Laura Ingalls Wilder helps inspire simpler lifestyle

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Bea Johnson is a best-selling author, environmentalist and motivational speaker who grew up in the South of France before moving to California at age 18. Johnson said Laura Ingalls Wilder has been one of her biggest inspirations on how to live a minimalist lifestyle.

Her book, “Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste” has been translated into 28 languages. She has given motivational talks around the globe and has been featured on television and in magazines, sharing her philosophies on reducing waste.

Johnson had to cancel her planned 2020 speaking tour of the United States because of COVID quarantines and lock downs, but she and her husband, Scott, had already rented out their house and they have been living in their camper now for two years.

They were in New Orleans planning to continue their trip when COVID hit, and they could not go anywhere. The couple ended up spending the next two weeks in a state park before the park closed, and they had to leave. They then were able to stay in Texas for a while and later quarantined in Arizona. The couple said they feel like they “lost” a whole year. They planned on meeting people along the way, getting to know the local cultures, but when the coronavirus hit, people stuck to themselves, and they were not able to get to know people.

Once they were able to travel, they began exploring the country, living on the road and staying at campgrounds across the country. Scott works for a software company and can work from anywhere.

Recently, the couple stayed at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet for a couple of days after visiting some of the other Ingalls sites. Johnson said she and her family watched “Little House on the Prairie” in France every day at lunchtime and later started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.

She said when her family began to downsize about 15 years ago, she used information from Wilder’s books, such as how to make lye soap and draw their own meat.

“A lot of people want to go back to simple living and don’t know how,” she stated, adding that her husband and two kids were very patient. The couple has two grown sons, Max and Leo.

Bea said that even after traveling the country for two years, De Smet has been the highlight of their trip so far.

“It made me cry (being in De Smet). It was so special,” she commented. She related that she excitedly called her mother in France to let her know where they were and planned to send a sunbonnet to her mother, an avid gardener.

After spending long hours online each day working with people in different time zones, Scott said he enjoys getting on his bicycle and exploring. He put in about 14 miles on gravel roads in the De Smet area one day, which is not unusual.

One highlight of Bea’s time in De Smet was spending a day helping Joan Wollschlager paint an outbuilding at the Ingalls Homestead. What most people would consider work was a fun day for her.

“I begged her to let me work!” Bea exclaimed.

“My wife is so happy right now,” Scott commented.

The Johnsons said they would love to spend another day in De Smet, but they had reservations at other campgrounds and staying an additional day would mess up their timeline. So, they continued west on their adventure.

For more tips on living a zero-waste lifestyle, visit Bea’s website at https://zerowastehome.com.

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