I never really knew exactly what a sabbatical was, but I knew I needed one. For me, it’s a fancy word for taking time away from work to get some clarity and – if you are lucky – go somewhere that you can completely unplug.
Winters have always been a time for us to regroup. After the craziness of fall and then the holidays, weddings slow down and we can get life a little back in order.
But the past 3 years after starting a nonprofit organization called The Big Picture Project, we have dedicated those slower months to taking care of that business. This has involved going to 4 different countries and 3 continents and working to raise a total of over $65,000. That down time became a pretty hectic time and we no longer had our time to catch our breath before weddings ramped back up.
Working to give back to others certainly gives back to us and enriches our lives in a meaningful way. But man, it’s a lot of work and a bit taxing on the mind.
We found ourselves this past year trying to give our for profit business and our non profit business 110% of us, and that’s just an impossible undertaking. I care about both businesses with all my heart, but just have found it impossible to nurture both the way they should be without losing my mind a little.
Which brings me to – sabbatical.
We got done with a project in Myanmar for Big Picture Project which took us more than half way across the world and 12.5 hours into the future. Myanmar is magnificent, and with 90% of the country being Buddhist it became a very peaceful and spiritual journey. Yet the 24 hours of plane travel each way and the 8 flights in between was still physically exhausting and made my emotions all over the place.
Luckily this trip was earlier in the winter, so we still had some time that we could plan an escape to truly unplug, renew and just be. So for the past 3 weeks we we on a journey west and did things to heal our souls. For Roger and I, peace comes from simplicity. From marveling at nature. From the feeling of being small and insignificant. And the places that hold those feelings for us are found in the West.
(all of the photos we are sharing were taken with our iPhones. Even though we have thousands with the professional camera, we just want to share the casual moments that were captured being normal people = not photographers.)
I’d read about how Sedona AZ has some areas that are spiritually healing. Some sort of business about the elements in the ground or the electromagnetic fields… I don’t even know, but people find it an area of healing. We chose it because it was warm and had some great scenery and hikes. However while we were there, I’ll have to admit – I felt it. I’m not trying to sound like a hippie or some crazy vagabond, but I truly felt grounded and whole while I was there. Maybe it was the electromagnetic business or maybe it was the desert air, but I could really feel myself getting my mojo back right away.
And there we were with this guy again!! Buddha! We’d seen tens of thousands of Buddhas in Myanmar, but to see this one in the middle of the desert was quite striking. This place – Amitabha Peace Park – is truly one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. If you find wind chimes, a buddha statue, and some incense in my Amazon cart, the park is to blame.
We also spent a large chunk of time in Page AZ. If you’ve been around since the days where we were Starry-eyed Studios, you might remember we did this trip before and posted about it. It was such a great place we wanted to return, so we planned for this spot to be the majority of our trip – aka the place of sabbatical. I can’t even put into words what being in this area, waking up to the sunrise over the lake, spending our days just soaking up sunshine and standing in awe of this world we live in did for our souls.
People ask what we did while we were gone, and it doesn’t sound like anything life changning when I hear it come out of my mouth…
I read a magazine cover to cover.
I read a book.
We cooked over a fire.
We had lunch picnics every day.
We took photographs.
We climbed rocks.
We watched the sunrise and set every day.
We sipped coffee in the morning, and cocktails by a fire in the evening.
We shared the silence.
It may not sound like a lot, but that was the entire point. Because everything we did was fulfilling and a choice. No commitments, no plans, just living life unencumbered. That’s our new word by the way. Our mantra summed up in just a word.
The definition of unencumbered is
1. not impeded, or slowed down; free to move, advance, or go forward.
2. having few or no burdens or obligations.
3. not burdened or weighed down
Bless this word’s heart. This is EXACTLY the way we wanted to feel. This is EXACTLY the way we felt.
Now, I should share with you that this entire journey was traveled and experienced in a teardrop camper that is literally smaller than my bathroom. If you think it blows people’s minds that we can work together for a living, it REALLY leaves people speechless when they see our tiny house on wheels and the fact that we make it work with ease.
It’s probably not for everyone. You definitely have to work together, or it won’t work at all. We think all couples should have to try it for a week before they get married. We would put it this way – spending time in a confined area with your spouse amplifies the aspects of your relationship that already exist. If you bicker in your in daily life – you are going bicker more in a tiny camper. However if you enjoy one another’s company and have a close relationship, it’s going to simply enhance that. Living small can be a challenge, but if you work as a together as a team you will have a great time making it an experience that highlights your strengths as a couple.
We absolutely loved the experience of living small, and learned so many things about what we really NEED in life. Or in this case – the things that occupy your life that you DON’T need.
For instance – to name just a few…
~Your selfie stick. O.K. I get it. Taking selfies is hard. Look at this attempt of our own…
The struggle is real folks.
But the thing is – we laughed so hard trying to take our photo. A selfie stick just seems shallow. First, you don’t always need a photo of yourself IN the location – take a photo OF the location. If you find that you have no photos with you in them then ask someone to take your photo. I love helping someone out and taking a photo of them on their vacation! Roger took one of a family that said they’d be using it as their Christmas card! People are happy to help you out!
Or if you find yourself in a slot canyon with no one around like we were, take a selfie and laugh at yourselves for the challenge of making it look decent. It may not be your best photo, but it may just be the one you treasure the most! ~Spices – this may seem like a strange one but for those who cook out there you’ll want to listen – the only spices you actually need are garlic, chili powder, and salt. Truly. I have a CABINET full of spices at home. When you cook with just those 3 things you actually taste the flavors in the food. Wow, right?
~TV – we cancelled our satellite on the ride home. News is sad, and good shows are few and far between. (This is Us – I will miss you dearly) When we had to stay at a hotel for one night we had hundreds of channels and couldn’t find anything to watch. We missed watching a DVD of a show or movie we love, or simply just talking about the day instead.
~A closet full of clothes – ladies, before you start to curse me on social media hear a sister out… You truly only need 4 outfits to travel. A good pair of Columbia pants that you can wash by hand and will dry by morning with a comfy t-shirt and a flannel in case it’s chilly, black leggings (see – I’m not a bad person! I gave you the best pants ever made!) and a nylon material pullover jacket, dark stretchy jeans OR another pair of leggings and a nicer shirt with a tank underneath that can either be worn out to a nice dinner or just the tank for a hike, and pajamas. And seriously – if you aren’t as modest as me and are fully liberated you could probably go without the PJs. Your husband/spouse/lover could care less what you are wearing and care more about the fact that you are in a good mood and loving life. And let’s face it – elastic waistbands = loving life.
~Your fears. Boy do I have a list of these. Do you know that I have a fear of drowning? And falling? And car crashes. And fires. And bugs. And snakes. And failure? And don’t even get me started on FOMO… The list goes on and on. So you would have to assume all these things would make for a difficult time hiking, and kayaking, and traveling, and cooking over an open flame… but I did it. What I actually fear is the ideas in my head of everything that can go wrong, but what I really need to be afraid of is not living because of fears. Life can be scary. But what scares me most is the thought of not truly living. Overcoming fears feels so much better than sitting on the sidelines afraid of what might happen. Get out there. LIVE.
~All your $h*#! Seriously. Why are you buying and saving all that crap? You know how many coffee mugs I have in my cabinets? 36. There internet. I said it. Do you know how many I need? 1. I need 1 mug. (I just need to wash it after I use it instead of waiting until I’ve used all the other 35 and am in desperate need of a cup of coffee, slamming things around and starting my day off pissed because all 36 mugs are in the dishwasher. A dishwasher that doesn’t really clean things, but that’s a totally separate topic) But friends, that’s just coffee mugs. There is a whole list of things I can get into that is just excessive and nonsense. I mean seriously – holla if you’ve ever gotten carried away at the Target dollar bins, riiiiight!?! You don’t have to go minimal, but next time you are purchasing something just pause and ask yourself if you A. need it or want it, B. if you are in love with the item or in love with the idea of the item – I love a picnic basket as much as the next person, but what I am in love with is the idea of taking a picnic. And who has time to picnic when they have to work nonstop to pay for all their crap like picnic baskets!?! If you are lucky enough to go on a picnic, throw your food in a paper sack and get busy living. And finally, C. What are you going to do with it when you don’t love it anymore? Is it going in your basement in another plastic tote that you are going to have to buy to hold all the things you don’t love anymore? Seriously people – there are more storage units in the US than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. Let that one simmer in your thoughts for awhile and ask yourself if you have too much crap that you don’t need in life.
~Square footage. Why do we need big homes? To hold all our crap that we’ve bought, that’s why. The more walls you have to separate your family the more you can’t communicate and enjoy one another’s company. You don’t need a bigger house. Period.
~Social Media. There. I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I will mindlessly scroll through posts for hours like a champ. But is that living? No, it’s looking at other people living. Instead of seeing other people’s thoughts mindlessly spewed out in text, or looking at photos of what one of your hundreds of “friends” (aka someone you could barely pick out of a lineup) had for dinner – go take a walk. Breathe some fresh air. LIVE. Believe me – I want you to like my posts about my dinner, but friends I’d rather you also be savoring the flavors of your own along side the people you love the most.
So the moral of the story is – you don’t need to necessarily leave your town or your country to get rid of the things that are weighing you down. A sabbatical can be something as simple as turning off your phone and taking a nap. It’s just about stepping back, hitting the reset button, and starting fresh.
We look forward to this fresh start and to a great 2017 with you!!! Cheers!!