Living with Less is More
The freedom of choice
By Rosie Wolf Williams
After my long-term relationship ended and I quickly had to come up with new living arrangements, I took a long hard look at my finances. I had committed a large amount of trust, and money, to the idea of building a life with my partner. We both lived in Canada and he sponsored my application to become a permanent resident. But when it all ended, the sponsorship was withdrawn, so my direction pointed back to the United States, my home country.
I was 60, and I’ve never been one to act out of desperation. So I looked at the options I had and what I wanted to accomplish, and made the choice I thought would get results in the best way possible. My freelance income landed nowhere near the comfort zone, and my debt had grown while building new roots in Canada. I had a houseful of furnishings, tools, and family memories stacked in a storage unit in Vermont. But they were merely an inconvenience at this point – I had been paying rent on that storage unit, waiting to settle in somewhere. I knew I had to come up with a new plan.
Once an item left the storage unit, I didn’t miss it – it was on its own new adventure to a different place! Things are simply things, and don’t define who I am.
So I took what might seem like drastic measures to some. I sold or gave away most of the contents of the storage unit. A dear friend had loved my old Mexican pine dining table for years, and it now lives in her dining room. I sold a little 12-inch electric mower to a woman who had a daughter living with Down Syndrome. Her daughter wanted to help her in the yard, and she was able to push the little mower with her limited strength. Canning jars and equipment went to a gardening friend, and I packed and shipped family heirlooms and photos to my children. I sent tools to a “tool library” in my town. Once an item left the storage unit, I didn’t miss it – it was on its own new adventure to a different place! Things are simply things, and don’t define who I am.
When the charity truck came to haul away the rest of the furniture and other household items, there was a brief moment when I thought, “Wait! I’ve changed my mind!” But I remembered a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” Things are simply things, and they don’t define who I am. I kept only a few things – my sewing machine, clothing, bedding, and a simple collection of tools.
Then I bought a decrepit 1967 Aristocrat tow-behind camper. I named her Ruby – she was 90 square feet of living space wrapped in red and white aluminum sheet metal. And she was mine, paid in full. I towed her to my son’s home in Georgia from Vermont for the winter.
My son and I set to work fashioning the camper into a livable space. We rebuilt walls that were dry-rotted or had no structure at all. The old kitchenette came out after we found the back wall was completely rotted, and we fashioned a new workspace out of plywood. The original dinette booth became a single bench seat for one, and my son built a folding table that I could use for work. I splurged for a new mattress for the back of the camper. While I stayed at my son’s, I worked as much as I could, chipping away at the debt I had accrued while in Canada. No matter what happened, this new adventure would help me learn and grow. Then I set off with a full tank of gas and no itinerary.
My dog, Fae, traveled with me, taking her place on the floor (and under my feet) of the tiny space. I worked at my folding table, remembering the love my son put into making it just right for me. I noticed too that I worked through the day at a slower pace, and I was more deliberate and thoughtful. I finally completed lessons and became certified as a Reiki practitioner. After renting a storage unit for my “stuff” for several years, I found I wanted to pare down even more to comfortably fit into the 13-foot-long camper. Really, who needs more than 7 pairs of socks? I cooked with only a small skillet and a saucepan. Meals were deliberate, simple, frugal, with minimal waste. Everything that has remained with me was important or useful. Home was not a place. It was a feeling.
I learned some difficult lessons about relationships and trust, and I healed from them. And I realized how innovative and strong I am.
In the grand scheme of things, I’ve faced bigger challenges. My decision to reduce and eventually eliminate my debt would release me to have even more adventures in the future (and I still have 30 more years to have them!). I learned some difficult lessons about relationships and trust, and I healed from them. And I realized how innovative and strong I am.
Relationships end, whether through death, divorce or other sorts of events. Problems are solved, or we evolve as a result. Money is energy, and as such, it moves in and out. I thought my latest relationship was my last, and that it would survive until one of us passed away. But it wasn’t, and my plans had to change as well. We may not be responsible for the things that happen to us and around us, but we are responsible for our reactions to those changes. Don’t let your view in the rearview mirror keep you from moving forward.
Even a month on the road will change your life. You will embrace the solitude. You find out who you are along the way, what is important to you.
My goal had been to live in Ruby for another year. But my journey was cut short when the coronavirus pandemic changed the world. I had crossed into Canada from the United States, so I parked Ruby in the driveway of a little cottage belonging to a good friend.
My dog died. I made more changes to my plans. I’m heading back to the United States in a few weeks, ready for a new adventure. Ready to let the camper go, and settle in somewhere for a while.
It is what it is. We do what we do. It’s a hippie way of looking at things, yes, but the treasure really isn’t living in the camper – it’s in the choices.
Even a month on the road will change your life. You will embrace the solitude. You find out who you are along the way, what is important to you, and how much you love your “people.” And those “people” are everywhere – your own family watching your progress and waiting to hear about your next stop; the woman who hands you a couple of apples “for the road” when she finds out you are a solo female traveler; the couple in the RV in the next camping spot who leave dog biscuits on the truck hood; and the friends who open their doors and their hearts to you when needed.
You might even gain a different perspective on the world around you. For example, have you looked with disdain on the homeless? You may feel more compassion for them after setting off on the road and trying to find somewhere to safely park. Are you used to having a bathroom with a shower and toilet? Finding bathrooms and places to wash up, even drinking water sources, are not easy sometimes (and the homeless have this problem as well).
Instead of looking for a home, my home is now anywhere I want to be. My debt is smaller. My world is much, much bigger.
About the Writer
Rosie Wolf Williams is a freelance content writer, speaker, and author of the book “The Thought of You: The Art of Being Alive!” She plans to live next to a canal for the rest of the year.
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