Transitioning Back to “Real Life”

Written by Andrew Morrison

We’ve been home from Mexico for 11 days, and the transition back to real life, living in the States has not been easy. We had grown so accustomed to the simple life we found in Baja and recreating that life here is not as easy as we had hoped it would be. I suppose doing my taxes for the first three days back was not a great way to start the transition, but it had to be done!

mountain landscapeAfter spending several nights at a friend’s house, we began our search for a place to live. We had grand plans of finding the perfect house: no more than 900SF (which would of course feel huge to us after living in a tent trailer for four months), rent under $1000 (that’s a good deal for Ashland, Oregon which has an expensive housing market), and walking distance to downtown. Another option was to have the same style house, only slightly larger to accommodate our home office, outside of town so we could have some land to grow our food and spread our wings. Our vision of what we wanted seemed perfect.

It was then that reality started to set in. The first reality of the US housing market was that our town doesn’t really have any houses under 1200 SF that are habitable. People just don’t really build houses that “small” where we live. Sure, there are a few here or there, but they seemed to disappear as quickly as they hit the market. The college students and single folks in town seemed to snatch them up before we could raise our hands as interested! In the end, we got a house bigger than we wanted, but we have plans on how to use and not use that space. We will NOT be filling it up with “stuff.” Instead, we plan to bring our things into the house little by little, introducing things only as we actually need them. After all, we know we don’t need 5 wooden spoons in the kitchen when just one can do the job. That, of course, is a metaphor for the bigger picture as well.

The rental house is just a small part of the discomfort in our return. The draw of things like TV (which I hate) and internet are huge when fully immersed in the society. We have been staying at hotels and the “on button” of the TV seems to get bigger at each stop. It’s like a siren calling us in only to crash our boat upon the rocky shores. I admit we turned it on last night and were actually quite pleased with what we found: “Nature” on PBS with a wonderful show about whales and dolphins. Absolutely worth watching. I didn’t bother to try for anything else although I did flip through just to see what was on. The answer: garbage.

I’m sad to see how much effort it is taking me to stay in the simple life. I really thought it would be easier. I’m sad, but I’m not giving up. I know how wonderful it is to live that life and I have every intention of staying in that space. I just need to learn how to make the adjustment to living a slow paced, simple existence while in the middle of a fast paced, crazy environment.  It starts with breathing and finding my center. From there, everything is possible.

14 Responses

  1. Glad you found somewhere to hang your hats, I’d love to see pictures. Guess that no TV forever vow didn’t last long 🙂 Just poking fun. I think TV is like anything else, a little bit of the good stuff is fine. I LOVE PBS and a few other channels and a small amount of it brings a lot to our lives. I agree the other 99.8% is pure garbage, potato chips of the mind. But nothing wrong with a little informative, artistic TV. And the occasional “Real Housewives of NJ” (kidding). Anyway don’t worry, you’re in a big transition, it can’t be beach living in Baja, but I bet you’ll be in a life you love in no time, adjusting the dials to fit OR and your vision too. xoxo

  2. Back to the unreal world!!! life is about joining the dots from one heart felt idea to the next. Have a look at permaculture it has answered the question of how to set up the real world you are looking for. A great teacher and thinker such as yourself could really move the idea along. Heaps of Love.

  3. Andrew …. Trying to re create Baja ? 900 sq,ft, ? and little or no TV …Really ?
    Were just about doing that now. And we live in Ventura Ca, in the hills above the “rat race” Our home is right around 1,400 sq,ft, (yes 500 sq,ft, more than you desire) But honestly it’s still small compared to other “Mc Mansions” in our canyon. One new home we can see from our yard is over 5,500 sq,ft, five fireplaces ! and the list is too long to mention all the other issues with it.
    We also don’t watch TV …. Only movies and wonderful documentaries that we get for free from our local library ! FREE ! We don’t even get network TV . Just the DVD player. I never thought i would say “Im unpluged” from TV ! But were going on month # 8 ! It’s not that we can’t afford the 30 plus bucks a month for “crap” TV. It’s just that I would rather spend or SAVE that 30 bucks a month ! There are wonderful movies and great educational programs ! After all mi amigo ….. I must say … One of my favorite prgrams was watching your DVDs ! And will again ! (Had to say that LOL )
    No one said the “simple life” was easy to find or do. Don’t be in such a rush to find or do it. Remind yourself … while you were in Baja , That you still had a conection to this world. I may be wrong ….. But would that 4 month adventure reaaly have taken place without your internet conection to your office and friends and family ? Just saying amigo. We were in Baja for two months once and had no conections at all ! And when we came back we felt the way do. But what you learned has made a mark on you and your family ! What you learned in Baja WILL be put to use when the right door opens up ! You know what it takes … And you will find it !
    We have our “small” home. But i think what makes it nice for us is our outdoor enviroment ! Gardens , fruit trees , And a wonderful view ! We feel our view is very important to us. It’s so nice to hang our laundry and look up and see our local red tail hawks flying overhead ! Our outdoor area is our outlet ! Not to mention we can walk out the back yard and be in the hills and canyons for a nice getawy hike !
    So mi amigo …. Im sure you will find a great location for your new way of living . Because you have lived it and now you know what you need. Im sure it will come along brother ! Our home here in Ventura did !
    And try not to split the hair (so to speak) Two wooden spoons arn’t all that bad … We collect art . We just rotate it … When we get tired of one …. We put it away and put up anther one …
    It will work for ya … Use that other tool you learned how to use in Baja ……….
    ….. r e l a x and slow down brother . The rest will come natrualy ….. Peace to ya ! Jim

  4. so good to keep hearing of your happenings. agree totally about tv. only watch pbs. can’t imagine what anerica is really like when so many support the garbage tv on regular network. but have tuned into colbert on hulu. great stuff. downsizing is real hard. been doing it for over five years. tryed to escape the big city in a small rv and had no room for everything. back in city again missed family who need to work here. continue to downsize even more for my next escape. sold the rv so it’s foot power and reading your adventures for now. some talk on straw bale n. america about finding land where a group could build and live. looking for more input on that.

  5. Hi Liza. Keep up the effort! I don’t have any specifics on the group land/build aspect; however, I know there are lots of options for you if you can find them. You may do some searches on Google under community living+straw bale and see what comes up. Best of luck to you!

  6. Hi Andrew,

    It is great that you were able to get out of the rat race to Baja and experience a simpler lifestyle. We get so used to and so dependant on this life in North America that we hardly know that there is anything else. When I was 19 I took a cross country trip on my motorcycle from Ontario to BC. It was six weeks of freedom and simplicity with my camping gear and $1000 saved. Back then I wanted to escape from society and go live in the wilderness I watched to much Grizzly Adams on TV in my teens). It did not work out.
    Now in my early 50’s after raising 4 kids I am trying to get out of the rat race again, give up my computer job and make a simpler life of simplicity and self sustainability. I’ve purchased 2 acres in the country and want to build a simple home out there (perhaps strawbale – got your videos). I want to be mortgage free, off the grid, and live off the land like my farming ancestors did before me.

    May God grant you the desires of your heart.

    Ron Fischer,
    Edmonton, AB

  7. Thanks for updating us on your exercise in living with less. When we return from the Philippines, we will be experiencing the same. Please keep updating!

  8. Andrew, I just read your blog about reentering life in the USA, trying to find a small house within walking distance of town, and I wish you had moved into my 1904-vintage house on Anderson Heights Road in Charleston, WV. It’s small, with lots of wooded space around it, on a secluded one-way road that passes a mountain stream waterfall. I’m asking $900 a month in rent. Installing all hardwood floors next week and top of the line energy efficient windows. Would love to have you for a neighbor! Still work to do on the outside before the house will be revealed fully as the charming place that it is. Oh, and it’s about a mile from downtown Charleston. BUT the reason I read your blog is my interest in straw bale construction, and the fact that you should know about the second Mid-Atlantic Energy Efficient Building Conference, coming up January 31-Feb 2 in Morgantown, WV. We’re planning the program right now, and think you could make an important and interesting contribution. I’m presuming you can see my email address, so if you’re interested–in the house 🙂 or the conference– please contact me

  9. Thanks Rebecca for the info on both accounts. No plans to move to WV a;lthough I know it is an amazing place and my wife and I considered moving there in 1997. Anyway, I also received your email and my wife and I are discussing the conference (well, we are emailing about it now as I’m in Australia, but we will discuss it in detail when I get back). We will be in touch after I return from Australia.

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