As we know, things didn't quite go that way. And though I look back over the last few years and can pinpoint each and every misstep along the way, I can't say that I'm entirely sorry our lives took the turn they did. Why? Because of everything we've learned.
Everything we’ve experienced in the last two years and certainly the last 11 months has had us dramatically reevaluate our lives and our goals. We’ve found that we certainly can be and are happy with less. That it doesn’t take much. And that we truly experience the sheer joy of being alive in the seemingly darkest moments.
We've grown as individuals and together as partners. We avoided foreclosure and stuck together the entire way.
The question now is:
WHAT IS NEXT?
We’ve said all along that we plan to return to Los Angeles in November. Hopefully. We chose November because we figured it would allow us enough time to save money for a security deposit on an apartment if indeed we were unable to find a rent-free living situation. Not to mention the fact that November = cold in Chicago. Darn cold. Our thought, having been spoiled by the Southern California temps, was to avoid that.
That was our somewhat sketchy plan.
The thing is, something amazing happens when you sell everything and uproot yourself. You are suddenly free. Free to go anywhere.
Which leads me to the big news.
The morning we finally drove away from our house, I received an e-mail from a LITTOF reader that could not have arrived at a more perfect time. We were minutes away from saying goodbye to our house, our home and setting out into the great UNKNOWN when I opened my e-mail and found this:
Forgive this rather long shot e-mail from out of the blue. Would you possibly be interested in a caretaking job?
I came across your blog a few weeks ago, just as we were closing on the purchase of our future home-an old farm house in the San Juan Islands, Washington state. However, we currently live overseas and won’t be moving there until August/September 2011. We are about to place an ad in Caretaker Gazette, to look for someone to live there rent –free for two years and take care of routine maintenance like keeping the lawn mowed and the gutters cleaned. Also to organize and oversee any professional repairs, that we would pay for. The house is unfurnished so you would need some basics.
I understand from your blog that you already have plan to move back to the Midwest with family, but if you are still fairly open about what’s next, perhaps that could be a visit home and then move forward as caretakers. If you are at all interested let me know and I can provide more information and details.
The San Juan Islands? Holy crap.
It really is true. As soon as you let go of one thing another possibility opens up. We had finally let go of this house and not a moment later, this amazing opportunity presented itself. Right away we were excited about it. As you know, we’ve been exploring all kinds of rent-free living situations. From being a lighthouse keeper to working on an organic farm. I recently joined the Caretaker’s Gazette and have been perusing caretaking opportunites around the world. And here this one just fell into our lap! As we drove cross-country we started talking more and more about it. And more seriously.
From Lincoln, Nebraska to Humboldt, Iowa Bob read anything he could find on his iPhone about the island while I drove. We discovered that it has 50% less rain than Seattle and apparently more sunny days than Tucson, Arizona. The more we learned, the more appealing it became. I wrote back and said we were interested in learning more and they replied with pictures. Gorgeous. Quaint. Perfect.
Here's the thing. This place is freaking beautiful.
PHOTO: A lone member of K pod, with Mount Baker in the background....photo by Jim Maya from the San Juan Update
Whales everywhere. Mountains. More sunny days than Tucson. Water. Ocean. Nature.
One of my friends, after hearing about this opportunity, exclaimed: “Go live my hippie fantasy!”
She then said, “ I want to sell everything and see what happens!”
I said, “I know! How crazy is this, right?!”
Of course, we had a lot to consider. We discussed the pros and the cons. We got input from friends and family. Mostly what we kept coming back to is that we couldn't not do this. Not only does it make financial sense for us, but it's an amazing, ridiculous opportunity.
I'm so excited to discover what kinds of things will come up for me. I'm sure that I will be challenged in ways I'd never imagined. And that excites me. Also, we get to see whether or not this is the kind of life we want.
Will I be happy living on an island? YES! How do I know this? Because I know I can be happy anywhere in the face of any circumstance. If I can be happy in the face of foreclosure... I can be happy on an island with my love, my best friend and partner. And the Pug, of course.
Will it be a challenge? Yes. The absolute perfect challenge. We will be going from the height of excess and consumption to a vacant farmhouse on an island.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but, before buying the house, I wanted to sell everything and travel the world. It was this grand plan that came to me and I was so passionate about it. If not now, when? was my thinking. We had to see the world now or we never would! Bob got on board after hearing me talk and talk about how wonderful it would be. Then, once Bob was aligned and we began to sell some of our things something happened. I got scared. I got cold feet and talked myself out of my grand plan. What was I thinking?! Sell everything and travel the world?! That’s insane. Who do I think I am? I can’t do this. I’ll lose it. It’s not easy, traveling is hard. It’s work. What about Pablo? How would we manage it? The more I talked myself out of it, the faster that window of possibility closed. Never to be pried open again. I painted that window shut! I opened it, then painted it shut.
Bob was so confused. I talked him into it so much that he’d gotten so excited about it. He was fully committed and then I just couldn't do it. Just like that.
“What happened? This was your idea!”
“I know,” I said shamefully, “but I just can’t. I can’t let go.”
It’s now three years later and we have sold everything and have completely let go. We are uprooted. And I’m not scared. What’s the difference? Well, one thing is that this time we have no choice. We were headed this way by the circumstances conspiring against us, so to speak. Or so we thought. But maybe this is the only way we would have done this. I don’t know. But what I do know is that in the face of this amazing opportunity to live for two years rent-free on one of the most beautiful places in our country, I WILL NOT ALLOW MY FEAR TO PAINT THIS WINDOW SHUT.
This has always been my fantasy: Live remotely in some beautiful location. Living simply and in nature. All of the things we’ve been talking about come into play here. The resources on an island are obviously limited. So guess what that means? We have to drastically alter the way we’ve been living. We cannot be the consumers we’ve been in our previous life.
Bob grew up in a remote farming community. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He knows he can hack this life because this kind of life is in his past. I don’t, because this kind of life has only lived in my fantasies. But I know this: every challenge only enriches my life. We have embraced our financial demise as an OPPORTUNITY to learn, grow and rethink. This is another one of those opportunities.
So, yes. We're doing it. Sometime in October we will be packing the car back up and pointing it Northwest.
A look back at April
While debating whether or not to take the island offer, I was reading back through my journal over the last eleven months and I came across this:
Watching the sunset over Monterey Bay from the deck at Dad’s apartment. It’s so gorgeous and calm. I feel peaceful here. Like I should. I want to live here. I want the ocean again. Outside my window. I want nature. The way it makes me feel... like I’m in this world and it’s in me. As opposed to skimming across the surface like a pancake shaped stone that’s expertly skipped across the water.
I want salt water in my skin and pine trees for hair. That sounds ridiculous. What I want is to just be. To ride my bike every day. Ride to work. Enjoy work. Live happily with nature’s soundtrack. Crashing waves. A one-bedroom apartment is fine with me when the ocean-endless is my front yard. It’s impossible to feel small somehow. We’ll it’s impossible to feel trapped.
Can we live in some tiny space?
We are freaked out about leaving the house. In exactly one month (if this comes together) we’ll be out. One month. That’s so fast. Where will we go? Well… we do have options. We talked about being free spirits. Bob’s job allows him to be anywhere… while I find equivalent work anywhere and continue to write.
We’ve had both family and friends offer spare bedrooms from L.A. to Illinois to Brooklyn. We’ve had friends offer to hold onto our furniture for us while we get back on our feet and figure out where we want to be. We’ve chosen to view this as an opportunity. And the world is opening up to us now. On one hand we are losing our house, on the other we are gaining our freedom. Money doesn’t buy freedom (though money would buy us freedom from our debts.) We’re clear that owing is being owned.
There are no rules for this.
Anything is possible.
-San Juan Island Update - a wonderful resource about the island
-Kayaking with Whale photo - Anacortes Kayak Tours