Monday, February 24, 2014

Russians on the Pursuit of Happiness

While browsing the web this morning, I found an article (article is a generous word, it's more like a list) where the author inserted tourist advice into Google translate. For example, a Japanese citizen's advice to his/her own countrymen about how to behave in America. While those were amusing, especially about food (how Americans make it a big socializing event), I found the Russian advice really striking.

The Russian list is only four points long:

1. Gifts in business may be construed as bribes, if they are not particularly Russian in nature.
2. Women in America like to be treated as equals and not ogled - kissing on the hand and mutual kissing is not acceptable.
3. Don't show up uninvited to a business partner's home. Use care in conversation - don't talk about health, it is considered rude, and don't hang up the phone without the proper confirmations and goodbyes.

And point 4, which I will paste in it's entirety here because it was just so relevant to my life:

"US etiquette requires that you smile in each and every situation. If you want to travel to America, be prepared to give a smile not only to friends and acquaintances, but also to all passers-by, in shops, to the staff at the hotel, police on the streets, etc. 

"US etiquette also forbids lamenting the troubles of life, or sharing your problems with others. Sharing in this country can only be positive emotions—sorrows and frustrations are impermissible. In the US you only complain to acquaintances in the most extreme cases. Serious problems are for close friends and relatives only.

"However, it would be wrong to believe that the Americans with their smiles only create the illusion of well-being and that their smiles are stretched with false joy. This is not so. Americans: they are a nation that truly feels happy. These people get used to smiling from the cradle onwards, so they do not pretend to be cheerful. The desire for a successful happy life is inoculated from childhood.”  

Makes you feel sort of warm and fuzzy about being inoculated for a successful happy life. LOL. But seriously, it's a gift to be able to pursue happiness - which I agree, is a totally ingrained part of our culture. Hell, it's in the Declaration of Independence. That's not a small part of what we're doing here - declaring our independence from corporations, from the rat race, from the mundane. I can't even express the feeling I get when I think about our move and what we're doing. I encourage you to try it - throw off the shackles of something, be it your gym membership, your phone company, the car loan (buy a used car!), a credit card balance. You'll feel SO free - and that feeling is addicting!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New (to us) Car!

One of the things on our "To-Do" list is to buy a 4 wheel drive car, specifically, a Subaru (since Mike is a Subaru expert and we'll save big bucks in maintenance!). We didn't want to purchase a new car or even a car we couldn't pay cash for, because having a car payment is not a burden we want. It makes much more sense to us to buy a car you can pay outright for. Something reliable and efficient. Insurance and repairs are also cheaper on, say, a Toyota or Honda, versus an Audi or Mercedes. A car gets you from point A to point B, and that is it's purpose. Do not believe that a car validates you. You are who you are, no matter what you drive.

So with that in mind, the last month and a half or so, we've been searching and searching on Craigslist. We even took a jaunt all the way to Pacoima, to look at a too-good-to-be-true car.

The car in Pacoima turned out to be a hoarder's car! I so wish I had a picture of it to show you, but it would have been rude. Instead, I give you this picture of an exact same Subaru, in the exact same state, to get an idea of how shocked we were when we saw it:

I mean,'re selling a car! Wouldn't you think, "geez, I should make this look as pretty as possible so I can sell this thing?" But to be fair, maybe that WAS as pretty as they could make it. They also had a bunch of junk in their yard, so I guess they wouldn't have anyplace to put the junk in their trunk!

In the end, we wound up with a very nice used Subaru, that already had the head gaskets redone and was in good shape. I present to you, our new-to-us Subaru Forester:

The funny thing is, this 1998 Forester has more upgrades than my 2005 Toyota Corolla. The Forester has power windows and door locks, whereas my Corolla was manual. LOL.

It feels so good to be checking things off our To Do list. One step closer to Bend!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Inspiration, Downsizing, Quitting My Job! ...and Our Future

For the last couple years, I've been super inspired by the Tiny Home Movement (it's a real thing!) and the people that build and live in them. They are amazing little living spaces that are super efficient and compact. No space gets wasted and the only belongings that fit in them are the ones that are truly necessary. Not only that, they are reasonably priced ($15K-$100K), and cost almost nothing to heat and cool (and even that is free if you go solar). Imagine if you could own your home outright after just a few years - you've just cut out a huge portion of your cost of living! This, in turn, requires you to make less money, so then you can work less, travel more (or do whatever you want)...FREEDOM.

the Durango house, listed for sale on

Surfer Shack custom home from

interior shot of the Mica model from

As we clear out our belongings in preparation for staging our little loft (which is under 900 square feet, but tiny homes are usually 150-500 square feet!), I like to think about how few things you actually need to live. Sure, I need clothes for cold weather and my memory foam pillow, my down comforter and pots and pans and my Mac and such, but surprisingly, you need very minimal things to truly live. I don't really need 25 sweaters. I really wear about 5 of them all the time, and the other 20, once in awhile. Wouldn't it be nicer to have 5 high quality items that you truly love, instead of 25 items of mediocre quality? 

With that in mind, I've been combing through everything and paring down each category - clothes, utensils, camping gear, shoes, beauty products, etc. It's all part of my ultimate goal to have a tiny, mortgage free home, that's powered completely by the sun and collects water (mostly, at least) from the rain. Or, in case we decide we want to travel, at least we'll have less to store!

My last day at work is officially March 19th, 2014. In celebration, I gave away almost all my suits and business clothes. It is sort of monumental for me because I hope to never, ever enter the corporate world least the way I'm in it now. No more saving up vacation days, getting dressed in suits, and missing important events because I don't have enough time off. Down with the system! Up with life!