Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Traveling Mindscape - The Beauty of Simplicity

Over a delicious meal of Patagonian fillet and lamb stew one night in El Calafate, Maud, our new Belgium friend and one half of the inspirational power couple of Maud and Bruno asked us a question. "What are you going to take back to your life in Denver that you learned this past year?" 

It was a question that cut to the core of our last year together and something that Kate and I had spoken about just earlier that day. What were we going to do differently? How would we view things different? Would we view things differently?
Would we view things differently after being away for a year?
The answer to the question is one that we are still processing and working to put words to thoughts and feelings, but the one overriding aspect that Kate and I both agree that we want to maintain as a theme when we return is simply: Simplicity.
All of our earthly possessions for one year.
We have no illusions about how difficult it may be; there is often very little that is simple about the modern world that we live in.

Work obligations, social requests, material wants, family responsibilities, community pressures, technology connectivity, constant time restraints, not to mention personal wants and desires, all conspire to add layers upon layers of complexity to our lives. Each of these aspects and pressures individually doesn't seem so bad until all all the little things, obligations and minor decisions incremental add the complexity that gets hidden by our routines and our comfort. And the most amazing thing is that it is nearly impossible to recognize the complexity it until you strip it all away.

We had that opportunity this year.

Our closets full of dozens of shirts got whittled down to 2 t-shirts, 2 button ups and a hoodie. Our days full of conference calls, PowerPoint presentations and update meetings got reduced to an open calendar and a world full of possibilities. Our communities of friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues and hundreds of acquaintances became just a husband and wife traveling together all day, every day, for a year. 

And together we found a beautiful existence in that simplicity.
A simple, but delicious, lunch of cheese, crackers, salami and apples. 
We've found that as we reduce our possessions; we appreciate what we have that much more.  We've found that as we lessen our commitments; we value those commitments we do make more fully. We've found that by stripping away choices and options; entirely new options we otherwise might have missed appear out of the blue. We've found that removing ourselves from the complexity has provided us an opportunity to reevaluate what we view as essential and what is superfluous.  

We have no illusions that complexity will creep into our life as soon as we step off the plane back home. One backpack of clothes becomes two as soon as we get to Charleston and becomes three once we get to Ann Arbor. Days will become scheduled again; routines will re-emerge; pressures, some new and some old, will be added. 
Time to think can be a simple pleasure.
But through it all, we want to embrace the idea that while some complexity is unavoidable and - lets be honest- enjoyable, if we can work to keep the things we can control more simple, we can appreciate the simple things in life.

Time to explore, time with loved ones, time to think, time with each other, time to watch the sunsets, and time to just be and enjoy the present moment without thinking about tomorrows' deadline, next weeks' plans and next months' obligations. (All while checking email on our iPhones, of course.)

Simple pleasures, that can be simply beautiful in a way that complexity can often obfuscate from our view.

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