should be step 1, by the way.)  Still working on that part…

Check out the blog to follow our progress!

Greg looks so...not tired...the first day out.

Greg looks so…not tired…the first day out.

Greg grew up in Springfield, MO.  The only nerd in a family of athletes, he spent his childhood up in his attic, happily constructing airplane models while listening to Rush.  After a glorious run playing high school football, he pursued higher education in Missouri, Texas, and California, eventually getting his Ph.D. in Applied Physics.  He ended up working for a company called Aliph, doing high-tech stuff with acoustics.  Aliph renamed itself Jawbone, and their Bluetooth headsets sold well, with the ideas of Greg and a few other cool people inside.  We had a hard time explaining his job to people, and in the end, Mel just started calling him a “Silicon Valley guy.”

In the end, that was just a job.  Commuting from Minnesota, where Mel had selfishly dragged him to so she could do her residency, to California, eventually took its toll.  Greg eventually stopped working at Jawbone to spend more time with his family and less time dealing with the absurdity of the business world.

Greg fulfilled a lifelong dream on May 15, 1997, by getting his pilot’s license.  Then followed many exciting adventures as he and Mel flew around in a little taildragger to all of the great airports in California, flying over all of the poor suckers in their cars, either stuck in traffic or switching back repeatedly to climb the mountains to places like Truckee.  Of course, upgrades were necessary as the family grew, and careful planning with paychecks led to a succession of bigger and bigger planes and ultimately to the purchase of Greg’s dream plane, a turbo Cessna 210. Getting somewhere fast is fun.  It will be interesting to see how we handle 7 knots instead of 170.

Mel takes selfies when she is bored

Mel takes selfies when she is bored

Mel is the blog author.  She was born in Illinois and grew up in many different states, including Alaska and Texas.

She had an extended awkward period.

This did not end, of course, when she went to Rice University and chose to major in physics.  Fortunately, Greg met her just at the end of that awkward period at a wild Halloween party, and he wasn’t scared away.

Summers doing physics research taught Melinda that physics and astronomy wasn’t for her.

After some more classes, it was off to med school at the spectacular UCSF, whose acceptance of her was probably secondary to a typo or something, but she ran with it, suspecting the entire time that there was a “Belinda” with her last name crying her eyes out somewhere.  She became notorious for her controversial cartoons in the school paper, The Synapse, and for breaking the mold by not being a huge, left-wing hippie.  I mean, come on, people!  Vulva puppets?


She married Greg after a year of medical school, after 7 years of dating.  Mel is very patient.

She then screwed Belinda over a second time by being accepted into an awesome neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Aside to Belinda: Wherever you are, I bet it has nicer winters, so shut up about it already!  The next 4 years are a bit of a blur, unfortunately.  Hmmm…let me think…

Oh yeah!  Tommy and Allie were born during her residency… The poor kids’ journeys began early, when Mel dragged her family with her to Brisbane, Australia, for a fellowship.  Two year-old Allie protested, screaming “I don’t want to sleep” for 2 hours straight on the flight over.  Fortunately she did sleep, 17 hours later.  Brisbane was beautiful, but Mel doesn’t want to say too much about it because more people will want to go there and ruin it.  Just this: AUSTRALIA IS AWESOME!

Mel then got a job working for the Mayo Clinic as a full-fledged neurologist.  Unfortunately, however, Mayo had this thing called “a hiring freeze”.  This means they banished her to the hinterlands to see really complex patients with fewer resources.  By the time she sails, she would have worked for Mayo for 5 years in that job, which is too long for her.  It was frustrating trying to get her patients the (very reasonable) things they needed to get better.  She will scatter her own thoughts on the failures of modern medicine throughout the blog, but in the end, the absurdity regarding what she had to do every day to satisfy the beancounters broke her, and she quit.  She wishes she was made of stronger stuff.

The murder of Foghorn at work by her administrators was the last straw

The murder of Foghorn at work by her administrators was the last straw

Besides, she was tired of getting only 30 minutes a day with her kids when she was working.  She’s probably going a little too far in compensating for that, but here she goes…

I caught Tommy smiling!

I caught Tommy smiling!

Tommy just announced the other day that he was “more sophisticated than you think!”

Right now, Tommy wants to be a game coder when he grows up.

Tommy’s likes in 2015:
Books: Order of the Stick, Calvin and Hobbes, books by Rick Riordan, nonfiction about the ocean
TV/movies: Adventure time, Teen Titans, Dr. Who
Music: 1980’s rock and heavy metal, classical/baroque music
Games: Minecraft, Chess, Infinity Blade, many RPG’s
Things: Giant squid, swimming, Tae Kwon Do, baseball, piano, his cat Gypsy

Books: Skullduggery Pleasant series, anything by Brent Weeks, books on military history, Unbroken, books by H.G. Wells, Robin Hobb
TV/Movies: Adventure Time, Star Trek, Wrath of Khan, superhero movies like Iron Man, Batman, YouTube videos about games and gaming, Dr. Who
Music: Muse, Enya
Games: Uncharted, Infamous, Minecraft, Subnautica, Civilization 5, chess

Here is a video his Mom made of him and his sister.  Shhhh…Don’t tell him Mel posted this!

Allie in her appropriate Old Navy shirt

Allie in her appropriate Old Navy shirt

Allie just finished a book on emergency vets and read about a kitten with an arrow stuck through it.  “No major organs were damaged!”

Right now, Allie wants to be a vet when she grows up.

Allie’s likes in 2015:
Books: Dork Diaries, Big Nate, Calvin and Hobbes, Piggy, books by Mo Willems, Drama, Smile
TV/movies: Barbie movies, Adventure Time, SpongeBob, Teen Titans
Music: Rock, Barbie movie songs, Everything is Awesome!
Games: Minecraft, RoBlox, Webkins, Tomadachi Life
Things: Arts & crafts, getting her toenails painted, swimming, Rainbow loom, shoes, her pet fish Finn, her cat Gypsy

Books: Bloomability, Dork Diaries, Archie comics, anything by Lincoln Pierce (Bad Kitty), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate
TV/movies: We Bare Bears, SpongeBob, Adventure Time, Teen Titans,The Other Kingdom,The Fundermans, Star Trek: Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Better Off Dead, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, Barbie movies, The Secret Life of Pets, The Princess Diaries, The Lego Movies
Music: Pop/rock
Games: (She has a Nintendo DS and Wii-U) Civilization 5, Tomadachi Life, Minecraft, RoBlox, Animal Crossing,Wii Party, Mariocart 8, Warband with blood turned off

See Allie’s page for the latest updates on this!

Here is a video her Mom made of Allie and her brother.  Shhhh…Don’t tell her Mel posted this!

Gypsy poses during her watch

Gypsy poses during her watch

Gypsy is the family cat.  She was born around the year 2000.  We are not sure, as she was a stray.  She selected Greg as her owner when he was stopped in the typical California gridlocked traffic.  She crawled up into the engine block of his truck and wouldn’t come out until Greg got his vet friend Bryan to tranquilize her.  We called her “Gypsy” based on her nomadic origins.

Gypsy loves the outdoors, wheat grass, peeing on Melinda’s coolest rugs, making art installations of beheaded baby bunnies on our porch, and vomiting.

Now that Gypsy is on the boat, she loves shedding, laying on a new pillow every half hour, and peeing on our beds.

So how did we come to this decision?  It’s not as impulsive as it seems, which is unfortunate.  Impulsive is sexier.

We have always loved the tropics, taking trips to warm, beautiful places whenever we could.

Greg and Mel went to the Bahamas a few times since 2004, when she was 5 months pregnant with Tommy.  We would fly ourselves, wearing life preservers for the ocean crossings.

There we met interesting characters, including sailors that introduced us to their way of life.  We got a subscription to Cruising World magazine.

Living on our own boat for a year became a fantasy that we would develop during the cold Minnesota winters.

The last trip, we chartered a boat with a captain in the Exumas and went island hopping.  We started to realize that sailing was something we could do.

Finally, some cash came our way via Silicon Valley.  Then, one winter day, Mel officially “burned out.”  And that’s that.

Here’s some pics if you need more reasons.

The Amazing Marvin at another great anchorage!

The Amazing Marvin at another great anchorage!

Usually there is a long story about how we spent months researching, inspecting, sailing, and otherwise testing out potential boats.  Well, that wasn’t the way it happened with us.  We did plenty of research online and with magazines.  Then, Greg flew down to Florida and took the potential candidate for a test sail.  Before he knew how to sail.  And then he bought it.  See?  We are learning how fun it is not to overthink!

Of course, we may regret this impulsive decision later, when we actually know something about boats, and sailing, but 8 months of continued good press regarding our choice has been comforting.  We also have learned to have realistic expectations.  It won’t be perfect, but so far it looks like we made a good choice.

Introducing the Burnett family boat…the Leopard 48!  Zebrawood interior, of course.

Update September 2015:  We have been sailing and living on The Amazing Marvin for over 2 months.  We love our boat and think he’s amazing, but there have been some ups and downs.  Mostly ups!

For more info on the boat, please visit Marvin’s Page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mel,

    I read your article in Kevin MD. Want to work as a neurologist without too much of the headaches of paperwork and control by others? My business partner and I have created a unique practice in Alexandria, Virginia (which isn’t far from Annapolis, if that appeals to you!). We are independent neurologists who work in the local hospitals (but are not hired by the hospitals) and who also offer a unique home visit option for patients. Check us out if you are interested: https://www.accessneurology.net/

    David Alway

    • David, That looks AMAZING! However, my husband and I have aging parents in the Central Time Zone and are restricted to there. In another life, I would love to join you! Thanks for the offer!

  2. Hello,

    My husband and I are definitely interested in your boat, but I can’t find an email on your site!
    If you could please reach out that would be greatly appreciated!

    • Shannon, We’ve contacted each other already, but I would just like to say that your name sounds Scottish and we LOVE IT!

  3. Hi guys
    I have been following your adventures for a while and am disappointed that you are going to be land based again.
    My wife and I have been leaning towards lagoon 450f but both you and Randy have got us looking at L48’s. To be upfront, I have been looking at 2013 and 2014 lagoon 450f owner versions so you know the price range I’m in. So if you are in the ball park let me know. Send me an email or reply to my comment. You guys have been wonderful.we will miss your adventures.

  4. Good for you guys! I discovered your blog via KevinMD and am anxious to dive in to learn more about your sabbatical and sailing escapades. I’ve got some grand plans to leave medicine and take my family on some worldly adventures in a few short years.

    Best wishes,
    Physician on FIRE

    • Just checked out your cool site! One thing I have learned is that you need to keep your mind active once you stop all of those 12-hr days. Travel is an awesome way to do that!

  5. Mel,
    I am so proud of you! I’ve been in pharmacy for 27 years and for the last 10 or so, I’ve been a health system administrator and last year I was driving to work on a Monday, disgusted by the politics. I prayed to God that within 2 years I’d be able to walk away and start my consulting firm. Two days later I was told the system was ‘re-structuring’ and my role was no longer on the org chart. I was elated! I thanked them for the opportunity/experience (they teared up, saying I’d done so much for the system and they’d really miss me. I told ’em aw-shucks, group hug. And left excited to be “free”). Feeling frustrated that nobody seems to really care about the patient and with all the med practice mergers, they’ve been riding the docs like horses. One surgeon couldn’t meet his quota because of pancreatic cancer and they let him go! With only 6 months to live, a kid in high school and a kid in college and a wife who had not worked outside the home in 20 years! Our health system actually has a health plan and he had to literally beg them to not cancel the life insurance policy. This surgeon was the highest producer in the system for the previous 10 years. What is going on??? It was pretty sad; too sad. I’ve opened a consulting firm to support independent, private practice docs (direct primary care and traditional). I’ve sold the house and I’m living in a 1 bedroom and I couldn’t be happier. I’m on my own and out of the drama of the soap opera that is health system medicine. But I am at peace and making it happen on my own terms. And doc by doc, I’m showing them how they can improve care and increase revenue without increasing the number of patients they have to see each day. I’m SO PROUD of you, Girlfriend. Do your thing and ENJOY your family! I’m a follower for sure!

    • What a story! That sort of thing should be ILLEGAL! What has happened to labor law in America? The problem is that corporations ARE AMORAL, and they are trying to manage physicians, WHO TRY TO BE MORAL. I am so impressed you have found your own way through this mess! You go!

  6. Just discovered your blog. We hope to follow a very similar journey one day. I’m looking forward to reading your stories.