Community, spirituality, simple living, and social & ecological justice are the four core values of JVC Northwest. Individually and with my community, I have been examining these tenets and striving to live them out this year. To me, the four values can be collectively understood through one word: conscientiousness. By approaching life more diligently I am more aware, thoughtful, and understanding of my encounters each day here. This post centers on simple living and what we have done thus far to bring it to life in our community!
Simple living is a broad term, encompassing everything from housing and finances to food and free time. As JV/AmeriCorps members, my housemates and I live on a stipend, which through community consensus, is allotted toward food, utilities, car, and other expenses. Together, we determine what we will spend our money on, and what we will pass up. Each of us also has a personal monthly stipend, which is spent at individual discretion. Though I’ve never been an outlandish spender, living on a limited budget each month has made me much more conscious of precisely what I spend, down to the penny.
Another way we try to live less extravagantly is by limiting the use of electronics. I’m grateful for the ease of communication computers and cell phones offer, but it’s nice to spend time away from the distractions of technology sometimes. Instead, we spend our time playing music (we’re all somewhat musical in our own ways!), reading the Harry Potter series together (we all discovered we were J.K. Rowling fans back in August), cooking, baking, and going for walks and runs. We even took a trip to gorgeous Yellowstone National Park last weekend, which I will write about in further detail later in this post…
One of the challenges we’ve faced in living out this tenet is balancing a simple lifestyle with living in an area that necessitates driving miles and miles to get things we need, like food and house supplies. Because the implications of driving everywhere extend into environmental, social, and financial concerns, among others, we limit our excursions to those that are essential. A considerable portion of our budget goes toward transportation, which we cannot bypass entirely—if only it was feasible to ride bikes or horses to our destinations! I’ve rapidly learned to value the convenience factor of living in a suburban area at home, while also coming to appreciate the beauty of Montana’s openness, particularly on those long car rides! The conscientious steps my community has taken to live more simply have brought much joy, laughter, and creativity.
While transportation has thus far been one of the biggest limitations to experiencing this tenet more fully, it has also allowed us to explore incredible places. My housemates and I decided that we wanted to take advantage of our location and see some of the area’s national parks. What better place to start than by visiting our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone?!
We set off for the North Entrance to the park by route of the Beartooth Mountains. It became palpably colder as we ascended the winding mountain pass to the top, which offered astounding views of both Montana and Wyoming. On our way into Yellowstone, we saw our first glimpses of wildlife, including bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn up close. Later on, we even saw a bear and a wolf—with the buffer of binoculars and distance to shield us!
It swiftly became fall in this region, and we felt that very much as we camped out the first night; it was frigid, with nighttime temperatures in the 20s! The daytime weather proved much more moderate, sunny, and cool: the perfect weather for hiking and exploring around the park. We hiked on a six-mile trail that went alongside the Yellowstone River and Grand Canyon. Luckily, we didn’t need to put our bear spray to use, as the only animals we encountered here were small rodents! Before leaving, we went to Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, and saw geysers and wildlife galore! It was a remarkable weekend to explore our country’s open and natural spaces, especially through the lens of the JVCNW values. Experiencing the vastness of this uncorrupted land, which provides wildlife with suitable habitats and visitors with astounding views, hikes, and relaxation, offers hope for environmental conservation. Now, we’re all eager to plan our next trip to a national park (pending government shutdown, of course…)!