I love meeting women who are independent yet oriented toward strong relationships especially those who are grounded toward simplicity and health. I love when people are willing to examine themselves and their lifestyles to ensure authenticity and alignment with their values. So, when I moved here nearly two years ago, meeting Cara was an added bonus. Cara is an adventurous and courageous person, although she probably wouldn’t define herself that way. Here’s proof. This year she turns 40 and she wanted to celebrate by doing something different. She thought about an outward-bound trip or picking up a new habit like running. Instead, she moved with her Dutch husband, Danny, and her two children across the ocean to start a new life in Holland. I’d say that’s adventurous and courageous.
What brought on such a life-changing decision? Well, in truth, it had been percolating for a long time. She and Danny planned to live in the States only for the first five years of their marriage and then move before starting their family. Fourteen years later, now with two young children, they realized it was probably now or never.
“We didn’t want to wait any longer and make it harder for the children. But it was so hard already because we were deeply rooted with friends, work, and community” she said when I recently talked with her about her big life transition. “From a personal perspective I was perfectly happy with my life. I loved my job, my colleagues, my friends, my neighborhood and I felt very close to my parents and loved watching them as grandparents.” It was like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ But I had to put all that aside and remember that there were good reasons and this would be okay if I had an open mind.”
Over the years, she and Danny had become more and more conscious about their impact on the environment and dedicated in their pursuit of health. As such, they became a biking family. Not for recreation but as their main mode of transportation. They tried not to get in the car with their children on the weekend so they biked all of their errands and leisure time trips.
“I lived in the Netherlands for several years and I became comfortable bicycling,” Cara explained. “It gave me the courage to bike commute even though the infrastructure was different in the U.S. I was committed to the principles behind it all so we invested in the right gear to make it doable.” Plus, she liked the personal benefits. “Being a working mom gave me precious little time for exercise. Having a means of active transportation meant the world to me because I got 40 minutes a day by biking. It helped me keep off extra pounds, not to mention the stress reduction which helped keep me sane.”
Cara said she also biked her 5-year-old son to his school across town “which was crazy when I think about it. I went through a lot of traffic around the hospital and it wasn’t always safe,” she said. But she was torn because she wanted to be a good role model and show her son the car wasn’t the only option. The more difficult it became, the more convinced she was that it was time to move.
When they told their kids about their decision, they focused mostly on the close proximity to their paternal grandparents and biking. “It was good for them to see that this was our philosophy on life,” Cara said. “ And that we were going to move to a place where we could live it out.”
Now, not quite five months in their new home, Cara is already seeing the benefits she’d hoped for. In fact, their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is already biking without assistance. “The fact that she can bike on her own is indicative of how good the built environment is,” she said. “It’s just what people do. It’s how people get around. Everyone seems to bike. The kids love living here because they see how safe it is and they feel the difference in their freedom. There are all these directional signs and red lights just for us. We talk about it all the time and compare the differences.”
As for Cara, there have been difficulties. The language is hard, job hunting is hard and not understanding some of the culture is stretching her in this new stage of life. But, she is learning how to handle it. “I try to be like my children and take it day-by-day…not dwell on things…be in the moment. That’s not natural for me, but I’m learning. And when I do that, there’s a lot to be happy about. I like that I’ve been challenged that way. I remember that I chose this. I tell myself, ‘You gave this to yourself as birthday gift. It’s good.”
Read more about Cara’s adventures at her blog at http://livingsmall.posterous.com.