Escaping the Rat race …are you in or out ? How to decide where to begin.

Escaping the Rat Race … are you in or out ? How to decide where to begin.

So if one bails out of the rat race, then one is no longer living the normal “city type” life style. Obvious really. But whilst you’re in the rat race, it’s not something one thinks about.

There seems to be four broad options … all of which relate to how far away from “city civilisation” one is prepared to live.

  • In the city / town
  • In suburbia
  • In the country
  • In the middle of nowhere. (In this State? In this Country? or in this Hemisphere?)
    (Take your pick.)

By default the decision to abandon the rat race is an internal brawl of epic proportions …

  • The sensible versus the irrational
  • The head versus the heart
  • The ideal versus the reality
  • It can’t be that hard right?

You make a list , choose the items closest to your heart.  Job done! 

However, I found this very difficult indeed.

As a personal example, I like nature, the great outdoors, peace and quiet, stillness, tranquility and beauty. But on the other hand, I also like book shops, cappuccinos, delis, concerts, the sidewalk “cafe lifestyle”, the odd fine dining experience … however, few of the latter are likely to be found living out “in the sticks”.

So it boils down to facing up to dilemmas and making choices. Hard choices.

Pencil and Paper: So try the old-school method, with a pencil and page of dead tree.  Write a list of your values.  This could be quite deep and philosophical. Don’t bother with that.  It’s difficult enough already.  Just say out loud … “I value …”  and whatever comes to mind, write it down.  Don’t get stuck, don’t think too hard.  Just get it down.

Make two lists

  • The advantages / disadvantages of “city” type features
  • The “countryside/lifestyle” type features, or whatever it is that you desire

Then with your spouse or significant other(s), begin the series of endless cyclical discussions, as one tries to “have it all,” until such time as it finally dawns upon everyone, that there is an awful lot of “giving up / letting go / compromising” to be done.  (If you’re not the compromising type this is the time to practice.)

  • Prioritise or rank each item
  • You want only the most important items at the top of the list
  • The fewer items the better
  • Start off broad with everything you want, and narrow it down to the most important things

Letting go of the current life for another life is a process which has to be worked through.  Otherwise, the new life just remains a day dream, thought of while staring blankly out of the commuter train window.

Unfortunately for most of us, ideals and dreams are ruthlessly beaten into submission by practicality.

So our ideal list had things like ….

  • Child should be able to walk to school. Tick.
  • Child needs friends close by to play with. Tick

Both of the above quickly rule out living out “in the sticks.”  Unless, perhaps one is home schooling, which we were not.

So where’s the peace , beauty and tranquillity ideal just gone then?  The internal energy sapping smack-down wrestling match has just begun.

Escape the rat race

So … it dawns upon one, therefore, that actually we need a house close to school.  Child needs a “good” school we say enthusiastically, good rankings, good teachers, no drugs, no crime.  We need a house which doesn’t cost much (the no mortgage or low mortgage ideal).

The logic at this point stumbles, lands face down on the floor, so to speak.

First hurdle: Cheap house close to a “good” school … (inside the school catchment area – if there is such a thing).  These two things are not frequently found in the same location.

So in a blink, not only are we now suddenly no longer living in quiet tranquil beauty, we are heading for a town with a good school, where cheaper property is within walking distance. What?

And did I mention we like pretty, beautiful, cute cheap property. And this utopia is to be found on the other side of the world, one that I knew little about. OK … so now we are certifiably delusional.  Because in spite of all of this … were still making a list.

Second hurdle: If we want to have more “time” (instead of less time and more money), we should live closer to family…. so we can drive there, instead of taking a couple of trans-Atlantic flights (times three people each time).

But if we are trying to live a simple life, and have less paid working hours (therefore living on less) how on earth are we going to be able to afford to fly halfway around the world to see family? Let alone live!!

Hey guess what? We are moving to the other hemisphere, no really.

Hey guess what?  We are leaving the sun, sea, and sand, and going to live in the snow for six months of each year.  What?

This quickly all starts to feel a lot like “lack” or “loss” or just “plain ridiculousness”.  It becomes difficult to nurture this idea, to keep the dream of a simpler life alive.

I am absolutely convinced that it is way easier just to continue doing the lemming commute everyday.  Newspaper, headphones, underground Tube ticket to zone one and just pretend you like it.

Friends sneak strange sideways glances at you. Yep.  He’s lost it for sure.  I mean nobody in their right mind would even consider such a ridiculous thing. They are now worried that perhaps it is some strange viral illness.  They pray that it’s not contagious.

Our short list of four items became …

  • Maximum one hours drive from family
  • Good school within walking distance
  • As beautiful a surrounding as we could possibly find, close to a body of water
  • Cheap old house with low property tax

In our experience, more than four items became unworkable.  The internal wrestling and wrangling was just too great for us to overcome.

It is critical that you keep the list, as whilst you are transitioning and filled with fear and uncertainty, it is useful reminder of what you wanted. And once you have transitioned, it becomes a reality check to see if you got what you wanted.

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