Thoreau and Living Deliberately
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”Henry David Thoreau
Something about Thoreau’s quote has always resonated with me. But, what does it mean to live deliberately? I believe Thoreau meant that it’s one thing to be alive, and something else entirely to live. It’s easy in our chaotic world for each of us, myself included, to drift along in the same routines without pausing to live each day to it’s fullest.
I received my wake up call several years ago when I decided to make a career transition and uproot my family and our comfortable (boring) lives and relocate from Chicago to Southern California. I almost immediately developed an intense desire for new adventures and explorations. It really drove home for me just how much I had been coasting along, and I promised myself right then and there that I would always be on the lookout for the new and inspiring.
Travel to Massachusetts
I was in Massachusetts, catching up with M after a long separation when one evening we were out catching sunsets. As M drove along, I spotted a roadside sign for Walden Woods and I got so excited that M thought I was kidding. Then she realized that I was not. She typed “Thoreau” into Google maps and we ended up at…
Thoreau’s Farm and Birthplace
….the wrong place. Not the Thoreau cabin, but the farm where he was born.
Might as well start at the beginning of Thoreau if we are going to explore his story? Honestly, it’s cute and quaint, but it is really a renovated office space for the historical preservation and not a replica of the historical times. The upstairs was locked up tight, but I was struck by a sign hanging in the stairwell.
How do you live deliberately? How do you turn thought into action? I thought about this the rest of the day. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this since July. I took all my required philosophy classes in college, we talked about Thoreau briefly in English and Sociology. I have my favorite quotes, up there with Muir and such. But ever have a moment where it literally hits you—like a sign from above? Meaning the sign above my head in the stairwell.
We arrived at Walden Pond. Families swimming along the beach, children splashing in the water. The pond was much bigger than I thought. Some joggers passed by us on the entrance to the trail. We had a choice of two trails to hike, and we opted to take the higher trail, hoping there were scenic overlooks to the water (there were not).
The narrow trails included the same footpaths Thoreau took each morning from the cabin to the water. It was about an hour trek hiking through the famous Walden Woods, and through the meadow, might have taken less time if we didn’t stop every few feet to take photos, listen to the birds, swig some water in the humid summer sun. Again, not the glamorous life of a travel blogger.
A sky without clouds is a meadow without flowers.Journal
I should be glad if all the meadows on the earth were left in a wild state if that were the consequence of men’s beginning to redeem themselvesWalden
Some consider blue “to be the color of pure water, whether liquid or solid.” But, looking directly down into our waters from a boat, they are seen to be of very different colors. Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both.Walden
When we finally reached “the” cabin that Thoreau practiced his experiment of two years, two months, and two days living in a cabin he built near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. The original site of the cabin no longer stands as it was, but a replica was built to recreate his small one-room home.
I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.Walden
The language of friendship is not words but meanings-Henry David Thoreau
WhereGalsWander was born out of the desire to keep us Gals in touch as we started our separate journies. I miss my Gals, and have made a point to prioritize my travel to see them.
My personal definition of friendship is when you and another have such a shared appreciation for a common interest and it develops into an appreciation for each other. The appreciation for travel, nature, and adventure is at our core, and probably yours as well. Sometimes words just can’t express how strong this appreciation is, so we try to share the meaning through our photographs, which we then share with you.
The Story Behind the Photos
To give a bit of backstory, my visit to Boston to see my dear Gal “M”, where she started a new life in a tiny (no, even smaller than what you are thinking) New England country town. To trade our bustling Chicago suburb for a 12-acre farm, and swap her high heels for hiking boots set the tone for our adventures.
Now to understand the deeper meaning of this, when M and I met 10 years ago, we unknowingly embarked on a friendship based on “we just want to experience the moment”. Hanging with us means we would spend several hours in small coffee shops, sipping and talking about life. Grocery shopping trips turn into “I dare you” challenges. We jump onstage when the local band played. Somehow we once had deep philosophical conversations with guys In Vegas, who told talked about their careers as arms dealers.
We live without intention, and at the same time, and we embrace the purpose of life to be in the moment and yet spontaneous.
When I said I was going to see M, there were half-joking comments on raising bail money. Friends from Chicago living vicariously online were surprised and disappointed to see much of the itinerary involved hiking, beaches, and historical landmarks. We still embrace living life to the fullest, escaping the ordinary but now make time to stop and appreciate all that we can experience.
Here’s the thing: you don’t travel just to see places, snap a photo and move on. You don’t travel just to check it off your list. or entertain others. You travel to discover a new part of yourself. The choice of who you travel with, or without, influences the journey itself. And through each journey, we have discovered who we are.
Now ask yourself:
How do you turn thought into action?
How do you live deliberately?
Who is there to support you, to guide you, to push you?
Thoreau had such positivity, appreciation for silence, solitude and the daily beauty of what surrounded him. My goals are the same for 2019, to live deliberately.
I admire your take in this post about the meaning of living deliberately and the backstory of you and your friend moving away from Chicago to other adventures. As for living deliberately, I suppose for me it means to do something each day with a specific intention. At work, for example, I always want to be improving and learning so I can be building not only my foundation but the foundation of my company. The projects I do at work extend beyond me and that is why I intend to do them to the best of my abilities.
Great post, Zanne. I read Thoreau as a kid and was moved by it. As travel bloggers it is so easy to forget why we travel and always think of the next angle for a shot or which things to tick off the to-do list for your next post. Thank you for this post.