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.
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.
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.