This post was originally titled “Saying No, Just For Now”. But that’s too final for what we want to talk about. We learned that there’s no shame in putting things on hold if they don’t fit in our life right now. It’s not about saying “no”, but prioritizing what is important and what is not. If we cannot commit to something 100%, maybe we will sometime in the future. Saying “not yet” leaves space for something to return when it does finally fit. There’s nothing stopping a goal or dream from returning. But for now, it must be let go.
2016 has been a year of change for Team Rustic Walks. It was our first full year of living together, which gave us a surprising insight into what was working for us and what wasn’t. Things like spending willy-nilly, letting our health decline, and filling our home with excess stuff. We saw these problems, and we made a pledge to fix them. By the end of 2016, we wanted to give ourselves space physically and mentally to figure out what’s truly important.
The 2016 Election has certainly been a doozy for anyone that has followed it. With division and dissent at what feels like an all-time high, it’s easy to become jaded with the entire political process. Most Americans believe that Washington doesn’t care about them and their needs. It’s all corporations, special interests, and lobbyists running the show. No one considers the struggles of the average American and their community.
We’ve all seen the headlines crediting the revitalization of cities to millennials. Yes, those pourover-sipping, blanket-scarf-wearing, bicycle-riding young people want easy access to jobs, culture, and community. They want walkable neighborhoods, fancy coffee shops, and boutique stores selling artisan crafts. Where’s the easiest place to find all these things? Surprisingly, it’s not where you would expect.
We live on the top floor of our apartment building. The roof has a cooling unit for the building’s A/C that makes a constant whining sound. Imagine someone blowing a vuvuzela into your living room 24/7. The offending noise lasts from April through November, and despite repeated attempts to get the issue fixed, we still suffer through it year after year. We told ourselves we didn’t mind it. Temporary discomfort isn’t a big deal. Every apartment has its quirks, right? But even as we try to ignore it, the noise has been slowly breaking down our sanity.
We didn’t realize how bad it was until recently. One Sunday morning we woke up, lazed around in bed, and noticed it was quiet. Unsettlingly quiet. It took a moment for us to notice the buzzing sound had stopped. A weight lifted off our shoulders. This is what silence feels like! We could open our windows without the droning noise assaulting our ears. Music didn’t have buzzing mingling with the bass line. Our moods dramatically improved. For two blissful hours, we saw what it’s like to not have that noise disrupt our lives. We experienced what it would be like to improve our surroundings. And most importantly, we learned it was worth it. That weekend kicked off the hunt for our new apartment. Without it, we may have continued to live in discomfort even though we deserve better.
After we started our first jobs out of college, we fell victim to some serious lifestyle inflation. We were living large by traveling several times per year, buying clothes and electronics just for fun, and eating out almost every day. Of course we budgeted for these expenses, but we didn’t realize we were left with little leftover at the end of the month and living paycheck-to-paycheck. We just wondered where all of our money went!
Despite all of this, we thought we were smart with our money. We paid off our credit cards every month. We never bought anything we couldn’t afford, although there’s been some close calls! No matter what we always stashed away an emergency fund. Aside from those Personal Finance 101 principles, we thought we were free to spend the rest of our money. There’s no harm in living a little in your twenties! That’s what social media and advertisements told us. Have as much fun as you can before you hit thirty and have to start worrying about kids and mortgage payments.
At some point, we looked at our paltry savings accounts and wondered if we were going overboard. We thought about our future goals and how much money it would take to get there. Things like our cabin in the woods, early retirement, and side projects we’ve considered but never pursued. How can we possibly save for these goals if we fritter away our hard-earned money? We found examples of people who have created the life we envision without going broke, like Frugalwoods and Our Next Life. We were inspired to get our act together and start saving as much as we can.
Picture this: a log cabin tucked in 20 acres of mountain woods, with nothing but sprawling landscapes for miles. Waking up and savoring a cup of coffee on the porch that overlooks a grove, or a tranquil lake, or a quiet stream. Building a simple life that doesn’t revolve around commuting times, but around the things that most require our attention. Family, health, and contribution. Feeling purpose in tending the land – plowing, harvesting, building, sustaining. Creating a home that is more than the 2,000 square-foot, manufactured, white-picket-fence dream for which we’re told to aspire.
When I moved to Washington, D.C. with nothing but two suitcases, I brought with me almost $20,000 in student loan debt. I knew I had taken out student loans during college, but like so many bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduates I had no plan for how to pay them.
For starters, I wanted them paid off early – by 2018. I absolutely did not want these loans hanging over my head for a decade. Five years would be plenty of time to make steady monthly payments while also building up other financial priorities. So I plugged my timeline into Mint and devoted any extra funds I could toward paying down my debt.
We’re a couple of city-slicking outdoor enthusiasts who want a simpler life out of our urban lifestyle. Our dream is to explore national parks, learn to DIY, and save for a cabin in the woods. We don’t want to rush through life without appreciating the world around us. Why can’t we focus on things that bring us joy?
We will document our journey toward the simple things, including every stumble and mishap along the way. Our goal is a life where we can choose how to spend our time and how we experience the world. We want a life where we can stop chasing societal expectations and, instead, embrace fulfillment.