Thu 10 Aug 2006
Joel and I have been in the US for a couple of months now, as you can probably tell from our lack of posts recently. What happened was, we got really busy. We got busy because we stopped living our simple life right about the time we arrived in the US. We keep asking ourselves how it happened – how did we go from living such a simple life to being as busy as we are now? We’re chasing time again and in this post I’ll share everything we’ve realized after our experience.
Drivin’ My Life Away
The first thing we noticed was driving. In Saba, we never had to drive anywhere – well, admittedly, we have no car in Saba! But we don’t need one because our cottage is so close to everything. The destinations that require a car are few – perhaps Wells Bay and scuba diving – both easily reached by car or hitch hiking.
King of the Road
The minute we arrived in the US, we started driving…and driving…and driving. 2 hours from the airport to our home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 15 minutes one way to the grocery store. 3 hours to Boston for some of the classes and conveniences. And more driving for business trips. It was shocking how different it was to have all those miles of road to drive – quite a difference from a 5 square mile island!
Fluff and Fold
Another big shocker was the difference in small things. For example, we have a washer and dryer here. Instead of washing our clothes in the sink and hanging them to dry at the perfect time to catch the sun, we can throw them into the washer and dryer any time of the day or night. Somehow, it didn’t seem like a big time saver to have the washer and dryer though, since Phyllis, part of the dynamic duo who takes care of our cottage, washes the sheets and towels.
Another example is going to the grocery store. It’s about the same distance from our cottage to the Big Rock Market in Saba as it is from the parking lot into the giant mecca of food and necessities that is Shaw’s in New Hampshire. In fact, it takes longer to walk around in Shaws than it does to get to the store from our cottage. Shopping in the US is so much more work and takes more planning. In Saba, if we forget something, we can just walk right back and grab what we need. And if we are getting back from hiking and don’t have cash? In Saba, we just put it on our tab. So easy.
- The dishwasher. We have one in NH, but in Saba, Joel and I are the dishwashers.
- Water – plenty of well water in New Hampshire and limited from our cistern in Saba. We aren’t the only people we know who’ve returned from Saba and had to relearn to flush the toilet for #1 (you may remember the saying, “In the land of sun and fun, we do not flush for #1.”)
- Internet – although it’s pretty good in Saba, it’s soooo much faster in NH.
- Phones – The phone situation is a lot easier here, with free long distance on the land lines and faster internet making skype and Packet 8 higher quality.
- Television – we have access to as much television as we want here because cable is easier to get, however, we broke our TV habit in Saba and are reluctant to go back.
- Computer Gaming – yes, Joel is at it again. Multi-player first person shooter gaming that requires high speed internet and often eats up hours of time. (I know, and yes, he is in his thirties!).
More Means More
Just as all things can be looked at as positive or negative, there are two sides to the Saba vs. US coin. Many of you may read this and say, it looks like it’s so much easier in NH – We thought it would be too – and in many ways it is. However, as we entered the land of plenty, something funny happened. We wanted more. We wanted to do more, to buy more and to take advantage of more. There were more people to see – friends, colleagues, family, etc. More things to do – classes, events, movies, travel. And guess what? We totally got into it – not like the consumers we used to be in the old days, but we still revved it up quite a bit upon arrival.
Oh, and it’s been raining and cold almost non-stop since we got back. We miss our Saban sunshine!
Like anything else, it’s all about choices. We were presented with more of everything and we wanted it all. In Saba, we had access to very little and wanted nothing. So my lesson is, look less at the outside and more on the inside. I’ve started to check in with myself more, to see how I’m feeling – before I choose to do anything. If just the thought of it makes me feel busy, boxed in and stressed, I let it go. I am starting to love the letting go now, rather than the need to grab on to every opportunity, every bit of fun that might come my way. In an abundant world, if we truly trust our ability to have everything we need, it’s easier to let things go. That’s our biggest lesson.
Here’s a few others – try these to have a simpler, “on island” style life:
- In Joel’s words, TV is a time waster. That’s what he said last week when we were in Utah and he watched for a few hours in the hotel room. Suddenly he looked at the clock and saw that 3 hours went by.
- Catalogs – throw them out before you even get home. Our post office has recycling bins in the lobby that are so for getting rid of the pounds of catalogs we receive. Joel tries to sneak home with the LL Bean catalog every time, however. I guess it could be worse, he leaves the Victoria’s Secret at the Post Office!
- Internet/computer – turn it off. Set a time and turn it off so that you can wind down at night before bed. The light from the computer is picked up by your pineal gland in the brain and makes it harder to get to sleep. This is the big challenge for me, but I’m making progress.
- Just one day – see if you can get just one day to yourself – no errands allowed. One day of fun and relaxation is great for your mind and body. See what happens if you make a commitment to do this for a few weeks.
- Avoid consumerism – try taking a month and buying nothing, except the essentials like food, of course! See how it feels to buy nothing. Is it easy? Difficult? What comes up for you when you think about buying nothing for a month? How would your wallet benefit?
- Stay close to home – do something close to home, rather than driving to find something fun to do. Have an indoor or outdoor picnic. Make a simple, healthy meal. Play soft music. Pretend there is nowhere to go and enjoy all the things you said you’d do if you only had time.
- Wind down at night – turn the lights down low by 8:30 pm and do gentle, quiet activities. Go to bed early, blocking out all the light that might shine from nightlight, alarm clock or computer. Experience total darkness for your sleep and wake up early. See how refreshed you feel if you do this for a few nights – maybe over the weekend when things are less busy.
- Get out – enjoy the outdoors, maybe do a bit of hiking. Feel the earth under your feet, breathe in the fresh air. Communing with nature is one of the things I miss most about the indoor-outdoor lifestyle in Saba.
These are just a few tips – you may have some of your own and if so, please share! We are looking forward to returning to Saba for our simple life. Until then, it’s fun to practice new habits so that we can live an on island life, even when away.