^^ That’s where I live today—in the middle of the woods at the edge of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
This home feels like vacation. It’s my sanctuary. Our oasis. It also wasn’t ever part of “the plan.” I didn’t seek this place out. It happened for us.
Back in 2016, I was restless.
There I was—living with my version of a perfect life on paper and filled with turmoil on the inside.
This was a life I helped create.
I dreamed. I made decisions in the journey. I helped bring us to this point, so why was I so restless?
Was this even restlessness? Or was this me wanting “more” when I “should” simply be grateful for what I have?
Every Monday-Friday I watched my husband go out the door to work with a bitterness in my soul. He left at 4 p.m. and returned at 5:40 a.m. the next morning.
I was jealous.
There was a part of me that wished I was the one walking out the door to a job in the field I chose, but I was late to the career game. So, I toggled between working my startup business in the photography industry and being Mom.
I felt like I had to really work to make time for my business. No one was going to drop a bucket of time on my lap. In this constant state of looking for windows of time to work—and also commanding it here and there—I began to resent my life.
I think I believed that if I got the business to a steady, strong pace quickly, then my problems would go away. So, I ravenously devoured all the courses and podcasts and learning I could find, which had my brain in a frenzy of ideas 24/7. I wanted to take action on these ideas quickly, but often had to wait.
I had to mom first.
Naturally, this caused an internal ripple of frustration. I signed up for a partnership, not for what felt like single-parenting half the time.
NOTE: I know my story isn’t at all like single parenting in reality. And also, my husband is an incredible partner. These feelings are more about me than him.
I felt alone during those dinner, bedtime and middle-of-the-night parenting hours.
I felt like everyone and everything else came above my own wants and needs.
Then, there was the long, grey Michigan winters. The feelings were never worse than in the winter months when we didn’t go to the parks or splash pads or long walks down our dirt road.
I even felt like a spoiled brat, frankly. Was I creating my own stress? This is a first-world problem. I could just stop. I didn’t need to work, after all.
And why wasn’t being a mom fulfilling enough? #shame
What’s wrong with me?
Those were all the stories I was telling myself, so yeah…
Simultaneously, my passion was on fire and I enjoyed the work I was doing with Fearless and Framed®. Documenting through photography had been a life-giving, creative outlet that helped me notice and to savor the ups + downs of our lives.
It felt too important to just… stop.
So, we decided to change up our lifestyle. I’d heard about other families living a life of travel and it seemed both awesome and SIMPLE.
July 2016, we bought a 1970 Airstream with a dream to retire my husband on Fearless and Framed’s® growing income, sell everything, and to travel + unschool our babies. As we closed out the year, the Michigan winter made the renovations impossible to do from our driveway.
Our dream felt far off.
It felt like cabin fever with a side of intense irritability and mood swings. All I could see was what *wasn’t* working in our life.
At the top of 2017, I dove into my stories.
Who was I as a child? I had an affinity for the trees as long as I can remember. I’d spend hours up in the apple tress in my parent’s backyard with books, coloring supplies, and snacks.
I’d always loved the family cabin, “up north,” and the woods…
but that was all for recreation…
not the day-to-day.
Or could it be?
As I started to link all these tiny stories of happiness together, I experienced another layer of awareness.
We needed to be outside…
We didn’t have to wait for long weekends or vacations to go have adventures if we created change…
We also didn’t have to go to the extreme of living in an Airstream.
What if we could meet in the middle? What could that look like?
This is how your stories can be dangerous… dangerously GOOD.
April 2017, I told Dave our options: stay here. Airstream. Move somewhere south.
May 2017, Dave said, “A guy at work said Greenville, South Carolina is great.”
Never having been to Greenville… frankly, I’d never even heard of it… in July 2017, we drove down with a stack of resumes and a list of potential places Dave could work.
Clearly, we packed all the essentials.
For 5 days, we drove all around this unfamiliar city with the kids glued to their iPads with headphones in the back seat. 2,500 miles of driving later, Dave scored 3 interviews that week and came home with 2 job offers.
September 11, 2017, we moved to South Carolina, but that wasn’t the end of our story…
When we visited SC in July 2017, we rented an AirBNB in beautiful Zirconia, North Carolina.
I thought it would be cool to be in the mountains “just for the trip.”
When we moved to South Carolina that September, we rented a home near Dave’s new workplace on a 1 year lease—in a neighborhood about 45 minutes from the mountains.
We told ourselves we wouldn’t look at or buy a house for at least 6 months until we get a real feel for the area.
We also learned quick: living in a neighborhood is NOT for us.
The very next month, we looked a few homes. Anything rural or near the mountains was too expensive, needed a ton of work or was too far from Dave’s work.
One house popped up that felt like a good size, on 10 wooded acres and moderately up-to-date. It was also WAY over budget, so we didn’t look at it… at first. November 4th, we looked at nearly 20 homes. Meh.
November 5th (my birthday), we thought, “Why not just look?”
So we looked at the out-of-budget house… we loved it. When all was said & done, we got it for $35,000 less than their asking price! 🎉 (long story)
We didn’t move here, because of a job, or because we found a fantastic home, or even to be in South Carolina. I didn’t believe back then that living on 10 acres in the mountains would ever be in the cards for us… maybe when we retire… so never would we have pursued a home in the mountains.
Instead, we paid attention to the tiny stories of when we’ve felt alive and happy in the past. We stayed open to anything and used our tiny stories as guidance—leaning into one tiny step of uncertainty + possibility after another.
It’s that simple.
Today, we live on what we lovingly call “Masse Mountain.” It is our oasis. It’s living a vacation life… everyday.
You can have this too. Maybe you’re already there… I hope that’s the case. If not, start with the questions below.
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