Four years ago this month, my husband Randy and I made our way North to Canada in our old F-250 truck. Our two young boys and our dog, Lulu, were our co-pilots. I wasn’t on a sabbatical from work, I had left my corporate job for good. The “Amazing Aardema Adventure” was going to be a 3-month odyssey and it had been in the works for just over a year.
In the months leading up to our trip, there were times when I questioned whether or not we should do it.
If I keep working we could buy the property in the mountains.
Randy would REALLY like to build a cabin which is only possible if I keep this job.
We don’t have to worry about money because of how much I make.
But deep down I knew the trip was going to happen no matter what—finances were easy, but I was feeling empty. This action would be my doorway to something else and I was ready for my next chapter.
The company I was working for at the time was having trouble getting enough business to keep us all occupied. And yet, there was massive pressure to be billable. I was tired of pretending to be busy—and I was bored. I was making a good salary but I didn’t feel like I was earning it. I learned from a young age about the fragility and uncertainty of life—fueling in me a strong desire to make each day meaningful.
So being bored, well, for me there wasn’t a worse feeling since I made it mean that I was wasting the little bit of precious time I have.
I tried to create value but politics always seemed to get in the way. So each day, I’d stare at my empty calendar and wonder what in the world I was doing with my life. I’d fall into a Facebook trance and click on the ads as they entered my consciousness. I hit the buy now button often. I made each purchase mean that I was productive and moving myself and or my family forward.
After there wasn’t anything else left to buy, I’d find the colleagues I considered my friends, and 1) comment kindly on their outfits, and then leave the building to go to the coffee shop and 2) talk non-stop about whether or not we thought the company would stay afloat. Those were the two conversations I had month in and month out. We sounded like a broken record.
All I had to do was physically show up, yet I was miserable.
I wanted to have different conversations. And so I knew it was time for a massive change. Life was passing by too quickly and I wasn’t using my gifts. Plus I was missing too many moments with my boys for what felt like no good reason, except money.
So it was time for a massive change. Deep down I knew life was passing by too quickly and I wasn’t using my gifts. Plus I was missing too many moments with my boys for what felt like no good reason, except money.
Going on our adventure would be my way to recalibrate—it was me actively choosing to live more simply, richly and intentionally.
We packed our small camper a few days before leaving.
We each got one drawer to pack whatever clothing we wanted. Even though my goal was to pack lightly I quickly found that there wasn’t enough space for the me I envisioned on this odyssey—the me… who was fun, active, and carefree and clearly needed the right clothing to portray this.
I also wanted to bring numerous shoes.
Randy tried to convey that there wasn’t room.
Do you need all those shoes?
I had shoes for hiking, biking, sandals for the beach and a few dress-up shoes for nice restaurants.
My answer was just in case.
Just in case.
I packed for the old me.
Not the new me.
Not the me that was creating a fresh start. The me who didn’t have to pretend to be busy. The me who had more to talk about than someone else’s outfit. The me who was happy to wear the same thing multiple days in a row because it really didn’t matter.
I stuffed my drawer so much so that it was really hard to open and get things in and out.
Randy, on the other hand, packed one pair of shorts, a pair of pants, a swimsuit, two t-shirts, and his bicycle clothing. It took him about 10 minutes to find his things and put them in the drawer. And there was plenty of space for more.
The day of the big adventure dawned and we hit the road.
Canada showed up for us in her majestic glory. Over the 9 weeks, we camped in meadows, along the shore of beautiful lakes, drove by numerous glaciers and saw wildlife close-up.
But the whole time my mind was as stuffed as my annoying drawer that was so hard to wiggle open.
I noticed the ease in which Randy grabbed his things, and that there was no time lost in deciding what to wear.
But I didn’t connect the dots to minimalism.
I was too busy thinking about my next phase of life.
I was enrolled in The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy and knew I wanted to become a health coach, but at the time I wasn’t even sure what a coach was.
I had so many what-ifs running through my head.
Is this going to work?
Did I take too big of a leap?
And why is Randy acting so angry at me?
Randy had his own mental clutter to contend with. He wasn’t looking forward to becoming the sole breadwinner when we got back to Colorado, and he was dreading the extra work he knew he’d have to take on to keep us afloat. He got more and more sullen as the days went by.
So two adults with a bunch of mental and emotional clutter and two very young kids in tow.
We both saw the beauty around us but neither one of us could truly enjoy it.
I didn’t need a scale to tell me what was happening. I tried so hard to look carefree, but I didn’t know how to be carefree, resulting in a lot of extra weight—heavy mental, emotional and physical pounds on my 5’4” frame.
We returned home to our new reality. For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have an office I needed to be in. I had space in my day to ask myself why I’d brought so much on our trip, much of which I barely even wore. Why did I cling to it? What was I afraid of? What was I buffering myself from? Things important to me before and during the trip were no longer important to me after the trip. I realized that for me to flourish I needed to let go of the person I was—so that I could become more of who I am already.
I started to read up on minimalism. I liked the feel of it. Buying less, but better. Yes, Randy had tried to steer me in this direction before our trip, but I hadn’t been ready. But this was a lighter path for us. As I embraced the idea of less is more, my mental and emotional weight lightened and before I knew it my extra physical weight was released as well.
Our “Amazing Aardema Adventure” was monumental, but not in the way I’d envisioned. The trip was painful, but I had to face my own clutter so that I could learn how to help others do the same. Today I’m passionate about helping people live lighter lives and lose weight by releasing their mental, emotional and physical pounds. My days are filled with the things that matter most to me—my clients, my family and my dreams of where I’m taking my business next.
I’m grateful I swapped all my clutter for the courage to do everything I can with the gifts I’ve been given, while I still can. I no longer feel empty—often I feel like I’m overflowing with purpose and joy. And I’m honored by the conversations I’m having each day.
Today Randy and I are no longer pining for a cabin in the mountains. Everything we want, we have. And if we’re going anywhere, we’re all packing light.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com.