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Why this woman quit Harvard to live in a 130-square-foot cabin

Bethany Butzer was working her dream job at Harvard, studying the effects of yoga in school settings. While the subject matter of her research was indeed serene, she said she found that she was spending most of her days in her windowless office stressed out and overwhelmed.

“When I came home, I had noisy neighbors above me and a four-lane highway outside my bedroom window,” she recalls about her Boston apartment. “My rent was very high, and I was barely scraping by financially. In the end, the prestige of working at a top academic institution wasn't worth the toll it was taking on my quality of life.”

She decided to quit her job and take a much-needed break — by packing up her car with only the essentials and moving to a remote 130-square-foot cabin in Canada with her husband.

Bethany Butzer

“I made the decision to go live in the cabin before I knew what I was going to do next professionally,” she told TODAY.com. “I spent months living very frugally in Boston so that I could save up enough money to essentially buy myself two months off.”

The two-bedroom cabin sits in a picturesque spot in Willisville, Ontario, north of Manitoulin Island.

Bethany Butzer

“We had spent many summers at this location with our friends and family, and we loved it,” she explains. “The location is serene and the cabins are rustic but functional, so it was a perfect fit for us.”

Butzer says the first week was a bit of an adjustment to not having access to luxuries like a full-size shower, reliable Internet or cell phone access. But she says she was amazed at how content she was with just a few basic necessities.

“I spent countless hours sitting on that porch reading, meditating or simply watching nature,” she says. "It was paradise.”

Looking back, Butzer is happy with her decision to do what she did.

“In Boston, it felt like I was always being pressured to produce, and no matter how much I produced, there was always more that was required of me,” she says. “I think that we have a lot more control over our quality of life than we think we do. It's all about making conscious choices that align with what you value — regardless of what others think.”

Bethany Butzer

Inspired by Butzer’s story? While not everyone can quit their jobs and move away, perhaps it’s a reminder that it’s important to take breaks and get back to nature.

“Perhaps you start spending five minutes a day doing something just for you,” Butzer suggests. She also adds for anyone who is considering doing something major like she did: “Don't prevent yourself from creating a life you love because you're afraid of what others will think.”

Butzer says the cabin changed her life. It was during conversations at the cabin when she and her husband realized that they wanted to live in Europe.

Bethany Butzer

“If I hadn't taken time at the cabin to contemplate what I value, I never would have made an effort to reach out to some universities in Prague to find out if they might have teaching opportunities available.” The two moved there in August for her new job teaching a psychology course at the University of New York in Prague.

“Now I am back in a city living in an apartment,” she says. “But I purposely chose an apartment that's quiet and close to lots of green space.”

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