Last Saturday afternoon I snuggled into the dinette booth clutching hot coffee in one hand and my kindle in the other, a fuzzy blanket keeping me warm against the light sleet falling outside the Casita’s windows. Kirk took the girls for a drive to give me some time to read and write, and I did, until my eyes became impossibly heavy. My notebook was mostly empty, just a few ideas scribbled quickly, the perfect mix of swirling thoughts and reading inspiration from a Shauna Niequist book.
Earlier that day we hiked to the top of a sand dune at Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan. It was muscle blazing and chest pumping hard work to summit that dune, and I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest. Climbing these days, even of the smaller variety, always feels like a victory with a 25lb+ toddler strapped to your back. The last section of the climb was all hands and knees, and I gratefully collapsed at the top, watching V run circles in delight at the epic view.
Autumn frosted treetops encircled us in one direction, and in the other, aquamarine crashing waves smashing against the Lake Michigan beach.
We hiked the rest of the way to the beach, V leading the way, barefoot and sandy, Kirk chasing behind, little C and I caboosing the end.
She and I paused here and there to play in the sand, snuggling in the marram grasses. I asked her for a kiss, which she surprisingly obliged. I love you I said, like I had a hundred, a thousand times before. She smiled and said love you for the first time back.
We ran, as fast as little toddler feet can dash, toward the beach and shelter as dark storm clouds billowed above the lake.
After it passed, we hiked back through the woods, pausing to study fallen trees and to pick up new specimens for our nature collection–bits of twig, broken acorns, stunning red leaves.
We toasted that impossibly perfect fall day with dinner cooked over a bonfire and gooey s’mores by starlight.
The next day we packed up camp and drove to a nearby organic apple orchard where we picked a bushel, had lunch overlooking the fields, and played chase in the warm fall sunshine. Ice cream in New Buffalo wrapped up the trip, and we headed back home.
The beginning of this week was hard for me. Laundry, bills, groceries, and catching up on grading for my university job.
What was so different?
The weekend was a taste of a simpler life, where nearly everything that we need was snug in a 17′ travel trailer. There was absolutely no room for excess or for “just in case.” Tidying up the Casita took a mere 5 minutes of satisfied work, and then it was time to play again.
Part of me wants to argue against myself: of course it was perfect, that’s what a weekend/a week/a month away is meant to be. It cannot be replicated, and it’s not possible to live that way long-term. Life is complicated, and you can only simplify so much. We all have to “get back to reality” and the grind of life at some point.
But we’ve met too many people who have figured out the secret to living with just enough. People who have found ways to craft a life with just enough work to support a courageously simple life. We’ve met families like the Currens of Currently Wandering, who travel full-time with their three kids in a 188 sq foot Airstream. They’ve found that life is simpler and more enjoyable when you take your home with you to explore the country–we got a small taste of that over the weekend, and now I understand why people pursue that lifestyle.
Here’s the thing–and I’ll wrap this up before I get too long-winded–I am starting to believe that it is possible to live a simple AND enjoyable life. To have time for necessary work, but also for necessary play and adventure. I don’t buy it anymore that life has to be complicated, that is has to be a struggle overwrought with too much debt, too much stuff, and too much anxiety.
And in boils down to this. What is your north star? In what direction are you steering your life ship?
Traveling full-time or living in a small house is not the only way to simplify, and I encourage you to think about the happiest moments in your life. My guess is that they were also the simplest. Let those time guide you toward a life of simply enough.
For when we become content with simply enough, there lies our freedom.