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Same same, but different

In Thailand, there’s a touristy shirt we’d see at all the cheap market booths. On the front, it says, “Same Same.” On the back, it says, “Different.” Yeah, I don’t really get it either, except for this general meaning—comparing two things can equally be the same and different.

Chocolate and vanilla ice cream—the same in that they’re both delicious; different because well, they’re different. Taking the bus or the subway home in New York City—they’re the same because they’ll both eventually get you there, but they’re different because you’ll have different experiences along the way.

Same same, but different. I’ve been thinking about that silly t-shirt a lot on this cross-country trip of ours. This trip we’re on, that’s 18 days and 3,500 miles and which doesn’t exactly equal slow travel. In order to celebrate a book that’s about living slow.


Kyle and I were just debriefing a little over dinner tonight while we let the kids play (we’re somewhere in Ohio as I write this, heading to Arkansas for our final meetup for the next few weeks). We asked each other what’s been the favorite parts of our trip so far, and unsurprisingly, it didn’t take us two seconds to answer. We both have the same answer, in fact.

It’s been hanging out with friends, pure and simple.






We’ve walked historic streets, wandered surreal museums, witnessed epic relics, and tasted ridiculous local food. But at the end of the day, the best parts have been a shared meal with friends, laughing while the kids run wild nearby.

ox-baker kids

We’re basking in the glow of shared experience with friends, old and new. I’m finally meeting friends’ husbands, and it’s been surreal to watch our offspring play together. We’ve celebrated simple evening conversation on living room couches and kitchen barstools, coffee or wine in hand. (And since we’ve only had hours with each kindred spirit, we don’t take this time lightly—my mantra has come in handy the past few days.)

We’ve also loved making new friends, too—you’re teaching me things. I’m hearing why you intentionally live in the sketchy part of town, so that your gifts can be a blessing to others, and so your kids know that life isn’t about privilege. I hear about the freedom you’ve found from downsizing to a smaller space, even though your family and friends have thought you nuts. Or why you only eat chocolate when you can afford the good stuff, because otherwise it doesn’t sit well with you to have the questionable stuff in your pantry.

And in all this, you live on a 14-acre homestead in North Carolina.

Or on the outskirts of a big city because the schools are better.

Or are about to move to Africa to work in the slums or to Germany because your husband works for the government.




Or in a Manhattan highrise, or a brownstone in Queens.

Or you live in Jersey and work full-time for a church you love, even though you hit the hay exhausted.



Or you are choosing to stay planted in the suburbs where you’ve been for years, because your home is the one where the neighbor kids run for a warm, safe, and hospitable place for all.


You’re reminding me that living with intention looks like a million different things, is fleshed out in a thousand different places, and really can be done anywhere, no matter the circumstances.

You guys living in big cities have different hurdles than you who live in the tiny towns, miles from the next neighbor—but you”re making it work because you acknowledge that living simply involves lots of little choices, made day after day after day, one step at a time.

Driving these miles has been a long thread, sewing a patchworked blanket of beautiful souls in my life. You are all living such different lives. And yet, you’re not. There’s a distinctive pattern to this quilt.

All around the world, you are CHOOSING to live differently. You’re saying no to the crazy chaos so much of our culture offers, so that you can say yes to a life that makes sense for you. It looks like a million different messy-beautiful choices, made with intention all day long. You go to bed, then you wake up and you make those choices again.



So be encouraged, readers—you’ve got a big community here who are daring enough to live unconventionally, so long as it means sleeping in peace each night because of wise choices made. You can do this. You can say no to the crazy in order to say yes to life that works. I’m witnessing the many beautiful ways it works.

Same same, but different. Yes, that seems like a good description of what simple living looks like. There’s a universal conviction that living simply involves daily, intentional choices. How that looks is up to you.


Me, driving with travel hair and travel eyes. I’m so delighted Kyle took this photo.

This trip has been a fantastic time for the five of us—bonding, exploring, sharing life with friends. It’s been a crazy whirlwind, and sure, not quite the slow speed we would prefer, but that’s okay. If it’s between taking this trip in the fast lane or not traveling at all, we’ll go fast. We’re grateful to Kia for making it possible, by lending us one of their 2015 Sorentos. It’s a beautiful ride, y’all—we’re thinking we may look into one when we return from our Big Trip next year. That behemoth of a trip where we’ll travel much, much slower.


What choice are you going to make today to live a little simpler? And just for fun, I’d love to know—do you live in a big city, in the ‘burbs, the middle of nowhere, or some other type of place all together?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Lindsay

    Haha, we are in Thailand! We both hear and say “same same” all the time…words are repeated here for emphasis, both in English & Thai language amongst the Thai people.

    Great thoughts; thank you! 🙂

  2. Emily @ Make It Happen Mama

    Beautiful reflections & I have to admit I’m more than a little jealous of the grand cross-country adventure y’all are having! My husband and I love nothing more than a good road trip and definitely want to make time for at least a few small ones (within our state) in 2014.

  3. Katie

    This is encouraging! My husband and I have lived and raised our young family (4 kids – 8, 5, 3, 2) so far in Asia for the past 11 years, but we are moving back to the states to be near our parents this June. I’m so nervous! We’ve learned that many “needs” aren’t true needs and have learned to live without things, and we’ve enjoyed a more relaxed sense of fashion/culture and a stronger sense of community. I so want to find that in the states, but I’m afraid it’ll be harder to find there. Where we live now, the expat community need each other, and we have found such sweet friendships here. I’m so excited to get to move near our families, and yet so apprehensive of the future!

    • Tsh

      You have to dig for it, that’s for sure. I think that’s part of what this trip is teaching me, because I can be hard on myself/my current location when it’s not just a few inches under the surface. That’s the other thing this trip is reminding me of: real community, finding your tribe of like-minded people, takes WORK. 🙂

  4. Kelly @

    I love how you show the common ground between us all. We need more of that.

    Just for fun: We live in a neighborhood that’s technically in the city but it backs up to a nature preserve so it feels a little like country living – hearing coyotes every night, ringtail cats eating off our back deck, and crazy birdwatching.

    • Tsh

      Um… that sounds just about perfect to me.

      • Katie

        That’s what I’m afraid of! 😉

  5. Crystal

    I love how much joy there is in each of those photos 🙂 I live in a small town full of Amish & Mennonite families where the closest Starbucks is a 20 minute drive away and no stores are open past 8pm. Both of our families live here, and my husband teaches in the same elementary school I went to when I was little. We’re 2.5 hours away from DC, Baltimore & Philly and 3.5 hours from NYC, so even though our town is small, the opportunities are only a car ride away 🙂

    • Tsh

      Crystal, that’s another thing I find so great about the eastern US – everything feels so close! I love the idea of living in a small town with a major city just a few hours away.

  6. Grace from London

    Tsh, Kyle took that photo because he thinks you are beautiful! And so do we!

    • Tsh

      Awww. 😉

  7. Sharon

    I truly enjoyed your book and completely agree with -same but different. We live fairly simply. We are in a small town about 30 minutes away from Charlotte, NC. We are in a nice neighborhood that we really do not fit into as far as most of the people go. However, we connect to a mountain bike trail and a beautiful park and we can walk to everything that we need. We have gotten so used to going at our own pace and doing our own thing that sending the kids to camp this summer for a week (weekday camp) actually worries me-a schedule, packed lunches, and full go activity. 🙂 We awake everyday to enjoy the new day and to make the choices that are best for us and our community. I dream of living away from this area someday when the time is right for us! Thank you for sharing your journey with us through your book and your blog!

    • Tsh

      Nice! And thanks, Sharon – glad you liked it.

  8. Jennifer

    We live in the South, in the suburb of a large city. My husband designs urban transportation systems, so he works downtown, but I’m glad to have the house with a fenced-in backyard and lots of trees. We’re a young family–we have a two-year old and one due anytime–so lots can change, but right now we’re trying to be intentional where we are. If I had my way we’d live WAY out in the country, but with my husband’s line of work that’s pretty impossible, and I know we’re here for a reason. So every day we try to live like that’s true!

    • Tsh

      “So every day we try to live like that’s true!” <-- Great way to live. 🙂

  9. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    I loved getting a peak into everyone’s different stories! And I so appreciate you always saying that living simply/intentionally can flesh itself out in a variety of ways–that it’s not just a race to downsize and purge (though it might include that :)).
    We live in a small Midwestern farm town, which is a far cry from the big cities I’d lived in for the previous 8 years. It was an adjustment, but I like that it lends itself to a slower life.

  10. Jeff Goins

    Fun group of folks. Bummed I missed you while you were here in Nashville.

  11. Hillary

    We live in the burbs of Portland, but are looking for our next adventure. I think after reading some if Brene brown’s books and connecting with the community here, I’ve tried to focus on investing more in a few close relationships, rather than having time for the myriad of engagements you could become involved in. Being intentional in my formation of community has been an eye-opener.

    • Alissa

      Us too Hillary! I saw we live in the “suburban part of portland” because our address is technically in the City. My one frustration is that we can’t really walk anywhere because we’re not in one of the newer suburbs that was planned well with sidewalks, parks, and maybe a store down the street.
      We’re always looking to see if a different neighborhood would suit us better, but ugh… moving!

  12. se7en

    Oh I just love this post, this trip, and this book that I am dying to read… it all rings true and well done to you for standing up and clarifying your thoughts for all of us. Thank you so much, you are such an inspiration, really your heart is so huge… now take it home and have a rest already!!!

  13. Jan

    I love you, Tsh. Love that I get to keep up with you here. I’m enjoying your book too.

  14. Melissa Webb

    We live in a dinky little town with a population of 1,000. The “big” town (mall) is only 25 minutes from home, but we like the quiet and inexpensive living of the small town. Hubby works at the local school which is the biggest blessing due to the ease of his schedule and time off. We love to take road trips, but have slowed down the past few years due to having more babies, lol. Reading this latest book has made me rethink how we need to actively plan for those small trips! We’re excitedly making plans to save and visit some interesting spots in the surrounding states.

  15. Lisa-Jo

    Gah love this so much. This is the post (and the pictures) I’ve been most looking forward to. Such fun to see so many lives all intertwined.

    just awesome

  16. Karen

    Driving through Ohio….I live in Copley, a suburb of Akron….you were probably driving somewhere south of me…Columbus or Cincinnati .
    I love reading your blog and all that you challenge me with. Living simple…I’m trying to do this one baby step at a time.

  17. Shelly

    We live in a medium-sized city in a rowhome- that’s 12 of us! It’s not the ideal place to live for some, but it’s within walking distance of our library and minutes from our church, so that’s all we need right now!

  18. Meagan Francis

    I love this post, Tsh – it is so easy to get caught up in the idea that there is one “right” way to live intentionally (on a goat farm off the grid, in the middle of a big city where you can walk everywhere, etc) but you are so right – as long as we’re making choices and THINKING about why we’re doing what we do, why we’re living where we are – it qualifies as living intentionally. Plus, sometimes your circumstances, needs or priorities change, and the last thing I want is to pigeonhole myself into a certain way of living and then not be able to change if it’s the right thing to do.

    As for us, we are currently living in a small city that’s a lot less diverse and a little less exciting than I would like. But, my kids’ cousins are here, and they can walk to school, and I feel safe letting them roam the neighborhood, and I have family and close friends, and life is really…simple. For this mama at this stage of my life, that’s so valuable. Who knows – things could change, and I am open to that, too.

  19. shelly

    i’d love to hear more details of the stories you shared here…maybe it could be a series of reader stories about how they live intentionally? it would be great inspiration!

  20. Alison Treat

    I loved reading about your whirlwind book tour! We live on 19 acres in Northeastern Pennsylvania. When I was growing up (about 8 miles from here) I wanted to live in Manhattan some day. My husband would hate it there and now I love it here. Sometimes I wish we lived in a walkable community, but you can’t have everything, so we make the most of the blessings in our backyard. We walk in the woods, tend a good-sized garden, and keep chickens. It’s pretty perfect in a lot of ways. Looking forward to reading Blue Bike and becoming even more intentional.

  21. Jill

    Great post! It’s amazing how different all of us live, but really we all want the same thing. We lived in a Denver suburb for 11 years, but moved back to our home state of North Dakota 3 years ago. Being closer to family and smaller schools were our motivation. Fargo isn’t that big, but it does have “suburbs” and we live in one. We have an older house on a little more than an acre that backs to a baseball field and park. And we have trees! It took us 15 years of marriage, but we finally have a yard with trees.

  22. Meg

    Today, I’m going to tuck my cell phone to bed in my underwear drawer and BE PRESENT with my kids! Life is so much more simple when you see the world from the eyes of little kids.

    Last May we moved from my simple hometown, out of a home that once belonged to my grandparents into California’s bustling Silicon Valley! We did this to have a bit of an adventure and to take a pay increase that helped us to finally become debt free!

  23. Traci

    My husband and I have had a rough go the last few years ever since the economy crashed. We had to sell our house and have relied on friends that have rentals available for our last 2 moves. This situation has been a HUGE blessing (in disguise) and lesson in downsizing and learning to live with less. The first house available to us was a beach cottage at 850 sq ft with one bedroom (there are 2 adults and 2 kids in our family). We enjoyed our 9 months there very much! We just moved to a 2 bdrm condo downtown and though I greatly miss the beach and nature, I am loving the downtown life where I can walk everywhere with restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and the theater all at my backdoor. I know we won’t live here forever amongst the chaos of city living, so it will be a fun experiment to see how living simply plays out surrounded by the temptation to always be spending money. There are pros and cons to both ways of life and we are learning to live intentionally wherever it is that God has us. Loved your post today!

  24. Lisa

    I think the big one for me, is to live in the present. Put my electronics down and give my undivided attention to those that truly matter is so much simpler.

  25. Stephanie

    Our family did a 20,000+ mile trip across the USA by RV in 2011. Unquestionably, the best parts of our trip were the memories we shared with family + friends. Sightseeing is incredible, but it always comes back to – the people.

    P.S. We live in the suburbs, but are considering a move closer to “town.” Not right next to downtown – but a place where our commute is less and our potential for community is more.

  26. Caz

    We live in the burbs of a city of 4 million people but we are 5 doors from 75 acres of bush land sanctuary. It’s a great place to find peace amongst the hurly burly. I feel like we have some of the benefits of both city and rural living.
    Loving your writing Tsh 🙂

  27. Melissa

    What a great blog… And great comments!

    I’m sorting through belongings to declutter and purge. Really trying to only have items that are needed, meaningful or simply cherished…

    I live in a suburb of Chicago.

  28. Debbie

    (Sorry for the novel!) Your book totally inspired me to make changes in my life, knowing that I was rushing through and not being very intentional at all…and in turn, that likely wasn’t pleasing to God. He wants me to enjoy this life and make the most of it 🙂 One of the biggest things I’ve done is started to learn to say no to opportunities that may be good but don’t fit. I’ve even cried tears while saying “no” (so pathetic but that’s how difficult it is for me sometimes). But it’s been freeing. My days are less crammed and I have more time to love on my kids and share in their experiences. Along with that, I’ve thrown away my daily to-do list and just have the necessities written down. I no longer am a slave to a piece of paper…and things still get accomplished. But most importantly the time I get with my kids and my Heavenly Daddy has increased a lot.

    For your second question…I grew up in a suburb north of Boston but am now a PA transplant in a sort of small town/suburb (in comparison to where I grew up it’s rural but in reality, it probably isn’t). 🙂

  29. JenD

    I live in the middle of nowhere Ohio. Over an hour from the nearest Target. Lol. Where sports reign king & 5 year olds are in t-ball & soccer at the same time (except ours) & parents of older kids say “just you wait, your kids will be in EVERYthing someday too.

  30. Rebecca

    I live in the burbs and I have made many choices to live simply. Starting with reducing my debt and consumer debt. We are not completely debt free but,almost there. I have stopped shopping for many things and might get a few luxuries but, mainly get only what we need. It helps to save money and not get more debt or stuff.

  31. Aimee

    First, see you TOMORROW NIGHT!!! I’m a little excited to meet you. 🙂

    Second, this is one of my favorite posts because it gets to the heart of where I struggle sometimes reading about simple living. It can feel…competitive?…in all the simplicity which is kind of the opposite of simple living.

    We moved to northwest Arkansas to be closer to family and to have a lower cost of living which has helped enable a slower lifestyle. We live in a subdivision with a nature trail and open pastures behind us. We hear coyotes howling at night and roosters crowing in the morning. We’re also approximately 7 minutes from a grocery store and Target and 20 minutes from the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which I really hope you and your family are able to visit while you’re here!

    I try every day to find something to simplify our day. Tonight it’s using one of the meals out of the freezer so I don’t have to cook and can spend time snuggling on the couch.

  32. Paula Nix

    We live in the suburbs of Atlanta and sometimes I pine for a home in the big city (or alternately one out in the country) but we have definitely found that the grass is greener where we water it : ) We have made some crazy choices along the way (my husband has both planted a church and opened a brewery where we live) but all of it has led to a life that allows for margins and community. I think it can be tough here to find folks who are also embracing a slower lifestyle, but it’s good to know folks who live differently from us as well. And when we find kindred spirits, we hold onto them for good!

  33. Esther

    We’re been living in Melbourne in a tiny flat behind another house. We had to live intentionally and simplify, and we were able to save heaps of money on rent and be generous to the church and overseas aid. Now we’ve bought our own place with more space, but it almost seems like too much space for us! So we’ll have a housemate in our spare bedroom and look at having a foster child there down the track. All this while choosing to live in Melbourne’s north, where there is disadvantage, rather than the privileged east where our families live. This means I can be a social worker in an area that really needs it, and we can contribute meaningfully to our new community. Tsh, your work and your words are inspiring, keep it up!

  34. Melro Azul

    just for fun (and wondering if one of these days we’ll meet in person!…)
    I live right next to the city centre of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, just a few steps away from the route of the famous ’28th’ tramway

    finally decided to visit Lisbon? ;P

  35. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    First of all, that KIA is awesome!! Maybe that can be my husband’s and my middle ground (he wants a minivan).

    Second, I was just thinking about you and your trip, and kinda wishing you had made it up here…and well, missing you!! I know you’re busy, so thanks for sharing this glimpse of your road trip with us. I’m sure it’s exhausting, but it still looks like fun!!

    This was an excellent post about choosing to live slowly, too. Loved every word.

  36. Elizabeth

    These pictures are great! A good glimpse of what your trip has been like up close. I was bummed that I didn’t get to see you all. I got food poisoning – of ALL things – and was out of commission for a couple of weeks. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.

    I recently moved from Asheville to Durham, NC (a city next to Chapel Hill and Raleigh). It has a wonderful food scene and is all about the local stuff. It’s a pretty nice place to be.

    One way to make life a little simpler: toss out what I don’t need. As a minimalist, I don’t have a ton of things. But somehow, like you’ve mentioned before here, it sneaks in the cracks. Moving *really* has a way of showing you how much you’ve accumulated over the year. I’m itching to do some serious spring cleaning.

  37. Dawn

    We live in a quickly-growing city in SE Asia. One way in which our family is trying to simplify is in the learning department (although this term goes a bit against my approach since I really want to approach life overall as learning vs. “this is learning,” and “this is not”) . My kids are small and even though the American culture (of which there is a good amt in the city I live in) seems like it is encouraging more “formal” education for kids at younger and younger ages, I am seeking to do only the formal things that I feel the kids are individually ready for within the larger, simple goal of encouraging my kids to love learning (mostly accomplished throughout everyday activities).

  38. Claire

    This is so beautiful, thank you! My husband and I are expecting our first child in July and we are talking about the possibility of moving somewhere different in the next year partly because we feel we are not rooted here and lack the community you describe.

    This post inspires me to know that while we still hope that God will lead us to our friends on the South coast of the UK, I know that where we are now is right precisely for this time, and that we can live this simple life wherever we are called. 🙂

    Your trip sounds wonderful.

    God bless.


  39. Bethany Turner

    Loved reading this!

    I am currently living in small town, Kentucky. It is the first time I have lived in an area with such a small population. The people are so nice, but I do miss some of the conveniences of cities.

  40. rebecca

    Live in the city (Denver) and constantly thinking and talking about what living simply looks like for us. Thanks for the reminder not to box in the idea of simple living!

  41. Kate

    Really good, pertinent post for me today.

    Our family is praying and seeking – about where to live, how to live, what to do….. and all the choices and opinions can be make a Mama crazy. This post – shows me that really…..simplistic, purposed, impactful living can take on so many different personalities.

    So encouraging.

    So inspiring.

    Many thanks,
    Kate 🙂

  42. Debbie

    “Driving these miles has been a long thread, sewing a patchworked blanket of beautiful souls in my life.” That is gold, Tsh! Beautiful words! I’m so glad to hear that your trip went so well! Debbie

  43. Sonja

    Ahh, Tsh. You write like I know you.
    Thanks for that. And the inspiration. And for letting us see the photos of your travel eyes and travel hair. Yeah, I would love that too.
    The more I nail down who we are and how we mindfully find a way to live it, the more I see how the folks around me are also mindfully making their way.
    I am reminded that there are so many ways that can be the right way, and I am given a boost to try to step more fully into what feels right for me and my family.
    Thanks for the support and encouragement.

  44. Rachel @YonderWild

    “You’re reminding me that living with intention looks like a million different things, is fleshed out in a thousand different places, and really can be done anywhere, no matter the circumstances.” I love, Love, LOVE this! Life comes in many forms. No need to compete with what success is for others when you create your own definitions. We all live different ways, but we can find what we need no matter where we look. Hope you enjoyed your journey!

  45. Katelyn

    We are a military family that will be experiencing our first overseas assignment later this year. I have the option of staying behind in the US with my will be newly 4 year old. We’ve chosen to accompany my husband and explore the new and different together even though it means some drastic downsizing and being far away from family and our current “community.”

    • Dawn

      Katelyn, your comment caught my eye because we’re a family who moved to SE Asia almost one year ago with our then almost 4-year old and 2.5 year-old. I just wanted to encourage you that while it might not be easy to be living internationally, it has so much potential to be so rich, even for your small one! Good for you to take the risk and head out on the new adventure – I admire you for doing so!

  46. LoriSF

    Loved this post, thank you!

    We live in urban San Francisco but we live 3 blocks from Golden Gate Park so our little neighborhood is a good balance of concrete and vegetation. 🙂 My kids attend public school, which are great here!

  47. Rebekah Gibson

    Loved this post! How beautiful that many of us who were outside your circle of friends but have followed you for many many years got to meet you and share in your simple life. Because we feel like we know you, we were so pleased for you that you got to have those beautiful connecting moments with old friends and make new ones along the way. I loved meeting you in Manhattan. We are blessed to be living very close in Long Island City…Queens. Ours is a 100 plus year old town home apartment that we rent. We don’t own a car and we live debt free! Living so close to the city makes my husbands commute a little shorter and the kids have a two minute walk down the block to their amazing school. Life is really sweet! We have fashioned for ourselves an amazingly simple life in a very busy and crazy city. Thankfully, it’s ours and we can take it in at our own pace. Our children are growing up in an extremely diverse culture learning to love and appreciate all the peoples of the world. It is truly a rich and rewarding life and we are blessed beyond measure to have this opportunity. Thanks for coming to NYC! Safe travels and more rest on your next adventure 🙂

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