Have you ever felt the expectations of the Southern California lifestyle pressing in on you? Does it ever seem like “keeping up with the Joneses” is driving you into the ground? Do you regret that family time is often supplanted by soccer practice and deadlines, and, well … just life?
What do you do when you feel like life in our sunny Orange County “paradise” is taking over? Well, if you are author Sonia Marsh, you sell your stuff, pack up, and move your family to a third world country to regroup and discover what’s really important.
In her new memoir, “Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island,” we read how the Marsh family did just that.
After becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their lifestyle – Dad was always working, the kids were becoming materialistic and spoiled, their oldest boy was beginning to get in real trouble, and the family was failing to connect in general – Duke and Sonia Marsh decided to sell all their belonging and their home, and move their family to Belize.
Once they reached their new island home just south of Mexico, things didn’t turn out to be as idyllic as they had hoped. The ex-pat community was difficult to navigate, their home was isolated, and starting a business proved to be more of a challenge than they had bargained for.
As they toughed it out, however, they began to see changes occurring in their family. Without television and all the instant gratification comforts of home, the three Marsh boys began to connect with one another. They found alternate ways to entertain themselves, such as fishing, snorkeling, and building. They became more self-motivated, and less self-centered.
When asked how the move changed her family, Marsh says:
“Our value system changed: We became grateful for what we had in life. We no longer needed to buy ‘stuff’ to feel good. Or to show off what we have. We are perfectly content driving used cars; down-sizing to a much smaller home; and pursuing our passions rather than yearning for ‘things.’”
“Our kids have not begged for cars, electronic gizmos, clothes, or money. They value education because they saw how Belizean kids treated education as a privilege, not a right.”
While Belize did not prove to be the paradise that Sonia and Duke were longing for, and they have since returned to the United States, she found during their journey that “paradise” is not a physical location, but a place within oneself.
Upon their return from Belize, Marsh found her passion in writing. In addition to having written this memoir, she runs a blog. “Gutsy Living,” and encourages others to share their own life-changing experiences via essays that are posted on the website. This “My Gutsy Story” series has even been made into a mini-anthology showcasing 14 such stories. It is currently available as an e-book.
For those of us who can relate with Sonia’s frustrations, yet aren’t quite ready to pack up and live in a hut, we have the incredible good fortune to be able to meet Marsh, and soak up her wisdom stateside, by attending the launch event for “Freeways to Flip-Flops.”
Hosted by Laguna Beach Books, the party will be held next Thursday, Aug. 30, from 6-7:30 p.m. You can find the bookstore at 1200 South Coast Highway, in Laguna Beach – a much easier jaunt than trekking to Belize.
Whether or not we are “gutsy” enough to take such drastic measures as the Marshes, we can all learn something from them: take a breath, slow down, and ensure that we are focusing on those things that are truly important.
For more information about “Gutsy Living,” “Freeways to Flip-Flops,” or Sonia Marsh, please visit www.soniamarsh.com. For more information on the launch party, please call (949) 494-4779.