I lived in the mountains outside of Los Angeles.
Every morning, as I went to my car to head down the hill to work, I’d hear the crunch of gravel under my boots. All of my immediate family are city-dwellers. There’s no reason I should feel like a country girl. But I do.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to move away from asphalt roads and small lots packed with multi-family homes, clustered in tight neighborhoods, in walking distance to bodegas where the shop clerk recognizes me but doesn’t know me.
People told me that I’d get out to the end of a gravel road, and it’d drive me crazy.
You know, with everyone in my business all the time; people talking about me behind my back even as the clerk smiles sweetly and says, “Hi Danielle, what’ll it be today?” No nightlife, no karaoke, no sushi.
I figured they probably were right: Everyone has this romantic idea of living on a farm and raising goats, tending a garden and sitting on the front porch with an enamelware cup, staring through the fog of my own breath into the sun coming over the hill…and when I made the move, I’d die of boredom.
I figured they were right until I spent a few months living in the mountains with my friend Glen. We were in Lake Hughes, a tiny crossroads with one restaurant/bar and a gas station/corner store. No coffee shop, no sushi, no clothing store…our street wasn’t even paved.
I realized I was a country girl.
I was going crazy in the city, not out of it. Out of the city, I suddenly realized that the only things making me unhappy were in my head and with others. Nature is perfect just the way it is, and I could be free of the bullshit that everyone tries to pack around cities—bullshit like the importance of an expensive car or a “good” job.
Reality being what it is, I couldn’t just move out to the forest and live off the land. I don’t like starving. It seriously puts a cramp in my style. And I had a fantastic career. No kidding. I have had the opportunity to work some of the most incredible jobs in the world, in my opinion. Forest living takes planning and calculation, and I couldn’t figure out how to make it work without a four-hour daily commute.
But I kept a hold on that vision. The back of my mind was always rooting out opportunities to make it happen. And years later…
I can make soap anywhere I have space for production and supplies. And as long as I have an internet connection, I can sell it.
We’re living in an Oakland warehouse now. From the outside, it’s pretty far from the vision. But from the inside, we’re working towards the farm, the goats, and a barn for the soap. I have a patio garden where I sprout plants. I have a dog who thinks she’s a goat. I make soap in a vacant space on the ground floor. We enjoy free rent, because Russ (my husband and partner in Outlaw Soaps) is the property manager, and our urban location means he can do his handyman work to support us during our startup period.
According to my financial projections, we should be able to start saving money (instead of spending it all on the business) in December. Two years after that, we should have a down payment for a farm.
And that, to me, is location, location, location.
Photos by Danielle Vincent.