Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Pam Martin
Editorial@lhvc.com 

New Year: New Context

 

January 6, 2017

Photo by Pam Martin Lynne Walker and Dave Bowes on the Niwot Loop Trail. They’ve found a way to get out of the rat race by living more cheaply abroad.

People tend to feel strongly about New Year’s resolutions. They either never make them (“I don’t need any improvement” one gentleman told me), or they make them religiously every year and keep track of their progress on spreadsheets—like my friend Jamie, who’s on the fast track to becoming a career novelist at 29 years of age.

While the New Year might seem like an arbitrary marker to some, the turning of the calendar page can act as a kind of reset button for those good intentions that fell like bricks by the wayside during the year—those weekly visits to the gym and yoga class (because now you have to do both), dinners centered around fresh vegetables rather than slabs of red meat (or pork, or now, even soy), more time spent in nature while reducing stress, TV and carbs. On Jan. 1 those intentions can be embraced with, if not renewed vigor, then something approaching a fresh perspective.

But for some, the plan is taking the resolution idea a step further, beyond diet-and-exercise goals and what might be called other Band-Aids that never seemed to fix the ennui of a growing number in the population. For them it’s the rat race itself that has to go.

Former Eye Opener coffee shop owner Lynne Walker and her partner Dave Bowes have embraced the counter-cultural extreme of divestiture. They’ve pared down their respective “stuff” and moved their headquarters abroad. For 18 months they’ve been living in Europe in beautiful coastal towns and mountain villages after selling the business, and their homes in Longmont and Niwot, respectively, setting out on a quest to reclaim their lives away from the pursuit of the “almighty dollar.”

According to Walker, she “started to think about this idea of freedom—about what it meant to be free,” she said. She’s now unencumbered by a job and is free to pursue her art. She’s a painter, focusing for now on abstract watercolors inspired by the landscapes of the places she and Bowes have been living in abroad—Croatia, Spain and Portugal, and Scotland, among other countries.

They stay in one place for three months, or until their travel visas are close to expiring, and then move on, finding apartments to rent for about $50 or less per night. They’ve met dozens of interesting people, and racked up experiences to write about two books apiece in the year and a half they’ve been living abroad. Bowes has been learning Spanish, and they spend their time taking long walks and bicycle rides, eating out and chatting with the locals. Walker paints. They read.

Still a British citizen, Bowes says that when he leaves the states in January, he doesn’t plan to ever come back. He’s a mechanic and a craftsman. He said the companies he’s worked for in the U.S. have workers practically killing themselves to meet productivity targets, but managers here are never satisfied.

“Why can’t they just be happy with the workers they’ve got who are doing their best?” he wants to know. He’s talking about the lack of commitment employers feel for their employees here, because he adds that football coaches in the US, “may have won Super Bowls, but if they have a bad year or two, it’s on to the next [coach].”

A fact that’s all too real for local high-tech employees. In the shadow of the recent Seagate layoffs, one employee told me, “It makes a person think,” meaning he can’t consider his job a sure and bankable thing.

Another consideration for them is the high cost of health care in the US, and it’s one reason why the north of England will be their next destination.

Bowes and Walker aren’t financially free, and will have to consider working again sometime down the road. “We’re free for now,” Walker said. They also don’t have a car—don’t want the hassle or the expense, but without wheels they’re hampered in their ability to stay in remote locations, and it makes them dependent on public transportation, affecting their choices on where they can stay. They prefer smaller cities so they can get around and find amenities like restaurants, and satisfy their love of coffee and pastries, and be within minutes of breathtaking scenery.

For them the lifestyle is more freeing than confining, and they’ll continue to trot the globe. With everyday challenges and responsibilities, it’s sometimes hard to remember that any of us have choices.

Not all of us struggle with “normal” societal pressures, but I do. For me a 9-to-5 job has always felt a little like a stranglehold, so I’ve generally cobbled different part-time jobs together in order to feel “free.” But I’ve condemned myself for not being more like other people who seem so satisfied being part of something greater than themselves, i.e. holding down a full-time job.

This year my resolution is to try to accept who I am with greater equanimity. Putting myself under the lash isn’t a solution, but actually the reverse. I urge all LHVC readers to do the same—be kinder to yourselves. Take a page from Walker and Bowes and see a slice of the world. You deserve it.

 

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