LEAVING THE CITY, HITTING THE ROAD: OUR PATH TO SUSTAINABLE LIVING
About two years ago Dustin and I realized we needed to re-evaluate our life’s trajectory. We’ve long been attracted to sustainable living – but as we found out, following this path would require a lot of change.
When we met in college, we thought we knew exactly where our lives would take us. We’d graduate, start our careers, buy a nice house, and save for retirement. Sounds like the dream, right?
Well, for the first few years after graduating, things were great. I worked as an Environmental Scientist and Dustin as a Construction Manager, both for well-respected companies. We didn’t foresee our state of happiness changing. After landing these jobs, we got a beautiful apartment in New Orleans. In our free time, we enjoyed the fruits of the city – dinners with friends, shopping, parties, festivals. It was everything we thought we wanted.
However, things took a turn in a way we weren’t expecting. Our dreams were unraveling and within four years we found ourselves leaving New Orleans in a campervan. Here’s why we made that move and how it transformed our lives.
OPTING FOR A NEW DREAM
New Orleans is an incredible city – full of culture, great food, and fascinating people. But, as with any city, it can be consuming and expensive. We found ourselves caught in the daily grind just to maintain our lifestyle. We increasingly felt disconnected from our friends and – worst of all – from each other. Our relationship began to buckle under the pressure. Everything came to a head when Dustin came home from work and found me in a fetal position on the couch, mid-panic attack. There was no denying it – we weren’t happy.
| “We realized it was time for us to renegotiate our living circumstances.”
There were many things contributing to our overall feeling of dissatisfaction: stressing about finances, chasing material things, comparing our lives to the perceived successes of others, and our careers – we weren’t following our passions and making a difference the way we wanted to. In a nutshell, we lost touch with our core values. We made no room for us in our lives.
We found ourselves at a crossroads. That’s when we realized it was time for us to renegotiate our living circumstances.
VANLIFE: OUR HOME ON WHEELS
The prospect of leaving everything behind was exciting, but the uncertainty was scary. We worked hard to build the lives we had. Would we be able to pick up where we left off? We worried what our colleagues and peers would think of us. But when we weighed the pros and cons, the former outweighed the latter. So, we decided to take a year off.
| “As radical as it sounds… it was liberating.”
Within two months, we quit our jobs, sold most of our possessions, and bought a campervan fitted out with everything we needed. As radical as it sounds, it was liberating. We set out to explore America’s national parks, a dream Dustin and I had always shared. Our first night in the van we wondered if we had made the right choice.
Over the next few months, feelings of isolation crept in. Although we were waking up in some of the most beautiful places in the country, we still felt lost and empty. We were questioning our every move – worried about our careers and the perceptions of others. The problem – we were holding on to the belief that life had to be structured a certain way. This attachment to expectations held us back from falling in love with the present moment, with the dream we were living in the here and now. In a way, I think we were grieving the life we left behind. Deep down, we knew we needed to let go. And when we did, things would never be the same.
| “…we began to embrace all the possibilities.”
I’ve always had a close relationship with nature. And over the course of the next few months, the national parks we were exploring became places of reflection and tough questions. Somewhere in Yellowstone, it dawned on me – life isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you are. The thing is, we were focused too much on what we were doing, and it became our identity. Once we put our happiness at the forefront, we began to embrace all the possibilities.
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These realizations brought on a newfound sense of clarity and purpose. Our lives became more intentional. We stopped seeking external validation and started re-aligning ourselves with our core values. We began settling into our van and enjoying a life of simplicity. Cooking a meal in our tiny kitchen became a fun challenge, rather than a messy chore. Everything we needed was within reach. Our home was always with us.
| “Living with less gave us the mental space and energy to recreate our lives.”
Pursuing a life of minimalism was not our intention when we started this journey. But we discovered that living with less gave us the mental space and energy to recreate our lives in a way we never knew we could. Less time working meant more time with each other. Fewer chores meant more adventures. We now had the room to pursue passions that had taken a back seat. I’ve always loved photography, so I invested in a DSLR that has since become an extension of my arm.
It may seem counterintuitive, but living with less has given us so much. Minimalism has made us more open, adaptable, and attentive to our present circumstances. Also, the more we’ve embraced simplicity, the more we’ve become aware of our consumption habits and the need for sustainability.
THE PURSUIT OF SUSTAINABLE LIVING
The challenges of living sustainably in our lifestyle are unique. We’re forced to be creative and intentional with our actions. You see, our home is practically in the outdoors, so eco-consciousness has become our way of life. I’m sure you can agree, and it’s true for all of us, in our day-to-day lives we make small decisions that impact the environment and our pockets.
Through our travels and living in the outdoors, we have witnessed first-hand the detrimental effects of unsustainable practices. Whether it’s camping, fishing, tourism, or technology – Dustin and I are constantly seeking new ideas and methods to minimize our impact on the environment.
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