It’s been 18 months since we sold nearly everything in an effort to lead a more simple life, to free up our financial resources, and to allow us to provide service wherever we feel called. During those 18 months, we have been to Costa Rica twice, Panama, Nicaragua, multiple Hawaiian islands on two different trips, and spent two summers on a gorgeous Maine island, where we rent a small studio apartment with a deck that provides wonderful sunset views over the mainland. We feel incredibly blessed to have been to all these places, to have met inspiring and soulful people from around the world, and to be in partnership with the majestic plants, animals, and earth that sustain us. Each experience has brought teaching moments for us and smiles as wide as possible. So, I move forward in writing these words with deep gratitude for family, new and longtime friends, colleagues, and all the majesty that nature provided along the way.
I am also writing these words with an underlying sense of anxiety. I wanted to share the feelings behind this anxiety because a lot of people look at us and think one of two things: 1) we are crazy, or 2) wow, that is so cool that you sold everything and you are traveling. Sometimes I think we are crazy and other times I feel we have made the absolute right decision.
Getting to this point of simplicity, though, has not been, well, that simple. At least for me it has not been that simple. Here’s why.
- I am, generally, an anxious dude. Especially around money. By minimizing our material belongings and by living in a small rented space, I have freed up a lot of time to write and create. (We are working on a new jewelry line as well!). This is a good thing. I now have more time to think. This can be a bad thing as I can think myself into negative thought patterns, with a focus on how are we going to make ends meet financially. When I cycle into the negative thoughts, my anxiety escalates and this is not beneficial for my spirit and my true mission of wanting to spread as many positive vibes as possible.
- I am struggling with the concept that we do not have a base from which to operate our To Live For venture, to which we can return to regroup after long travel, and where we can host friends and family for meals and visits. While the idea of reestablishing a base would help part of my spirit, and probably reduce some of my unsettled anxiety, my wife is right in saying that an old friend will return to my inner sanctum, and that’s the voice that says we have limited financial resources since we would be paying a mortgage, property insurance, taxes, heating costs, etc and we probably will not be able to travel nearly as much. The end result is my anxiety would probably ramp up.
- I miss my girls and part of me feels that if we had a permanent home close to them, we would connect more often. The beauitful one room studio we rent during the summer months makes it challenging to host visits, as does the long (but very beautiful) drive to our island space, but the flip side is that by reducing our financial imprint, we are able to provide some financial support to the 4 children we have between us (ages 20 to 24 this Fall). I also take some solace in believing that by living this simple lifestyle we are teaching our children that there are many ways to experience this world and we don’t have to take the same path as everyone else.
- This is the first summer of being free of many traditional financial obligations and it is the first summer when I actually have time to write regularly. I have already had moments, if not hours, though, when I have asked my self, “Okay, what should I do now?” I am having a hard time relaxing and allowing the creative energies to flow now that we are back on the mainland USA after being away for 8 months. I can feel my body trying to slip back into the high paced and materialistic lifestyle that we used to live.
- Underlying all of the above is the general existential questions we all ask ourselves. “Why am I here” and if I think I know why I am here, “Am I doing it the right way?” “Is my writing making a difference?” “Am I making a difference?”
So, you may be thinking, “What the heck is Paul complaining about, or how can he have anxiety if he is traveling 8 months out of the year and he is hanging out on a beautiful Maine island during the summer?” Well, you see, as my wife and I often admit to each other, I am a ‘piece of work’ or a ‘work in progress,’ and I am just saying that there still exists an inward battle between remaining on a simplified path versus returning to the high paced, fast lane.
I attribute my underlying anxiety to a couple of concepts.
- This is my human condition (and that of many others) and so it is my lesson to learn how to calm the anxiety and trust the process more. It just is who I am. This is my challenge to overcome. I can use a lot of energy trying to figure out why I allow this anxious energy to some times infiltrate my day or I can use my energy to write and to focus on other positive actions. My call. My choice. Still working on this!
- The concept of having materialistic things is part of the American culture. Have you been to Costco or Walmart lately and noticed the size of the large screen televisions? I noticed last night at a restaurant that every car parked there was a large SUV. We aren’t driving small, fuel efficient cars anymore. Our culture is hooked on ‘bigger is better.’ Our culture wants more and wants bigger of more. I have to fend these energy fields off when I am back on the mainland.
Again, please do not construe these observations as complaints or judgements. I am simply trying to share the notion that living simply, after 55 years of living the traditional American lifestyle, is not a simple concept in which to slide effortlessly. I am having to work hard at this.
Speaking of work, we do still work even though we have let go of many financial obligations except rent, food, cell phone, and health insurance. In reality, we are working to meet these few financial needs and so that we can keep traveling. This past winter we were blessed to manage a small hotel while on the Big Island. This was an awesome experience that combined travel and ‘work’ so it was a win-win for us. Wherever we go, Donna Maria can provide holistic healing sessions and teach yoga, and I can offer healing and consulting services, as well. What is nice is that we don’t have to work any of these gigs at 40 hours a week unless we choose to.
This is a good place to say our hotel gig was at least 60 hours a week for each of us, and we worked nearly 180 days in a row. That is not our preferred way of doing things, but it was an experience that taught us so much as we go forward on this intentional journey of letting go and seeking service wherever we feel called. By working nearly 180 days in a row, I FINALLY realized I can choose to live each day under my terms, which has allowed this young summer to be the most relaxing one I have had in many years. As a consultant I can work a schedule that is best for me, and by not owning a whole lot, I simply do not have to work as many hours.
I am still decompressing from working that 180 days in a row. But more importantly, I realize I am still decompressing from 55 years of owning a lot and working hard.
Now, I am working hard at not working hard. It’s a process to let go of what we once had, but there’s something about the concept of staying in this simplified mode that keeps pulling at me. So, I am going to keep trying to resist going back to my traditional way of living with the help of writing, meditation, stillness, and being in nature.
I will keep you posted on the process and thanks for checking in.