Today’s post is written by Our Next Life, another couple who are focusing on early retirement. Please stop by their blog; there’s some great articles to read on there!
Thank you, Nicola, for inviting us to guest post while you’re on maternity leave! We love your blog and the way you see the world, and we’re honored to be here. We’re Our Next Life, a married couple in our 30s living in a mountain town in the western U.S. We’re on a mission to retire early in just a bit over two years, and then devote our lives to the outdoors and slow travel. We’ve already simplified our lives so much by leaving the big city and moving to a small town, but the demands of our current careers make it tough to simplify much beyond that – at least for now.
We sometimes wonder if the current trends – minimalism, simple living, homesteading – will soon wane in popularity, and those of us who committed to them will be left thinking, “Why did we get rid of all of our stuff? We’d like it back now, thanks.” Because of course trends come, and trends go, and what is popular now certainly won’t be what’s popular in a decade or two.
But we see a fundamental difference in how many of us are choosing to see our lives now: it’s not about following a trend, it’s about being intentional. Taking a clear-eyed look at what we’ve brought into our lives, and what we want to let go of, in a way that previous generations did not. Making that choice an active one that we make, not a passive one that’s made for us. It’s understandable – for most of human history, the majority of people scraped by, and so the chance to accumulate even a few worldly goods must have felt like an incredible privilege. That thinking hadn’t yet worn off for our grandparents and parents, and they amassed voluminous quantities of things, because it felt like luxury to do so. They got to feel like they “lived better” than their parents before them, which felt like progress and success.
Now, we have the distance and perspective to see, as earlier generations could not, how all of that stuff didn’t bring anyone happiness. How it often trapped them in their homes, made them unable or unwilling to move or travel, and truly became a liability. The sheen has worn off of consumerism and accumulation for those of us drawn to simpler living.
We’re thankful to have witnessed this, to have seen our parents struggle to downsize ahead of moves, or stay put in a place too long because they were too attached to their stuff. Or even choose certain homes to buy because the house had to have a wall long enough to fit a certain piece of furniture. It gave us the chance to realize that we don’t want that. We never want things to dictate where we live or how we live. As it happens, we live in a part of the world where wildfire is a very real risk every summer. For the first few years, we let that fact stress us out, but now we’ve made peace with it, and in an odd sort of way, we’re actually glad to have that risk in our lives. The fire risk reminds us that it’s just stuff after all. As long as we get ourselves and our dogs out, everything else can be replaced. We’ve actually said that our house burning down could be a blessing, because it could give us a kick in the pants to get out there traveling now, instead of waiting for early retirement to come. We’ve never downsized radically, and we don’t plan to, but we’ve let go of our attachment to any of our particular possessions, because we never want to find ourselves in the position we’ve seen our parents in, of being rules by our stuff.
By choosing a simpler life, we’re taking an active role in authoring our own story, designing the lives we’ll be happy to look back on. While our parents might have cared about putting on a show of success for the neighbors to see, we care far more about really living life and filling our heads with memories that we’ll be excited to look back on. Our major life goal is early retirement, which we’re achieving by paying ourselves first, and keeping our expenses with the small leftover pool of money small. But we’re not retiring to sit back and count the money we’ve saved. The life we’re designing for ourselves is all about getting out of the house and experiencing the world. A lot of what we want to experience is right around where we live: the mountains and lakes and stream and trees. Nothing is more grounding that spending time outside, and few things cost less. And then there’s the slow travel we want to do, to see much more of our beautiful continent and this glorious world of ours.
You’ll never see us on cruise ships or tour buses, hanging out in the busy tourist areas, or lugging home a suitcase of souvenirs. There’s nothing wrong with that style of travel, if that’s what you enjoy. But for us, the travel we love is about meeting the locals, shopping the local food markets, and getting into long conversations. We love looking back not on the crowds in Piccadilly Circus, but on the couple we met at an out-of-the-way pub and stayed up late talking to. Or the guy we met in the hostel in Rome who is now a close family friend, along with his wife and child. We know there are lots more stories like that out there for us, just waiting to be written. And we believe that they can’t be written if we’re afraid to travel for more than a week or two at a time, because “no one’s watching the house.” The life we’re designing for ourselves is dictated by people and love, not by things.
How are you designing the life you are excited to lead? What is something you’ve intentionally decided to welcome into your life, or let go of?