“Stepping beyond the confines of your comfort zone will call on you to dig deeper into yourself than you have up to now; to dare to accomplish things which have no guarantee of success and to trade the “fine and good” for an experience of life that is far better, deeper, richer and infinitely more gratifying to your spirit.”
~Margie Warrell, Find Your Courage: 5 Simple Steps to Stop Fear From Running Your Life
Kai & I started thinking about simplifying our lives and going on a round the world cycling expedition years ago . We don’t really remember the specifics of one single conversation, but we do remember it was mutually agreed upon without much fanfare, as if it were a natural next step in our lives.
But talking about doing something and actually doing it are two very different things. You can find all kinds of excuses for not doing something, there are many ways to procrastinate, and sabotaging dreams along the way isn’t uncommon. One night, months after we made “the decision” to simplify, we were sitting in the kitchen, exhausted and frustrated over how much life energy our jobs took away from us, our relationships, and our goals. We were complaining about how we never had time to devote to each other, much less causes we were passionate about, our dream of an off-grid home, or a potential extended cycling expedition. At one point I exclaimed, “Well, what are we going to do about it? If we’re really serious about doing all this, let’s make a plan and start to change things.”.
I consider that moment a major turning point in our lives. We simply looked at each other with a realization that it wasn’t going to just happen magically. Changing our lives for the better was going to require hard work and conscious, daily choices, and most importantly, action.
“OK. Let’s do it,” was Kai’s response.
We laid very ambitious plans and we’ve been taking one small step at a time (and some big ones too) ever since that night in the kitchen. IT IS EXHAUSTING. But it’s a good exhaustion, a rewarding kind of tired, and one that has a desired end in sight – an end that will allow us to live a life we’ve only dreamed of before.
That’s what I keep telling myself anyway, but with 145 days and counting till we leave on our cycling expedition, I’ve been feeling a huge amount of stress over all the things we still have to accomplish on our ambitious to-do list and I’m yearning for it all to end – right now. Add in the fact that Kai & I have been working our butts off from the time we get up till we fall into bed, almost every day, for months and months…well, let’s just say I’m beginning to doubt our sanity and whether this is worth it.
To remind myself of our strength and perseverance, and to bring myself back to a positive space, today I’m trying to focus on all that we’ve accomplished in two short years, rather than all that we have left to do in 5 very short months. Here’s a partial list:
- Reflected upon & determined what was most important to us in life. (Not a small task. Try it yourself.)
- Determined actionable steps we could take to begin leading our lives intentionally.
- Sold or gave away most of our belongings. (This is still in progress but I’m using the past tense to make myself feel better about it.)
- Made & continue to make conscious choices about how we spend our money.
- Have essentially given up the car, except for hauling trailer loads of stuff to/from our work site, & ride or walk everywhere (we’ve been doing this for years but I think it’s important to acknowledge we’re even more committed to doing this, even in the midst of chaos – it is really easy to jump in a car versus hop on a bike when you’re feeling rushed and stressed.)
- Have followed through on our commitment to give some of our time and money to organizations we support and believe in, at least once a month.
- Took time to visit the State House to show our support of and witness the vote to Shut Down Vermont Yankee, a dangerously aging Nuclear Power Plant in Vermont that continues to pollute our land and waterways.
- Exercised our activist spirit by participating in an End the War rally in Burlington.
- Sold my Community Land Trust condomimum (Thanks to the Burlington Community Land Trust for giving someone living on less than 50% of median income the opportunity to be a home owner!! I could have never committed to working for the non-profit organizations I love and been able to purchase a home without the Community Land Trust model making it possible.)
- Paid off over $30,000 in revolving debt (This was all my debt. Kai was much smarter than me and has always paid off his credit card balances in full each month, which I still find amazing.)
- Paid as much off on our mortgage as we could and re-financed the rest when the interest rates were very low. (This move, along with the fact that we own a duplex and rent one side out, allows us to focus less on making money for the sake of paying off debt, and more on a true desire to do the work that makes us money.)
- Saved as much money as possible in preparation for our trip, and for the work we’re doing on our tiny house.
- Kai broke the shackles and quit his job in July!!
- I took on an additional part-time job this past year working for a non-profit organization whose work I believe is essential to our community (while continuing to work full time for another stellar non-profit organization).
- Learned about WordPress and created our website.
- Took online TESOL (Teaching English Speakers of Other Languages) courses, observed instructors/classes, and gained my core TESOL certificate and a certificate for Teaching Young Learners.
- Attended a 7-week Women’s Workshop on Bicycle Maintenance at Bike Recycle (they rock!)
- Trained for and ran a 1/2 marathon (Thanks Vicki for challenging me to join you. Love you!)
- Followed through on my commitment to myself to make my art a priority. Had 7 shows and displayed my work for nine months at various venues. Met some great people and pushed myself artistically, and sold some art along the way!
- Finished a lot of necessary work on our home- saved a ton of money and learned a lot by doing it ourselves (although I helped on a few of these projects, Kai did the majority of this work, which I’m eternally grateful for):
- added more insulation and sealed off our attic
- repaired fascia/soffit (with help from Kai’s papa – thanks Hans!)
- installed gutters & downspouts
- re-pointed/rebuilt the entire stone foundation
- punched a hole in basement’s stone foundation to make and finish off an access point to the crawl space on one side of our house
- insulated & laid vapor barriers in the crawl spaces on both sides of the house
- insulated all the pipes in the house
- replaced/repaired the main sewer drain (house trap) into the house
- installed a ceiling fan upstairs
- sealed off all the baseboards in the house
- re-landscaped the front beds to allow for better drainage and maintenance
- landscaped around the foundation with stone for better drainage away from the house
- repaired slate on main roof
- replaced a furnace on one side of the house
- Found and visited frame builders to build my bike!
- Squeezed in a weekend tour, in the middle of it all, to visit the 6th grade Eco-Stars of Swanton.
- Spent hours sourcing and purchasing items for our trip and our bikes.
- Demo’d a shed that fell down in our back yard and salvaged some material for our wee home. Made many runs to the recycling centers.
- Spent hours researching how to make our wee home as ecologically-friendly as possible.
- Spent hours sourcing and buying used materials for our wee home.
- Spent hours making floor & building plans for our wee house.
- Purchased a custom-designed trailer from a local welder and picked it up this past week!
- Replaced a rotted spruce fence that was falling down in our yard with local white cedar fencing.
- Made time to go meet/see some great folks visiting Burlington – Ana Sofia Joanes, Derrick Jensen, Peter Byck, Maude Barlow, David Herlihy, and Vandana Shiva.
- Spent time with friends & family and took time to see some musicians/friends play at local venues - essential to reinvigorating your spirit!
Alright. I feel much better now that I’ve reflected upon all we’ve accomplished in such a relatively short amount of time. We are actually making headway while remaining true to our values. Three cheers for living your dreams!
Now, the question is: Can I make it another 5 months?
I think I can…I think I can…I think I can…