Trading Traffic For Trees

Listen to our podcast episode here or if you like to read, continue below.

So there we were in 2017, diligently pecking away at the proverbial shell standing in the way of us, and our ultimate dream of happiness. Zuri had a thriving social media consulting firm and her newly recorded third album. We had launched I Am Zuri in 2015, and after countless hours of planning, executing, summoning ideas from the ether, and transforming those ideas into action. Like anyone, who is on the quest to become a better version of themselves in order to create a better world in which they live, the Star family took inventory of our limitations, in order to expand beyond them. And after much computation, we determined that it was time we left Los Angeles. It was time to trade traffic for trees.

Let’s be clear. We still really really love L.A. Most notably, we love the Southern California beaches and mountains. And despite the fact that we no longer live there, our heart and the bulk of our happiest memories, still bask in the Cali sunshine, travel up and down its stunning coastline, and swim within its beautiful diversity. However, as we grew into higher versions of ourselves, we realized that something was calling us. Our minds, our bodies, and our souls required something that we could not find in the sunshine state. So, following Zuri’s father, organic farmer, Will Allen, we moved to Vermont.

California is a massive state. For those of us who have spent no less than a decade living within its plethora of climates zones, it is safe to say that California could be broken into a handful of smaller states, each with its unique vibe. Southern Cali, Central Cali, Northern Cali, and the boutique border regions of Cali such as Lake Tahoe, host their own offerings, and challenges. But the common thread throughout these areas is that California has a large and growing population. Here are some quick facts that we would ruminate over during our many pros and cons conversations about moving:

Cons

  • The population of California at that time was 39.56 million people
  • 4 million of those people lived in L.A. county alone
  • L.A. had the worst traffic in the US for 6 years running and the average L.A. driver spent 102 hours battling traffic congestion during peak hours in 2017
  • The housing market was the highest it had ever been since the 2008 housing crisis so it was not an ideal time to purchase.
  • LA county was experiencing its second consecutive drought year and fire season was likely going to be detrimental to canyon living (it ended up being the worst fire season on record the season after we left, many of our dear friends were evacuated for months on end or lost their homes.)

Pros

  • The population of Vermont in 2017 was  626,299 people
  • 28,937 of those people lived in the county we would move to
  • In 1968 the state of Vermont passed a landmark anti-billboard law, and the landscape has been billboard-free ever since.
  • Zuri’s father’s organic farm, Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center
  • Vermont has a private school education but it’s paid via the town taxes, therefore kids get a great education as a resident.
  • Currently, Vermont is home to over 4.5 million acres of forest land which makes its land approximately 73 percent forested.
  • Our daughter wanted to adventure and move to Vermont.

So, what do these random facts have to do with growing into the highest version of ourselves? Well, let’s start with the effects of living within a high-density population. Some people thrive in a high-paced, high-competition environment. And we did for many years. For some, this type of environment pushes them to produce their best outcomes so as to rise to the top. After living there for several years, we outgrew certain things and our standards changed. We found that the environment constantly encouraged us to become a version of ourselves that focused on results, rather than happiness. But, to walk our talk we needed to live in a more natural setting. 

Cue the SNL skit: The Californians

Mikey says: “The times that we spent driving the infamous 405, and 101 freeways, which are two of L.A.’s main arteries, we would gaze at the thousands of billboards placed everywhere. Suggestions of who I needed to be in order to drive that car, wear those clothes, look that way, and be that person, began to cloud my ability to truly know who I was, and what I really wanted. I began to shape who I should be, and that shape was significantly different from who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to fall to the rear of the pack, so I followed the suggestions on billboards, placed everywhere my eye could wander. I woke up every morning running to keep up, and stayed awake at night worried that I was falling behind, despite the progress I made. And then, something changed. 

I realized that the times when I was the happiest, the most at peace with the world around me, was when I was in nature. My family had an intimate relationship with the beach, and we would find ourselves, camped out at a Malibu beach, staring off into the horizon where the sky and ocean met. There, and only there, I could hear myself. The parts of my brain that would constantly prod me to follow the pack were silenced, and the greater part of me, the part of me that knew who I was and what I wanted, spoke very softly.

I believe that most of us will hear this voice at various times in our lives. I believe that many of us will go about our business, ignoring this voice, simply because it goes against the grain of what we think we should do. We all have that one thing that we should change but don’t because we are afraid to. Change is scary. It’s uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and has the tendency to disrupt everything in our lives; things we love, and things we don’t. Zuri and I had grown accustomed to our lives in California, so much so, that we endured the traffic, heavy pollution, the growing crime rates, the high cost of eating healthy, and the fact that we had to share everything with everyone all the time. Well, the voice in our head said something that we finally heard…we are from the world, so live with the world.”

Zuri says:I grew up in the country and living in an orchard so I always wanted to return to the trees but doing that while also pursuing my career and business dreams didn’t make sense. But, once we got to a certain position in our businesses and careers it became clear that we could live anywhere in the world that had internet, enough space to create a music studio, and an office for me to work out of. For me, Southern California started to feel like a shell we had outgrown.” There is a great video Zuri references that you may have seen about Lobsters outgrowing their shells. Take a minute to watch it.

When you live in a city or suburb or in close proximity to a lot of people you lose a lot of your time standing in lines or waiting in traffic and you have to repurpose or multi-task so you don’t have road rage. We used to like listening to podcasts or listening to new music as we ran around. But, at this new stage of our lives, we found that we would rather spend that time writing our books, our songs, and creating our podcasts for I Am Zuri, rather than standing in line behind the other millions of people in L.A.  We had outgrown the rat race and we needed to return to nature in order for our true nature to return to us. 

Now, we are not telling you that you too need to move to the middle of nowhere to discover who you are. What we are saying is to find what is natural to you and spend the bulk of your time returning to that natural state. You may need to change jobs, change how you eat, change what relationships you need to keep or change what addictions you want to harbor. Whatever it is you need to change, (listen to that voice… for it will gladly tell you what needs to change,) the only time you can change, is right now.

Within 3 months of listening to our inner voice, we moved from our beloved home state, where our entire family minus Zuri’s Dad and many of our friends still live. It was extremely difficult! Packing up our belongings was hard. Selling, or giving away our things that didn’t fit in our moving truck was hard. Saying goodbye to great neighbors, and long-standing friends were hard. Saying goodbye to our favorite stores, theaters, and restaurants was hard. Zuri flew with our elementary school-age daughter and two cats across the U.S., and if you ask her, she will tell you it was hard. I drove over 3 thousand miles in a 27 foot U-Haul truck, towing our Prius with a young boxer and grumpy puggle sitting on the front seat, and let me tell you, it was hard. But…change is temporary, and before we knew it, we were finally where we needed to be, to become the people we wanted to be. No aggressive billboards and angry horns. Just rolling hills, filled with happy trees that generate happy thoughts. The perfect place for a writer to thrive. The perfect place for an entrepreneur to work and a songwriter to write her best songs. 

Today is Earth Day. As a child, we can recall spending this day in school talking about recycling, reusing, and reducing. We also recall wondering why the Earth was granted just one day of the year when in reality, deserves every single day of every year. Well, as Vermonters, we grow some of our own food, purchase a CSA share from the organic farm, we take all of our recyclables to the local recycler, we compost all of our food and make many of our decisions based on how it will affect our planet. We decided to make Earth Day, every day. It’s certainly easier to do when not living in a metropolis like L.A. Maybe it is time you create a day where you recycle, reuse, and reduce any energy that is holding you back from being the best version of you. Maybe today, in conjunction with Earth Day, it should be called, “the beautiful me day.” A day where you celebrate the highest version of you. Better yet, maybe you should make every day the “beautiful you day”, so that the highest version of you, is making all of your decisions, despite what challenges you will need to overcome. 

Today we launched our first full episode of I Am Zuri: The EmPOWERment Couple Podcast with candid stories about adventuring to Vermont from California. Listen in to I Am Adventure: Trading Traffic For Trees here.

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