Five years ago, Sean and Linda Fowlds experienced a wake-up call when a neighbor’s oak tree fell on their custom-built dream house. They realized that, while their insurance covered the cost of rebuilding, they wanted to explore a more location-independent lifestyle.
Sean and Linda adopted their own version of the American Dream and sold their home and most of their belongings to become more mobile, living briefly in Florida and on the island of Nantucket before landing in Tennessee.
Read on to find out more about how the Fowlds are “living large with less.”
What does “the good life” mean to you? And how did you come to this vision?
The good life to us is about living simpler at a slower pace that gives us time and space to travel, connect with others, and create art through our writing and photography. We have intentionally lived debt-free with relatively few possessions since getting married more than a quarter century ago. However, we radically downscaled our lives five years ago when a neighbor’s huge oak tree fell on our house. It was a wake-up call and caused us to rethink our version of the American Dream. While insurance covered it all, we have no kids or pets and were growing weary of maintaining an aging property and a sizable yard, when what we desired was to be free to explore a more location-independent lifestyle. As a consequence, we sold our home and furnishings, gave away most of our other stuff, including a library of about 1,500 books, and adopted the motto of “minimize to mobilize.”
What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your lifestyle?
We love living largely maintenance-free by leasing big-ticket items. We lease furnished spaces in popular places, usually including utilities, preferably month to month, and all for less than we used to own. We are at our fourth place in four years, and it is the nicest place we have ever lived, including our dream house that we custom built. It is the wing of a widow’s antebellum mansion on the prime residential street in an award-winning historic town. We are also leasing a mid-sized sedan in which we can fit all our stuff, since we only own a couple hundred items apiece and we can move at will. We prepaid the maintenance plan on our vehicle, and the dealership even washes it for us so we don’t have to do anything but gas it up and go. “Living large with less” affords us the luxury of spending more time with one another doing what we love, and we recommend it heartily to others.
Is there anything about your life these days that you really wish you could change or improve?
We are in the process of ramping up the online presence of our respective businesses to better enable us to work remotely. We are not yet as location-independent as we desire and so are working toward making that more of a reality moving forward. I am busy revamping my blog, creating a newsletter, compiling an e-book, and writing a print book, tentatively titled The Myth of Mayberry: One Couple’s Quest to Redefine the American Dream. I welcome readers to visit our website to stay in the loop with periodic updates.
Tell us a little about the work that you do.
I operate my own business offering writing, editing, and consulting services, specializing in what I call “lifestyle design” issues like the ones we have dealt with. On a typical day, I am a writer working with his laptop and cellphone from home or a café. Linda currently handles life insurance issues for a progressive company that grants her five weeks of paid time off annually, and she aspires to do more professional organizing as time allows.
Describe some ways that you are involved in your community.
We attend a local ecumenical group incorporating the creative arts, support area charities ministering to the homeless and other community needs, and employ our gift of hospitality by hosting others at our home on a regular basis. We also belong to our downtown neighborhood association and attend its periodic social gatherings.
For many, your lifestyle is considered “outside the mainstream.” Does this present any challenges, and, if so, how do you deal with them?
We have always lived a somewhat unconventional lifestyle, so we are used to dealing with questions about it from others. We didn’t buy a house until a dozen years into our marriage, so our current mode of living is a return to our roots for us. Our families have been generally supportive of us, since they see the fruit of our lifestyle, but some members seem to have difficulty appreciating the trade-offs associated with it. And our friends, many of whom are empty nesters themselves, respect our tweaking of the American Dream, with some even saying that they enjoy living vicariously through our experiences.
Please describe any new skills or hobbies that you’re really excited about or that you would love to learn if you had the time and resources.
I am incorporating more photography into my work and enjoy trying different techniques with it. Linda is hoping to blog more in an effort to build her online business. And we want to do more outdoorsy stuff like hiking, kayaking, and biking to get fit.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
While the writings of Henry David Thoreau and other kindred spirits inspire us to live simply, it is the message of Jesus Christ that ultimately informs our perspective and serves as the example that we endeavor to emulate. As he so eloquently stated: “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?” Living with an eternal perspective helps us to experience the temporal more fully.
New Dream's "Living the Dream" series profiles folks from around the world who are living lives focused on “more of what matters.” If you or someone you know is living the New Dream, please contact us—we're looking for inspiring stories to share!