By Sara E Walker
I remember a time when out of necessity I was required to make severe budgeting decisions; these were my college years. Like most college kids, I did crazy things to make the dollars from my three jobs stretch. I have been known to go without eating, go without heat and ration my toilet paper -- yes, I did this. I remember going out to lunch with my best friend, Tina Adair, for a break from campus and we used McDonald's coupons to help offset the expense. I remember those outings like it was yesterday. Tina and I would drive to McDonald's, scour the coupons to ensure we knew what we could order and then embark on our discounted meal.
Choosing to take my days slower here with less clutter than before leaves a lot of time for reflection. I have learned that hiking and snowshoeing are great, free activities where I can do a lot of reflection while being with nature --
not to mention, nice for photography practice. Also, on these outings, I have met several wonderful people and learned local tips on trails, resources and other locals to know. Another aspect of these free, outdoor activities is my becoming acclimated to the new high-altitude a bit faster. The thin air is no joke.
In college, going without seemed like a sacrifice. I remember feeling like I was getting less than I wanted. After years of getting what I wanted, making the decision to walk away gives my new, simple lifestyle a different perspective. Since I decided to toss my life in the air and walk away from my professional career, I knowingly put myself in a position to once again budget like crazy. It does not matter how much planning I did; I am budgeting as if I did not have a plan. However, this time around, it all feels very different than when I was in college. I may be rationing my food, wearing extra clothes so I don't use the heat and eating on coupons, but this time it feels empowering. I am happier than I have been in a long time and it is on my terms; freedom feels good.