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Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

 1876711558_74d4c6bd29Photo by: random letters

It had been many years since I last went camping, but in the last few months I have been aching for more time in the mountains surrounded by trees. Living on the coast in Southern California makes it difficult to get my dose of green, so I’ve been pestering hubby for weeks to take me camping. Finally we made the time to go the other weekend. We packed up all our stuff, put the dog in the back and headed off to the mountains for a couple of days hiking. Even though I knew I wanted to love camping, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to like it. Thankfully I loved every minute of it and I think there were a couple of important lessons that could be integrated back into my everyday life:

  • Making do with what we we have. While camping, we only have limited amounts of food and water. Being happy eating from our limited stores is a good mental skill to have.
  • Enjoying the simple things. Building a fire, practicing on the slackline or making a coffee over the camp stove can all be lessons in living in the moment and enjoying the simple things.
  • Remaining flexible. On our first day of hiking, our dog was not well. After one and a half hour hours of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail she simply stopped and would not get up again. Hubby had to put her over his shoulders (all 62 pounds or 28kg) and carried her out. Thankfully we weren’t too far from a road, so I sat with her in the shade while hubby went back for the car. Our day of hiking was somewhat ruined, but conducting a medical evacuation for our dog was a good lesson in remaining flexible to changing conditions.

Since getting back to our everyday life, I’ve been dreaming of heading back to the mountains. Unfortunately we don’t have any weekends free at the moment, but later this month we plan to spend a week in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming…camping all the way. I can’t wait.

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All this talk of buying houses by Early Retirement Middle Way and Money on My Mind has me yearning for another property of my own. Of course, it’s completely out of the question for the moment because:

  • I’m in the USA for another two years so there is no point buying another house back in Australia now;
  • My finances are such that I probably couldn’t get a loan for another property now anyway; and
  • Apparently house prices have started dropping in Australia, so I can’t really recoup a profit from one of the other houses if I sold it.

Still, it doesn’t stop me dreaming. I love having my own place. I envisage having my own garden, putting in rainwater tanks and a greywater recycling system. I foresee a solar system on the roof. I want to live close to town so that we can do without a second vehicle and so we can walk or ride to shops, cafes and work. If we rent, we won’t be able to do any of these things.

Unfortunately, in order to buy a property close to the town I’m thinking, with enough land to have a garden and fruit trees, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. *Sigh* I guess I’m going to have to relegate this dream to the ‘longer term’ pile and just focus on the baby steps to reach that goal.

Photo by: Aaardvaark

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The future of radio

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I love listening to music. When I’m in a particular mood, finding just the right song makes me feel like I have my very own soundtrack to my life. Unfortunately, I have great difficulty finding music I love. I have very different tastes to the rest of my friends so just coming across a song I love is not common. 
Imagine my delight when I discovered Pandora Radio. Pandora lets you type in a song or artist you like and instantly find other music that might fit your taste. Usually it is spot on and once you’ve customised it a little, you’ll probably find you love every song it suggests. And now for the best part…it’s FREE! 

When you create a radio station on Pandora, it uses a pretty radical approach to delivering your personalized selections: Having analyzed the musical structures present in the songs you like, it plays other songs that possess similar musical traits. Pandora relies on a Music Genome that consists of 400 musical attributes covering the qualities of melody, harmony, rhythm, form, composition and lyrics.  ~ How Stuff Works

Last night I entered Fragma into Pandora and happily danced away to some funky beats for a few hours. Yes, I’m one of those people who loves turning up the music and dancing like no-one is watching. My husband just shakes his head.

Photo by: bricolage

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Lately it seems I’ve been talking a lot about nitty-gritty personal finance stuff. It’s not what I had intended for this blog, but it seems that it’s what has had me pre-occupied since the beginning of the year. I need to get all that sorted out this month so I can think more about my journey towards voluntary simplicity and sustainability. These topics are very important to me, but I feel like I can’t adequately launch into them until I’ve done some housekeeping in my mind. So I’m sorry to say that there will probably be more personal finance discussions in the comings weeks. Please bear with me.

Today however, I wanted to think more broadly. I want to talk about my dreams… the vision which drives me towards a future which is outwardly simple but inwardly rich (I’m sure I’ve taken that from somewhere, so apologies if I stole your phrase).

Here’s how I want my life to look in five years:

  • I will be living in an Australian City which is big enough to have access to all the modern conveniences, but small enough to be close to nature and have a community minded spirit.
  • I will have a smallish home (3 bedrooms) which is free of clutter and stylishly furnished with reclaimed furniture and artifacts picked up during my travels. It will have polished timber floors and large windows which allow plenty of light and warmth into the home. The walls are white and covered in photographs I’ve taken around the world. There are outdoor living areas which flow seamlessly from the house. I imagine a deck surrounded by Australian natives which attracts plenty of local bird life.
  • I will have a large block to allow us to have fruit trees and a vegetable garden in addition to workspaces for hubby and I (a decent sized shed and perhaps a photography studio). I’d love to be able to keep chickens as well (but definately no rooster!)
  • I will be able to walk to the local park or nature reserve and cycle to a local grocery store and coffee shop.
  • I will be working part-time for my current employer and part-time on a number of business ideas I have.
  • I will have time to volunteer or be involved in community activities. I may even be studying a topic of interest.
  • I will be living as green/sustainably as possible.
  • I will have at least one child who will be cared for by hubby and I the majority of the time. I want my child to be raised with our values.
  • I will have a few close friends in the area and will ensure I visit family or have them visit us regularly.
  • I will go hiking regularly and live a fit and active life.
  • I will have the opportunity to travel overseas once per year and to take mini-breaks with the family a couple of times per year.

That’s about all I can think of. Are there any others areas of life which I’ve failed to address?

What about you? Do you have a dream that you constantly refer to to make sure you are heading in the right direction?

Photo by: {Erik}

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I’m currently reading Your Money or Your Life. It’s one of those books which seems to have been raved about on many of the blogs I frequent. Based on the title, I figured it was just another book about how to make or save more money. I just finished the preface last night and I’m pleased to see that it’s so much more. It looks to be about balancing our thoughts on money with how we live our lives. It’s just what I need right now.

I’ll admit that I have some financial hangups. I grew up in a family which only just made ends meet, so as a child I always felt stressed about money. I started working at the age of 12 and by 15 I was working three jobs in addition to going to school. I was a diligent saver and started investing in the share market at 16. At 23 I decided I was going to be a millionaire by 40, and for the last 8 years that was the financial goal I was focused on. I bought a lot of property before the boom in 2000, my net worth was growing steadily and I was on track to reach my goal quite easily.

The financial crisis of 2008 brought this dream crashing to the ground. I lost a lot in the stock market crash. It’s almost too painful to think about how much, but on paper it’s a loss of somewhere between $150,000 – $250,000 (Yes I’ve been sticking my head in the sand). That wouldn’t be so bad, but I was highly leveraged into those shares and I still have a huge loan costing me a lot of interest for assets which are devaluing daily.

So, being the type of person who is willing to learn a lesson and move on, I’m choosing to see this whole mess as an opportunity to re-evaluate my goals and thoughts on money. Some points I’ve read in this book really resonate with me, in particular the definitions outlined below.

  • Financial Intelligence: Being able to step back from your assumptions and your emotions about money and observe them objectively.
  • Financial Integrity: Learning the true impact of your earning and spending, both on your immediate family and on the planet. It is knowing what is enough money and material goods to keep you at the peak of fulfillment – and what is just excess and clutter.
  • Financial Independence: Having enough income sufficient for your basic needs and comforts from a source other than paid employment.

All this time I think I’ve been focused on being Financially Independent without really giving it any deeper thought about what it meant for the rest of my life. I was driving myself into the ground, making myself stressed, working in a job that at times made me feel like I was dying a slow death. Why? I guess that’s what I need to work out.

I’m excited to think that over the next year I’m going to re-evaluate my relationship with money and re-design my life to incorporate more elements which align with my values.

Photo by: Cati Kaoe

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I truly love to read. It’s the one thing that features in my memories from every stage of my life.

  • My father teaching me about the Solar System from the age of five and the quantity of books I collected about the Universe from a very young age. 
  • My mother reading to me every night before bed – Arnie the Darling Starling, The World of Christopher Robin and The Velveteen Rabbit
  • The weekly visit to the school library with my second grade class and being taught how to carefully turn the pages by the long-standing librarian.
  • Devouring every book in the house throughout my teenage years, often appearing rude when I couldn’t even put my book down for Christmas lunch.
  • A trip to a cafe and browsing a second hand bookstore becoming my favourite outing.
  • Attending any book-club that would fit into my schedule. 
  • Producing a mega list of all the books I want to read before I die. It’s currently about 700 books (and growing) and at my current rate I’ll need to live well past 100 to finish them all.

I have books in pretty much every room of the house, and usually have more than one on the go at a time. I like to read non-fiction in the lounge room and a novel before bed. I have reference books and photography books lining the shelves in the study. When I have children I hope they become avid readers. I can’t imagine a better or more accessible way to learn about the world.

Photo by: dhammza

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Why I’m already rich

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  • I have a roof over my head
  • I have food in my belly
  • I have clean water to drink
  • I have clothes on my back
  • I have access to health care
  • I have people who care for me
  • I can read
  • I do not live in fear for my life
  • I have work that does not make me sick
  • I have the ability to help those who don’t

Happy New Year

Photo by: James Fischer

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