Thursday, November 19, 2009

henry and my slightly simplified life

"In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness." Henry David Thoreau

Many people have asked us why we wanted to remain in Germany. Aren't we happier back in our familiar home in the USA? There are many things I miss in Germany including our friends and the chance to travel but there's just something about the lifestyle we had there that tips the scale over our life in America.

Of course, taking weekend trips to Paris, planning vacations to see castles even though we can see castles out our bedroom window, the daily sound of church bells and summer evenings in a Biergarten...yes, all of those things are wonderful. But when Karl and I discuss what we really love about living in Germany it's always the lifestyle we had there that is near impossible to duplicate in the US that tips that scale. And I believe it is actually a quote from Henry David Thoreau that may best sum up what I loved about our life there: "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."

In Germany it just seemed much easier in many ways to make our life simpler. To enjoy the simple worthwhile things about life every day. About 5 months before we moved back to the US we got rid of our car. We wanted to cut some living costs and also wanted to see if we could comfortably live without a car. And you know what? Between the car costs and gas we saved about 300 euros a month and found life so much more enjoyable without a car!

Strangely, going without a car was great for our marriage. Even though we could previously chat while we drove places together, we found that chatting while on a train or on bikes was much more meaningful when weren't stressed with traffic or needing to pay attention to signs. Getting places took a bit more planning sometimes, but the getting there much more fun: watching the beautiful Black Forest flash by, reading books, having conversations, listening to pod casts. Often trains took much more scenic routes than the Autobahn. We rode our bikes a lot more which was great exercise and a lot of fun. And, because Germany has such a great public transportation system, we rarely felt trapped or unconvinced with getting anywhere. I even found I took more trips to nearby cities and sites just for the fun of it. Somehow it was just easier to explore without the car. But, unfortunately, going car-less is near impossible in the States. But hopefully we can build a life here that only needs one car...

One of the big selling points of this house we bought is it's location. We are two blocks from our church, a block and a half from the library, two blocks from a great park, three or four blocks from Axel's future elementary school and a walkable distance from old town Katy's city center with fabric shops and antique stores and restaurants. I love being able to walk to church every week, load Axel into the stroller and head up to the library once a week or so (I find I've been getting a lot of reading done as I nurse him!) and I look forward to when Axel gets a little older and we can walk up to the park to feed the ducks and have a picnic and someday walk him to his first day at school. In other words, I love the opportunity to be outside as I get to places and to live somewhere compact enough that I don't always need a car!

And I like not being dependant on something and being able to simplify my life just that much more.

A replica of Thoreau's simple cabin home in the woods at Walden Pond.
Photo by Steven Erat at


DA&B said...

Love your post from today - it sure says a lot about the lifestyle over here in Germany - I love my small town and that I can walk Brenna to school, go to the bakery, paper store, bank, and doctor all on foot. I wasn't sure how we would do with one car over here, but it sure has worked out! Miss you guys over here - Axel is growing so fast!

Mick said...

Wow, you said it all. We are moving the rest of the way back to the States next summer and not all will be a good change. Yep, France is good but what about adding them few hours and being in Italy. It will be hard. I sure fill for them that may never live it.

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