As it turns out, the simple life is a bit complicated. For us to make it work, as we have recently learned, there has to be something more than single simplicity. There has to be connection with community.
Earlier this year we had a baby, closed our business and moved out of the big city (Istanbul) to a small seaside town in the South of Turkey (Göcek). Life in the city seemed unnecessarily hectic with the congestion, traffic, pollution, noise, etc. My wife had told be about this spectacular area called the Turquoise Coast.
So when our baby came, we welcomed the opportunity to shift to a more simple life, something of a Mediterranean retreat where we could nurture our little guy through infancy. In just a few weeks, we made a remarkably easy move; a friend down here found us a house to rent, we bought 1-way airline tickets that cost less than our Istanbul monthly bus/subway passes, sent some furniture down in a truck and voila – paradise.
Our cost of living here is a small fraction (literally) of what is was in the city. We walk out our door and stroll along a spectacular seaside for recreation, walk to the grocery and the farmers’ market for resupply, and enjoy sunny afternoons reading on the porch or evenings by the t.v.. There is not much need for a car, which we still don’t have.
‘Why’, I kept thinking, ‘do I not see any of the 15 million plus people in Istanbul doing this?’ Where I am from (the U.S.) people move pretty frequently, and small towns in pristine nature easily accessible to an airport are prime real estate . In Turkey, as I understand, people move less, and mostly to the city rather than the other way around.
But there is more to it than just that. After about half-a-year into this simple life, maybe I am seeing why this place is not inundated with weary city dwellers. I think that the divide between culture and community in the city vs. the village is too wide.
Even though we have made progress toward being able to support this simple lifestyle financially, it feels like it would be very difficult connect well enough in the community to flourish financially out here. Even though the people are very friendly and welcoming, it’s hard to imagine connecting well enough into the community so that we and our kid could contribute, grow, and be nourished here. Even though we actually live better here materially and without any pressure of keeping up with the guy-next-door atmosphere, it feels like there is something missing.
There’s more to it than logistics in what my global yogi friends are promoting on FaceBook: thinking/feeling/eating/speaking/acting/living a simple, natural, ecologically responsible life. There also has to be a feeling of sharing that intention with a community.
On some level, we are living this vision. We consume almost exclusively locally grown food we cook ourselves. We have an extremely low-impact heating (almost never use) cooking (propane) travel (public transportation to the city only about one time per month – haven’t been on a plane in more than six months), lifestyle. We use technology (internet/skype/Kindle, etc.) to maximize our possibilities and minimize our footprint.
Yet on another level, it doesn’t feel like we are really participating in local life here. Sure, technology gives us the opportunity to like and share and message globally through FaceBook, but when I don’t have any likes/shares/communication with the people around, it feels wrong.
Those for whom living simply is a value, a practice, part of our effort to keep a pure heart, mind, body, house, yard, town, region, planet, etc. need each other. The key to making it work, I think, is sharing that value with others, being with other people who are choosing to live like this, connecting into a community whose intention it is to live with these values.
Without this connection simple can turn into simplistic, simplicity can easily slip into stagnation. Maybe it is natural that when kids come, parents seek to be surrounded with like-minded people with common values.
I salute all those of you out there who have found a way to live simply in this complicated world, and look forward to living among you some day.