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article imageOp-Ed: BoingBoing blog founder savors the simple things in life Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Oct 26, 2011 in Lifestyle
Living on an island in the Pacific Ocean was a dream but it was the basic reality of a simple life that opened the eyes of "Make" magazine editor Mark Frauenfelder to the importance of learning to live with less stuff.
In his most recent book, "Made by Hand" Frauenfelder describes a very interesting and personal journey, one that taught him a valuable lesson, to savor the simple things in life. Seven years ago, Frauenfelder and his wife Carla were living comfortably in their Southern California home, earning a decent living as freelance writers back when publishing was not yet quite that revolutionized by the digital age.
Frauenfelder described them as "giddy days," when tech magazine editors were desperate for stories to fill pages, and were paying top dollar for them. Yet as the dot com boom went bust, Frauenfelder, co-founder of tech blog BoingBoing, and his wife knew they had to get serious about what to do regarding a reduced income. On New Year's Day 2003 the couple wrote down three goals to create a way of life that would help them take more control of their lives, cut through the "absurd" chaos of modern life and forge a deeper connection with a more rewarding sense of involvement with the world.
Their resolution was to move to a remote Island in the South Pacific. Really, that is what they did. The island they chose is part of the Cook Islands, a small island nation called Rarotonga.
The couple had such fond memories of their vacations there in the early 1990's, what could be more idyllic than to raise their children in a paradise island setting which Frauenfelder accounted as being about one-fifth of the size of the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
Frauenfelder noted that famous authors such as James Michener rank Rarotonga above Tahiti in beauty, climate and hospitality of the natives. Lots of people day-dream about living on a island paradise, noted Frauenfelder but he and Carla realized that they could really move to Rarotonga as freelance writers, especially with the use of The Internet. Rarotona had Internet service. So, why not go, take this chance!
With two small children, this opportunity would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and perhaps thought Frauenfelder maybe after living there for six months to a year a "book deal" might emerge from the experience. So, while the couple began compiling a "to-do list" in the plan-making, Frauenfelder researched more on the Cook Islands.
He found several books by Robert Dean Frisbie of Cleveland, Ohio. Frisbie settled on the island of Pukapuka, within the Cook Island chain, located in the more remote northern region. Frisbie wrote more than six books on the islands and over two dozen articles. He was very much enamoured with an island paradise.
"The Cook Islands were the last destination on Robert Dean Frisbie's long quest for perfect solitude," said Michael Uhlenkott, president of the Robert Dean Frisbie Society. "He stopped in Rarotonga for a while, said Uhlenkott, but eventually moved on to the most isolated of them all, Pukapuka; and then Suwarrow, where Frisbie wrote his most celebrated stories," noted Uhlenkott.
"But lovely Rarotonga, said Uhlenkott, with its soaring mountains, fringing reef and motus is where Frisbie returned with his small family at the end of his life. Frisbie's oldest daughter, Johnny, buried him in the graveyard at Avarua," said Uhlenkott. "His weathered headstone is there today, a monument to a brilliant life," Uhlenkott noted.
And, while an island paradise like Rarotonga might be the perfect getaway for a vacation, it is something else when one must live there as Frauenfelder soon found out after arriving on Rarotonga with his wife and their two little ones. Frauenfelder admits "we had vague notions," of what life on the island would actually be. One thing Frauenfelder points out is that they all packed way too much luggage, so much so, that they needed "two taxis" to take them to the airport.
Once on the island, they were pleased to be greeted by the "the blue sky that went on forever, patched with just a few white fluffy clouds." Frauenfelder notes that "we had just missed a four-day rainstorm."
The life lessons he and his family learned were important as he noted to this reporter, "It showed me the value of slowing down and savoring simple things, like making food or looking for coconuts." And, yes, they had plenty of coconuts, where he says "coconut harvesting and process was an almost daily ritual."
Yet from that experience on the island, Frauenfelder has become more at ease with what has now become a vocation, learning to appreciate the basic and simple things in life.
This seems to be at the heart of Frauenfelder's book, "Made by Hand - Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World." He discovered or rather re-discovered that there was so much that a person could do simply by making things.
Making things can provide a profound sense of self-reliance and boost one's self-esteem. Yet part of the joy is to overcome the fear of making mistakes in a project or endeavor. When this reporter asked Frauenfelder if making mistakes was part of the process he replied, "I don't intentionally try to make mistakes. In fact, I avoid them."
"But of course I make them anyway," he said. "And when I make a mistake, I always learn from it. Sometimes the lesson is painful (a cut) but sometimes it is a gift that leads me down an unexpected path," said Frauenfelder.
Still it seems to this reporter that the experience on the island make a profound impact upon his life so far.
"I am definitely more careful about using resources, noted Frauenfelder. "I try to drive less, fly less, use less electricity." "We eat out a lot less often. I'm probably happier because of it, too!"
He also said that, "I think people can adjust to living with less. But of course, it's great to have indoor plumbing, sanitation, medical care; it would be very hard for me to adjust to living without those things," he said.
For more information about Mark Frauenfelder and his work check out the BoingBoing, web site. Or see the site for "Make" magazine.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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