(I wrote this series, because, for years, people have asked me how I got so ‘green.’ Hopefully this will provide some insight and give you ideas about how to live simply and appreciate the natural world of which you are a part. Read Part 1, The 50s, 60s & 70s and Part 2, The 80s, New Hampshire.)
The 80s – Simplified Through Traveling
In 1987, an especially brutal winter forced me to find warmer weather. I rented out my house, and hit the road. I carried everything I needed in a Toyota pick-up truck with a dumpstered camper shell on the back. I had a sleeping bag and pillow, a milk crate of books and journals, a crate of kitchen items, a pillowcase of clothes, a cooler, a toolbox and a small bag of toiletries. My truck became my home.
I headed west, and for the next couple of years, I followed warm weather – summer in the north, winter in the south. You have to if you are living outside, and I met many people doing the same thing. I immediately saw one benefit of staying where it was warm – no extreme heating or cooling bills. I frequently thought about nomadic peoples traveling to where there was food and warmth. It seemed so natural!
I met ‘homeless’ men and women, who chose to live on the street, some as a political statement, some following warm weather and some simply loving travel and adventure. Not unlike backpacking, they carried their belongings with them – bedroll, backpack and sharply honed survival skills.
Sadly, I also met people who were victims of our system, the mentally ill you see on the news freezing to death in winter, because of a lack of shelters. You’ve seen pictures and videos of them maybe pushing a shopping cart filled with their belongings.
In New Mexico, I met a woman, who had lived without money for two years. She grew her own food and dumpstered or bartered for everything else she needed. Her resourcefulness and survival skills were inspiring! I listened intently to her stories and continued to simplify. She still lives here in Taos, leading a simple, organic life.
What I Learned
Through this travel experience, I continued to learn about necessities for survival. In the 80s, I saw and lived ‘low impact’ and ‘small carbon footprint,’ 21st century phrases. These years affirmed for me how I felt about my childhood, that the excesses of the upper-middle class are just that – excess – and that I did not have to live that way.
I fell in love with the sun of the southwest, and I knew this was where I wanted to be. I went back to New Hampshire, sold my house and sold or gave away everything that was not already in my truck. My life was truly simple now, and I drove away with all my belongings.
Back in the southwest, I started raising a family in 1990. On that journey, I took with me the lessons I’d learned so far about simplicity.
Stay tuned for the final installment: The 90s – Raising a Family and Beyond
Adapted from the original on my blog, desert verde.