When I left my job last summer I entered a strange state of loss and lack of direction. After 4 years at my school I had made good friends, was able to help lovely students, my teaching was pretty solid and the job was getting easier, perhaps I was starting to coast a little. All the pieces of a good life were in place; I recently married my best friend and Studio Mali partner of 10 years, had a great group of buddies and the financial stability of a mortgage of a London flat. We could’ve continued with our nice life but we felt it wasn’t right. We were worried about endless work, 30 year debt and wasting away the creative passions we’d had as teenagers, it was inevitable we would continue this life forever. Or so we thought. After a life changing trip to Patagonia in 2015, we decided on a new plan to make changes to our lives. We are still in the process of making that plan a reality but we believe it’s been the best decision we’ve ever made, yet!
From the moment we all reach school, expectations are placed on us to work hard, study and get good grades. For some they continue to college or perhaps a degree. If you have a degree you are likely in debt, this was certainly my first experience of large debt. I believe debt is the system that locks us into a life of work. Let me explain my thinking, the government relies heavily on the taxes it takes from it’s citizens and it wants it’s people to work, climb the ladder and progress because it’s more taxable money coming in and consumer spending rises. If you start off your working life in debt, you inherently start working to stop the interest rising and pay off what you’ve borrowed, clever system. The only way to cheat it is not to work or not get a degree.
Graduate debt casts an immediate pressure to get working and earn a pay rise, scaling up to mortgages, credit cards, life insurance and so on. A tightly woven financial tapestry that you must pass through to have a decent life in the U.K. Or so it seemed. We started to question whether the life that was expected of us was an enjoyable one, did it give us joy, would we look back and be pleased with our decisions? When work dominates most of the week leaving you dead on your feet for the weekend the answer is no. So we decided to escape the big smoke, experience more of the world and come back with a plan to re-balance our lives.
So leaving school last summer wasn’t just leaving a job but leaving the life that I expected to grow old living. Ali and I stepped off the treadmill and into the unknown, free from work, routine and a ‘normal’ stable life. We saved as much cash as we could save in a year, combined with gift money from our wedding, boarding a flight to Norway in July 2017. Although it wasn’t the wisest decision to travel to the worlds most expensive country first! From then on, it’s been a rollercoaster of experiences, cool people, foods, sunsets and ideas and we are nearing the end with clear motivations on how to continue this free, happy and inspiring way of life. But how will we achieve this?
Travelling the world on £30 a day for the both of us means you’ll need to live like a local person. That means queuing up to use the same transport, eating in the same restaurants and shopping around for a good price. It’s fun, once you get better at haggling and putting on a front. Ali is much better at doing deals than me! We learnt that to be happy we didn’t need all the luxury we were used to at home. If we could scale down our spending abroad then why not do so the rest of the time? The first part of our plan for balancing our lifestyle is to cut our spending to what we need rather than want. This reduces our day to day costs and ultimately we’ll have to live with less. In comparison to the majority of local people we met travelling, we could see that life at home in London is not balanced, quite excessive actually and sometimes wasteful too. So living minimally is one of our goals.
Next, we want to be more creative in our daily lives and hope that we can return to London and put our creative skills into use. We can’t say exactly how or what this will look like but we’re convinced that if you’re driven to achieve something then it can be done. This attitude has been inspired by meeting so many crafty makers around the world who work so hard at their passion. We left Studio Mali open to grow and so we feel driven to make creative projects the centre of our new life by making objects that we hope people will love! This goal could have only come from having time to think about it, talk about it and gather the confidence to actually do it. Travelling has given us that time and led us to people making beautiful products in all corners of globe. We’re not interested in becoming mega rich by selling products, but we want to prove to ourselves that we can survive independently doing something we both love.
We setup our Studio Mali blog because we wanted a project to keep us busy on the road, we aren’t chasing fame, more an output to remember our trip by. But now it seems clear, we want to use Studio Mali to inspire others to re-think what they do in their lives. In just 7 months of travelling we feel like new people, excited about what’s next and driven to inspire others to think about changes they can make to their lives. It might be that you want to work less, or explore new places, develop a skill, start a new hobby, return a to sport you once played. These are changes or activities that can help you to be happy, live in the present and grow as people. Is a full-time, debt laden life worth the money that you’re paid? If the answer is no then what can you do to cut down your spending and live with less?
With 2 months until our return day, I’ve been considering what returning to structured life will be like. Ultimately I don’t want a five day working week so my plan is to work three days supply teaching. I’ll be planning to spend less, enjoy free fun like nature more, cook the foods we used to get takeaways of and be active and healthy. Ali and I love seeing our friends but perhaps we won’t meet them in the pub so much, perhaps the park instead. We hope to sell our flat and find something smaller, which is perhaps the biggest irony of our mortgage debt. The flat we purchased 4 years ago seems to have grown in equity in that time. Ali and I may be able to buy something small without a mortgage. We may be able to live a low cost, debt free life where we can concentrate on doing things we love, building a balanced lifestyle in the process. We hope our story inspires you think about what is important in your life, reflect and find your purpose.
Although half our a plan is theoretical, we hope you will check back to see if we can achieve our balance lifestyle goal!
Update April 2018: Our pals over at Minimalism.Life have published a slightly shorter, but just just as sweet and Americanised version of our piece on their website. You can peruse the article from the link then read some of their other awesome journal entries: How Travel Helped Me Change My Life
Why Not Pin It?
(So you can find it later)