92 comments

Get Rich With: Nature

Little MMM, enjoying the ultimate toy

I’ve got yet another secret to share with you today, that could further destroy our economic system if it got out beyond the confines of this blog.

You know the office building or house you’re sitting in right now? With all the accessories and products and painted walls and carpeted floors? And the rooms you have with extra stuff, like toys for yourself and other toys for your kids, and the garage filled with other things?

All of those things you’ve bought are pretty awesome. I’m not going to deny it, because I have an equal number of cool things myself. When you put all of our things together, they surely cost quite a pretty penny. And they’re worth it.

But the secret is, there is even more awesome stuff outside your house, and even more of it way over yonder beyond the edge of your town. This additional stuff is so amazing, that even the smallest speck of it is even more complicated and sophisticated than an iPad 3. But the weird part is, all of the even more awesome stuff is free.

It gets even weirder: we Humans, rather than just living in a network of large cities connected by airports, actually live on an enormous ball of rock and water, three billion trillion tons of it, racing laps around the Sun at 67,000 miles an hour. The ball is really a giant spaceship, carrying its own life support systems and collecting energy from the Sun, and it actually made every living thing on itself – including you. That’s right, the earth made you, even more than your mother made you, because it made her first. It made all of us – from scratch.

So it’s pretty effing amazing.  The entire surface of this Earth thingy, 130 billion acres of it, is teeming with really interesting creatures, sights, sounds, and smells. In the many areas not yet paved over by Humans, you can find steamy jungles filled with cackling birds and breathtaking fjords with waterfalls gushing down their sides in slow-motion. Or even just a big shady oak tree in your own back yard with a trunk too big to reach around, muscular roots reaching deep down beneath the surface, and a million little green photosynthesis factories rustling around in the spring breeze above you, as you lie with the back of your head in the soil, looking straight up into the canopy and into the blue sky beyond. Into SPACE.

It’s easy to forget about Nature when you lead a modern life. And when you forget about it, you slip into a pattern of spending your whole life trying to figure out what’s missing. Driving around, buying things, watching sports on TV, going out to entertainment establishments. Those things are all fun, just like our stuff. But most of the needs they fill are just replacing things that we were already getting for free, from Nature, for thousands of generations before they were invented.

Luckily, each generation is born anew, with a fresh instinctive appreciation of Nature pre-wired right into its little baby brain. As soon as a very young child is exposed to the natural world, she’ll immediately start harvesting twigs, piling up leaves, climbing trees, and digging in the mud and sand. It doesn’t matter how plasticized and commercialized her parents might be. Given the chance, kids will find more fun in Nature than they could ever find with manufactured toys and TV shows.

I like to think of that as a little joke the Earth is playing on us, because as much as we might raid her resources and ignore her, she is saying “Oh No, you AIN’T gonna ignore ME. … I MADE you, Sukka!”. You can train a generation of humans to live without Nature, but their children will still be born right back where they’re supposed to be.

” This observation of children is touching and meaningful”, I can hear you saying, “but what does it have to do with me? I’m an Adult, and I’m working on getting rich at the moment. No time for sand castles.”

But that’s just the thing! You DO have time for sand castles. You’ve got time for any natural adventure that you care to set your mind to, and almost any natural option you choose will make you richer in every way possible.

Learning to appreciate Nature is one of the most Mustachian skills you can build. Nature is a hub that pulls in the good aspects from every corner of life and combines them for you automatically. You get healthier, because the fresh air and great physical effort that are part of being outside are exactly what your body has been craving. This leads to a draining away of your stress and worry.  You are challenged more often, because Nature is full of puzzles. The weather is not constant, the light changes, the ground is not flat, and there is water and air spraying in every direction at various times. Challenge, far from being something to avoid, is also one of the biggest sources of happiness. All of this makes you stronger and more productive and feeds back into the start of the cycle as you step outside at the start of the next day.

You gain a deeper appreciation and understanding life itself, as you realize that every living thing on the Earth is actually very closely related. And even just watching and soaking up the shapes and patterns and texture of Nature is calming in a way that indoor activities cannot compete with.

The Human Race survived and evolved by studying and mastering its own natural environment.  Because this was such a successful strategy, we evolved a love of nature right into our DNA, to ensure that the curiosity would be passed on to each new generation. So when you’re spending time outside, you’re pressing your own evolutionary happiness buttons by doing what you were designed to do.

To put it into more motherly terms, The Earth made you to learn from her. And we’re always happiest when we are doing what we were made to do.

There are obvious monetary benefits to doing things the natural way as well. Walking and biking are far more natural activities than car-driving. And they also come with enormous financial and health benefits. Nature-based leisure activities often come with a very low price tag, especially when done close to home. When you’re planning your own free time, you should start with the natural activities, like just walking somewhere, having lunch in the park, reading a book down by the creek, and biking around town to get things done. Only after these basic, satisfying things are accomplished, do you even need to think about doing anything else with your time. There’s already so much to be done out there!

And get this: the areas with the largest amount of Nature available, are often the areas with the lowest cost of living! Big cities are great for young people still getting ahead in fancy careers. And even the biggest ones still offer public parks, trees, and occasional rivers. But as you move out to a smaller city (like the one I live in), the greenery grows even as the property prices shrink. And yet a convenient, bikeable lifestyle remains.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, some of us live in self-sustaining homes overlooking thousands of acres of remote foothills and forests. Land out there can be purchased for the spare change in your wallet, and yet it serves up more Nature every day before breakfast than most city dwellers get to see in a decade.  The choices are vast and it’s up to you – Nature is not expensive.

Your lesson, then, is to keep a little picture of Nature on your fridge, to remind you to look to her first whenever you have needs. As your skill grows, you’ll find that she offers the answer to more and more of your questions. You’ll suddenly find that you have less need for money than ever before, and yet more resources than ever. In short, you will be Rich.

 

  • Junior 'stachian April 6, 2012, 6:15 am

    As I scrolled down and read the article, I couldn’t help but notice the AdChoices to the right. I’m all for making money from the blog (you obviously put a lot of time and effort into this), but the ads are very anti-mustachian. I realize AdChoices provides content based on what Google deems to be my “interests.” As a PF blogger, my results may be very different than the average visitors, but the ads being served up to me are: “$250-5,000 cash loans”, a “VA Home Loan for Veterans” touting how I can get a loan up to $729,000, and an ad to sell my pension and convert it to cash. One of the big appeals of this blog was the sense that it was genuine and the anti-mustachian ads are killing the genuineness.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 9:03 am

      Haha, that is interesting. Google ads are targeted (usually poorly) to the reader’s own browsing history.. in my case there’s an ad for a really dumb-looking indoor exercise bike on the upper right, then some reasonable financial stuff in the text boxes below.

      In the long run, my plan is indeed to eliminate the Google ads from this blog – they are too random in their content, which makes them aesthetically unpleasing at times. In their place I just want some fixed long-term links for companies or other stuff that I actually like and use, that can provide a predictable and small flow of income.

      Reply
      • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 6, 2012, 12:31 pm

        In adsense, you can select specific types of ads which you don’t want to serve. For example, payday loans. I don’t know the exact place on the site but it’s in there somewhere. I think under “My Ads”

        Reply
      • Art Guy July 15, 2013, 5:15 pm

        Heck , I just adjust the page size down where I am only reading the copy.

        Reply
    • abitha April 6, 2012, 9:42 am

      Why not get an ad-blocker?

      Step 1: Install Firefox.
      Step 2: Download ‘AdBlock Plus’ as an add-on.
      Step 3: The default option on AdBlock Plus is to allow certain non-annoying ads whilst blocking the majority, so if you don’t want any ads at all choose this option.
      There are no more steps. And no more ads. And both programs are free. What more could you want?

      Reply
      • Grant April 6, 2012, 10:57 am

        There’s only the slight problem that you’re denying websites and the people that run them their staple source of income, and such income is the cornerstone of the free web. Why don’t you just not look at the ads you don’t like?

        Reply
        • James April 6, 2012, 2:56 pm

          As abitha already pointed out, AdBlock Plus allows non-annoying ads by default (you can also unblock ads on sites of your choice). Otherwise, websites that plaster obtrusive ads on their pages do not deserve income.

          Reply
        • Bakari April 7, 2012, 8:16 am

          The income is negligible if you don’t actually click the ads. Given that I would never have clicked any of the ads being blocked, I am denying the blog a few fractions of a cent.
          From what I’ve seen when I’ve used other people’s computers, lots of ads flash or are animated and generally make themselves hard to ignore.
          As to the free web, there is plenty of content that doesn’t depend on ads, where the site itself generates income directly, or where a charge for certain access or donations cover the web hosting fees. Even if everyone installed AdBlock, there would still be an internet.

          Reply
    • Bakari April 7, 2012, 8:10 am

      Ads? What ads? There are no ads on the internet!

      oh…. wait…. right!
      You must have not installed the AdBlock browser add-on

      No offense, but I find not installing the AdBlock browser add-on a very silly choice for anyone who ever uses the internet.
      When I occasionally use someone else’s computer, I am always surprised anew at the garish attention-grabbing animated and flashing ads all over the place.

      Reply
      • Uncephalized June 7, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Seriously. The internet with AdBlockPlus is a whole different world than the internet without it. It’s like the difference between only watching TV and movies that you rent on DVD or stream on Netflix vs watching cable, where it screams at you to buy things every ten minutes.

        Except the unfiltered internet is worse than that. It screams at you to buy things while you’re reading articles, while you’re watching videos, while you do… anything at all.

        Reply
    • Kimberly V January 22, 2013, 3:31 pm

      Funny, I’m so good at not paying attention to the ads that I often go back and take a look when someone mentions them, just to see what is being advertised. Right now (and often) it is an ad for the online based school I have my daughter enrolled in.

      Reply
  • Jeh April 6, 2012, 6:16 am

    This was a wonderful post and one you wouldn’t often find on a blog about money. Yet another reason MMM is the best money writer around.

    Reply
  • Kathy P. April 6, 2012, 6:34 am

    Not sure you realize it Mr. MMM, but this post is talking about permaculture on a number of levels. (Permaculture = permanent + culture or permanent + agriculture.)

    Reply
  • jlcollinsnh April 6, 2012, 6:44 am

    Beautifully done here Mr MM. This is something I wish I could’ve written myself.

    This whole civilization thing has been a huge mistake and we’d all be better off as hunter/gatherers.

    http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/manifesto/

    I only write about money since we do live in this complex, technical world and money is the single most important, effective tool in navigating it. But once there was a better way.

    Mmm. for some reason I’m looking forward to my daily walk a bit more just now….

    Reply
    • Jeh April 6, 2012, 6:50 am

      I knew this post would eventually attract one of these totally uninformed, anti-civilization comments…but so soon?

      Sorry, but your comment about us all being hunter/gatherers is terribly lame and a horrible idea. Not only would it be really lame to live like that, but also, do you imagine there would be even one scrap of food on this earth of 6 billion people gave up agriculture of all kinds and started foraging for food?

      I think some ultra-naturists are totally wrongheaded; they forget that humans and the things we make are of nature too.

      Reply
      • jlcollinsnh April 6, 2012, 7:11 am

        Ouch. Oh well, at least I got there first.

        settle down there Jeh. Your lifestyle is safe with me.

        Nobody is suggesting this is a good or viable idea for the 6.5+ billion
        people running around the place just now. Clearly there’s no going back.

        Nobody is forgetting that humans and all we produce are by, by definition, of nature. Thing is many, indeed most, places and things in nature are toxic to multi-cellular life. That’s the reason we’re not seeing it anywhere else in our solar system.

        “ultra-naturist”? I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, but this is a first. kinder than many, too.

        Reply
        • Jeh April 7, 2012, 5:24 am

          I must apologize to you jlcollinsnh, my comment did come off rather confrontational. Some of it wasn’t directed at you specifically, like that last sentence, and I’m sorry that I unloaded on you a bit. I was just having a bit of a rant, which was triggered by your statement that “this whole civilization thing has been a huge mistake and we’d all be better off as hunter/gatherers.

          It’s not that I’m defending some specific lifestyle of mine, considering that I live closer to nature than most people I know. I live on a farm, down a dirt road, with the nearest gas station and grocery store 10 miles away, and I revere the Earth as a goddess, so there’s no personal defensiveness going on here.

          That said, I’m also in awe at the things humans do and make, as we and everything else on this planet are of nature too. Sure, we’ve made some huge mistakes with our talents and gifts, which are of utmost importance to correct, but we’ve also created beauty and wonder with our technologies and sciences. With more enlightened thinking, even our cities can be things of wonder that rival any beauty found in the natural world. I just hope we make it that far.

          Reply
          • jlcollinsnh April 7, 2012, 6:57 am

            no worries, Jeh ….

            and reading your last note my guess is we agree on far more than otherwise. If you read more of my stuff you might feel the same.

            The advantages of our civilization are not lost on me. Many is the time I’ve given thanks to be living at this moment in history when science is giving us such a detailed understanding of the universe.

            That broad understanding and base of knowledge is intoxicating. I suspect our H/G ancestors had a far more detailed knowledge of their immediate surroundings. That, too, has its appeal.

            It’s a topic well worth discussing over a coffee.

            Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 8:46 am

        Yeah, sorry to say it Jeh, but I think you missed JL Collins’ point in this case. He’s just paying respect to the wonderful synergy between Nature and the Human Race in his own way. No need to raise the fists on him – it’s not like he made a negative comment about biking or anything :-)

        Reply
      • Grant April 6, 2012, 8:58 am

        Is it possible you’re arguing against what other people are saying, or what you think he’s saying, rather than what he actually said?

        Reply
        • The Money Monk April 6, 2012, 11:45 pm

          While I do get what he was trying to say, what he said was actually a pretty straightforward declarative statement:

          “This whole civilization thing has been a huge mistake and we’d all be better off as hunter/gatherers. ”

          Jeh took issue with that statement, and while I agree with jcollinsnh’s general sentiments, I definitely have to disagree that civilization is a huge mistake, and I don’t think we’d all be better off as hunter-gatherers.

          Reply
  • RKStebs April 6, 2012, 6:55 am

    Ah nature, I remember it well from my youth. Looking forward to being more youthful in my FI, and maybe even this weekend.

    Hey MMM…no mention of your one year anniversary (birthday?) today? Milestones must be acknowledged, financial or not, so happy anniversary to you, the Mrs. and the community.

    Reply
  • Flooey April 6, 2012, 6:55 am

    Speaking as a city dweller, one of the best things you can do for Nature is live in a city :) The cost of property is certainly much higher, but the density is incredibly environmentally friendly. If you took the population of New York City and expanded it to the density of Boulder, Colorado, they’d have to develop an area the size of Delaware. If they lived at the density of Boulder County, they’d take up an area the size of West Virginia. On the other hand, if the whole population of the US lived at New York City density, they’d only take up an area the size of South Carolina, leaving the rest uncut by roads and houses and power lines.

    (NYC is a pretty Mustachian place to live in other ways as well, as most people don’t own a car and the small apartments discourage the purchase of Stuff, but most cities unfortunately don’t share those traits.)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 8:57 am

      Indeed Flooey.. and Central Park is a pretty nice chunk of Nature that helps many millions of the New Yorkers to stay sane.

      I know that I’m taking up a lot more space by living in a low-density area. But I try to compensate by still living an NYC-style lifestyle without much driving. And having fewer kids as well.

      As an added bonus, small-city living is actually potentially sustainable in the sense that you get enough sunlight on your own square of land to provide for your own energy needs, and even much of your food if you are so inclined.

      New York has its downsides too, however: because the income level is so high, its wealthy residents are a constant thermonuclear explosion of incredible consumption. Sure, they burn less gas going to work, but then they take weekend trips to London, buy $10M homes in Aspen, and eat $300 steak dinners every night. I remember looking at a map of the actual footprint of NYC’s consumption, and it was quite shocking.

      That’s one of the lessons I try to spread here: your environmental footprint is very different from the size of your back yard or even the shape of your travel patterns when plotted on a map. It’s mostly measured by your annual spending.

      Reply
      • BobTX June 21, 2013, 11:29 am

        Still reading my way through the blog from the beginning. I have to throw in 2 cents here even if this thread is too old to ever get seen again: I’m an ecologist who specifically studies the effects of low-density suburban and exurban growth and land use patterns on biodiversity.

        The obvious: Lower density growth, which impacts the environment in a less concentrated way than urban development, has a much higher impact on a per-person basis. Right now, lower density non-urban residential growth (like most of Longmont) in the US uses up roughly eight times the land area of urban areas, but provides homes to a far smaller portion of the population (far more people reside in cities – and your comparison to the New York jet set is not particularly apt for the general comparison of the total urban vs low-density populations of our country). There’s a ton more I could say here, but I’ll spare you (check out the article linked below for a bit of formal discussion of exurban growth. If you ever see this comment and want links to a bunch more great papers looking at this kind of stuff, I’m happy to provide).

        Practically though – the degree to which your exurban existence is a greater environmental drag than that of someone in a dense urban context can be ameliorated (or maybe even fully smoothed out if you’re really committed) in two major ways.
        (1) limiting consumption/resource use/fossil fuel transport. The MMM family is already doing fairly well from everything I’ve read so far. It’s always fun to find new efficiencies though.
        (2) land use decisions – if you have a classic American monoculture lawn, broken only by non-native trees and shrubs, your land (home and properties you own*) does represent pretty much a total loss from a conservation perspective. If your land is structured in such a way that your unusually large (by world standards) property footprint is still at least somewhat useful as habitat space for native species, that’s great. If your neighborhood is tolerant of you keeping as much of your land in as close to it’s wild state as possible, so much the better.

        *As a landlord, you have a cool chance to impact the efficiency and land-use profile of multiple households. Are the rentals close to as thermally efficient as the MMM household? Do they have improperly imported English mowed lawns? etc.

        You might like:
        http://www.ebd.csic.es/carnivoros/personal/eloy/landuse/hansen.pdf

        Reply
    • BDub April 6, 2012, 10:40 pm

      The only reason NYC survives is because of the massive amounts of resources brought into the city and the massive amount of waste removed continuously. Do you think all of those idling trucks, trains and boats in the massive gridlock of NYC is efficient?

      MMM is correct, the carbon footprint is independent of whether you live in city, town or rural area; it is related to the lifestyle chosen.

      Reply
    • Amanda June 6, 2012, 10:58 am

      I actually agree with this to an extent. I think NYC is perhaps not the best example available but not a terrible one either. We just moved out of a very very rural area and in the 2 years we lived there we were shocked at the amount of waste! 1 hour to drive to a grocery store, 1 hour to get to church, 30 minutes to go to the library, etc. And terrible, unreliable internet service so I couldn’t take advantage of a lot of free entertainment or informational resources. For example, loading a video on youtube to learn how to sew something myself was impossible, and the poorly stocked library 30 minutes away didn’t have any books on sewing unfortunately. All the land is pretty but it’s also all owned so it’s a look-but-don’t-touch situation. Trespass and you were likely to get shot by someone hunting on their land, or accidentally end up in some bull’s pasture, lol! We could camp in our own backyard…but we also had to mow that 1 acre backyard every week or risk the wrath of our church landlords. I cringed every time we pulled out the stupid lawn mower for a 4 hour marathon of smog-production.

      I like our small city living as the ideal balance. Every basic need (work, church, doctor’s offices, grocery store, library, etc) is either walking/biking distance or a 5 minute drive. There is lots of free stuff to do with the kids, with local playgroups, the library, parks, and social stuff at people’s houses nearby. I can compare prices when I shop for clothes and food, we have well-stocked thrift stores and decent yard sales so things aren’t wasted. In the rural area we lived in people just accumulated junk in their own basements because goodwill was too far away. So good baby cribs went largely unused after the family had their own 1 kid, or a solid wood dining table that was too big just sat and collected dust in storage when some young family starting out could have used it. So wasteful! Plus we live in a duplex here and I’ve found that condos/duplexes often save a lot on heat in the winter as there’s 1-2 less exterior walls and the units help keep each other warm.

      Anyway, that was a total tangent, lol! I really liked the article, it made some good points and has gotten me thinking about some nature-oriented vacations we can plan this summer.

      Reply
  • lurker April 6, 2012, 7:15 am

    it is too late for the hunter=gatherer plan (though we may end up there again, see Mad Max and young Mel Gibson)…agriculture and cheap energy have allowed? massive overpopulation to take place. I love nature because she always takes care of things and plans far into the future, unlike most of humanity…i think the climate change thing is all just a massive plot by the plant community to get rid of us and retake the planet and undo our mess…think about it. who benefits most from heat and carbon in the atmosphere? problem is lack of water but deserts are beautiful too. wake up humanity! Permaculture and MMM are the only way for us now…I wonder if all these brilliant overpaid CEOs have children or grandchildren and how they think they will live in the future that the CEOs’ mindless greed has created.

    Reply
    • Executioner April 6, 2012, 7:24 am

      Agent Smith was supposed to represent the ultimate evil in the Matrix, but he speaks nothing but truth here:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM1-DQ2Wo_w

      Reply
    • Kathy P. April 6, 2012, 10:22 am

      They think their vast wealth will buy a future for their grandchildren. But as the Cree Indian proverb says, only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will they realize their grandchildren cannot eat money.

      Reply
      • Lisa April 6, 2012, 12:13 pm

        Nice quote!

        Reply
  • Executioner April 6, 2012, 7:20 am

    As much as I respected and enjoyed the Early Retirement Extreme blog, Jacob never could understand the point of travel, and considered it frivolous and wasteful. In my opinion, the goal of travel is to see as much Nature as possible. After all, there is only one Yosemite Valley, only one Grand Canyon, only one Appalachian Trail. Staring at images or videos of them on a screen is a poor substitute for the real thing.

    Reply
    • Tails April 6, 2012, 9:10 am

      The issue isn’t with travel but the emotions that traveling brings up and the type of travel that most people do. A week of expensive indulgences in a major city is wasteful. On the other hand, a round-the-world backpacking trip is stressful due to the constant change in scenery and people, especially for introverts. I think Jacob’s and my ideal type of travel would involve transit between locales by bike, followed by several weeks at each location to get familiar with the terrain and build strong social ties. Of course, this is not how most people define “travel”.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 9:35 am

        Agreed – that’s my idea of travel as well: “actually living in new places”. With a young kid and a school schedule to meet, we are currently doing a watered-down approximation of that, which is car trips for camping, or longer trips by car where we settle into a new city and check out its natural areas.

        But just hopping from one downtown hotel or cruise ship to another and posing in front of standard tourist attractions? It’s not travel at all.. that’s just purchasing another mass-produced consumer product.

        Reply
        • Heather A April 7, 2012, 5:49 am

          Sometimes I hear people name-dropping their adventure vacations: I “did” this river and I “did” that mountain. Nature doesn’t have to be name brand. Just because National Geographic magazine hasn’t done an article about the river that goes through your town, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your paddle strokes. Make your own discoveries, with your eyes wide open.

          Reply
  • rjack April 6, 2012, 7:24 am

    “Because this was such a successful strategy, we evolved a love of nature right into our DNA, to ensure that the curiosity would be passed on to each new generation.”

    I agree that most people like to spend time in nature, but is it really part of our DNA or something learned? Is there a citation for this?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 8:51 am

      The only citation I can offer at this point is Mr. Money Mustache, Get Rich With Nature, April 6th, 2012, http://www.mrmoneymustache.com

      But I bet there is Plenty of evolutionary background in many of our common loves. Sex is an obvious one, but I’d also wager that so is the enjoyment of gathering around a campfire, enjoyment of the view from a high vantage point, fascination with flowing water, etc. Some of our evolutionary biologist readers may have more to offer on this point if they happen to be reading.

      Reply
      • Jill April 6, 2012, 7:32 pm

        I love that you cited yourself and that you really don’t back down when someone challenges you on your blog. So great!

        Reply
    • Wink April 6, 2012, 10:04 am

      For reference look up the book “The Nature Principle”, Outside magazine had an article about it last year. It links the brain and the effects of the natural environment

      Reply
  • Erik Y April 6, 2012, 7:32 am

    Awesome. The Y family hapens to be going camping this weekend at a great state park about five miles from home. We will be doing exactly what you’re talking about here. And eating s’mores of course.

    Reply
  • Poor to Rich a Day at a Time April 6, 2012, 7:35 am

    Lovely article, being a country girl myself I spend great deal of time with nature and have often reaped large rewards. Not only is it a wonderful playground of foraging and raw materials but free leisure and entertainment for the whole family as well.

    Reply
  • Chris April 6, 2012, 8:16 am

    Nature is indeed free entertainment. The calmness and undisturbed beauty rejuvenates us. Every times I hear folks talk about taking a Disney Cruise or going to Disney world to create memories, I think to myself, “a family camping trip would do just the same for much less money.”

    I’ve always been drawn to nature. One of my favorite quotes from “A River Runs through it” goes something like this: I walk the river and my soul is restored, gaze upon the mountains and my imagination is stirred.

    Happy Friday.

    Reply
  • Deb April 6, 2012, 8:18 am

    An enjoyable post! Especially appropriate as our plan for this Easter weekend is to get out and about and enjoy some great outdoors. Just back from the beach now, and inspecting some great seaweed that the last tide had brought in. (I was debating whether to try making some food out of it).

    The only problem is that nature isn’t completely free to us…… we have to drive to get there, as we live within walking distance of the city centre! Sometimes you just cannot have it all ways.

    Reply
  • Kenneth April 6, 2012, 8:21 am

    MMM you are one fantastic PF blogger. Most PF blogs are just about saving money. You dare to venture out into the why are we here and the purpose of life stuff. Be the whole mustache – financial fitness, physical fitness, spiritual fitness. It all ties together.

    Reply
  • Tails April 6, 2012, 9:01 am

    Reminds me of Wired’s 5 Best Toys of All Time:

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/01/the-5-best-toys-of-all-time/all/1

    Reply
    • Somebody's Mother April 6, 2012, 3:35 pm

      Totally great toy list. Thanks for that!

      Reply
  • GE Miller April 6, 2012, 9:35 am

    Fucking awesome imagery and appreciation in this post. I have been a nature lover my entire life, but you just took my appreciation up a notch.

    I get extremely frustrated when people put humans and industry over nature. It is the ultimate in short-sightedness and greed. My father in-law hates Obama b/c he thinks gas prices should be lower (as if it were a human right). He thinks it’s a conspiracy that fossil fuels aren’t really fossil, they re-generate much quicker. I can’t even begin to pick apart how many things are wrong with that line of thinking without wanting to jam nails into my forehead.

    All of the trips I take now are backpacking trips. I’d much rather see a mountain stream than something man-made. You’ve only re-enforced that here.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 6, 2012, 11:27 am

      So true, so true. I find the idea of relentless lifestyle inflation (“standard of living”) in the US to be so clueless. Once you have enough for food, shelter and happiness, wouldn’t you want to devote the rest of your income to free time and preserving the natural world, to make your free time more enjoyable?

      Cheaper gas has has exactly the opposite effect. Not to mention the fact that the US government has no power to drop gas prices, since our taxes on it are virtually zero – among the lowest in the world. We could certainly create HIGHER gas prices by adding taxes, however. Then the criticism of the government for creating high prices would at least have some basis.

      Reply
  • joe @ Retire By 40 April 6, 2012, 9:50 am

    If it would stop raining for a few days, I would spend more time outside. Right now, the parks are soggy and cold. :(
    It’s suppose to warm up this weekend so we’ll try to get out a little bit.
    That’s the bad thing about living in the Pacific Northwest, it’s too rainy. We have great summers though and I’m really looking forward to spending more time outdoor.

    Reply
    • No Name Guy April 6, 2012, 12:48 pm

      Come come now, as a fellow N-westerner I have to observe: The constant rain here builds character.

      The constant sun of, say, So Cal, gives a person skin cancer and a serious case of the wussypants when it comes to weather other than not too cold, not too hot and sunny.

      As the Continental Divide Trail hiker said: “Embrace the Brutality”. It’ll put those little problems / annoyances in life into proper perspective.

      Reply
    • Sofie October 28, 2013, 2:28 pm

      There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

      Reply
  • JanMN April 6, 2012, 9:51 am

    My husband and I like to go backpacking and camping for our vacations, and naturally I share a few outdoor pictures post-trip with some of my co-workers. Last year one of them said “I”m little concerned… don’t you guys ever take a normal vacation…?”

    Reply
    • Llama April 6, 2012, 10:43 am

      We get that too! It’s just hard to explain to some people how much more AWESOME it is to hang out behind a waterfall in the turquoise water of Supai than next to a bunch of screaming kids splashing each other at a hotel pool.
      Or sitting naked in a natural hot spring in Blainey Meadow versus in a disease infested hot tub next to a drunk couple making out.

      And I don’t have to come back from a vacation bloated and in need of a diet, since I probably LOST weight hiking all over hell and back.

      But again, if everyone caught on to these secrets, I’d have to share my hot spring with a hairy fat guy eating cornnuts. No thanks!

      Reply
      • Kenneth April 6, 2012, 11:12 am

        versus in a disease infested hot tub next to a drunk couple making out.

        What imagery! I haven’t been able to verbalize why I don’t like regular hotels and vacations as well as this before..

        Reply
      • BC May 24, 2013, 3:47 pm

        This might help some of them understand:

        http://semi-rad.com/2013/01/your-best-vacation-is-someones-worst-nightmare/

        But probably not :)

        Semi-rad is my other favorite blog.

        Reply
    • Jill April 6, 2012, 7:31 pm

      Wow. I actually find it hard to make friends where I live because every woman I know is so into shopping, manicures, hair, cruises, etc. Not many talk about anything else, and if you say something about not buying things you don’t need they look at you like you are from Mars. Even the frugal types are still addicted to getting all the deals at CVS, etc. My lifestyle doesn’t seem to mesh with anyone else’s. Are there any Mustachians in Indiana or is it just possibly the most vapid place on the planet?

      Reply
      • minimalist April 7, 2012, 12:22 pm

        I could have written this reply myself. Neither of those groups fit me either. Both groups seems addicted to getting “stuff”. One is just wanting to spend less than the other.

        I’m very lucky that our family really enjoys time together so that makes up for a lot.

        Reply
      • Jenny August 20, 2012, 10:18 am

        Indiana Mustachian, checking in:) I’m still in the early phases of growing my ‘stache. But yes, it can be tricky to make friends and avoid spendy pitfalls. It seems that every woman around my age here is focused on trying to get a pallet of disposable diapers for only $10! I guess we’ll just have to do our best to lead by example and hope that MMM gets more converts here.

        Reply
      • Jana August 19, 2013, 10:34 am

        Sorry to be so late to the Hoosier party here, but I had to give a shout out to you ladies living it up Mustachian style in Indiana! I live in a burb of Indy and currently work downtown in an office job. I don’t feel ostracized so much by my peers for not participating in the usual lady consumption you’ve noted. I am either lucky to have found great people who hang around me because they actually like me, or they just politely tolerate me and talk shit about me behind my back (but who cares either way, right?) ;) However, I was once told by a supervisor in my annual evaluation that I needed to buy more clothes. “Jana, *sigh*, I just want to see you step it up with what you wear. I mean, it’s not about the money really…” I have a professional wardrobe that consists of a few basic, but quality mix and match staples, but that wasn’t enough for her. I’ll admit that I took personal offense at her comments at first, especially because she makes more than double what we do. Sometimes, our only choice to stay strong is to just smile and nod. Don’t change your personal decisions or compromise your values for anyone…and certainly don’t do it for a career!

        Reply
  • Dancedancekj April 6, 2012, 10:17 am

    Hah, I was totally the kid that was playing outside, fashioning castles out of clay, bird’s nests out of grass with rock eggs, and catching everything from garter snakes to water beetles from the local pond.
    I live in flyover country, so there aren’t grand mountains to be climbed, whitewater rapids to be kayaked, or even many lakes to be swum in, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still sights of nature to be appreciated. I have come to appreciate the tallgrass prairie as an ecosystem, and am able to find plenty to interest myself in. There are several nature preserves that I’ve found fun to hike around. It may not be the Grand Canyon or Lake Superior, but I still find it beautiful in a very different way.

    Reply
  • lindsey April 6, 2012, 11:33 am

    You know, not everyone reading this lives in a city. I live in Alaska, haul my own water (including for my garden), raise most of my own meat, barter for salmon from a subsistence fisherman, chop and use wood to heat my very modest home. When I go on vacation, I LOVE going to city attractions and Disneyland and on a cruise. I would not/could not stand to live in a city or close to neighbors, but I make no apologies for rolling around tourist spots like a pig in slop. I go to NYC or London precisely to OD on theater; I can commune with nature in my own backyard—sit on my porch and watch the moose devour my garden.

    Just sayin’…not everyone feels the need to run towards nature on vacation.

    Reply
    • Heidi April 6, 2012, 10:50 pm

      Lindsey – good point. It is about balance, and most people are leaning in the opposite way that you are. I need to go spend a summer in Alaska someday.
      Heidi

      Reply
  • bart April 6, 2012, 11:40 am

    great article, MMM! thanks for the perspective.

    Reply
  • No Name Guy April 6, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Great article:

    As several folks have noted, outdoor activities are incredibly inexpensive. Take a backpacking trip – you have to eat anyways*. The only incremental expense (once you have the gear) is in getting yourself to the trail head, plus a slight increase in the total food consumed. As far as the gear is concerned, quality will last a very long time, so the cost per hour is quite low, plus there is always a steady supply of high end quality at bargain prices used gear in outdoor centric towns such as Seattle or Portland.

    * – experienced backpackers, such as former thru hikers of one of the long distance trails, will bring food that is available at a typical Mega Mart grocery store – no over priced “back packing” food for them.

    Reply
  • Zinnie April 6, 2012, 12:58 pm

    Love this post! I have always had a theory that increasing rates of depression have something to do with spending so much damn time indoors (and not just seasonal affective disorder cases). There is a peace and calmness in nature that far too much of the United States population misses out on. It sure saves my sanity.

    Reply
  • Parizade April 6, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Scientists are gathering more and more evidence about how much we need to connect with nature, especially for children.

    From an article by Richard Louv:

    “Between 2000 and 2003, there was a 49 percent increase in the use of psychotropic drugs – antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants. For the first time, spending on such drugs, if medications for attention disorders are included, surpasses spending on antibiotics and asthma medications for children . . . In fact, new evidence suggests that the need for such medications is intensified by children’s disconnection with nature.

    With a sense of urgency, some health professionals say that we should act now on the available knowledge.

    As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”

    http://www.batemanideas.com/Lastchild.html

    Reply
  • Joe April 6, 2012, 1:26 pm

    This is one of those posts where I read it and I was thinking “this is exactly what I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind for years.” But I never took the time to formulate a coherent thought like you have here. I 100% agree with the idea of looking to nature first to solve our problems, people second, exercise third, food fourth, TV twenty-second.

    Reply
  • JP April 6, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Nature is the greatest thing on this earth, that much is for sure. As soon as I’ve early retired mustachian style, I’ll be living out in the middle of the woods, that much is for sure!

    Reply
  • Brotherbryan April 6, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Much of my food comes from nature.

    Reply
  • Rich M. April 6, 2012, 8:17 pm

    Could not agree more. Except one has to be really careful. You move too far from a job and suddenly you are anti-mustachian in regards to commuting to work. Not all good jobs are out in the great outdoors.

    Personally, I live in the county just south of Gunbarrel and work in Boulder. My housing is less than the city of Boulder. but I am close enough to ride my bike to work daily. There are two lakes and a stream down the street with great horned owls (making a clutch at the moment), blue herons, flickers, red fox, barn swallows, just to name a few animals. Even American white pelicans stop by here in the winter.

    I cannot believe the amount of open space. It’s almost unfair that all the tax payers of Boulder County and city pitched in for so much space next to my house yet so far from their house. But I’m not going to complain.

    The only negative is all that water breeds plenty of mosquitos in the middle of summer.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2012, 7:11 am

      Nice setup you have there, Rich M!

      For the hardcore nature enthusiasts who want to live far from an expensive city, I recommend finding a job that allows telecommuting/remote working. There are more of them every day, especially in professional fields, and especially in high tech.

      Reply
      • Christine April 7, 2012, 5:46 pm

        We found a networking job that is within walking distance in our small town. It may take some time but I am hoping to move our jobs here as well so no more commuting and more time enjoying beautiful nature!

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2012, 9:04 pm

          Hooray Christine! I’ve been rooting for the Devostea.com family to eventually be freed from the Toronto commute for some time – glad to hear you are getting closer!

          Reply
          • Christine Wilson April 10, 2012, 9:27 am

            Yes eventually! It’s not the easiest but not impossible either. The networking job is at a spice factory. In case anyone is wondering what sort of IT job you find in the suburbs/country!

            Reply
  • Praxis April 6, 2012, 8:38 pm

    I so wish I could just go to the beach every day. :(

    Alas, my low cost of living region manages to be too cold to really do anything enjoyable outdoors 9 months of the year. Except winter sports, which are hardly frugal.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2012, 7:09 am

      I think my sisters would differ from you there. Winter sports like cross-country skiing and skating on frozen lakes and canals are virtually free!

      But I can still relate to you on the climate issue: my biggest reason for moving from Ontario to Colorado was to allow me to do more biking and other sunny-weather sports year-round. And yet, it’s much cheaper to live here, even while there are more open natural areas, and even while the jobs pay just as much! That’s why I wrote an article long ago called “Get Rich With: Moving to a Better Place”.

      But unless your wardrobe consists entirely of bikinis, there is no place in the continental US that is comfortable only 3 months of the year. At the VERY worst, you’ve got april, may, june, july, august, september, and october. 7 months.

      Reply
      • Praxis April 9, 2012, 10:28 am

        “But unless your wardrobe consists entirely of bikinis, there is no place in the continental US that is comfortable only 3 months of the year. At the VERY worst, you’ve got april, may, june, july, august, september, and october. 7 months.”

        My region might actually make this arguable! It’s not absurdly cold during these months, but the weather just gets crappy and icky and discourages you from doing anything outside. It’s April now; we had hail twice last week, and it’s been cloudy and windy every day except Sunday, which was the first day I’ve been able to comfortably take a walk this year without feeling miserable.

        At least today’s surprisingly nice…from my cubicle view. Le sigh…

        Reply
  • Andrew April 7, 2012, 12:43 am

    Check out the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

    Reply
  • Heather A April 7, 2012, 5:42 am

    Here the image for your fridge:
    http://www.outdoor-photos.com/photo/18245.html

    Reply
  • Jen April 7, 2012, 5:53 am

    Great post. But what do you do if every nature outing with kids turns into a sight of my husband running after them with desinfectant wipes and shouting “Don’t touch that, it’s DIRTY!” *sigh* But he has no problem spending over a $100 for a Woody + Buzz combo at Toys * Us.
    I grew up in a very small town and used to spend all my summers playing outdoors. My husband is a city boy, who thinks that strawberries grow on trees. He is terrified that nature is full of germs and disease :) Though there is plenty of scientific research on that, I still have hard time convincing him that such exposure builds up a child’s immune system. The two of us are textbook examples of that: my hubby gets flu or cold almost every month, and is allergic to many things (mostly various pollen). I rarely get sick (once in five years or so) and do not have any allergies. Actually, I don’t think any of my childhood friends had any allergies, that is the privilege of city dwellers.
    Anyways, trying to get my kids to play on the grass or eat cherries straight from the tree (my hubby: gasp!) as much as I can.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2012, 6:58 am

      Keep up the good fight, Jen!

      That story about the “disinfecting wipes” makes me laugh and cry at the same time. I’m an anti-germophobe and I think the idea of worrying about germs is ridiculous. In our household we consider the table, the floor, and the sidewalk to be equivalent surfaces. I love eating leaves right out of the garden (without washing), and I wash my hands when they’re covered with dirt, rather than after touching a new object. I found an almond on my garage floor yesterday and ate it without questioning its heritage.

      That’s the way I was raised, and I heartily endorse it. All of us get sick very rarely, and I’ve only missed a few days of school or work in my entire life due to colds and flu. Germophobia needs to be cured. Learn from the Honey Badger.

      Reply
      • Bakari April 7, 2012, 8:22 am

        My personal theory is you get lick less often when you give your immune system a healthy work-out. Or, at least, that has always been my excuse for eating things I find on the street.

        Reply
        • Deb April 7, 2012, 8:39 am

          That is when I count my lucky stars that I am pretty much on the same wavelength as my hubby. I have to admit I draw the line at eating stuff off the floor (if I get to it before the dogs) unless it is going to go back into a hot pan.

          So happy i grew up in a family where getting mucky as kids was normal, and we also foraged for food when it was in season. In fact my mum and dad still take tupperware boxes on walks with them now. I was going to say “despite being in their 70s” …… it is probably more a case “because they are in their 70s”

          Reply
          • Kathy P. April 7, 2012, 9:46 am

            If modern hunter-gatherers forage with Tupperware in hand, that just proves that civilization hasn’t been all bad! ;-)

            Reply
        • Jen April 7, 2012, 10:13 pm

          Absolutely, and it has been proven by science – ‘working out’ your immune system not only keeps it strong, but also less likely to go haywire. One example – Crohn’s disease. One theory about its causes is that the immune system of the gut (which evolved to fight intestinal worms) has nothing to do in this civilized, hygienic,worm-free world and starts attacking the host. The disease is much more prevalent in the first world countries. New therapy for Crohn’s disease – temporarily populating the intestine with worms or drinking worm smoothies :)
          Not to say we all should get infested with parasites, just supporting the view of keeping one’s immune system busy.

          http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/news/20040519/wormy-cocktail-fights-crohns-disease

          Reply
  • minimalist April 7, 2012, 12:32 pm

    My kids seem to have been born nature lovers and minimalist. I don’t have to buy much because they simply never played with toys anyways. However one purchase that’s gotten a lot of use is a really old childrens book that’s been republished. I believe it’s actually 40+ years old?

    Mud Pies and other recipes. A cookbook for dolls.
    Marjories Windslow

    I think it makes a great gift especially for friends who think your child does not have enough crap. ;)

    Reply
  • fruplicity April 7, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Am in total agreement with the sentiments here. I hate that people don’t feel safe enough anymore to let their kids wander outdoors without adult supervision.

    One of my original motivations for saving money was to hike the AT. I don’t know when I could fit in a thru-hike at this point, but at least I can do day and overnight hikes any weekend I want (except I haven’t done any overnights, I’ve gotta get on this!)

    Having been a country and now a city dweller, it’s hard for me to imagine picking one or the other to live -and raise a family in- for the rest of my life. There are things I love and dislike about both. Either way I’ve always lived in a small abode near a park/hiking trail/beach, and I plan to continue this trend.

    Reply
  • October April 9, 2012, 5:12 am

    On a side note, the reason there are 6 billion + people in the world is because we have agriculture. If we were still hunter/gatherers, the population would be much, much smaller. Populations increase to use the resources available to them. This is illustrated in nature every day.

    Reply
  • gestalt162 April 9, 2012, 7:41 am

    I noticed fairly early on in my software engineering career that many of my fellow engineers are also avid outdoorsman, be it hiking, fishing, camping, etc. I didn’t know why at the start, but after spending a year in a cube tethered to a computer monitor, I understood completely. I never had much of an appreciation for nature as a kid (despite being a Boy Scout), but as I have grown older, my appreciation for the wonders of earth and space have grown exponentially.

    Great article MMM.

    Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 9, 2012, 11:57 am

    This was a great article – I try to get my son to enjoy the outdoors more. He does love it, but it’s not his first choice for entertainment. It’s a constant struggle to fight the “shopping” thing. My son gets so many toys for Xmas and his birthday that he goes through new toy withdrawal, and his birthday was literally 3 weeks ago.

    Just yesterday my spouse had to work (on Sunday, yes), so I suggested we go for an outdoor adventure. Now, generally I like to get my exercise outdoors, and I don’t work up much of a sweat at his pace, but hey, I’m pregnant, so I figured we’re close to the same pace now anyway. He wanted to go to the beach. So we combined the two and hiked through a local open-space park to the beach (about 1.7 miles). Then we enjoyed a couple of hours building sand castles, watching dolphins, and running into the ocean and back out.

    The only negative is that we were there at lunch time. I packed snacks, but not enough snacks, and we ran out and ended up grabbing extra food at the local restaurant ($9). I’ll plan better next time. Bonus is that we were half way up the huge hill on the way home when my spouse finished work and he gave us a ride the rest of the way. We were both pretty tired by then, and passed out on the couch for an hour when we got home.

    Reply
  • sideways8 April 12, 2012, 10:11 pm

    I just got back from visiting my parents, who live near the Shawnee National Forest. I’m totally in love with that area- partly because of childhood memories, partly because I’m very close with my parents, and partly because there are so many awesome state parks. I got so much sun and fresh air and family time that I was 10000000000000000% happy and it was almost devestating to have to go back “home!” I think I know where I want to retire to…

    Reply
  • FreeUrChains April 16, 2012, 4:04 pm

    MMM you should do a post on Love. Nature’s biggest challenge. Especially for relationships that are falling apart or off and on after multiple year’s together. This entire post i was thinking about how nature attracts us to Love, with all the free simplicities, yet complexities. A mother and her Children, man and woman, even love for your neighbors and best friends who dwell with you and support you on this Water Rock, that is traveling 256,000 (can’t find this fact yet) mph around our Galaxy.

    Reply

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