How a City Boy Wound Up Living in the Woods: The Inevitable Exposition

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Two years ago I left my job to travel for a while. I worked as an editor at a growing energy news organization, but after a decade and a half in Washington, D.C., it was time for a break. I bought a minivan, sold my stuff and spent six months camping around the United States.

Upon my return to D.C. I got back into policy reporting, found a new apartment and resumed a life that looked a lot like it had before.

But we make changes for a reason, and I was beginning to wonder what had actually changed. The job was similar. I worked at home, communicating with people I rarely or never met. Even the wooden tiles on the floor of my new 16th Street apartment were the same as they were in my old 16th Street apartment.

I made it six weeks in the new job before quitting, but I knew on the first day. I didn't want to admit it, but I knew.

I had some freelance work, but not enough to really afford living in D.C. And the truth is, I was tired of working all the time, of waking up to check emails, of always needing to pay the rent. I wanted to work less, not more, and I wanted to spend more time in nature and less behind a desk.

 ... to this.

... to this.

Mostly, I wanted a life more mobile, flexible, fluid and active. Less tied to someone else's goals and ideas.

It soon became clear that renting was the problem, and independence meant owning. And now with a cat in tow, living out of the minivan was not an option.  I considered a larger van, and even bid on an old Ford Dolphin at one point. But my brother lives in Ithaca, N.Y., and so I started looking at land around there. The city, which hosts Cornell and Ithaca College, has rents more similar to D.C. than you might expect, but rural land can be affordable. 

In late April I bought five and a half acres in Hector, N.Y., and have been working to put a small cabin on the land. I've had to hire an excavation company, apply for building permits, and learn to use a chainsaw to clear land for a driveway. Pretty much the opposite of my D.C. life. It's awesome.

So this blog is about a lot of things.

First and foremost, it's about making changes and learning to build a life that works for me.

It's figuring out what I need and what I can leave behind. #minimalism #ofthingsandthought

It's about nature, spending time outdoors and reconnecting with the earth.

It's about learning to take care of a piece of land.

It's about writing and making art.

 And a gratuitous shot of Rosy the Minivan. I've logged a lot of miles over the last couple of years, and slept in the back more times than I can even count. #carcamping

And a gratuitous shot of Rosy the Minivan. I've logged a lot of miles over the last couple of years, and slept in the back more times than I can even count. #carcamping


Posted on May 8, 2015 and filed under Essay.