A Year of Experimentation

A few days ago, we had the Landins over for dinner (the lovely family from Around the World Stories). Yesterday, Stephanie and I recorded our four-part episode series for the March deep-dive on The Simple Show, and—you guessed it—its theme is travel.

Today, I’m reflecting on my friend, Brooke, and her family, as they embark on a new adventure. She’s a contributing writer here, but you might also know her as the host of the home where we were shown radical hospitality in the Sydney area during our family’s trip around the world (I wrote about this in chapter 8 of At Home in the World).

They sold that lovely home (sniff) and are heading out into the unknown—they’re now road-tripping with their two young kiddos throughout the U.S. and Canada with nary an agenda. They’re just out… exploring.

Brooke is going to write every now and then here at AoS about her experience in becoming a location-independent family, and I can’t wait to read her thoughts. Since she’s busy in the early stages of all this, I asked her for her initial thoughts, as sort of a record to compare what she might share with us over the coming months.

Here are Brooke’s thoughts:

This year, my family and I are taking a great big leaping dive in to the unknown as we’ve sold our house in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia, and are off on an adventure that has very few concrete plans.

What we do know is that we’re spending the first 6 months of the year exploring western Canada (our heart home) and the summer months road-tripping through the US. We’ve got a very rough outline for both of these adventures and know we will maximise our time in the mountains until spring arrives. But aside from that, we have no real idea what we’re doing.

No real idea what daily life will look like over the coming months. No real idea of how we’ll begin to find a rhythm that works for each of us, as we juggle schooling and work and exploring and life and grocery shopping and spontaneity and writing a new book and documenting our trip.

No real idea of what our goal is, or if we even have one. No real idea of where we’ll settle, when it will happen, and how we will know it’s time. No real idea about much at all.

2018 is, in short, the year of experimentation. It’s the year we lay to rest our assumptions and fears. It’s the year we acknowledge the discomfort of change and new-ness, and it’s the year we move ahead regardless. It’s the year of paying attention to the voice that’s constantly asking us, “What would happen if…?”

What would happen if we travelled long term?

What would happen if we sold our house rather than renting it out?

What would happen if we gave all our stuff away instead of storing it?

What would happen if we told our family and friends that we genuinely don’t know what our plans are for the future?

What would happen if we lay ourselves bare and open to the opportunities and discoveries we don’t even know exist yet?

What would happen if we learnt to be comfortable in the discomfort, to not fight it, but embrace it instead?

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I’m really stoked to find out what Brooke learns as she travels with her family, because if she’s anything like me, the things she discovers will completely surprise her. What she thinks might be her points of growth might turn out to be something totally different. Her family might bond over things she couldn’t have planned.

Friends like these, who take healthy risks, remind me of the importance of keeping that spirit alive in me even as I currently spend most my days here at home, renovating our fixer-upper and walking with my kids to the library.

Both are a sort of adventure, and I need both in my life. That’s what I discovered on my family’s round-the-world adventure that I never expected: I can both love home and love exploring the world, and both are good to cultivate. Both are needed to make the other sweeter. Both get me out of my comfort zone, ask me to find contentment wherever I am, to do the work of loving wherever I am.

Whatever you’ve got going on, be on the lookout for both adventure and everyday rhythms in your life—and perhaps notice how they intersect. Can you find a spirit of adventure in running errands? Can you embrace a needed routine as you deal with a temporary health or housing situation? How can both speak to you right now?

I confess to a bit of jealousy over what Brooke’s family is doing right now. I felt a bit of envy creep up yesterday when Steph and I podcasted, as she shared off-mic her family’s plans to explore Europe for a few months later this year.

And yet, I woke up this morning at peace, content to watch the neighbors’ chickens over the fence pick for worms as I type this at my desk. I smiled when I woke up and saw my son whittling a stick in the living room, bowl in lap for the shavings, listening to an audiobook on earbuds.

Today, I’m working, having lunch with a friend, cleaning the kitchen, and watching the Olympics over dinner with my fam.

Be on the lookout for Brooke’s column soon here on AoS. And if you’d like my monthly letter, where I write more often than I do here these days, head here—it’ll go out in the next 48 hours.

11 Comments

  1. Anya

    I’ve followed Brooke, first in her blog and then her podcast with Ben, for years, and I love their work and continue to enjoy it, but I have to say this: it seems like most of the time when I follow someone who writes about simplicity and slowing down, eventually they go freelance, switch to a location-independent internet job, and/or pack up and move and travel and homeschool—and it becomes harder and harder for me to learn from their experiences. I’m a doctor who cares for the poor at a local clinic. My husband is a teacher. Our jobs are congruent with our values, but they are location-dependent, and our kids go to regular school—not homeschooling, not unschooling. I’m part-time so that we are around for our kids, but someone else controls my schedule and my husband’s schedule, and we’re fine with that, as it goes with our jobs. Our kids have quite a range of ages (4 to 17), so there’s that too—simplicity with teenagers is a fairly rare topic out there. 🙂 I wish there were more people (maybe on your blog or podcast?) writing about living simply who are, like us, someone else’s employee, with set hours that we have to work around to do the work we are called to do— not freelancing, not self-employed, not work-at-home, not digital nomads. With kids who go to school with a backpack and lunchbox each day. Maybe with older kids, even. I’m glad for those whose simplifying allows them to pursue the freelance, nomadic life, but advice for those of us who choose simplicity in a lifestyle that isn’t so independent and untethered would also be great. Just a thought, anyway. 🙂

    • Faith Newton

      I know what you mean. I’m also struck by how choices and meaningful work are so much easier for middle class people to be able to do than those with less money. We live in a poor community doing mission work with our local church.

    • Ane

      I’ve had almost the same thoughts, Anya. Sometimes it might seem like simplicity equals homeschooling and being self-employed. I am a teacher, and in much the same situation as you. Me and my partner both work in municipal jobs that are depending on us to show up there every day of the week at a certain time. My child has autism and goes to special school, which is a vital part of our life and his positive development. We have a daily routine that is punctuated by school and work. For me, being a teacher is a part of my identity, and it is important work that I would never give up. I also think it is vital that many (most) of us do regular jobs. If everyone was self-employed, society would not function. What I try to do when I read blogs on simple living, is to try to find a way of transferring the spirit of what is said into my own life. Being content with what you have and living a down to earth life can still be done in our situation, I think. We travel little, to save money and the environment, and try to do things in our local area and enjoy what we have here as much as we can. In the summer months, I bicycle to work. I make time to read for a while every evening, and I try to get home early from work a couple of times per week, to be able to do yoga before the rest of the family comes home. These are examples of what simplicity means in an “A4” life. Having said that, I agree with you that a simplicity blog written by a family like ours is needed! 🙂

  2. Rachel Nordgren

    I could not agree more. I’m currently sitting in a farmhouse in France, on a housesitting-across-Europe adventure with my husband and dog that doesn’t have a definitive end date. One of our main goals of the trip is to figure out where “home” is for us. There’s been this nagging sense of pressure that we need to have “it all figured out right this second,” but I’m so glad we’re taking this time to learn and grow on our own terms, and see the world while we’re at it.

  3. Naomi

    I so enjoy Brooke’s writing and experiments, but I too would love to hear more from regular people who live life in one place and are employed by someone else. It would be great to hear how others find time for their interests and taking care of themselves in the midst of full time work and life.

  4. Tsh Oxenreider

    Yep, I agree with all of you about needing to feature people who strive for simplicity within more predictable structure! There’s a certain irony with full-time internet people writing about this, isn’t there? 😉 In fact, this has been on my mind so much that I’ve come up with an idea I’m going to share here on AoS soon… Be looking for it! And I’ll link to it in the comments here as soon as it’s live.

    • Naomi

      Thank you! I love that you always are thinking of ways to grow, meet needs and are willing to try new things. 🙂

  5. Theresa

    I love this post! I find other people simply living a passionate life inspiring! Wether we are traveling out on a family adventure with no agenda or settled in our homes enjoying the rhythm of our daily routines, both bring balance and joy to life! I am a mom of 4 kids, 3 teens and a little. Our doors are always open so when I come home from my parttime job there are usually friends among the mix raiding the pantry and feeling at home. My husband and I have spent the last 4 years since our move here Decluttering which seems endless with 4 kids! We have slowly transformed this home into a space that feels like a breath is fresh air and more like us. We traveled to Europe to visit friends with our kids for the second time last summer. When we travel over seas we stay in each other’s homes and embrace each others culture and lifestyle and it is the BEST experience!!! I highly recommend doing this if you have any friends living in other countries. The kids can not wait to go back and friends become more like family.

  6. trina

    It’s interesting that you’re now inviting submissions. As soon as I read that first comment from Anya last month, I started putting together a response to her in essay form that I was going to send to you anyway.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! I’d love to read what you have to say. Please do submit. 🙂

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