While I try not to repeat myself too much, there will be some inevitable overlap with this post and the one I wrote on introducing minimalism. Because the more I make these adjustments in my life, the more I learn that these things I’m striving for – minimalism, simple living, sustainability, zero waste, etc. all seem to go hand in hand. When you minimize your possessions, you realize exactly how much waste is going into the world. When you learn to live more simply, getting rid of unnecessary belongings comes so much more naturally. When you have less items, you want the items you own you to be of good quality and sustainable, reusable materials. And so on…
When I wrote about minimalism, I mentioned how I had suddenly found myself going from a 2,000sqft house to a 700sqft apartment, and what it taught me about living with less. During this transition, I learned just how much stock I had put into stuff. In fact, I had spent the majority of my adult years living my life around possessions, and usually what was most appealing to others / popular, and not necessarily what I wanted or found joy in. Living your life for others is exhausting. I am finally learning (at almost 30) that I do not need to do this. Sounds simple, right? It should be. But my fellow people-pleasers can probably relate: it’s damn difficult to let go of the “yes yes yes” mentality, always catering to others and instead focus on what you want and need. I still suck at it, truly. But I’m finally learning how to listen to myself and make adjustments in my life that bring me closer to who I want to be as a human being sharing this Earth with 7.5 billion other human beings.
Now, for the real point of this post: how To The Trees got its roots…har har. After making all of these profound realizations, I was diving head-first into living with more minimal possessions, focusing on my impact on the environment, and just in general trying to simplify and slow things down.
This is especially difficult when you live in a concrete jungle that just happens to be the 5th largest city in the United States. It is brown, it is hot, and in general I’m finding it really hard to live the slow, simple life I was dreaming of in a busy, traffic-filled, overcrowded city. I have this in common with Jacob, and so we started talking about the possibility of a future where the grass is greener (literally). We are spreadsheet nerds, so we started a shared Google doc called “To The Trees” where we posted all sorts of random information: vacation spots that would bring us closer to nature, research, home ideas, articles, etc. all geared towards one day, eventually, maybe in like 10 years, living out our pipe dream of moving to a smaller, simpler place, somewhere among the trees (and water).
I always hear that you shouldn’t run from your problems. Accept what you have, practice gratitude, stop always chasing more. I struggled with my desire for a change in the wake of that age-old advice. But I started to ask myself: what if I’m not running from, but rather running to? I felt as if I wasn’t chasing more, I was chasing just enough. Just enough to make my life feel fulfilling, instead of a monotonous grind. Just enough that I could take a deep breath and smell trees, sea air, or a burning wood stove rather than smog, dust and gasoline. Just enough that I can walk or bike to the grocery store and not have to drive everywhere. In wanting more, I was really wanting less. I finally accepted that wanting to chase that dream for myself doesn’t make me a bad or selfish person. I stopped listening to what “everyone says” and started listening to myself, and what was best for me, my partner, and our happiness.
When we visited Montana for a friend’s wedding earlier this year, it felt silly to be gawking out the window at all the trees and grass, but it really drove home the idea that our best life will be lived somewhere with cleaner air, forests in place of freeways and natural bodies of water (rather than man-made lakes, dyed blue – I wish I were kidding!). When I decided to start this blog, we tossed around a bunch of names, struggling with finding something that fit until I finally suggested, “Why don’t we just name it after the spreadsheet? After all, that’s what started all of this.” And so, To The Trees was born.
When we will make this grand leap into the green unknown, I don’t know. We have our ideas, but with nothing set in stone, we are working on trying to water our own grass right here, as long as we’re here. This means things like waiting until the sun goes down and walking the dogs in 100 degrees rather than 115, pretending it’s cool outside. We stand outside during the (rare) rainstorms and soak them up. We take trips up north as frequently as possible to spend time in nicer temperatures and the pine trees. We enjoy time with our families as much as we can. We send each other Reddit posts and Pinterest pins of places and talk about them as we settle in for the night, imagining what it would be like to be there.
I should clarify: what makes our desired grass green is different from others, and that’s completely okay! I have a friend in Seattle who can’t wait to be in the constant sunshine and heat after years of the rain. On the Minimalists podcast last week, a girl called in to say that she visited Phoenix and fell in love with the city (if you’re interested, it was #191 – Common Ground). I couldn’t believe it, and laughed at first, thinking, “Who could ever love this place?!” But then I remembered, amidst those 7.5 billion people are 7.5 billion opinions and beliefs and preferences. And there are redeeming things about literally everywhere. If you’ve lived somewhere with chilling winters buried in feet of snow, I could see how the heat of Arizona would be appealing. Or if you grew up your whole life in a town with one street light and nothing nearby, I can see how a huge city would be new, exciting, and full of things to do!
Well, this post has gotten a bit rambly. I guess it just helps me to write out my thought process of how I got here. And maybe someday we’ll look back and say, “Hey, remember when we started talking about it and realized that we could up and move to Location TBD? And we did it!” But for now, I’ll just be here dreaming of Location TBD and our journey to the trees…