About 2.5 years ago, Donna Maria and I left the expansive habitat of a beautiful 4 bedroom home we were blessed to rent after we had sold our home and had let go of nearly all of our belongings. Our purpose in doing so was multi layered.
- We felt called to provide service to various parts of the globe in our effort to live the motto of our company, To Live For, LLC: ‘inspire love, joy, and positive vibes.’ We believed it was important to detach from our material belongings to be free to go wherever we were called.
- Letting go of significant belongings such as a house and two cars reduced our monthly expenses: no car or home insurance, no mortgage or loan payments, no related expenses such as gas and utilities, and no real estate taxes. Instead of working hard to make all these payments, we were able to reduce our work load thanks to the much lower monthly expenses. This also meant we did not have to worry about making an income year round so that we could provide global service for extended periods.
- After more than 30 years in Maine, we were wanting to experience warmer climates during the cold and dark months of a New England winter.
- For both of us, the ability and desire to travel has been a life long passion. To let go of our ‘traditional’ life freed us to follow our passion. At the same time, we wanted to lead by example in our hope to inspire others to live in their passion.
- We have been in serious discussions about living internationally as way to reduce our reliance on American materialism and expenses and to find a way to live minimally on a modest early retirement stipend. Millions of Americans are now ‘ex-pats’ around the world so we know others understand this urge.
When we left Maine 2.5 years ago, we did not truly know how or where our journey would unfold. Initially, we had a plan in place for the first 9 months (a self retreat to Costa Rica followed by managing a hotel on the Big Island) but beyond that was one big question mark. Two and a half years later, we aren’t even sure where we will be living in a couple of months. We have dared to be even more unencumbered by long term planning.
I admit this journey of minimalism and letting go of long term planning has been very freeing, but there certainly have been long moments of stress and bickering. The blessings of beautiful people, nature and experiences far outweigh the challenges, however, as does our gratitude and wonderment for each sacred day.
Here’s a summary of our journey to date:
We rented a beautiful studio apartment on Bailey Island, Maine while we both worked our traditional jobs in an effort to save as much money as possible for our planned departure in the Fall. Our last significant pieces of materialism, our two leased cars, would be jettisoned at the end of the summer. What belongings we still own (pictures and family heirlooms) were placed in a small storage unit.
We were blessed to stay at the Casa Romantica Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica for a 6 week self retreat of yoga (Donna Maria), writing (both of us), and surfing (both of us). Paul finished writing his first book (40 Days at Jungle’s Edge: Lessons Learned from Nature and Surfing) at the Casa Romantica. We had to navigate a significant tropical storm (no power for a few days) and Denge Fever (DM) but we truly went deep into our selves and into nature. As is true everywhere we have been, we connected with new life long friends who share our desire to inspire and to make a difference in other peoples lives.
Winter 2017-Spring 2018:
We managed a sacred and beautiful little hotel on the Big Island, Hawaii. This was a position we applied for a year earlier and found out we were accepted in June 2017. We lived at the hotel, a mere 15 feet from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, and worked every day for the 6 months we were there. We were able to get a few hours off here and there to enjoy the island, but we always came back to duties at the hotel. We met beautiful and inspiring guests from all over the world and we were adopted by the staff as part of their Ohana (family). We loved the experience but we sure were tired after working such long days. We were grateful to be moving on after 6 months and rewarded ourselves with a weeklong vacation on Kauai, where we met some special friends, and then traveled to the west coast, before heading back to Maine.
We were able to rent our lovely little studio apartment on Bailey Island (Maine) while we worked once again in our traditional jobs to replenish our bank accounts. We bought two very used cars to get to our offices, and then sold the cars at the end of the summer. We agreed with our landlords we would return for a third summer on Bailey Island so we just had to determine where we would serve for the upcoming Fall and Winter.
Fall 2018-Winter 2019:
We headed to Cambutal, Panama in Central America, where we initially provided service at an emerging retreat farm known as Teyuna Village. Power and water were provided by a generator. The coastal jungle was lush and the beaches were empty. We connected with many beautiful souls while finding time to surf. We also provided property management services for friends in exchange for house stays, and Paul volunteered with a very inspiring world class surfer at another emerging retreat center for adaptive surf training. A dog bite brought significant challenges to Donna Maria so we left Panama a month earlier than planned in order to seek American health assistance. We again treated ourselves to a vacation by taking a cruise to 8 different Caribbean islands, an amazing visit in Bonita Springs with dear friends, followed by a long planned family cruise with our 4 children. Leaving Panama a month early and going on our unplanned cruise put a serious dent in our financial plans since we went from paying no rent to paying for an amazing cruise, so we knew we would have to get into some sort of financial recovery plan after our 2019 Winter-Spring volunteer commitments were completed.
Spring 2019: On our way to a planned month long volunteer service trip in New Zealand, we stopped back on the Big Island to just hang out and see if we wanted to try living there without having to manage a hotel every day. We spent a week living by Kealakekua Bay, where we swam with the dolphins a lot and enjoyed majestic sunsets every night. We then went to New Zealand where we supported two different retreat centers on the North Island as volunteers. Amazing beauty and people we experienced every day. While the other volunteers we worked with were nearly all in their 20’s, they fully embraced us older volunteers as part of the team. New Zealand and her people captured our hearts fully. On our way back to Maine from New Zealand, we stopped on the west coast again to be with friends and family.
Back to Maine for our third summer in our sacred little apartment on Bailey Island, we, again, worked our traditional jobs on a half time basis. This summer was different because we let our Maine landlords know we didn’t think we would be coming back the next summer. The rest of 2019 and into 2020 was lining up to be a BIG unknown. We only knew we wanted to try to live on the Big Island, which offered much of what we desired: spiritual community, majestic nature, ocean exploring, warm weather and water, and glorious scenery.
We booked a one way ticket to the Big Island and we put an ad on Craig’s List seeking a place to live. We were blessed with 4 AMAZING offers. We honed in on a living opportunity closest to our favorite place on the island, Captain Cook, which is where several turquoise swimming bays are found and where dolphins and whales (seasonally) visit almost daily. After an extensive and mostly spiritual interview process by our, now, landlord, we find ourselves living on this incredibly beautiful 2.5 acre farm with westerly views of the sun setting over the ocean. We just moved from a studio apartment on the farm to this expansive 2 bedroom house with a stunning view from every room and the lanai.
For the first time since May 2017, we are living in a place that is bigger than 1 room for an extended period of time. Tears of gratitude and smiles of joy punctuate each day at we settle into farm and jungle life with views of the ocean. As I write this, the evening tropical rains are feeding the countless fruit trees which nourish us with a variety of healthy snacks every day. We drink coffee made from the locally grown Kona coffee and what we don’t find on the farm for our meals, we supplement by visiting the local farmers market every weekend. We do have a weekly stop at some type of grocery store for staples such as gluten free pasta and health products.
We are living our passion by swimming in the warm ocean almost every day, by spending time in magical nature spots every day, by connecting with like-hearted people and by embracing shorts and flip flops for every-day attire.
The biggest challenge to being here for me, in this moment, is the financial resources needed to live in our passion.
- We bought two very used cars that absorbed well saved cash. The cars cost more to run, insure and maintain here. Gas is over $4.00 a gallon.
- Rent is 50% higher than what we would pay in Maine or many overseas places.
- Food can be expensive.
So, we went from a high cost life style to a low cost life style back to a high cost life style. This presents a conundrum for me because I LOVE living here, but I prefer simple, non-materialistic, and worry free living and minimal expenses.
The other conundrum is that our young adult children are on the mainland. We miss them a lot.
I am back working at the hotel we managed 2 years ago but this time it is just as a half time front desk attendant, not as a full time, live in manager. I have to work, at least, half time to make ends meet but I am not saving any money.
Donna Maria is steadily building up her private healing practice and I am just now finding time to write. Honestly, if I could find meaningful income for my writing, I would be in my happy place. That would be a dream come true.
My questions at this point in our Big Island journey, since we do not know where we will be living in a few months, are:
- Can we and do we want to sustain this high cost style of living in order to live in a community that completely meets our spiritual and physical needs?
- How can we reduce our expenses?
- How can we expand our passions in a financial sustaining way?
- And can we somehow manage to stay in a 2 bedroom home or larger so we can have visitors like our children and host small healing retreats for one or two people at a time.
There are cliches that come to mind:
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”
“If it is meant to be, it will work out.”
“Take care of your spiritual life and the Universe will provide for your physical needs.”
“Follow your heart.”
I am sure you have your own wisdom and guidance on the topic.
The bottom line is that this conundrum I am trying to describe is exactly the challenge many of us face every day as Western-Culture based humans on this earth.
How do we live as thriving spiritual and energetic beings in a culture that demands physical wealth and materials in order to sustain ourselves?
Additionally, how do we continue to live in a materialistic culture while reducing and minimizing the strain we are placing on the earth and her resources?
Please do not misconstrue any of this article as complaining or not appreciating every second of this incredibly blessed and, sometimes, crazy, journey. I feel so very fortunate for all that has transpired and I wouldn’t change any decision or experience along this path. I also recognize that our ability to be able to walk the path is something that many people only dream of doing. I also recognize that there are people and cultures across the globe that are struggling just to feed themselves. So, I am not complaining at all. I am merely just trying to sort out how to make a positive difference in this world in a way that feeds my soul while being able to do so without worrying about the financial resources needed to holy and wholly embrace my soul’s purpose.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I welcome your input, ideas, and wisdom.
What say you?