A French friend of mine regularly threatens to block me on Instagram because my posts of what he calls our “holiday life” frustrate him. He wants to live by the beach and be surrounded by nature, too. But he cannot because he has to live in Hong Kong and work for a living.
I do not think I am on a permanent holiday – my back certainly disagrees after working in the garden for a full day – but I am happy to live an intentional life, one that is far slower and softer than most lives. One time, I told Markus our days resemble that of retirees: no rush, no schedule, no pressure. Are we not the luckiest?
Being in this position did not happen by accident though. In both our previous lives, we tried the rat race alternative and quickly got out because it did not match our values. Not without damage, of course, but out nonetheless.
Like any young person, I did not know what I wanted. Fortunately, it was enough to know what I did not want for me to be able to design a life that I love.
I knew I hated external structures and rushing and that I am overwhelmed by people. My solution was to work remotely, flexibly, and independently. I have been doing it for years before meeting Markus and it was a joy that our aspirations aligned. The tiny house we have now is by the sea, too, surrounded by a large garden and tall trees that offer us privacy and infinite calm.
We chose all of these things, deliberately, with care and attention. If it resembles a dream life to others, that is because it is – we turned our dream life into a reality because we cannot thrive on anything less. We tried. It was soul-corroding.
In our wellness retreats pre-pandemic, it is all too common to hear participants bemoan their lives, especially their work. It is easy to sympathize – we were on the same spot in another life. But the challenge is changing, or better yet, having the courage to change.
For me, it was easy – I would rather die than live the way I previously did. But for others, it is understandable why aiming for their dream life is daunting.
First of all, their situation is not desperate enough. It sucks but it is okay. Not their dream life but not Hell on Earth either. Second, what will other people say? Will they think you are mad for leaving your job or your relationship “just like that”? Third, the risk is enormous. There are no guarantees that turning your back on your unpalatable life will lead you to your dream life. So many unknowns. I have not met too many people who are not too concerned with remedying uncertainty with certainty.
Fortunately, I am happy to report that most participants in our Thriving Life retreats were able to take the leap: quit a job they hate, get out of a toxic relationship, and even move halfway around the world. Still, there are others who returned to their normal lives, biting the bullet, and promising that once they retire, they will live the lives of their dreams.
I sure cannot wait that long or put my hopes in the future that much. There is only today and I will live my life in the best way I can, in the best way I know how. So far, that means building a tiny house by the beach, living slowly, softly, connectedly, and eating well. I am thankful for this privilege. I can only encourage others to be mindful of how they spend every day because this quickly turns to the rest of your life.
We all have a dream life. While we cannot attain it overnight, we can make small decisions every day to take us closer to making the dream a reality. We may not have wealth, power, or fame but we have a choice. It is up to us to determine the quality of our lives. This is our responsibility, not anyone else’s.
How much do you like your life right now and how much of it did you choose? Would you change anything if you could?