It’s the small stuff that sometimes makes the biggest impressions. This morning I went swimming with a friend at our local pool. I’ve really started to enjoy time in the water, learning new ways to breathe (something that could come in handy for life actually). I’m getting the routine down. She picks me up in the morning, we swim, then I catch a bus to work. This morning, though, as she was driving me to the closest bus stop, my bus was pulling away. “Darn,” I said instinctively. And when I realized she was thinking about what to do I said, “The next one will be here in 10 minutes, it’s fine.” But she said, “I think we can catch it,” and she sped up. I started to giggle. “What are you going to do?” I asked. “Pull in front of it?” “I can beat it to the next bus stop,” she said. I knew I liked her. She’s got moxie. We saw a bus stop so she pulled over. I stepped out of the car and the bus blew by us. “Shoot,” I said. “Apparently, that wasn’t the right one.” Starting to feel self-conscious that we didn’t know what we were getting into now, I jumped back in the car. With our eye on the bus we continued on, wondering where the next stop was. Just then, we saw it was pulling over at a covered stop. There was a group of people waiting to get on. “I think you can make it,” she said as she pulled in behind it. And as I smiled getting out of the car she said, “Hey, 10 minutes is 10 minutes.” Gotta love a good friend!
A friend of mine recently made an announcement I found extremely inspiring. She and her husband decided to “radically simplify and travel the world indefinitely.” How cool is that? In the next two months they will be getting rid of everything except a few heirlooms and treasured items that they’ll store with family. They’ll be traveling with only a small backpack each and for this courageous willingness to disentangle from their material possessions, they’ll first see Costa Rica, then travel across the country visiting family and friends. Eventually, they’ll pause for a respite in Puerto Rico. Aahhh. In the short time since they’ve made their announcement, they’ve had offers to join friends or follow business opportunities around the world so who knows what could change or happen. If you’re intrigued, follow their journey on her blog.
I find this SO refreshing and motivational. I’ve experienced the weight of stuff, especially over the last couple of moves. We’ve vowed to reduce, but it’s been very incremental. It’s HARD to disentangle. It’s emotional to let go of things which are entwined with our self-identity. (I’m a student of life, look at my books. I’m an artist, look at my camera, my journals.) Things that we believe are necessary to tell our story (photos, trip souvenirs). Things that were acquired with emotion and sentiment, that came with a sense of obligation to show our appreciation to the giver by forever displaying (and maintaining and moving from place to place).
It’s not uncommon to wish for more travel, to wish for more freedom, for more adventure. It is uncommon to prioritize in a way that makes those dreams happen. I’m going to be following Crystal’s journey closely. I’m excited to learn from her and find significant ways to lighten up, release my hold on things and follow my dreams. Thanks Crystal!
I’ve witnessed a lot of life transitions lately. Pursuits of higher education. Friends having babies. People getting married. New jobs. I have personally experienced all of these new starts and I know the challenges they bring. Still, I watch my “new parent” friends adjust every aspect of their lives to keep up with childrearing and I am, although not surprised, astonished. I wonder again (as I did when I was there) how such a little person can consume so much time, space, money, energy and love. My girlfriend and I recently admitted to each other that when we watch wedding ceremonies now we want to embrace the unencumbered romance of the moment, but we can’t help thinking, “they have no idea what they’re committing to.” There’s a line in the novel “Eat, Love, Pray,” where a stranger in a Laundromat watches the exchange between the main character, Elizabeth Gilbert, and her new love interest (although at the time she hadn’t admitted to herself that she had fallen). The stranger simply said, “Oh baby, you are in so much trouble.”
The funny thing is people don’t want to know they’re in trouble. If I said to someone thinking about having a child “Oh, you should really think about that. I mean are you ready to lose more sleep than you ever get? To spend more money than you can make? To give up the ability to be selfish and pursue your individual identity? To love so deeply that you now have a million more fears in life?” they’d probably back away slowly and remove my number from their phone. Or maybe they’d say cheerfully, “Of course! And it’ll be so worth it.”
And so I don’t say that. Instead, I listen enthusiastically because this is a special time in their life. I encourage their naiveté because they aren’t really asking for my “wisdom.” This is part of life’s adventure. And frankly…I’m glad I didn’t know how much “trouble” I was getting into when I made these choices. My greatest life joys are my marriage and my two children. And while the sacrifices were large, the rewards from those naïve decisions remain exponential. And what would life be without a little adventure, anyway?
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.