Image: nuchylee FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Not sure how long this post will end up, but a lot has been going on in the last few months and it all seems to interconnect. I feel like I need to tell you it all together.
So grab a copy of tea and a comfy seat.
You may like this post if you like simple living, travel, adventure, personal growth, social enterprise, entrepreneurship, photography, or just a long rambling sorry
Here it goes:
So, years ago, when I started this blog and we started making changes to our life, we were trying to move toward more intentional living. We have never wanted less life – we have wanted more room in life for the things worth living.
This led us to less things, cheaper living, more traveling, homeschooling our kids, writing, and finally to China. Traveling internationally was a dream back when it all started but I don’t know that I ever really expected it to be a reality.
So we moved to China last February. The change had a lot of good and bad. I think that is the problem with traveling. Once you travel you will always miss the good parts of where you have been. We enjoyed the culture a lot and the schedule of teaching. I totally recommend it to people wanting to wander and try something new. You can easily make the money to pay for the year – so it is a pretty safe experiment (doesn’t require a $50,000 investment).
However, our contract scheduling wasn’t going to work out like we needed it to for next year to still allow us to trade off watching the kids. (we would have both had to overlap teaching for a few hours). We found this out around the same time we were finding out that we were living in one of the worst polluted cities in China (or worst, depending on which list you go by). Our city was really small (comparatively), but coal plants, wind currents, and mountains to the side of us made all the pollution collect there.
When we moved to China last February there wasn’t a way to track the air pollution for the area because reporting stations hadn’t been set up. Turns out, when they were set up last fall, things were much worse than people thought. Pollution makes me sad. I can choose where to live but most of the people living there had no choice. With the environment continuing to get bad pretty soon none of us will have a choice if we are going to live in it or not. But I’m wandering off topic. Live small – take care of the earth – appreciate the clean air you breath.
So, the beginning of October we were faced with the reality that we had to move in a few months and find a new job. Having 3 months warning is pretty good, comparatively, to many people who have to make job changes. But we were looking at which country and which career. We don’t have a ton of options, but there is a lot we could try to do – and we love trying to do new things.
We had a few other personal things we had been dealing with that were pretty stressful and the whole realization that we had huge change coming up and massive unknowns was really hard. I love change that I can choose and control but being emotionally exhausted and having huge life change looming was draining.
So we looked at a bunch of positions all over China and in many other countries. (I start a lot of paragraphs with the word ‘so’ I am just realizing). Many wanted more experience or wouldn’t work with our schedules to trade off taking care of the kids. We finally found one we really liked in one of the larger cities in China. We also got a job offer from a smaller college down in the very south of China in a really beautiful spot.
However, ever since we volunteered for a month with Starfish Project over the summer we had wanted to go back. When we were there we talked about the possibility of coming back permanently. We all really loved it (even the kids).
To give you the short version – Starfish project is a social enterprise in Asia helping exploited women. They do this by befriending them, providing them a safe place to stay, counseling, education, a self-esteem building job, and many other things they need to make a full transition. They are making a huge difference in the lives of these women and the program is growing fast. The women create jewelry to sell and the profits go to paying for the full program and everything they need. It is a sustainable business model that can grow and make a positive difference in the world. The beauty of business and charity together. The beauty of building up the person to have pride in what they can do instead of relying on handouts.
I love and support a bunch of charities, but we really loved the model Starfish had going because it is making a sustainable difference. (since we are both business majors)
But the catch was that most foreign office positions are not paid. The idea of trying to volunteer and raise support ourselves to do something we believed in while we had children depending on us… is scary.
Since we were looking at moving and other job options we decided to follow-up with them and see if they still had stuff we could help with.
They said yes, they needed a photographer and more help building internet marketing.
I am sure they could have found better people for the job, but we were willing, we love working with photography and marketing, and we love what they are doing and want to help.
So beginning of October, exhausted and not ready for change, we decided to try and accept a job that didn’t pay. … if this sounds crazy (or just plain stupid) to you then you are probably following the story correctly.
But this is what we have been working for, believe in, want to live our lives about. We stopped being ‘normal’ so long ago what’s another crazy change, right?
We got approved for the job, got approved for an organization we could raise support through (so supporters could get a tax deductible donation .. and accounting stuff that I knew we could never do on our own), and had to book airline tickets based on our decision all within about 2 or 3 days.
It even looked like visas would be worked out, but in the end, visas have been much harder and complicated than we thought… really doesn’t matter what country you live in, trying to work with government offices sometimes isn’t quick and is often frustrating
So, it looked like all the big things were figured out, except… well, being able to feed the children for the year.
Bryon and I had been playing with the idea of trying to do a bundle sale with photography items (like some I have promoted on this site with a bunch of ebooks all together – I love bundle sales of electronic information. A digital library for a huge discount I can grab all in one shot).
To be honest, we have talked about it for a few years but really knew we didn’t have the skills or connections to make it work. I think my husband is an awesome photographer, but he doesn’t have a bunch of connections in the photography and blogging world. … he has been taking pictures and helping me with my writing. We also didn’t have the technical skills and knew we would need to pay for help with some of that.
But needing to feed the children is a motivator.
So I wrote a graphic designer I had worked with before who was super awesome and helpful. I was afraid our idea would sound dumb and he wouldn’t have time, but ... feeding the children is a motivator
He wrote back the next day and thought it sounded like a great idea and wanted to partner with us. I don’t know if I have ever got such an exciting e-mail!
This started a crazy chunk of life that included teaching during the day, homeschooling, and trying to do this other business on the side (and in the cracks). All the while trying to plan for a trip back to the US for Christmas and a move across China.
If your reading along and thinking this sounds really far from simple living… your also quite correct. I titled this blog, and people seem to use this term Simple Living, for intentional living and ordering priorities. It sounds so rosy and peaceful. But life is full, sometimes very full. I want a full life – I just want it full of the things that matter, relationships, helping others, creating things. Life has been more full than I wanted for the last few months – but life has seasons and we have been working toward what we believe in.
So where does that put us now.
Well, after working days, nights, and any other minutes we can find in between, we launched our ‘baby’ on Sunday at noon. After writing this post I am going to go and have a shower and change for the first time in a few days. .. .it has been nuts.
Ever since we started back in October we have been doing things we don’t know how to do, contacting people we don’t think will write us back, and trying to figure out how to make it all work.
And the whole thing has come together beautifully. I can only give credit to the fact that it has been blessed because there is no way we could have pulled this off. Every time we got an e-mail back from a photographer interested or any new step figured out it was so exciting.
So far it has been going good. We had some technical issues at the beginning and we have had a collection of emergencies since then but we are now 18 hours in and I can sit and write you a long and wandering story (and get my shower in).
We partnered with 6 different photography related charities and have raised almost $15,000 for them already!
So, now you have the story of the last few months. I didn’t post about what we were doing before because I have been scared… I’m still scared. I believe in what we are doing, I believe we can help, I believe in living priorities, I believe in working hard, and I don’t know how it will turn out.
I don’t know if we will be able to make enough with our self-employment businesses and donations to keep the children fed. I don’t know how it will all work out. I don’t know if I am being too crazy.
I doubt a lot, but I love my life.
I am busy, but I know why.
So, (so many so’s tonight, I must be really tired) even though this isn’t a photography blog I wanted to share with you what we are doing this week. This is right in line with personal growth and challenging yourself. If you have wanted to learn photography or just practice a new hobby this is a really awesome tool. Honestly, I never thought we would get so many amazing products — it is even better than I hoped.
Or, if you know of anyone who is interested in photography, please send them a note to have them come check out my book of a post… and scroll all the way to the bottom to see what is going on.
Here is a super amazing graphic that our super amazing partner made up.
So, this might be one of those hanging stories. We hop on the plane on Friday and take a risk for something we believe in. .. it is scary to me, but what is the worst case scenario? We end up having to cut back hours and find a teaching job? We run out of money and fly home? … neither is that bad of an option.
k, so there is the huge post. Everything I promised at the top is all in there in a strange wandering mess of our last 3 months If you made it all the way through I thank you so much! Good night