Day 154. Must Haves

Forgive me.  There seems to be a recurring theme here.  Hope you’re okay with it.  Just seems to be a lot to say on the subject.  When I first talked about cutting back on spending last Friday, Isweating had no idea I’d still be talking about a variation of the same topic four days later.  But here I am.

Yesterday the idea evolved from buying less, to living with less.  In less space.  With fewer possessions.  Even traveling lighter.  But it’s Morristown Memos, a fellow blogger, who’s the inspiration behind today’s post.  The comment she left, in response to a statement I’d made, was very honest.  I said I was ready to get rid of all but a few ‘possessions’ and go off somewhere and live a simple life.

I’m paraphrasing here, but she essentially said figuring out where to go is a challenge, because giving up some creature comforts she is used to, isn’t really an option.

She has a point.  A very valid point.

Got me to thinking.  We take an awful lot for granted.  At least those of us who live in North America do.  Our homes are heated.  We don’t have to put hot water bottles in our beds to keep warm.  Or wear heavy sweaters, or even coats, indoors.  We have running water.  Indoor toilets.  We can keep our food fresh, in refrigerators.  We have stoves to cook on.  Microwaves and toaster ovens and BBQs.

Aside from when disasters strike, we have electricity.  Washers and dryers.  Curling irons for our hair.  Lots of us keep our houses nice and cool with air conditioners.  So no sleepless nights tossing, turning and sweating.

We can have newspapers delivered.  We have our choice of 300+ television channels to choose from.  We don’t even have to get off the couch to switch from one to another.  We have access to the Internet wherever and whenever we want it.  Grocery stores and pharmacies are open 24/7; and the shelves are always fully stocked with whatever we need.

And we take it all for granted.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live somewhere else?  Where all the comforts of home might not be available?  Have you ever thought about what you’d be willing to live without, if anything?

For a few years now I’ve been toying with the idea of living abroad.  When I first came home from India I thought a three or six-month contract in Mumbai would be great fun.  Living in Paris has always appealed to me.  Or sailing around the world.  Or living on a houseboat somewhere.  So I have half heartedly reminded myself, every time one of these ‘fantasies’ surfaces, that many of the ‘luxuries’ (like central heating and central air) I’m used to, wouldn’t be there for me to enjoy.  Because these musings have been just that — musings — I’ve never really been put to the test.

Early in 2012 there was a possibility I’d be offered a job writing for a magazine publisher in Nassau.  The publications were top-drawer, I detest winter, Nassau’s close enough to Florida for a quick escape from island life from time to time, so it really appealed to me.  Suddenly I had to seriously ask myself what I’d be willing to give up, in order to escape the cold.

The reality is, the cost of living in Nassau is very high.  Comparable to Canada’s.  But the salaries sure aren’t.  Not even close.  So I’d certainly be compromising on my living accommodations.  Who knows if I’d get air conditioning.  Or WiFi.  Most likely, not.  I’d be more than willing to live in a 1-bedroom apartment, instead of 2.  Or a tiny cottage.  I could handle not having a dishwasher.

But not having air conditioning in a tropical climate wasn’t going to work for me, or my sinuses.

Could I really live, full time, on a small Caribbean island?  Could I give up going to the movies for a year or two?  Could I give up Grey’s Anatomy?  White Collar?  The Newsroom?  Because while the tourists and the uber wealthy who live there to avoid paying income tax have all the comforts of home, the locals and the poorly-paid imports like me, certainly would not have access to satellite TV and the yacht club and fine dining and beach front properties and infinity pools.

Certain compromises I would have been willing to make, for the experience.  But not all.  In this case, the money was the biggest disappointment.  And deterrent.  What I will never give up is a safe, clean, pleasant place to live.  One that’s cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.  A good location.

What about everything else?

For the right opportunity and the right adventure, yes, a lot of must-haves would become nice-to-haves; and even don’t-have-to-haves.  I might even be willing to starve in a garret in Paris for a while.  As long as it has WiFi.

24 thoughts on “Day 154. Must Haves

  1. Its funny you should post this today…I live in a tiny cottage, in the middle of no where, I’m an island of snow on a frozen lake. No wi-fi, internet is a recent thing…since August…they had to “connect” the area up to the main grid w/fiber optic. I watch TV maybe 3 hours total week…and some weeks none at all. No dishwasher, no cell (dead spots aplenty in no-where-ville), close to nothing but cedars and pine bush….no car, don’t drive. Can we say isolated? Now gotta figure out how to “reconnect” myself to the grid. OR, how to maintain this bliss of non-connection in a connected world. I’m leaning towards the latter. I can go without alot I’ve discovered…and am happier for it. Good lesson. AND….great post…. 😉 Very on theme for me lately…doing without, cutting back, living simpler….in a complex world. Eh

    • Wowza! How long have you been living there? Sounds like you’re not missing a more ‘connected’ life one bit. It’s really not as wonderful as people in other countries think it is. My version would have to Have palm trees, though 🙂

      • I don’t miss it, because even when I owned a cell and lived the city life, I still was not all geeked out…but that was 4 years ago. I have lived here since 2009…the whole nose to the screen, geeked out, app’d “meme” (I don’t even know what the word means anymore) society was in its infancy. I believe mine will be in a smallish city, with a wonderful old market, and lots of my family history within walking distance. I guess I’m learning bliss is something you can carry with you, once you find it. Just a matter of maintenance now.

        Happy seeking of the palms… 😉

      • Thanks. You know, I don’t think I’d miss it either. It is not all it’s cracked up to be. And I agree, bliss comes with us regardless of where or how we live.

  2. Or you could make a career move for money/title, be in awe of how much house your money can buy, then after living in it and enjoying its opulence, downsize to something more manageable. (that’s what we did). Sometimes dreams change. Sometimes we get sidetracked from what we really need. And I know that we’re heading towards living even smaller as we get closer to our golden years. As the years go by, the things are just not holding as much appeal as they once did.

    • Oh, I think dreams always change. At least mine do. And I also think that age has something to do with it. Acquiring is for when you’re young, I think. Shedding and simplifying and ‘lifestyle’ is for later.

  3. Thanks for this fantastic post and the one before it. It made me think about when I moved to Thailand in the 1990s. From 1990-1993, I lived in Nonthaburi Province, a neighbouring province to Bangkok, but back then, rather a rural outpost. We had a nice apartment and air-conditioning, even two bathrooms. However, these were some of the differences from the life we had been living in Australia:
    *Only two electric hot plates to cook on. No gas, no oven, no microwave, no toaster, no dishwasher. No hot water in the kitchen.
    *No TV in English. We did have a VCR, and my father would record shows from Australian TV and send them to us. We even loved watching the ads! The positive from this is we watched only a few hours “TV” a week.
    *We missed food items we had taken for granted, such as English sausages, licorice, cheese, wine, cup-a-soup. We could get cheese and wine in Bangkok, but choice was limited and they were expensive. I know some of this sounds trivial, but it’s often the little things you are accustomed to, and can’t get, that you start to crave.
    *No washing machine. The apartment offered a laundry service, which we used for sheets and towels, but we hand-washed our own clothes in the bathroom basins.
    *For the first year, we had no car, and there was very little public transport. We had o walk a long way to get a taxi, or to get to a (rudimentary) supermarket.
    However, the things we gained were worth much more than these small discomforts. One that I particularly remember is getting up every morning at 6am to view the sun rise from our balcony over the lake in front of us, and watching the water buffalo. I used to think, “Just look at where you are!”
    I also lived in Thailand from 1997-99 and even though it was in central Bangkok, there were things from home I missed. However, it’s amazing how you become accustomed to a new country. I found it quite difficult to accept the consumer-mad life back in Australia. I just visited Bangkok for the first time in 11 years, and it is a wonderful city, but very different now from when I lived there. I will always be glad of my time spent in Thailand in the 1990s.

    • Thank you for sharing these terrific experiences. It’s exactly what I mean. All these ‘luxuries’ we have become so used to are not necessary. We can have wonderful, fascinating lives without them; and we’d be surprised at how quickly we forget them. And live very well, if not better, without them. It’s a lesson in appreciation, too. We have so much here, but for the most part we don’t really appreciate it. We just think it’s our God-given right to have it. And we’re unwilling to even think about giving any of it up, even for a day. Really, it’s no way to live.

      • I’m another reader who gave away all my stuff in 2010 and moved to the third world. Actually, I live in Lima, Peru, which as a capital city gives you access to almost anything you want, except strange stuff like marmite, good tea, and cheap vitamin supplements. But in moving my life abroad, I have learned to depend a lot less on reliable amenities, a cell phone, recycling facilities and organic food. Living according to your values can be harder, but not impossible. And learning to live more simply happens almost so gradually you don’t notice you haven’t used your phone for a fortnight!

      • Lima. What made you choose to go there? I’m always curious about the places people pick. But I think you’re right. The more integrated you become in your new home the less you miss some of the things you had in your old life. There’s a lot of ‘stuff’ we have we really don’t need. We have just become spoiled.

      • It wasn’t a choice so much as where I ended up after a random sequence of events! I’m still moving. I’ve lived in Lima for 18 months and intend to stay for a further year, so I’m starting to think about where to move next. That will also be down to where I find work. I don’t know if I’ll eventually decide it’s time to move back to England, or find somewhere else I’d like to settle. Either way, as I am often reminded, it’s the journey that’s important. And one thing that has been a stand-out lesson has been the amount of ‘stuff’ I can live without. It’s liberating!

      • Yes, I have stopped becoming attached to ‘stuff’ myself. And I agree. It is liberating. I have 2 cats and they are the only reason I haven’t already flown the coop. Either for good or an extended period of time. But I am starting to think of places I could bring them, where they wouldn’t be in quarantine for 6 months. They’re my only ‘possessions’ i’m not prepared to leave behind.

  4. Definitely something to think about. I have visited florida twice and on one of my visits we left very early in the morning to sightsee and when I walked outside I was horrified because every single surface, including beautiful expensive cars, was covered in a layer of salt….that was enough to convince me I couldn’t live there, visit yes, but not own property. I would be consumed with the idea that the ocean salt was corroding everything I owned. I wonder if there is a perfect place to live after all.

    • I don’t think anything’s perfect. I think when the pros outnumber the cons, that’s as perfect as it will ever be. And it’s not necessarily forever. Sometimes we tire of our idea of heaven. I think that’s okay too. Finding a new slice of heaven keeps life interesting. And guves us lots of stuff to blog about 🙂

  5. Wherever you are in the world, you can apply the ‘less’ train of thought. Using less, buying less, throwing away less, eating less.
    My husband and I made a decision to own only one vehicle between us. He does have a motorcycle which we would use in an emergency. We have one phone between us and it doesn’t sing, dance or take pictures. I use a rock that I found at the beach to crush my almonds and walnuts when cooking. We use a manual can opener, coffee grinder and other simple kitchen tools. We haven’t subscribed to network television in about 12 years. We actually DO wear sweaters inside and at this moment, I’m wearing two layers of pants and a pair of my homemade from a second hand merino wool sweater socks.
    I reuse anything I can, and am considering a series on how to reuse the most unlikely things we normally throw away. My favorite is the inside bag from cereal boxes. Mark eats it, I don’t…
    Wait, this isn’t my blog post… 😀

  6. Just finished reading all of your posts on the subject so my comments cover the general theme. I’m definitely on the same page with you. I’m on a very strict budget now since I up and left a corporate job 21 months ago because it was sucking the life out of me. This has been a real life style change and it’s all good, but it has certainly taken some financial and psychological adjustments. The first six months, after I left my job, I was spending as if I was still getting that steady paycheck. Then one day I took a good hard look at my finances and the buck stopped right then and there! You hit the nail on the head when you realized the difference between “want” and “need”! I’ve been cutting left and right now and guess what, I could not even tell you now what I used to spend so much money on. I’m even thinking of selling my house which is not large by any stretch but it is more space than I need or want. I don’t have to sell; it’s just that I’m in that less is more mode and loving it. I have thought of living elsewhere, Costa Rica and Bali (after reading Eat, Pray Love)! I also thought of moving to Ireland after a trip there some years ago. That was the birth of my desire to live a simpler life. At this point I think I want to be based here in the northeast where my family is but travel more, perhaps staying as long as several months in some locations. As you so wisely pointed out, making a lifestyle change or move is not as simple as it seems. Lifestyle, economics, creature comforts, climate and culture all play a big part in that decision. Terrific series of deeply thought provoking posts!

    • I did exactly the same thing. When we closed our agency I went on some kind of spree! Well that party’s over. I’ve thought about Bali, too. I have friends who spend a lot of time there and love it. I am beginning to net out where you are. Stay here but travel more, for extended periods. Not sure yet what the answer will turn out to be, but “the times they are a changin”. Glad you enjoyed the posts.

  7. I’ve enjoyed reading the post and all the responses. I too wear sweaters indoors when it’s cold, but that’s just because I’m a cheapskate. 🙂 We are spoiled. Only this morning I came across cinnamon and honey BUTTER! With all the choices, and there are dozens on the shelves, they are now offering flavored butters! What next! 🙂

    • Soon we won’t remember how to do anything, because it will all be done for us. Not so sure that’s such a good idea, either.

  8. Let’s be honest, I feel a little bit spoiled. I’m not sure if I’d be able to survive without an air conditioner or wifi or a phone for that long. I like to take trips to places like that every now and then but I’ve realized that 3 weeks or so is about my limit 🙂

    • Air conditioning and wifi are biggies for me. Wifi is much more available than one would think. When I was in India it was never a problem, even in a remote hill station that was 7500 feet above sea level. The same could probably be said for cell phones. But air conditioning is a different story. I would like to put myself to the test though — and see what I could do without and for how long. Stay tuned … 🙂

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