Our Perfect Life
I have been feeling a bit impatient lately. I know what I want and I want it NOW.
But now is not the right time. We still have to save up more money for that house down payment, Mr. Frugasaurus still has to get more established in his freelance career, I have to build a sidehustle business that can keep us afloat, and that perfect house in the forest/along the sea has still not come sailing along in the listings we follow.
I suppose you could call it the middle years saving slog, although we have only been aware of the financial independence community for the past year.
So, inspired by the recent Mad Fientist podcast, I thought I would sketch out the dream that is our “perfect” life.
That way we have something to compare our real lives to, when we get that far (and we can see how far off we were).
Neutral or negative
A big thing that factors into where and how I want to live, is that I want the whole ordeal to come of neutral or ideally carbon negative, meaning the house, the surrounding land and our lifestyle would, on average, take up more carbon from the atmosphere than we emit.
This is obviously a tall order if we fly a lot or use a lot of petroleum products, but that is something that is at the core of how I imagine our dream life to be in the hopefully-not-too-distant future. That is also one of the reasons I want to buy enough land to own and protect a reasonably large chunk of forest. In addition to wanting to manage and use said forest for firewood and building/maintenance materials.
Without having done advanced maths, I know we are currently on the far side of emitting more carbon than we absorb over the course of our lives so far. A handful of houseplants cannot really mitigate all the flying, energy consumption or plastic use, etc, we have amassed over the last almost thirty decades.
So I really dream and hope to be able to build a home that takes up more than it spews out, both taking the building materials, construction and maintenance into account.
I have spoken to esteemed air scientists who believe that we can only take out the amount of carbon we need to take out from the atmosphere by relying on the technocracy, or innovation and technological solutions.
I think technology is well and good, but we cannot sit back and just live life as normal while we wait for someone else to solve our problems for us. Imagine how much of an impact it could have if we all planted a tree or three in our backyards (if we have one), or planted more perennial bushes and food producing plants.
I don’t see why we can’t do bottom-up and top-down approaches at the same time. All hands to the wheel!
Enough science, back to dreaming
So in our ideal life, we would have a small house built of all natural/biodegradable materials and a large forest and garden surrounding it. Pretty much swamping us with foliage, forest bathing and amazing produce.
We would get this land for reasonably cheap, because if you are outside daily commuters’ comfort zone, prices on houses drop really fast. We don’t want to be too far off because we want to be able to visit friends and attend events, but we do want to be far enough off to enjoy the drop in price and not run the risk of being engulfed by ever-sprawling cities in 40-50 years. Close to a small town? Yes, I would not mind that at all, on the contrary, but not a larger city.
As for many of our generation, reasonably fast internet is non-negotiable for us. Not the least because we expect to make a fair share of our income online. Plus I just think that is one of the beauties of the internet – the ability to stay connected with a larger community, even if you are living in a more rural, less connected area.
I honestly believe that both our power and food systems have become terribly fragile in their attempt to grow bigger and more efficient. So I would like us to produce some, if not all of our own electricity on site and something like 80-90% of our food as well. Ideally we would live close-ish to the sea where we would be able to harvest seaweed and perhaps a small amount of seafood. Norway has a lot of coast, so it is not impossible, but we will see!
Obviously, we can’t grow coffee or cacao here in the sub-arctic, but we can grow a large range of vegetables and fruits which should be more than enough to sustain our basic needs.
We will probably have a salamander dam somewhere on our land as well. We are both fond of reptiles, and Mr. Frugasaurus has really gotten excited about the whole thing after our landlords agreed to let us have a crested gecko in our flat. His name is Bast, and he is adorable.
In addition to growing our own food, I know that my good friend M. would like some animals like chickens, a cow and maybe some goats for eggs and experimental cheese production. We are a curious bunch of foodies, so I have no idea how that whole thing will work out, but it sounds exciting!
For environmental and personal reasons, Mr. Frugasaurus and myself have chosen not to have biological children. Our families live on the other side of the country, and we know it can be difficult to run a small farm on your own, particularly if you want to travel anywhere.
That is why, as briefly touched upon above, in my dream scenario, M. and her partner would also have a house on the same land. With generations taking over farms after each other, it is still common to find small farms with two houses in Norway. One for the family running the farm, and one for the elderly farm couple who let the next generation take over.
Make no mistake though, old folks still helped out in a myriad of ways with anything from childcare and cooking to sharing their knowledge and contributing intellectually.
I have always felt that friends are the family you choose for yourself, so it would be beyond amazing if we managed to build a small, close-knit community where we all sort of cooperatively ran a farm and stepped in for each other. Just like the extended family did back in the day – but with friends instead.
M, like me, is super enthusiastic about this, but her partner needs some convincing (and commutable distance to his job which he loves, lucky man). We are hoping that finding a place close to the sea with its own boat house so he can sail will be enough of a temptation to win him over. It is a very sinister plot.
We also want to have a guest house for more transient visits, like friends and family coming from afar to say hi. These kinds of visits are made so much easier (and extendable!) for everyone involved if people have their own space to retreat to when they feel the need for it. It could also be used as an atliér/writing room/what have you when not in use by guests, so it would not just stand empty.
It is not a jet-set life I am describing at all. In my dream future, we work a little bit on our sidehustles and in the garden, but don’t feel rushed or forced to do anything right this very moment. I want there to be time for reflection, meditation, and just plain having a bad day whenever that happens.
I want to build a life where we learn to provide for most, if not all, our basic needs from our own land, and I want us to reach a point where our expenses are so low that even working the sidehustles is not something we need to do everyday, but something we do simply because we enjoy creating things.
In short, I want a life where, on a random Wednesday, I could just decide that I wanted to take a walk along the coast to enjoy the view and pick plastic for hours, without it having a detrimental effect on our bottom line. Our investments would primarily be a safety cushion.
We could arrange courses and gardening weekends to teach others and give back to the community, once we get far enough to actually have a good grasp of what we are doing! But I must admit, I much prefer short bursts of activity (like arranging a course) to the constant demands of a day job. Although that might also be me just not having been able to transition from blue to white collar job yet.
Patience, young padawan
I think that, having distilled what we want down to such an essence, that is really a big part of why I am feeling all this impatience and restlessness.
But that is also why I have started to employ a new tactic: micro savings.
This is where, if I am feeling particularly impatient, or I want to treat myself for a job well done, I log into my accounts and transfer a tiny sum from my checking account to my mortgage savings account.
This is just a small sum, around $10, so only the tiniest, most miniscule slice of a house you can imagine.
But it works mentally. I feel like I am rewarding myself by slowly buying, piece by piece, a tiny fraction of this future I have just sketched out.
I can imagine no bigger “treat yourself” than that.
What does your dream life look like?