Outdoor Adventures

How to Live

Spending a perfectly useless afternoon in a hammock

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live. — Lin Yutang

When I go to the Boat Ranch, I come back feeling relaxed and inspired — by the crisp country air and days of doing nothing, the purity of local food and family time, and how simply I can live when there are no distractions.

But simple doesn’t mean lacking — in fact, quite the opposite is true. At the Boat Ranch, I live in a two-room bungalow and cook on a propane stove. I light my way with a lantern and tell time by the sun, not by my cell. But I don’t find myself missing the luxuries of life at home… no cluttered closets, or a kitchen packed with pots and pans, or the constant transmission of technology all around me. The sea breeze is my ceiling fan. I sit idly under my palapa and watch ocean TV until it’s time to eat or nap or surf.

View from the Boat Ranch

For a few days away, I try to pack only what I really need. Two bikinis, a pair of shorts, a pair of pants, a T-shirt, a sundress, some sandals, and a warm fleecy layer and fuzzy boots for chilly nights around the fire. My wetsuit and surfboard are the only non-negotiables. I usually wear the same outfit every day, and often come home with clean clothes that I never even unfolded.

The only wardrobe I need

I take a 1-hour breakfast and a 2-hour lunch and a 3-hour dinner. Sometimes my meals seem to run into each other during the course of the day, becoming a 12-hour brunner (breakfast-lunch-dinner). I clink cervezas between “board meetings” rather than gulp lattes between, well… the other kind of board meetings.

I fix things I normally would’ve discarded at home. I take to pen and paper instead of phone and laptop. I have conversations with myself — but not in a crazy Castaway sort of way. I have all the hours I need to be in my own head, recharge the old batteries, and dream of new ventures and adventures. When I do wonder “Where does the time go?” it’s not because I was too busy to notice… rather, I was enjoying it too much to realize.

Even in the simplest of lives, we get caught up in stuff… and not all stuff is bad. Learning how to live means accepting the daily responsibilities, but not letting them control you. It means accepting that it’s okay to leave things undone… if you get to spend an extra hour being present with your loved ones or taking in a beautiful sunset by yourself.

Because sometimes, those perfectly useless afternoons are the ones that fulfill us the most.


About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Genna
    August 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Linda – just wanted to say I have really been enjoying reading through your blog – just read the Yosemite posts and now this – your philosophy on life is so grounded! Have a wonderful day!

    • Linda Ly
      August 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you for the kind comment. I’m happy these posts are resonating with you!

  • Vera
    June 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Very true – I am looking forward to our vacationm in the Czech Republic where in my parents’ cottage simply the lack of internet connection will make our days slow down. Also campfires and no running water. Can’t wait 🙂

  • Sarah
    June 21, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    This was so beautifully written. I try to make all my days simple and rich like this 🙂

  • Xochi Navarro
    June 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Happy Friday. 🙂

    • Linda Ly
      June 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Happy Friday and Happy Solstice!

  • missy winkworth
    June 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

    i have to say, i am not much of a california, or desert, person… but you make it look so appealing!

  • Misti @oceanicwilderness.com
    June 21, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I might be a teensy bit jealous! 😉 Having spent seven months backpacking on two different trip and then living out of hotel rooms for some field work, I definitely know that you don’t need much to get by on.

    • Linda Ly
      June 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      The longest time I’ve spent on the road is six weeks living out of a backpack (okay, two backpacks… LOL) and it’s so refreshing, that moment you realize how easy everything is!


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