Charmed by Simplicity

I have been stressed out by a good many things in these past couple of years; including by job, my husband’s health, the poor economy and the state of the world. As some of you readers know I had been giving meditation a try; but not faithfully or successfully or I wouldn’t be so freakin stressed-out. Right? I have also been working on being less negative and “snarky,” again with the best intentions but not my usual follow-through, as demonstrated by the last two sentences. Oh well, I’m a work in progress.

Simplicity articles and stories fill me with envy and a desire to sell everything and find my simplicity path, but which path there are so many, it’s not very simple.

This story by David Wallis, Increasingly, Retirees Dump their Possessions and Hit the Road, in the New York Times talks to several retirees about how they sold everything and are now permanently traveling. One couple has been spending the last two years living in a tent in different parts of the world, another couple stays in short-term vacation rentals in different countries every few months and yet another woman lives on something like $150 per month by working on organic farms for room and board or couch surfing around the country.

A comment from one of the traveling couples;

““We simply traded the money we were spending for overhead on a house and garden in California for a life in much smaller but comfortable HomeAway rentals in more interesting places,” Ms. Martin said by email from Paris.”

Sell everything the house, the cars and the possessions that weigh us down and travel the world with just the necessities of life seems like a pretty awesome way to spend your golden years.

A Sandy Keenan article in the New York Times, “Freedom in 704 Square Feet” featured this quote from a neighbor of the featured couple who, to have more time to live rather than maintain a home, live in a small house in Portland, Oregon;

None of this has gone unnoticed by the neighbors. Kim Conrow, 65, who lives next door, marveled: “On weekends, they actually go places and do things. They’re not tied to the projects most of us are tied to. I’m so charmed by the simplicity of it.

A smaller house with less overhead, less to clean, less to worry about and maintain. We purchased our townhome during the market dive, but of course we were not close enough to the bottom when we did buy and are still underwater, even if not quite as bad as some of our neighbors. This adds to the stress, because if we did want to sell it, it’s going to cost us even more money to truly get out from underneath the obligation. And we may need to sell because living in a house with two sets of stairs doesn’t work all that well for a guy that is on oxygen. But he does climb the stairs several time a day like a trouper.

I purchased a book, Secrets of Simplicity – Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno about 6 or 7 years ago. It has lots of helpful lessons about how to curb your wants and focus on your needs, help you realize how much you have already in the way of family, friends and things and how to appreciate them now, and how to change a habit like “shopping” and start a new one like “exercising”. One particularly funny passages in the section on “Focus” she is telling the reader about being in a yoga class and her teacher was talking about Prana, which means breath.

“One day my teacher, Laurie Goldstein, was talking about Prana, which means “breath” or the “life force,” arguably the most essential part of yoga. In my distracted state, I heard “Prada.” Suddenly, instead of taking deep cleansing breaths, I found myself mentally wandering through Saks purchasing high-end designer goods. Though I cannot liken my shopping addiction to a chemical need like that of nicotine, alcohol, or even caffeine, the battle to avoid shopping is one I fight every day! As evidenced in my yoga class, sometimes the temptation creeps up even when I have the best intentions.” 

For me this was funny, but also, sadly a little too close to home; because I do find my mind wandering to a beautiful new coat from Barneys or some pretty bauble from Nordstrom or just some random shopping for something at Target. And I need nothing right now, absolutely nothing, yet my brain still starts thinking about when I will have the next opportunity to shop. When the urge starts to get too strong or I have fallen off the wagon I pull out this book and it helps me re-focus on what’s important.

Do you ever long for a simpler life? Or are you living one? What is your secret?

I Am Afflicted With Wanderlust

Venice 1  As my world has begun to shrink, my wanderlust has begun to expand.

I keep reading books and blogs about travel and this desire continues to build up in me like the water behind a damn that is about to break. I was window shopping vacation rentals in Paris yesterday; imagining renting one for about six months and getting to write, walk the streets of Paris, learn some proper French and sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.

A Stephanie Rosenbloom article “Solo in Paris” in the May 2nd New York Times nicely sums up how I would love to spend my time.

“Indeed, the city has a centuries-old tradition of solo exploration, personified by the flâneur, or stroller. Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age. Baudelaire described the flâneur as a passionate spectator, one who was fond of “botanizing on the asphalt,” as the essayist Walter Benjamin would later put it. Typically, it was a man. No longer.”

With observation and people watching being favorite pastimes this excerpt from the Ms. Rosenbloom’s article encapsulates the idea perfectly;

“To refuel, I stopped by a favorite among my friends, Le Comptoir du Relais, a cozy maroon bistro where English is hardly spoken. I walked in around 4:30, which meant I had no trouble getting lunch. Tall panes of glass were flung open, letting in the sidewalk, the better for gawking at passers-by, which I did shamelessly while eating salmon with wasabi and turnips. Places like this, where one looks out as others look in, are ideal for solo travelers. I had that exquisite feeling described by Baudelaire in “The Painter of Modern Life,” in which you “see the world,” are “at the center of the world,” and yet “remain hidden from the world.””

I also found this wonderful blog post yesterday on Medium by Keegan Jones, Lessons From A Year of Solo Travel. He has some great observations and interesting tips and information about seeing the world. The first one was that he planned to spent less than $33/ day on accommodations but after a year on the road he spent less;

“Travel can be affordable.
Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.”

He also posted a picture of the limited possessions and clothes that he traveled with over his year of travel. Maybe 30 items.

“I have lived with a few things in a backpack for a year. I have been perfectly content. It’s a fantastic feeling to walk off an airplane with a single carry-on backpack. I didn’t buy a single souvenir because I had no extra space in my backpack. I have become more conscious about things I want versus things that I need. The less you own, the better. Otherwise, your possessions will own you. Living this way is a privilege. It affords the flexibility to easily move, live in less space, worry less, and spend less to buy bigger and better things.”

This was the most appealing part of the story to me, shedding all the possessions that are weighing me down and getting down to the basic necessities of life with maybe a few luxuries in there for fun.

And this quote, from the author Jon Krakauer, that he included also got me thinking.

““Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” ― Jon Krakauer”

I have always been the responsible planner that makes sure the trip is planned, the bills are paid, the next job is lined up, the birthday cards are mailed and on and on. I would like to escape the “monotonous security” for a while. I know my opportunity will come, I am working on being ready for it when the time is right!

How about you any secret travel lust?