chiangmai thailand

Remember your reasons

Almost two weeks ago my family and I transitioned over from China to Thailand as part of our extended travel experiment. The real change wasn’t geography, however—it was a change in pace, in lifestyle. In China, we were mostly tourists, visiting three cities (four, if you count Hong Kong) in 23 days. Our days were filled with sightseeing, visiting friends, and wandering new streets.

Now we’re in a city we’ve been to before, and we’re here for almost two solid months (with a few side trips thrown in here and there). We’ve settled in to one house and have filled our time with work, school, chores, and other such daily sundry. It’s given us time to breathe, to unpack a little, and to rest our heads on the same pillow for more than a week.

And quite honestly, it’s given us a chance to ask ourselves: What the heck were we thinking, doing this trip?

Now that we’ve paused the Seeing Of Things phase of our trip and moved into the Live a Kindasorta Normal Life bit, it’s caused a bit of rattling. See, even though we’re doing “normal life,” it’s not really normal at all. We still have to learn how to buy groceries with different food options and currency, we’re driving on the left side of the road, and even though we’ve been here before, that was seven years ago and things have changed.

thailand tuktuk

Life isn’t normal for us, and yet we’ve taken off the tourist hats that were masking any feelings of unsettledness or quiet resolution that yes, this trip is a good idea. There was adrenaline in the adventure.

Kyle and I had more than a few evenings last week filled with long conversations of second-guessing, sketching out longer-term plans for when we return, and reassuring each other that well, at least we have each other. We’ve been nervous and tense and filed with doubt. Add to that two reader emails waiting in my inbox that were critical of both my books and of this blog, and it’s sent me spiraling down a wave of uncertainty. Should we really be doing all this? This unorthodox life of ours?

monks in a truck

Now that the Thai dust has settled a bit, and now that we’ve had a few nights of sleep, I can see a bit more clearly. I remember our reasons why we’re doing what we’re doing, and I can better hear voices of encouragement. I’m feeling better.

But I was reminded of this simple truth, one that’s solid and trustworthy no matter where you are: when you’re filled with doubt, remember your reasons why.

Choosing to live simpler than our cultural norms is risky, regardless the flavor you sip. Whether you’ve chosen to downsize your home, take a lower-paying job with better hours, jettison some commitments to regain an emptier calendar, or start a business that can be done anywhere so you can travel more, you’re choosing something unconventional. Living simpler is risky because it’s different. You’re swimming upstream.

And when there’s risk, there’s doubt lurking around the corner. It’s exciting when all your cards play a logical hand, but as soon as there’s something unexpected in the deck, all bets are off. We’re nervous. We second-guess. We wonder if we’re kinda crazy after all, to be doing this thing that’s so different.

kids reading

This is why it’s essential to remember your why, to remember your reasons. When you’re solidly sure you’re meant to do something—homeschool, move internationally, whatever—take an afternoon and write down your whys. Jot down right away the reasons this decision is good, because believe it or not, there will be a time when it feels all wrong. You’ll wonder what in God’s green earth you were thinking. (If you homeschool, think of February. You know what I mean.)

When that season of uncertainty rears its ugly head—and it will—you’ll be so glad you wrote all that down back in the day. You can reread it and remember why you did this risky thing in the first place. It might not feel any better, but it’ll give you courage to put one foot in front of the other and keep on trekking. If it’s indeed a smart move, one day it’ll feel right again.

Living simply means living holistically with your life’s purpose. Sometimes that requires change and choices that feel all sorts of risky. But they’re worth it—you just need to remind yourself of that when you can’t see through the clouds. Write it down and remember.

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Weekend links

• Harvard, schmarvard: Why getting your kids into college should be the least of your concerns :: HuffPo • A couple’s incredible 550,000-mile odyssey through 177 countries over 26 years—in a single car :: This is Colossal • Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything :: Washington (read more…)

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Holly’s story of shedding the excess stuff

Name: Holly Pennington Location: Seattle area Occupation: Healthcare executive / physical therapist, mom, writer Blog/site: Dreadlocks and Goldilocks Tell us one way you are simplifying your life. We are reducing unnecessary stuff in our house, one possession at a time. Every day during the month of August, each person in our family of four discarded (read more…)

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