Monday, May 2, 2011

The 'Moving to Africa' Strategy

We have a fantasy (or dream--we haven't yet determined which label applies) about moving to Africa for a year sometime before the girls are in high school.  You know, get off the grid.  Expose them, and us, to another culture's ways and means and sense of community and time.  Defy all notions that retirement accounts, bank accounts, mortgages, obligations, careers, loyalty, and inertia stand in the way of such an adventure.  Nevertheless, they do.  And fear creeps in. 

But I was imagining last week that we were relocating to Africa for year or two or three, with a little prompting from hints of a possible opportunity.  The mind reels. Then I gained an objective view of what I would think and do if we were leaving in months for a sojourn abroad. And I recognized the value of living in an "Africa imminent" state for a while. I recommend it, even if you are not planning to budge.

First thought: We have too much stuff. Let's sell it all. But seriously; what would we keep? The list proves surprisingly short (and most of the objects to which we're attached are small). For example, a couch is a couch, after all, and replaceable. Save a few antique dressers, most of our furniture merely functions versus delights. Some of it is questionably functional, actually (see "glue gun").  And the rest of our tchotchkes? I'm asking myself, if I would ditch them for Africa, why am I saving them now? 

Also:  I considered all the services we'd have to cancel, including bottled water and cooler, organic veggie delivery, museum memberships...tallying them helped me take stock of what's truly appreciated and what may be frivolous or underused. (Note: water cooler and cold fluoridated water is a worthy budget cut, but the CSA box would only be axed under dire circumstances or an actual move across the Atlantic).

Next:  If we were readying our house for rental; it's time to fix some stuff.  A great way to prioritize tackling deferred maintenance is to consider what someone else living in your home shouldn't have to put up with, namely the hole in the garage roof, the toilet prone to clogging, and the part of the living room wall which I believe may crumble at any moment.  Meanwhile, the spendier schemes, like room additions and new kitchens, suddenly seem less relevant and compelling.

And then:  Nothing curbs the gimmies like supposing the object of your material desires will have to be packed, sold, or shipped.  Next time you shop at Target or Costco, curb your spending by considering how useful or necessary the items in your cart are if you're headed off the continent. 

Finally:  If family and friends are about to be halfway around the globe and an expensive flight away, time with them is at a premium.  Less morbid than to live "like you're dying" is to live like you're embarking on a prolonged walkabout.  Linger over dinner; go on long walks and talks; invite folks over; make yourself available.

When someone you know is contemplating a courageous endeavor, nudge them off the grid. Promise to visit them in faraway lands. Remind them that stuff is stuff and people will be here when they return, enriched by experience. Honor the fact that you wouldn't make the leap yourself; live vicariously.

And then head out of town for a spell (like a week, or even a weekend)!  What a relief to know that not all adventures require as much advance planning, deep breaths, and sacrifices as a move to Africa.  Use the money earned at that garage sale and saved from curtailed spending. 
Stay away just long enough to appreciate home again.


Heather PC said...

Go, go, go! We'll try to visit. And you can store any of your paintings or knick-knacks on the walls and shelves of our house while you're gone!

Kate said...

Your adventures usually result in knick-knacks for me. :-)

We will visit but you may need to time your exit so we only have on international sibling per year. :-)

Anonymous said...

Nudge. Nudge nudge. Also, take me with you. I am going to pretend I have an imminent move to Greece planned. That *might* make me run harder tomorrow.