The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.
“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.
Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.
Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.
“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.
“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.
I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.
By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.
“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.
As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.
First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.
Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.
Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.
A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.
A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.
As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.
A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.
I’m so excited to share all I’ve learned via The Vegan Dollar’s forthcoming YouTube channel, where I’ll review hacks and practical tips, and talk about the mind-blowing lessons I’ve internalized when it comes to spending, saving and turning the status quo on its ugly little head.
Do I know what I’m doing? Not really. Does it feel “too soon” to take the leap? Absolutely. Am I scared? Um, YES. Do I let those things stop me anymore?
HECK TO THE NO.
At the risk of sounding saccharine, it’s been both a bumpy and beautiful road to get to a place where I feel comfortable honoring my soul’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudging, and through The Vegan Dollar, I hope to empower others to explore and actualize their dream lives.
Starting March 13th, Uncle Jesse and I hit the open road. While there are so many exciting unknowns ahead, I DO know the coming months will include…
Anything you want to see me cover on The Vegan Dollar? What does chasing your dreams look like?
It’s eight steps from my living room loveseat to the bathroom.
Seven steps from the bathroom to my bed.
Twenty-four steps -two flights down- from my kitchenette to the front door.
Over the past fourteen years, since graduating college, I’ve moved five times, had eight jobs, four broken hearts, one marriage, one divorce, run two marathons, lost and gained several hundred pounds, said goodbye to five loved ones (including one dog), written two books and 407 blog posts, gotten two advanced degrees, and traveled to three different continents.
Sometimes when things feel stale or stagnant, I review that list and remember: life is always changing. A notion that used to send me into the fetal position now puts a skip in my step. Thank god things are always changing.
No matter how many things we try to track and count, or how many boxes we tick on the Checklist of Life, we’ll never be able to control that one constant – change. Nor will we ever arrive at some magic moment, proclaiming, “Ah, okay, done now!”
When I moved to my 350-square foot apartment in November 2017, the only thing I was sure of was that one chapter was ending and another was beginning.
I was terrified, but determined. After all, if I wanted a different sort of life, I was going to need to do things, well, differently. Of course, I still placated myself with thoughts like, “If you hate it, Jules, you can leave whenever you want and go back to living with an actual oven.”
I needed to tell myself things like that because I still didn’t trust The Grand Unknown. I still didn’t really believe the old adage, “The path will appear when you take the first step.” I always wanted a Plan B, a back-up, something I could measure and rely on. So often we look for sure things and guarantees, favoring our logical, expensively-educated brains, while missing what I’m starting to believe is the entire reason we’re inhabiting these funny flesh sacks in the first place: to follow our hearts.
Who says our hearts are unreliable, anyway? Have you ever tried tackling a tough question by getting still, taking a few deep breaths, and sinking down into that space within your chest? That space that says: You are enough. You can do anything. Your dreams matter. You are loved.
Isn’t that the voice who should always dictate our next steps?
There are still many days where I straddle the line between my heart and my head. Not sure if that’s you, too? In my experience, it feels a little something like this: Hope vs. desperation. Giddiness vs. dread. Authenticity vs. fraud. Ease vs. restlessness. A life of seeming forward momentum and social media-worthy accomplishment vs. that huge part of you that just wants to scream:
Do you ever imagine standing up in the middle of a busy day and doing just that?
Then you could walk five steps to the fridge, fill three water bottles, and take your one dog two flights of stairs down to your one car. You could drive hundreds of miles until you reached the infinite woods.
There, you could hike countless miles and relish innumerable sights and sounds. You could consider your endless blessings, remember your boundless spirit, and realize your limitless potential.
Because counting only matters when you’re living small.
How do you deal with The Grand Unknown? (Hey, come out of that corner, you. It’s safe over here. I have bean dip!)
If you want to be a published author, for example, spend a few minutes each day picturing your books already on the shelves and, most importantly, feel how it’ll feel when you achieve that goal. Yes, also put some pen to paper today (“do what you can with what you have”), but don’t spin your wheels wondering about how to get a publisher or whether your idea has already been “done before.”
If you want a romantic partner, don’t get hung up on a specific person, just picture the kinds of things you’ll do with your dream mate and how you’ll feel when you’re together. Yes, you can add specific details like what you’re wearing -and please do!- but if you decide it’s got to be Gary from accounting, you might wind up butting heads with the universe, who’s working overtime to get you stuck in an elevator with Pete from payroll, the perfect guy for you.
When I picture where I want to be in a year, I see an active, fit, social butterfly who’s swimming in creative projects and opportunities, brave enough to say “YES!” when it counts – and “NO!” too.
While I’m trying not to get hung up on too many hows, I know it’s important to work with what I’ve got at my disposal today. For starters, I signed up for a half marathon in May, despite it having been two years since my last run. I even recruited two of the most inspiring “accountability partners” I could dream up, spanning New Jersey to Oregon, to help me get in gear:
To show them how compliant I am, I joined a gym…
…made Google docs outlining every aspect of my ideal life, started logging daily exercise, water and caloric intake…
Third floor walk-up? No yard? No parking? No laundry? No oven?? What was I thinking???
From my summer-long search I learned that studio apartments in this area, close to a major train line bringing well-dressed commuters into New York City, were in high demand. When I stumbled upon this one after two months of scouring the internet, I knew I had to pounce.
Within an hour of seeing the ad on Craigslist, I met with the landlord, beating out over thirty other interested callers in that first day. (It may have helped that I came equipped with my credit report, five references, my three most recent pay stubs, my dog’s vet records, an irresistible photo of said dog, and my current Masters degree transcript. This project manager don’t play.)
When the landlord confessed she was a dog lover, Uncle Jesse and I had no choice but to sign the deposit check right then and there.
Make no mistake about it, this decision wasn’t easy. The down-sizing itself was a down-right pain in the chipmunk tail. I got it in my head that the best way to sell my stuff was to turn my entire apartment into an Amazon warehouse and hold an “estate” sale.
I also thought it made sense to spend hours of time, and $14.00 on glass knobs I just had to have, to makeover old furniture that I’d inherited for free before trying to sell it on Craigslist.
We won’t even talk about the box spring that somehow got into my old apartment, but met an untimely demise trying to come out of the very same apartment.
And it was no small (heh) feat to turn 350 square feet of this:
So by now you must be thinking:
Was it worth it?”
Let’s find out, shall we?
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1. I Don’t Miss Any of the Stuff I Got Rid Of
To be fair, there’s still a mountain molehill of boxes and pieces of my dining room table in my parents’ basement, but those 87,000 picture frames? GOOD RIDDANCE.
2. Now I Wish I Had Even Less Stuff
Do I really need two giant Tupperware containers of gift wrapping supplies? I don’t even give gifts. I just show up and take things from people.
Sometimes…there are no words.
My, the pink against the white is a whole new level of class, Winston.
Like the good old days when I took all of your photos of your pets wearing slap bracelets.
3. I Feel (Almost) As Free as a Bird Flying Chipmunk
Whenever I move again, I’m excited to see how fast I can pack up. Could I ever live out of a duffle bag?
4. Climbing Two Flights Only Sucks if You’re Carrying a Case of Wine #worthit
I wound up finding an old laptop backpack as I went through all of my crap before moving, and have devised a nearly hands-free strategy for getting my work supplies, coffee, water bottle, lunch and dog down the stairs and around the corner holding only a leash. I can park in a reserved spot right by my door on nights and weekends, so I plan my grocery trips around that.
Not paying for that parking spot during the day? = $1,200/year extra to spend on wine. (I’m not making this up. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars!)
5. It’s Totally Cool to Wear Those Pants Twice in a Row
I fear this strategy has only worked well because it’s been winter.
6. You Can Cook an Entire (Vegan) Thanksgiving Dinner with Two Electric Burners, an InstaPot and a Toaster Oven
I live on a busy street now, near the center of town, and I can’t believe how often people lay on their horns with the determination of a gaggle of hipsters waiting in line for boozy brunch. I have to shut the windows if I want to ensure I hear every word of John Mulaney’s new Netflix special (OMG WATCH IT).
On the flip side, it means the train, great restaurants, coffee, and Trader Joe’s are all just a few steps away.
8. Living Next Door to a Catholic Church Will Not Make You More Godly
Speaking of unexpected noises, my nearby nuns are still messing with me at all hours, despite the anonymous letter I may or may not have sent a month ago.
9. “Need” and “Want” Are Two Very Different Things
When you don’t have any space to put anything, you’ve gotta decide pretty quickly if it’s a “need” or a “want.” For example, I need to bathe once a month, but I probably just want those pug slippers.
10. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…Like Cut My Own Hair
I recently found out that watching six minutes of a YouTube instructional video and then cutting your hair in a mirror using scissors meant for a righty that you found in the back of your dresser was more bold than wise. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my ‘stache, it’s that hair grows back. Often more quickly than you’d like.
11. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…No, Really
Much like those who are bringing water to impoverished communities and winning Olympic gold medals, I too have learned that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. Hang on. That came out wrong. I know this move wasn’t a missionary trip or a heroic act of strength, but taking this leap into the unknown has really galvanized my belief that most of our limitations are set only by our thoughts. So what if you don’t know what path will appear when you take that first next step? You’ve just got to have faith that the universe has your back.
Huh. Maybe that church is rubbing off.
What lifestyle changes have you made that surprised you (for better or worse)?
You’re envisioning your new dream home. Images begin to spring to mind…
A small, cozy nook, under a flight of stairs, with plenty of space for your wand and pet owl.
No? Okay. How about this: a tiny house with a loft bed and ceiling hooks for your fixed-gear bicycle and kombucha tea jars.
All right. Perhaps this: a 300-square foot, 3rd floor walk-up with no oven, coin laundry, and street parking.
Really? Not even if I told you you’d get to add an extra 10 minutes to your commute?
God, you’re difficult.
Starting November 1st, I’ll call the latter home.
“A third floor walk-up? Are you that desperate to win the company Fitbit challenge?” you might be asking. Excellent guess. The truth is, about a year and a half ago, I started making some pretty big changes in the name of Mother Earth.
Obviously I have become an environmental hero and goddess to Portlandia fans everywhere.
The Next Big Thing in my journey towards braided armpit hair is downsizing. Right now I live in a 1,200 square foot, 2-bedroom duplex, complete with a yard, sunroom, and plush carpeting thick enough to hide Trump’s tax returns.
When I moved to my current apartment from a 4-bedroom house, it offered plenty of space for my furniture and featured all of my must-haves.
As time passed, I realized I needed less room to feel content. I also needed less stuff.
Speaking of, the real reason I’m posting is because I’m trying to get rid of this. Any takers?
Do you have any moving / downsizing advice?
P.S. – Don’t even think about it. I’m keeping that Aladdin VHS tape.