We bought a zoo. Okay, it’s actually a farm. Or maybe just a large plot of land surrounded by neighbors who keep horses and sheep and goats. My husband and I aren’t really sure what we are going to do with all the space just that we really want to live differently to the way we have been living.
Around this time last year, I watched a TED video about a man who went home one night and asked his wife, “What does freedom mean to you?” Shortly, after they sold everything in their home, put their last few belongings in backpacks, and went travelling with their toddler for a year around Australia. He spoke about how they decided that living their dreams now held more importance to them than putting off their dreams till they felt they could afford them.
I went home and asked my husband the same question, “What does freedom mean to you?” He looked at me like I was mad and went back to replying to emails. I sighed, and thought, their goes my opportunity to travel through Australia.
Three months later, we were told for the third time in our two year-old marriage that my husband has cancer. A diagnosis of a dread disease makes you reevaluate a lot of things in your life. Cancer put into focus for me the fact that I can find ways to make more money but it is impossible to make more time. When we were married I thought we would grow old travelling the world together but his diagnosis made me realize that I had to make a choice not to let work become more important than spending moments with loved ones.
This latest diagnosis made us start thinking about whether it was possible to make more time by making less money. We realized it would mean a change in lifestyle. We started talking about what freedom means to us. Actually we pulled out a journal and scrawled, “what living life fully looks like for us” on the top and then began to jot down the things that were important to us.
Later from the numerous things we wrote, six main themes emerged that we both agreed made our lives fuller:
- A home to share life with people we love
- Opportunities to do things together
- Finding ways to appreciate God in easy and hard times
- Being open to experiencing new places and things
- Surrounding ourselves with natural beauty
- And doing work that has a purpose
As we looked at that list we realized that in many areas of our life we had been trading in the things we valued most, like spending time with people, for a bigger paycheck at the end of the month. So we sat down with our budget and began to look at the things we paid for but didn’t really need. The first to go was the TV subscription, then we looked at our grocery bill and worked out we could eat for less by consuming more vegetables, and shopping at a cheaper grocery store.
We reduced our living expenses to such an extent that we started talking about changing our working hours in order to have more time to do things on our list that fell under the category of experiencing new places and things. My husband had two jobs at the time. Both were contracts that he did from home with similar incomes, but one caused him a lot of stress while the other was low stress and very flexible about location. He quit the high stress job and rather secured a few smaller, less stressful contracts in his same field.
I have taken a position at my current company which is more flexible and not location based. The salary isn’t as good as full-time, desk bound job but the benefits of being able to do things together in new places has been worth the paycut for us.
We also decided to move back to my husbands’ hometown. He grew up on the beach and was missing the sea air, watching his nephews growing up and having something to do on the weekend besides going to the shops. Since our “living fully” list had shown us that spending time in natural beauty energized us we looked for a new home in a more rural location. We often chat about what we will do with all the land but both of us feel freedom.
My husband and I are not radical minimalists. We don’t plan to build a house with recycled materials or start cycling everywhere, although part of me wishes I were brave enough to live off the grid. We are just ordinary people who have chosen to live more simply so that we can be more generous with our time. Together we have made a choice to be able to do more things, see more places and be more present. This is what freedom means to us, what does it mean to you and what would it take for you to live the life you want?
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