Lessons From Embracing the Simple Life

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“Simplicity is the essence of happiness.” – Cedric Bledsoe

A few months ago, a former co-worker sent me a message via Linkedin. When I read her message, my initial reaction was confusion. Here’s what she wrote:

 “I envy your courage. You are living as we all should. I enjoyed reading your biography and feel blessed that I had the opportunity to work with you many years ago in DC.”

At first, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. In what way was I living life as we all should?

Then it hit me! She had read the bio on my website where I talk about how I traveled through Central America, South America, and Eastern Europe. And how I lived at a yoga center in Pennsylvania and a retreat center in Wisconsin. And how I volunteered with street children in Mexico and cancer patients in the Philippines.

Everyone single one of those experiences is true and represents just a small sample of what I’ve done in my 40+ years.

Except what my former co-worker didn’t realize is that my life is now radically different from what it was just a few years ago. At the end of 2012, I moved to Bogota, Colombia, settled down and got married.

Since moving to Bogota, there have been very few adventures in my life. Instead, my life is now filled with mundane day-to-day experiences like walking the dogs, going to the grocery store, cooking supper, snuggling with my wife on the couch, and doing laundry.

Our big “adventures” consist of taking the dogs to a park, eating out once every week or two, and going on walks through Bogota. Not exactly material for a future best-selling memoir!

Yet despite the radical change in how I live my life, I believe that my life is just as rich now as it was when I was traveling the world.

Here’s what I’ve learned from settling down and embracing the simple life:

There Are Meaningful Life Moments Everywhere

I used to think that I needed to go on grand adventures in order to feel fulfilled, in order to create meaning in my life. But what I’ve found is that even in the midst of my simple life, there are lots of meaningful moments.

And every single one of these moments add richness and texture to my life. They’re moments that I treasure deep in my heart. And they happen every single day!

Moments like falling asleep with my wife snuggled next to me. Moments like being inundated with slobbery kisses from our boxer Brandy. Moments like eating my wife’s delicious cooking which is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.

Happiness Comes From Being Present

I expected that happiness would come from quitting my job and going off and having adventures around the world. It didn’t.

The truth is that traveling involves a lot of running around, a lot of planning, a lot of figuring out “what’s next”. And tt’s almost impossible to be present to your life under those circumstances.

Happiness ultimately from being living in the moment, from being aware of the daily miracle that is your life. And I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to be in tune with that feeling when I’m settled down and have time to relax and sink into that feeling.

All Positive Experiences Are Amazing

Climbing over 1,000 stairs to reach Machu Picchu was an amazing experience. And I’m absolutely glad that I did it.

By comparison, holding my wife in my arms seems like an ordinary, mundane experience, hardly worthy of the label amazing in comparison to Machu Picchu.

And yet, labeling one amazing and the other ordinary is a judgment, a matter of perspective.  There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t decide that both of those are amazing. And so I do!

You Can’t Run From Your Problems

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you bring your mind with you. And your mind is continually finding problems.

The truth is that much of my traveling was an attempt to run away from my problems, instead of facing them head on. I was unhappy before I started traveling and I was often unhappy during my travels.

Only by being still, looking deeply at myself and my life, and accepting that life is often mundane and ordinary have I begun to draw forth the happiness that I was searching for.

The Simple Life Is Good for the Heart and Soul

Being settled, living in one place for several years, has been good for my heart and soul.

I’ve developed deeper relationships. I’ve developed healthy routines and rituals that have fostered my personal and spiritual growth. And my wife and I have adopted a couple of dogs that I love dearly.

Most of those are nearly impossible when you’re constantly on the move, sleeping in a new city every few days.

The truth is that external circumstances will never lead to lasting happiness. To be truly happy, you need to embrace and be happy where you are. You might be able to do that while living a life of adventure. But for myself, I found that it was much easier when I was finally willing to embrace the simple life.

Photo by Ben Cremin