lifestyle

Lifestyle: I Left My Boots In Georgia

A piece about walking, lifestyle changes and life at home.

Mark thumbnail sml.jpg
 

Those Boots Are Made For Walking 

When we started a travel blog in 2017, never did I think I’d write a piece about my 7 year old walking boots! Arriving back home in London I started thinking about what I missed most about our ten months of travel and my conclusion was my walking boots. It’s not that I miss the actual specifics of the so-old-they’re-flapping-open North Face’s, but the therapeutic qualities of strapping them on and embarking on a days excursion with Ali. The boots seem to symbolise freedom, change and health, with every day of travel building on the last. Walking, standing and sometimes running was the action that embodied our daily transitions, so when we decided to walk as often as we could, our journeys became and felt more physical.  I miss the simplicity of being on my feet all day.

 

Flow

There’s a lot to be said for the process of preparing for a long walk; slipping on some thick socks, lacing up, preparing for changing weather, packing food and water and setting off into the unknown. The act of walking is a therapeutic one and I always feel better after a walk than before. It’s most special when you find that perfect balance, your flow. There’s always a point in a walk where it becomes sub-conscious. Your mind is clear of the day-to-day humdrum, conversation gushes and your appreciation for what's around you becomes heightened. After a year of hiking around the globe, walking is truly the best therapy I’ve felt, a perfect combination of fitness and mindfulness, all for free. For the folks that enjoy a long hike, you’ll know the sweet-spot where you find the ‘flow’. The perfect state where the mind is freed of stresses and it’s just your company, nature and the rhythm of each step forward that matters.

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Opening Eyes

Developing a passion for walking has also helped foster a fascination with nature. I used to just see trees, fields and lakes, and now I spot the details and get excited about the little features of the walk. Once I saw a bird fishing, now I notice a heron skilfully preying. Perhaps it’s age, but spending time in nature deals me healing properties and the older I get the more time I need to spend outdoors, this very article has been put together in Hackney Downs park.  It’s as if we spend our formative years experimenting with the world to see what we love about it. Reflecting back, I can see I was far more interested in vaguely hollow pleasures like technology, clubbing and cinema; all great things but also indoor pursuits. Finding a passion for the great outdoors grew from experiencing incredible landscapes in places like Norway, Mongolia and China, as well as spotting the unearthly fauna like vultures, elephants and camouflaging lizards in the wild. The world is much more exciting when you’re eyes are open to it.

A camoflaged rare lizard in Sri Lanka

A camoflaged rare lizard in Sri Lanka

 

Green Grass

Walking in other countries has definitely made me appreciate the UK’s natural wonders. We were invited up to the Lake District by Ali’s family a few weeks after we got home and were totally blown away by the Lakes and mountains around Keswick. It taught me it’s far too easy to under-appreciate our own countries natural wonders, naively, assuming that the grass is always greener. The UK’s open fields are some of the greenest I’ve ever seen and it’s mountains are decent too. We loved it so much we booked our summer holiday back to the very same place, lucky Keswick! 

UK 9 lake district.jpg

 

Back In London

Having just mentioned how green everything is, the U.K. is actually enjoying and sweltering in the longest and strongest heatwave since the 1970s and grass isn’t so green right now. It’s been the perfect time to get outside in the evenings when it’s cooler, so we’ve been enjoying strolls on the Hackney Marshes in East London and pondering what we could do next now that we are home. We’ve clearly been missing the simpler travel life so are having little adventures like cycling instead of bussing, even when the cycle is a two hour off-road route from Salisbury to a wedding we went to! We’ve been busy making Studio Mali into a business and using Airbnb help with bills whilst Ali gets her products into the world. But from time to time I can’t help my mind wondering back to those long walks in nature.

Ali has been busy developing her new Ebony Necklace inspired by our travels!

Ali has been busy developing her new Ebony Necklace inspired by our travels!

 

22 Days Straight

The pinnacle of our walking lives was the epic 22 day trek around the Annapurna mountains in Nepal. High altitude, snow, rain, flu and food poisoning all had be to contended with but through the challenges came satisfaction and fulfilment, and ultimately, walking in Nepal was my biggest highlight of the trip. There was something very primeval about filling up on porridge, packing up and setting off along the apple pie route, named after the apple orchards that grow so plentifully around the ring of the mountains. Even when we hit the high altitudes of the Thorong-La Pass at 5,400km I enjoyed looking down to spot my wooly socks peeping out the side of my walking boots. It was careless to attempt such a challenging trek with substandard kit but I wanted to finish the trip with the same boots, I was compelled too. The boots survived, and so did I, and in a moment of ceremony on our last day I left the 7 year old boots on a bridge in Tbilisi, Georgia. Hopefully they might bring somebody some pleasure, they certainly did for me.

Goodbye old friends 

Goodbye old friends 

 

What did I learn from this close relationship to my walking boots? (I never thought i’d say those words together) ….Appreciate what you have and really consider when you need something and when you want something. Distinguishing between those two points has been very important since roaming the streets of the oh-so-commerical London again where everyone is grappling for your earnings. If you can teach yourself to be happy with what you have then living a simpler, lower cost, life is entirely possible even in an expensive place like the U.K. Be happy with what you have and, like walking is for me, find that thing gives you pleasure and do it everyday. 

 

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Lifestyle: Why I Gave Up My Career In Fashion For The Unknown

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There's 26 year old me, a Senior Designer in my company, designing fast fashion clothing for some of the biggest brands on the highstreet (names of which I probably shouldn’t mention). 

On busy months I'd design hundreds of items, maybe 30 styles of which got booked, and of those 30 styles, maybe a couple of hundred thousand units of garments would have been produced in factories and shipped into store. To give you an idea of the scale of the production, I could walk around a festival and every few hours probably point out someone who was wearing something that I had designed.  It was a crazy business.  You could literally have an idea, sketch it out, get a sample made in a day, and within 6 weeks it would be in someones shopping bag.  

 

For the first few years of doing this I was living the dream.  The company I worked for gave me so much responsibility and creative freedom, and looked after me well to keep me there.  It was very much a sales job too, we would have to pitch our styles to our clients every few weeks and try to convince them to buy our product over someone elses.  The people buying had such huge budgets due to good sales, that sometimes you could walk away from a meeting knowing that they had just ordered 200,000 units worth of clothing.  Occasionally a buyer would ring up our office and say “I have 2 million pounds to spend on blouses this week, what can you deliver into store quickly?”  

 

That was really the heyday of highstreet fashion where almost everyone was doing well.  Customers just seemed happy to fill up their baskets with any old stuff because it was cheap and accessible.  People were proud to have found the cheapest possible item going; tops for £2, shoes for £5, and there seemed like no limit for how cheap it could be.  When I was younger I was definitely guilty of shopping in that way too, it was the rise of the cheap highstreet brands.  But after some time I sort of realised that I didn’t value cheap clothing and my respect grew for skills found in the manufacture of vintage or second hand clothing.  I didn’t want to wear the same thing as everyone else, and also maybe I started to know a bit too much about the industry and the consequences of this kind of mass production.

 

A few years later, we had a few seasons of bad trading and had to let a few people go in our company.  We had predicted that sales were going to continue at the rate we had been used to but for whatever reason it didn’t happen and we were scraping by.  The work days seemed to get slower and longer, and I had a lot more time to think things over.  I always loved working at our office because the people made it amazing.  We had our own little family there where we looked out for each other, people of all ages and all backgrounds were friends, all working together in this funny melting pot.  Some of the older ladies would cook lunch for us on almost a daily basis, and we called them ‘mummy’ because they really treated us like their kids.

Me and the oldest employee there, Pat who's a staggering 75 and got more energy than anyone on the team!

Me and the oldest employee there, Pat who's a staggering 75 and got more energy than anyone on the team!

 

That’s one of the reasons I stayed at my job for such a long time, because I couldn’t bare to leave the work family.  It breaks my heart a bit now to think that I won’t be working with them anymore, but I knew that I couldn’t stay forever for that reason.

 

Anyway, so trading seemed to be getting progressively worse, and there was a lot of pressure to get right the orders that we did have.  Sometimes if sales weren’t good in store, we would be waiting for some sort of ‘mistake’ to be found on one of our garments so that they could be sent back to us, to get them out of badly-trading stores and to claw back some money for the client.  These sort of tactics are all part and parcel in the business but it’s obviously not a very ethical way to trade.  There was also a lot of pressure from the clients to get product made very quickly based on demand.  In effect, that would put a lot of pressure on the factories, and if they were late for whatever reason then we would get fined.  It can almost be like a lose lose situation in our industry at times; if you say you can’t get something made quick enough then you don’t get the order, or if you say you can do it and are late then you get fined.  It seems pretty tough going to me, especially when we are talking about investing hundreds of thousands worth of pounds in product, and the welfare of everyone working in the factories.

 

And then there’s the wastage.  These clothes that we are making here aren’t exactly designed and made to stand the test of time.  These clothes have been manufactured as quickly as physically possible using fabrics that have been engineered to be made in the cheapest possible way.  You will be lucky if they last a few years at most.  Some of them will shrink beyond wear on the first time you wash them, or the dye will run into your other clothes in the wash.  The fact that we are making ‘fast fashion’ clothing means that they will probably go off trend within a couple of months.  And even if there is nothing wrong with the garments, who wants to wear something that is out of fashion?  I mean the scale and quantity that we are talking here is just sickening.  It’s not just my company doing this, we are talking about hundreds, maybe even thousands of suppliers all making product in this way. 

 

On a weekly basis I would go to the shops and have a look at new garments in on the highstreet.  There were hundreds of new styles in store every week and regardless of whether the old stuff on the shop floor has sold or not, they have to make space for the new.  We are talking constant change, and constant marking down of clothes into sale.  And then there is wastage in all aspects of the chain….. garments that have been made wrong, garments that aren’t selling, fabric that has been produced incorrectly….. the list goes on.

 
This is probably where half the clothes I have designed end up, in a trash heap or floating in the sea.

This is probably where half the clothes I have designed end up, in a trash heap or floating in the sea.

 

 

Sometimes when I did my weekly trip to the highstreet I would look around in despair at the sheer scale of the industry and physically feel sick.  I knew that I was contributing to this mass global consumerism, and I was responsible for this enormous unnecessary waste.  The fact that I wasn’t the one buying these clothes was no comfort to me any more, because I was doing an even worse thing.  I was the one designing the stuff purely to sell on a mass scale and the guilt was too much to bare.

 

I stayed at my workplace another few years before I found the courage to leave.  It has been an 8 and a half year rollercoaster of success, then realisation, but all made bearable because of the amazing team that I worked with, which made day to day life enjoyable.  In the end, I had stayed such a long time because it was the easier thing to do then to confront my morals and find a new path.  Me leaving was never anything personal against my company because they had always looked after me so well, but I was having problems with the industry as a whole, it’s ethics and it’s wastefulness.

 

In the summer of 2017, I left my workplace to go long-term travelling with Mark.  A 10 month adventure that gave me the time and space to fully think about what I was doing in life and where it could take me.  I had done the hard bit, leaving not only a career but a family behind.  And now that the first steps had been taken, the opportunities seemed endless.  I can’t believe I hadn’t done it before now!

On the road to nowhere...

On the road to nowhere...

 

Travelling for 10 months was probably the best choice we ever made, in some ways even exceeding our decision to get married.  We realised that we could have quite easily stayed on the treadmill of living to work, without ever stepping back to think about whether it was truly what we wanted to do or not.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what you are doing, and I knew deep down that designing mass-produced clothing in the fast fashion industry wasn’t right for me any more, but I couldn’t see a path outside of it.  

 

Whilst we were in minus 15 degree weather in a yurt in Mongolia, Mark and I came up with an idea.  “Why don’t we set up a yurt camp of our own back at home.  We could make a really cool experience for people; we could design and make all the furniture, curate all the textiles from our travels, prepare some homemade foods and just give something back to others.”  We had experienced a warming openness from the Mongolian people and wanted to share the ethos back at home.  Although the yurt camp is still our ultimate goal (a very small one mind you with only about 3 yurts in a back garden), it’s going to be a long while before we get there mostly because it’s a big thing to set up, and we currently live in a flat in London.  We would need to sell up, have enough equity to buy a property with some land, and start building some yurts (along with a load of legal jargon that we haven’t even looked into yet!).  So to make this happen in small steps, we first want to set up a furniture/ product business, making and selling things that we have crafted by-hand, that we care about.  These pieces of furniture will hopefully work in our yurt camp one day, or we would have gained enough experience to design and make some new things to go in there anyway.  We want to try to make a living out of making things, and for us it’s not just about the products but the process too.  It’s the opportunity to experiment, to develop our skills and to be creative, maybe to end up as a skillful craftsman, who knows!

Where the idea started..... in a yurt in minus 15 conditions!

Where the idea started..... in a yurt in minus 15 conditions!

 

Ultimately, we are trying to get out of the constraints of working full time for someone else.  We figure that if we have our own business, then maybe we can break out of some of the norms, ie if we want to take a month off to go travelling then we can do that, and hopefully we can find a bit more balance in our day to day lives.  Maybe when we have kids we will both get to spend more time with them, and they will see us being creative at home.  It’s also important to us to be working on something that we both care about that is in line with our moral values.  Surely hand-crafting 30 products a month is much more sustainable then producing 200,000 of them that fewer people care about. 

 

I’m not saying that I have all the answers yet for how I can sustain this ideology, because I am only at the very beginning stages of setting up a business and it’s not currently sustainable (financially anyway), but at least I have the confidence in knowing that I tried to step away from something I didn’t believe in and changed my path.  

 

We’ve got a hell of a long way to go.  Many many hours of working to make this business a success, and hours of doing all the boring stuff that comes with it too like tax returns and paperwork.  But there is also a lot of amazing stuff to look forward….. like being in control of what my day looks like, and having the time to be creative and experiment with cool materials.  I can take time off when I want to, no more holiday approvals or just the statutory 20 days off a year.  Hopefully I will have the satisfaction of knowing that my products are giving someone joy to use, or that our blog is inspiring someone to make those changes too.

 
The first product I have designed and made to sell in our shop!

The first product I have designed and made to sell in our shop!

 

 

I’m not saying this sort of lifestyle is possible for everyone because not everyone is in exactly the same situation as me.  But I do ask you this.... are you happy with your life?  Are there any small changes that you could make to find a more balanced lifestyle?  Perhaps you could work a 4 day week and spend the other day doing something that you truly love, or you could try something new that you have always wanted to do like a course in carpentry.  And even if you don't know what that thing is yet, why don't you give yourself some time to figure it out.  Sometimes the idea of making a change can be scary, or can overwhelmingly take you into a dark hole of anxiety, but I assure you that when you come out the other side there is light and freedom.  You just need to find the courage and believe in yourself to take those first difficult steps……

 

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Lifestyle: Has Technology Stopped Me Living In The Moment?

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The forward-planner

I think we’ve all been guilty of it, you’re heading to a place you’ve never been, it might be an event in a new venue, a restaurant or even a new continent. The inner planner ignites and we enter that habitual urge to research and prepare, gaze over the restaurants reviews, menus and websites, in search for your perfect supper, or we might star a gig venue on google maps or find that perfect blog on Zimbabwean off-road cycling routes, for a very specific example! Technology has allowed us all to experience the event before we’ve enjoyed the actual moment of being there. I am as guilty as anyone for using the internet to embrace and certify my idiosyncrasies, be it the history of the Caucasus to discovering the track Giles Peterson’s played on 6music, a 1980s Jayne Cortez spoken word poem with the Firespitters if your interested. Truly, the internet can be incredible but i’m worried it pushes me to live in the past or the future, when really, I should be living in the moment.

 

Seeking the best

The realisation that technology can influence your experiences is evident in travel. It’s far too easy to arrive at a destination with a detailed itinerary, knowing everything from timings, pricing, local customs, best accommodation, best visitor sites, even the best time and routes to enjoy the top sites with. It’s bewildering to think that you could know your entire trip back to front before you leave the sofa. Planning to this extent means the mind is always preoccupied on “what’s next” and the numbing details of getting from A to B. I know, i’ve been there, watching the sunset on a beautiful mountain but thinking about the route down and the bus home. An unnecessary worry that I couldn’t control, neither change, a thought process brazenly developed from forward-thinking, which, ultimately, has been worsened by the internets ability to know and teach me everything. 

 

Even in a place as beautiful as Nepal the tech can pull you in

Even in a place as beautiful as Nepal the tech can pull you in

My phone the sage

So what can we do? Well, I’m happy to report that over the last 8 months I have started to disconnect, although running a blog can suck one back in. My phone sits eternally on airplane mode like an ancient sage, I can only get online in hostels and most of the time the connection sucks, which is a good thing. It means I’ve become better adjusted to reacting to life as it happens. Absorbed less by technology and more by the bustling places around me; the children drumming on railings outside the window or watching the sun rays radiate across a valley. What I’ve learnt is the ability to just enjoy what’s happening around me, even if it’s nothing.

 

Discussion 

This change in mindset has helped me reflect on my pre-travel behaviour. Checking the phone in every dull moment, knowing minute by minute bus times and every enquiry becoming answerable within seconds. Life on the road is not like this. I might only access WiFi every other day and bus times are pretty non-existent out of Europe. Sometimes if you want to get somewhere you just have to wait. The amount of discussion Ali and I entertain on topics and questions surrounding the places we visit makes for some interesting debates that wouldn't have happened with a connected smartphone. Technology would have stopped all these examples, and countless more, from happening. 

 

Meeting Micheal in Jordan got me thinking about living in the moment

Meeting Micheal in Jordan got me thinking about living in the moment

Pre-planning mindset

So does technology stop us living in moment? I think it’s very easy to let it. The devil makes work for idle hands they say, well if that's true then surely the devil had some input on the addictiveness of the smartphone? Knowing everything comes with some downers. One I have been considering is if you know everything about a place before you arrive then do you set yourself up for disappointment? When we visited the Terracotta army in Xi’an I knew the whole story from reading blogs and the (stolen/ borrowed) guidebook. It was not the epic Indiana Jones discovery moment I had expected because I knew the whole story already. My pre-planning mindset had spoilt it. The same can be said for art, food or any experience where the outcome, meaning or review has been laid out for you. The opinions of others can shape yours.

Live in the moment, who knows what might happen...

Live in the moment, who knows what might happen...

Off-grid

If your agreeing or mildly complicit of these traits you’re probably thinking, “what can I do to change this?”. Well I’ve had some thoughts you could try. Why not stop booking up all of your free time. Perhaps you could keep a weekend free and contact your friends or family on-the-fly. Imagine not knowing what your weekend might look like? Kind of exciting when you think about it. How about going off-grid? Spend an afternoon with your tech on airplane mode and see which discussions come up without readily available answers, no arguments though please! Equally, if you jump on a train and your phone tells you it will take 25 minutes but in reality it takes 40 you've really just set yourself up for disappointment. Perhaps knowledge isn't always power. Choices, options and information go a long way to causing disappointments, well illustrated in this TED talk by Dan Gilbert, which I think is spot on.

 

The surprising science of happiness

 

Out of thin air

Many of the best memories seem to happen out of thin air. The ad-hoc gathering or the impromptu bbq. The pre party before you head out is often the pinnacle of night, normally better than the night you’ve planned, right? The afternoon in the park where you invented that game with a stick and a hacky-sack!? You get the point. It’s ok not to have plans in the diary because it creates potential for the unknown, the random and the, hopefully, memorable and fun. I’m going to try this new mindset when I return home. Starting with a £5 a month contract with 500mb of data, which means no data in the modern world. I see it as a return to my teens when the world was unknown and less planned. Travel has helped me recapture my thirst for living in the moment and the first step is a detox from technology, perhaps some of you might join me...but remember a little bit of technology is fine, just for checking our blog :-)

 

Has technology turned you into a mega planner? 

Do you like to know all the information before heading out somewhere?

Have people always been as plan-minded and organised as we are now? Or do you think this a growing phenomenon?

I am interested to know you thoughts so please continue the discussion below in the comments box... thanks for reading.

 

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Lifestyle: How We Changed Our lives

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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!

Patagonia 2015, we decided to making a change

Patagonia 2015, we decided to making a change

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.

 

Free from work and routine, eating blueberries in Slovakia

Free from work and routine, eating blueberries in Slovakia

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 want to make objects that people will cherish

We want to make objects that people will cherish

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!

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Minimalism.Life

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

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Minimalism: Is Less More?

Travel Changes Perspectives

Three months into our trip and having spent a week on a train and the best part of three weeks in a van the mind has had some time to wonder. Ali and I have been reflecting on what we've seen and learnt so far, we have become sponges to all the cultures and people who we've met. Many of our conversations have centred on changes to lifestyle and how to find a healthy balance between work and play.  What has been surprising is that most travellers above the age of 30 have the same dissatisfaction with works dominance over their lives. Many travellers we have spoken too share this growing concern that our modern lifestyle is inherently imbalanced. We'd like to share some of our thoughts, experiences and changes that we have learnt and implemented into our lifestyles

It is possible to fit your whole life in a backpack!

It is possible to fit your whole life in a backpack!

Inspiring Folk We've Met On The Way

On the train out of Berlin we met a German lady in her 50s who was very much a free spirited holistic person. She spoke of an outdoor lifestyle that consisted of her and her partner taking only sleeping bags out to the wild to connect with nature, her dreams were always better around nature. They often embarked on long walks with just a wild camp under the stars as their roof. When I asked of rain, she said they would knock on the door of a stranger, sleep under trees or walk into town and 'sleep rough' as she put it, often relying on the kindness of strangers for food or shelter. Her freedom and openness seems to come from the absence of material things and not fearing what's around the corner. A very inspiring lady, we have since had nights where we could see the stars from our sleeping bags. Her lifestyle certainly got us thinking about a more natural lifestyle in the future.

We met another inspiring person on a plane, Harminder was his name, and he understood the value of play over work; choosing to work for only half of the year. He spent his free time creating art and advising young entrepreneurs on the options available to them. Similar themes came up in conversation, the ideas of openness and creating a lifestyle for pleasure rather than money. He never took a job if he didn't believe in its outcome, regardless of the money. Which is the opposite mantra we were brought up to believe. We were always told to work hard, get a degree then and good job and work for the rest of our lives. This got us thinking, if we work for money, what do we need the money for? How much is needed for a happy lifestyle? And indeed the most important question, did the money we earn in our careers necessarily make us happier? I'm not sure we can answer all those questions, but we'll try!

Saving cash by cooking our own grub

Saving cash by cooking our own grub

The World And It's Objects

Things, if there is a common thread that is easily spotted across the 9 countries we've visited is that each are entangled in global consumerism. Each have there fill of corporate food, drink and clothes outlets, advertising keenly promotes the large global companies. We commonly spotted people ordering stuff from amazon on the way to work by smartphone, as is the norm at home. Even the pricing of certain goods are the same across Europe, irrelevant of Pound, Euro or Ruble. So, it occurred to us that perhaps people feel trapped by purchasing, as if earning money is earned for spending on objects almost forgetting there are better things out there. The impulsiveness of technology goes hand in hand with brains reward system for pleasure and risk. Shopping unites both, especially when an object you want is a mere click and 24 hours away.

Life on the road keenly reminds us how out the capitalist loop we are. Especially as we have been travelling through both socialist (and post socialist) countries for the last 2 months! Our main concerns are pretty simple; what will we eat and is it cheap? Where will we stay and what shall we do tomorrow? Carrying only the objects that we need. Everything has a purpose; from the pots and pans to the penknife. We have barely spent anything on objects bar provisions. Perhaps one T-shirt bought from a second hand shop for 2 euro. If travelling teaches anything it's that living with less is satisfying, pretty sustainable and shines a spot light on the excesses of our working lives back in London. It's not that we didn't enjoy that lifestyle because having disposable cash allows for a nice life and an easy life. But in contrast to the places we've seen and the people we've met on the way we are starting to rethink our life choices.

Free fun with a campfire

Free fun with a campfire

Other travellers we have met have also made changes that are balanced towards life experience over salary. Dennis, who we met on the Trans Siberian, has the option to trade in an extra months pay for 20 days of holiday, giving him a total of 50 days off a year. He uses this time to travel the world, continuing from the last place he got to the previous year. Another guy, Ville, runs a building contractor firm in Finland for 6 months of the year and then travels for the remainder, working as chef in Buddhist retreats in Myanmar and learning meditation techniques from the monks he cooks for. Both share a similar idea that life experience is more important than things. Therefore they live with less, save the money they make, and then enjoy a balanced lifestyle. Although Ville did point out that his life works so well now because he hasn't started a family yet. 

Mark in the same clothes (he wears everyday)

Mark in the same clothes (he wears everyday)

Broadening The Horizons

Travelling inherently pushes you into a new life where freedom, openness and experiences force you away from a lifestyle of comfort and objects, to live minimally. It has forced us to live a pared back existence where objects are functional, waste minimal without any wanton purchasing. We have cut spending by asking existential questions, like what do we really need to be happy? We pondered this question and decided for us to be happy on this trip we only needed each others company, some decent food and a beautiful place to look at. We have cut our spending to around £15 a day for a balanced diet and for accommodation we try to camp when we can, this normally costs around £10 -£25 per night or free when we wild camp. We have some luxury items like a laptop and a camera but most of our stuff is pretty basic, certainly compared to other long term travellers.

Little Changes

Even before we left for a new life on the road we had made changes to our spending.  We started counting the takeaways and what they costed us. If you then add them up over a month and a year it's a lot of money. At least a days work per month. So would you rather work less and save money or have 4 takeaways a month? Those thoughts can save you a lot of money, or a lot of work! 

Camp life surrounded by nature 

Camp life surrounded by nature 

The Simple Life

What put all of this into perspective was our trip through Mongolia. If you want to see what makes Mongolians happy it's all the right things! Friends, family, visitors and travellers are all the same in Mongolia. People freely walk into each others gers (yurts) and are fed and watered, even if they only required directions. These felt like long lost traditions the rest of the world has forgotten. My grandad used to tell us of a time before locks when neighbours freely visited each other so it must have been the same in UK once. Mongolians live like this because they have so little and every nomadic person is in the same boat, it's actually a lot like a socialist system in that sense. It works so well here because nomads want no more then they have and know no more than the traditions they were born into. 

The simple Mongolian life

The simple Mongolian life

What's Comes Next

Perhaps a lifetime chasing the perfect job and the most money is going to feel far less appealing when we remember how little the rest of the world lives and survives with. For Mongolians they face real hardships like a harsh climate, surviving off the land and lack of money. We feel these hardships actually bring people together and makes their lives less focussed on what they have and only about what is needed. We have learnt a lot from this mentality but we have had to travel across the world to see this ourselves. That less is so often more.  

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Minimalism - Is Less More? by Studio Mali
 

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