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Downsize for Stargazing, Tango, and a Rustic Cabin

Posted by International Living on January 24, 2017 in Downsizing, Rightsizing, Save Money

Tom Kerr writing on downsizing

When I moved from the fourth-largest city in America to the mountains of rural Virginia, it was a radical change.

I drove out, one night, to the little rustic cabin I had leased, which was about 20 minutes from the nearest town…a village, really, since it only had a population of 800.

After turning off the paved road, I bounced along gravel roads for several miles, then a dirt road that was a quarter-mile long, and finally, the headlights revealed a large meadow. In the far corner, up against the hillside, was a little cabin…my new home, sweet home.

I switched off the headlights, got out, and stood next to the car for a moment, smelling the pine-scented air in the quiet, calming solitude. I was in pure and total blackout darkness…something I hadn’t experienced for at least a decade while living in the city.

I heard a rustling in the trees way up high and instinctively looked up…and what I saw startled me so much that I actually jumped back against the car.

Then, I laughed so hard that I cried.

What had given me such a sudden shock was the brilliant, stunning canopy of sparkling stars overhead. It was like looking up at a silent fireworks display.

That’s when I knew I had made the right decision. I’d never go back to living in a place where street lamps, headlights, and security flood lights obscured the beauty of the Milky Way’s diamond dust.

Sometimes in life you only become aware of what’s been missing when it comes into sharper focus from behind the clouds…or when you give yourself a bit of well-deserved freedom to get out from behind your desk and off the beaten path.

You and your significant other might spontaneously pack a picnic and realize you haven’t done that in forever. You fly across the country to see your grandkids, and wish you’d made time to do it much sooner because they have sprouted like weeds. Or once in a blue moon you might spend an hour and a half lingering over breakfast with the whole family…instead of rushing past each other as you hurry off to work with a Pop-Tart in your hand.

Time is your most valuable commodity, and the only one you can’t buy back.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks how Americans spend their time, and one recent revelation is that parents engage in purposeful conversations with their children, on average, for only three minutes a day. You probably spend more time than that talking to the guy at your local deli. That’s the length of a TV commercial or about the same amount of time it takes to boil an egg.

When I first downsized I unexpectedly had so much extra time I didn’t know what to do with it all. That’s a luxurious problem to have…and one that fewer people — even those of retirement age — will ever get a chance to solve.

I was in my 50s before I ever built a stone chimney by hand…hiked part of the Appalachian Trail…or changed careers to become a freelancer, making more money while working half as many hours.

I got interested in martial arts, and while I was training for my black belt a fellow student offered to teach me the Argentine Tango. Soon she and I were going dancing every weekend, and I realized that I was picking up a little Spanish.

Then she heard that there was going to be a spectacular meteor shower…and asked if I knew of any place that offered a good view of the night sky.

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Image: ©iStock.com/Lorraine Boogich