Thursday, 4 March 2010

Of What Do You Dream?

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Lately I've been privy to many conversations about what people want from life. As a pretty young downshifter, it is something that interests me greatly, especially as I've always believed one's ideal/dream life is a window into their soul. It seem like most people want enough to not have to worry about money, due to my curious nature I've asked people to further clarify what they mean by enough. Not surprisingly most people don't really mean "enough", answers given were enough to take 3 or 4 "good" vacations a year - a week or two in the Bahamas, or winters in Florida. Enough to eat out several times a week without having to worry, to meet up with friends to golf or horseback ride a few times a week, enough to have no mortgage, maybe a holiday home or a few weeks timeshare, a couple of rental properties for extra income, a bit of help around the house and enough left over to see a good six figures in the bank account and a good monthly pension. Everyone shared that they wanted to be able to go to the mall or shops and buy furniture, clothing and kitchenware as they wanted, without ever having to worry about their bank balance or a budget. The reality is, most people's "enough" isn't what one would call enough, instead it's a time of more luxury living. A friend of mine shared that seeing her parents retire and lead such an easy life financially, really skewed her understanding and desires for her own life, instead of working towards retiring with no mortgage, a decent pension and being able to afford a week in Europe each year, she's desiring more and feeling like she's failing in comparison.

Our conversation made me really think about what my dream is, what type of life I want to lead, making it as realistic as possible and a true representation of who I am now. Of course financial security, especially in retirement is important and yes having enough in the bank to cope with unexpected housing or medical expenses is something we should all aim for, but I think life is about so much more than being able to buy what you want, when you want, or vacation for 12 weeks a year.

So what is my dream? It's a mix of being self-sufficient and truly living as part of a community. I dream of a small plot of land where I can live off the earth, being able to foster a donkey or two and give a home to animals which are hard to place, the ability to work part time, have a full emergency fund, several children (I am hoping to adopt). Days spent volunteering, writing letters, knitting, sewing and baking. Time to care for others, provide meals for those in need, hold hands with people who are dying, care for family members or friends who need help dressing or preparing meals. I'd like to make my own jams, sauces, preserves, pasta, breads and cakes. I would like to be able to give each month to the charities I feel passionate about and volunteer abroad, both in disaster relief and in preventative education programs. I would like to journal, write, sing and pray. In the evenings, I hope to curl up by the log fire and read until my eyes are weary, and retire to bed with a back sore from gardening and chasing donkeys, sheep and goats around the land. At least once a week, I'd like to walk by the sea taking photographs and giving thanks, for a life with purpose - the ability to serve, the ability to work and the ability to see the beauty all around me.

What is your dream life? Does it represent the changes in you and your desire to live a simple life?


Kate said...

Your dream is very well fleshed out, probably because you've thought about it quite a bit. I suspect most of the people you asked really haven't sat down and thought about their dreams, and how they might reach them, in detail. I think it's only when we really examine what we want, what is meaningful to us, and what we're willing to do to make our dreams a reality that most of us begin to downshift. But that's just a guess.

My first dream that shifted my focus and behavior was just financial independence - in other words, the mortgage paid off and no other debt. But that changed fairly quickly to involve a homesteadish situation where most of our food is produced by us. So my current dream is to get the mortgage paid off and get enough food production going on our small residential lot to be food independent. More specifically, I dream of springs that don't involve a mountain of major projects. I want years when I need only deal with starting and planting the annual crops, and then harvest, store and eat from them and the perennials. Oh, yeah, and I'd also like to be independent of the grid for heat and electricity, and able to feed my few livestock from our own resources too.

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

You are probably very right Kate.

I really like your dream life, very realistic and eco aware!

Jenni said...

Thanks for sharing your dream!

I have more of a vague idea of the kind of life I'd like to live. I was very influenced by something I read a while ago, goodness knows where, about a woman saying she wanted a little house in the country so she could go for walks, make jam, spend evenings sewing, have chickens... But she just couldn't see any way she would ever afford that house in the country.

eventually she realised she didn't HAVE to have the house in the country - she could still spend her time making jam, sewing, walking, appreciating the countryside...

I try to bring those thoughts into what I do, I'm not prepared to put in enough work to earn enough money to buy a place in the country (!), I'd rather work less, live in a smaller house, and have time for voluntary projects, gardening, sewing, making soap, writing, playing...

I don't know whether that counts as a dream or not!

(oh, and for me, 'enough' is just enough to keep basic food on the table, and not ever to have to have a credit card)

localnourishment said...

Wow. Six figures and vacations? I knew I was out of step with the world, but this really points it up! My dream is to have real food on my table three times a day, with enough to share with those in need. A large enough home that we all sleep in beds, but not so large that the maintenance of it takes a major portion of my day. A garden that provides a measurable portion of our food and the good health to tend it. Maybe a small emergency fund to cover those things that crop up from time to time like medical bills while we are uninsured. A chair facing east to watch the sunrise, one facing west to watch the sunset, and many years in the company of my family.

dilli said...

We live what we dream. A simple life, doing simple things,living within our means, while depending on no other and walking softly upon the earth in doing so. We are not owners of our land but simple caretakers for a brief period in time and feel it is our responsibility to teach others about our dream so that they too can live it. In the end it all boils down to making the choices and simply doing. Each step you take in doing that fulfills a tiny portion of that dream. Now that's what I call success and reality.

Reneee said...

My husband and I share your dream. Wishing you God's blessings that you will accomplish it!

Bonniejean said...

My most basic dream is to live a long, healthy and happy life with my husband and family. To always be close with my parents, brothers and their families as well as my husband's family. That all of these people are happy and healthy. That I have no regrets and I make the best of each day. My practical dreams include having enough money to keep our home, keep healthy, local food on the table and make occasional trips to different places in the world. I dream of having my horse for many more years and that she too sees a long and healthy life. And although this may sound cheesy, most of all I dream for peace. Internal peace, peace for my family and friends and of course, the world.

Simple in France said...

My dream does not include vacations or shopping malls.

Like you, I'd like a plot of land--I'd love to have a garden, goats and ducks. I'd like space to store canned foods. I'd also love to own a stand alone house because I'd like to live 'off grid' and putting up solar panels and altering insulation when you don't own or when you share a building is impractical. Then again, I don't want to have a huge mortgage, so I'll keep saving my money and see . . .

Mel said...

My dream is just emerging and constantly evolving as time goes on. We are planning to move back to my home state and buy land, building a house ourselves to stay mortgage free. It also involves living a woodland close to my family allowing my children to learn from nature itself and to grow in their own way. We would have a permaculture based small holding specialising in heritage grains, while my husband works with greenwood. I'm interested in working with draft horses, living off grid and learning as many useful skills we can. We would live simply but fully (without debt) with plenty of food, friends and family and community who help each other when needed. I'm very interesting in moving forward with the transition movement and local economy and hopefully can use my skills and knowledge to help others in the future. It seems so unrealistic in this country but it's reassuring that back at home there are other young people doing it already!

Compact UK said...

my dreams are:

1) live independent from large companies by buying basic ingredients and making things ourselves.

2) Grow as much of fruits & vegs that we can. Basically, we want to be as homestead as we can.

3) Learn what is 'enough', and know the difference between 'need' and 'want'.

4) Be happy with right now.

Pops said...

Thanks, I've been lurking for a time and thought I'd write.

I think it's a great test of ones' success in life to ponder what they would do with a big windfall like a lucky draw at the numbers racket - "lottery" if you prefer and see how closely it matches their real life.

In my case I'd do what the proverbial farmer said he'd do: "Rekon I'll keep on farming till it's all gone."

I worked 25 years in more or less the mainstream and most of my pleasures were impulse buys in the checkout isle. Yea, we went fishing and camping but the things we (the grownups that is) enjoyed was the things we did with our hands; sewing/building, gardening, working on old houses, raising some chicks or bunnies and just puttzing around with at least some stated goal in mind.

Finally it dawned on us that supporting the various credit card banks, oceanic shipping lines and all those other people with outstretched hand really wasn't necessary. If we just started doing things ourselves we wouldn't need to spend all that time at some repetitive job trying to earn enough money to give other people.

So that's what we do, can't say we'd change much with lotto winnings except do it in jeans with fewer holes!

A little less materially I guess would be to leave a better farm and an good example for my kids and grandkids to follow in their turn - it's called 'My Grandkids Farm' for a reason. :^)

Anyway, like my tagline at a peak oil website said who knows how many thousand times: make a plan and work it.

jules said...

Right now I work out of the home 8 + hours a day. I guess my dream is to have time. Time at home, time to garden, time to can and cook good food, time to visit with my elderly neighbors and be available to help them out, time to garden with my 'master' gardener down the street and learn all he knows. I'd like money saved for my older years and for emergencies. I guess that is why I work now. My 'enough' is to live comfortably with no debt (debt free now!!!Yippee) and be able to give to others as they have need. My DH is receptive, now to get my boss on board!

africanaussie said...

What a great post and wonderful comments! Isnt it funny how so many feel that when they dont have a mortgage and no more money problems they will be happy. I am the same, working madly to get the mortgage paid off and the retirement fund built up. I really try not to keep the focus on the money though, although it is a necessary evil. I keep trying to steer my self back to today and trying to appreciate today and make my life as sustainable, simple and worthwhile as possible.

Andrea said...

I love how you express your dreams! You put it so beautifully and articulately, like you really believe in them, lol!
Let's see:
I dream to be financially stable enough (out of non-student loan debt, an emergency fund) so I can stay home and be more involved in my husband's ministries. I dream of adopting a minority or special needs child who really needs a home where they will be wanted and loved! I dream of being good at keeping a house going and of being able to make at least some of our own clothes. I dream of having a small garden with lots of flowers, vegetables, and a few fruit trees. I dream of hiking the entire Pacific Crest trail, even if we have to do it one bit at a time!

Chookie said...

I hope (but I fear the truth is otherwise) that the people whose dreams are so paltry and selfish are those who have been worn down with too much week and not enough money.

I don't have a dream, and in reading your article I realised why: I am living it. That doesn't mean there's nothing I want to do, but I don't need more money, or things from shops, or holidays with the Joneses.

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

What absolutely wonderful comments, suggestions and thoughts. There is such wisdom here, such experience, joy and growth. Life, and our dreams, are a journey, a journey which changes and grows as we do. Thank you so much for sharing a part of yourselves!

Diane said...

Said very well. I started reading this post and thought it sounded a lot like you before I even realized that it was you.

rachel said...

great post and wonderful comments!
i want to have enough money to pay my bills/meet my obligations with a little over to give/save/splurge on occasion ;)
i want to spend more time being creative and spending time with the people i love, cooking my own food, keeping house and being content: rather than working and pursuing more more more...xx

Karen said...

I love your dream ... so similar to my own.

I want a husband and at least one child. I want to homeschool my child(ren?). I want a large garden so we are fairly self-sufficient on produce. I want a large, old, country home with a fireplace. I want to knit, sew, cook from scratch, bake, walk to local shops and markets when I need something. I, too, want to be able to give generously to those in need, which includes time, money, food, what have you. I want to be heavily involved in my local community.

I want a full emergency fund, too. The saving has been going very well, but i do need to remind myself constantly of need vs. want. it's a lifetime of consumer brainwashing i'm trying to reverse, after all. sometimes all i need to do is think of how they manage to live quite well in so many third world countries without MANY of the things we think we need here (this is not in any way to say some of the horrendous conditions that exist in those places are not an issue...).

you are right about it being 2 steps forward and 1 back, and sometimes you hang out in the middle for a while, not really moving anywhere. but i think as long as your brain and heart keep those dreams fresh, they are certainly achievable.

what a great, inspiring post! thank you FT!!

soulsearcher said...

my dream would be to walk down the aisle seeing my soulmate waiting at the altar in one of my favorite modest wedding dresses

Chris said...

I'm a constant day-dreamer, does that count, LOL?

The biggest dream I could hope for is to spend as much time with my family as possible. I've come to realise that it's not what we do, but who we get to share our experience with, that makes it very special.

I guess I'm living the dream now. I keep reminding myself that whatever we do (even things apart) we're still thinking of each other - and that's what really matters.

Family doesn't have to mean partner and children either. It can mean whomever you enjoy spending time with - friends, animals, team mates, whatever makes you feel connected.

Anything I can plant and eat, is a dream come true to me also. :)