Category Archives: Digital Nomad

Van Vlog!

Here are all my van vlogs in one playlist!

 

I’ve not written as many articles recently, but I’ve been BUSY making video. Check out my Symphony For Happiness Channel for more!

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Filed under Digital Nomad, lifestyle, travel, van

Digital Nomad Life in the UK: 9 month review

Someone: What’s it like living like you do?

Me: Easy and difficult, but in all the right ways.

Autumn is certainly here. I’m sitting on the bed in my van, which is covered in the Sami tribe’s finest reindeer skin, wearing three layers of wool. The light is dimming and I’ve lit a single candle. It’s 11C indoors according to the wall-mounted thermometer. Life is currently slow, stable and peaceful. I’ve no source of heat in my vehicle and no plans for a winter let or similar but I’m strangely un-phased by the uncertainty.

This update is to give a snapshot of my life, living and working “houseless” in the UK. The new term has started. I have one full day’s Skype teaching, which in theory I could do anywhere in the country, or the world, but I’ve found that rock-solid-stable internet connections are hard to find (I hate to say it, but Virgin are the only ones I trust). As a result, I usually end up working at the college itself in Exeter, where I’m generously provided an office for the day. There’s also an admin day, but this is more flexible and can be done from anywhere, including my van through phone tethering.

When I first moved into this lifestyle of van+improvisation, I had imagined myself travelling all around the country, sleeping in a different place every night. Not so. As it turns out, I orbit Exeter and enjoy the beauty of Devon. My van is not equipped for full time living, so I often stay over with a handful of friends on rotation, on a basis that works for them. This is something I call “docking” and each relationship is individual and always evolving.

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Cat-sitting the most affectionate cat in the world.

I’m loving this way of life and I’m not thinking of giving it up any time soon. Why? Well, maybe one way to explain it is this: it hit me only the other day that my annual income is currently the same as it was when I first entered the working world 10 years ago. Yet, back then I was renting and struggling for money. I distinctly remember putting a sign up in the post office asking if anyone had spare allotment veg because I couldn’t make my grocery bill. Just think what a struggle it would be to live on the same money now in the same situation?

 

Now, I live without rent. I am careful with money and although I undergo what other people might call hardships, such as sleeping in an unheated van, I am able to do many of the things that I love. For example, I can to afford a 5-7 day trip away from Exeter every 6 weeks. This would have been out of the question back when I was renting.

It’s worth noting however, my earnings are not based on a 40hr week. My Skype teaching role is roughly 20hrs, 30weeks per year. Maybe another 10hrs per week go on my non-teaching paid work – gigs, recording, misc, self-employed promotion. Working part time, may result in low earnings (for a professional) and therefore Nomadism, but the lower hours also give me time in my week to be creative. This is invaluable.

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Minimal wardrobe – happily takes up 1/3 of my 40ltr backpack

Another factor that gives me more time is the inherent minimalism created by nomadism (though my friends would argue this is also my character). Wait a minute.. minimalism creates more time? Yes it does. Having less stuff means less time spent sorting it out, fixing, replacing it etc. It also means being able to afford higher quality stuff on the same budget, since you’re buying fewer things, which means they last longer, which means less time spent shopping. I can’t imagine going back to dealing with having more things, in fact I often crave the simplicity that even less would bring.

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My office for an hour or so – under a tree outside the train station. Spot The Dog: an essential

Sometimes I long for the “ultimate” everything – the best lightweight laptop, moulded in-ear headphones, flashy camera and high performance clothing that would no doubt half the weight of my backpack. But, in fact, my honed minimal amount of mid-range, half-decent kit is really very functional. I’d also hate to have to turn down little gifts from my friends because I’d decided to be super-strict about pack weight. I know a lot of minimalists go that far.

So that’s about it for now. 9 months in, all is going well. Life is much more stable and grounded than I had imagined, or perhaps I’m just comfortable with the uncertainties this life brings. There are challenges (like what on earth do I do when my van is at the garage?), but I guess they are the challenges that I welcome.

-Kimwei

kimwei.com

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, minimalism

Summer Van Living

Summer’s here and I’m finding myself drawn to the river more and more, spending less time in houses and more in the van. Partly, university has finished for the summer, so I’m not tied to a router for teaching (on Skype), and partly the weather’s great. 

It’s time to set up the van more as a living area than purely the sleeping/storage area it was before. Thought I’d share my developments with you. 

Over the weekend I visited a T4 with a proper conversion – pop top, running water, fold out bed. “Ah” I thought, “this is why my life doesn’t work so well”. In contrast, I’ve just got a short bed, and a set of cupboards. I do have a gas ring and leisure battery though. 

Today I set about an improving on my already chocka set-up. But to my horror, I actually needed to add MORE stuff; to devote cupboards to food, kitchen stuff, 5ltr water bottles and other living items. How to make room? 

In the end, I decided to give up a portion of the bed, leading to this conversation with a friend. 


You can see on the right where I’ve put a load of stuff – that used to all be bed. 


It was a real pinch trying to find space for everything, but my favourite new discovery is that the van came with an in-built shoe rack all along! 


There never seems to be anywhere to put my guitar away, but maybe it being constantly in the way will make me get it out and practice more. 


Will keep updating on how the new setup goes. I would still like to be able to find a way to wash myself or record music out here, but it’s been liberating to find that the weather is warm enough for me to use the world as my living room, for work/play/practice. Roll on summer! 

-Kimwei

Kimwei.com

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Ask A Digital Nomad: How Does Your Life Actually Work?

The most common question people ask me is “how does it work being a Digital Nomad?” “Where do you do laundry?” and “Where do you live exactly?” are popular too.

On reason I haven’t fully answered this question so far in a post, is that I hadn’t answered it in my life! The way I live will continue to change and evolve, but up until recently there were still major problems I hadn’t solved. There was so much stuff in my van that I couldn’t use it as a room, I lacked places to record music, and the van bed wasn’t actually comfortable.

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Van – a bit too full for comfort.

That mostly sorted now, so this is a practical post for those of you who like to geek out on alternative lifestyles, possibly with a mind to try it yourself.

Method: Creating a plan A & B for everything

When I started this incarnation of houselessness, 3 months ago, I’d worry if I didn’t have either a solution that would all the time, or a million backup plans. For example, when it came to internet access (VITAL) I thought I wouldn’t be happy unless I could get it in my van. As it is, I’ve never needed to use the internet from my van – there have been plenty of other spaces I can use.

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It’s possible to get internet in the van, but it’s very slow.

So, nowadays I feel pretty secure with a simple plan A & B.

E.g., Laundry

Plan A: Stick my few clothes in with a friends’ washing, in exchange for something or other

Plan B: Hand-wash / launderette

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Spring brings new laundry drying methods.

Although I feel secure knowing plan B exists, in 3 months I’ve hardly had to hand-wash, and never laundrette.

Having a plan B frees me from worrying about my needs, so I can focus my attention on the people in my life and our relationships. I love the way in which this lifestyle brings me closer to my friends and wider community, through asking and exchange, but I prefer the vibe that comes from me asking out of choice/preference rather than need. That’s why Plan Bs are important.

Plan A usually involves a person, whilst plan B is usually an independent solution. As shown:

Workspace

Plan A: Use a friend’s house as an office.

Plan B: Wifi cafe / wifi in the van (v. slow)

Plan A is more favourable, fun and social, but plan B is also workable and fine.

So, here are my plan As and Bs for most aspects, which hopefully quells your curiosity.

Eating

A: Eat with whoever I’m docking with, and contribute in some way.

B: Eat out / supermarket picnic / in the van

I’m not in my van enough to justify stocking it with food, but I carry a food-bag containing non-perishables such as tins, cheese and hardy vegetables if I’m between van and “docking”. When travelling van-less I carry snacks in my Life-Bag, and my next meal. I’m willing to eat cold or raw food quite a lot, but cooking in the van is also possible.

Sleeping

A: Docking / Housesitting / Van

B: Van

My “Sleeping On The Floor” experiments have helped me to become much more flexible about where I sleep. In this case, I’ve put van under plan A and B, as sometimes it’s a pinch to sleep in it, and other times it really is my number 1 choice, especially now it’s spring. I’m very lucky because so many people have welcomed me that I’m regrettably even having to turn down house-sits sometimes.

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Learning to sleep on the floor has many advantages.

Washing Me

A: At someone’s house

B: At a service station / swimming pool / gym

Amazingly I haven’t had to use plan B yet, and the longest I’ve gone without a shower is 2 days. Prioritising staying clean is very, very important when you’re nomadic, trust me…

Exercise

I have a 10min routine I can do each morning no matter where I am, but beyond that I haven’t got a schedule together yet.

Music Practice

A: At someone’s house

B: Outdoors / In van.

Now it’s spring, outdoor spaces are a wonderful resource, however houses are still better. The van is a last resort: I hate playing sat down.

Recording Music

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In session with Mo and Greg, at Mo’s place.

A: At someone’s (quiet) house / studio

This is the only thing I don’t have a plan B for, and that bothers me to an extent. On the other hand, despite feeling insecure, I’ve actually been able to record enough. Guess we all need to feel vulnerable in some areas of life.

So there you have it. The only thing I’d like to improve on at the moment is finding more spaces to record. This happens so infrequently that when I do get to a space, I have to work very quickly, and this is hampering me a bit. But all in all I’ve been amazed by how welcoming my friends and community have been to me and my current way of moving through the world.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, Uncategorized

Sleeping on The Floor: an Experiment, Part 2

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Choice choices?!? Left to right – Sheepskin on floor, bed, sofa…

After a week of sleeping on the floor, results are as follows: Although I have adapted somewhat to floors, they are still not as good as good beds, but better than bad beds.

The hierarchy:

  1. Good bed
  2. Floor
  3. Bad bed

These terms are subjective of course – good does not mean expensive or bad cheap. A good bed is one that’s comfortable for me and a bad one isn’t.

Therefore, I think I have solved my sleeping problems thusly – wherever I am, if I like the bed I can sleep in it, and if I don’t like the bed I can always sleep on the floor and know it will be fine. Additionally, I can now potentially enjoy camping better and try sleeping on the van floor so I can be fully stretched out. The only problem I can foresee is whether someone would be really insulted if I slept on the floor instead of the bed they offered me? I suppose I could just put it down to eccentricity?

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Speaking of eccentricity, last night my friends slept in a tent pitched on the only available flat space they had – a trampoline. In some circumstances this becomes the most logical course of action. Things got stranger when it became obvious that to avoid puncturing the trampoline a shoe should be placed under each corner, making the whole thing look like a fantastical bouncing creature filled with teenagers.

In the past I’ve beed crap at getting a good sleep on hard surfaces, and jealous of those who can sleep anywhere. This is what my research has turned up.

Here are the key points:

  1. Lying on your back, no pillow, allows the body to support itself with no neck cricking.
  2. Lying on your side isn’t comfortable, but after a few nights the body gets the idea and stops trying to turn over.

The body adapts over time – so the floor that felt almost painfully hard on night 1 felt much more like it was simply a hard mattress by the end of the week.

Point 1 I believe explains why bad beds are worse than floors. Basically your body needs support, and a good bed will provide that, whilst the floor allows the body to support itself. A bad bed however, is one that provides some support but not enough, whilst getting in the way of the body’s natural posture that would allow it to support itself.

Finally, I’m interested in whether, through this practice of sleeping on floors I’m re-connecting with my oriental heritage, where sleeping on thin mats on the floor is cultural.

I feel empowered and freed by the idea that by sleeping on the floor I could sleep anywhere, and this reminds me that my mother did the same thing as a teenager. In fact, I might never had been born if my mother had not been willing to floor surf during her final years at school. Why? Because staying with friends was the only way she could find peace and quiet away from her chaotic, destructive parents and study. She excelled at exams, and was accepted on the UK nurses training scheme in the 1970s. Later, through nursing she met my father (who was having his tonsils out). None of this would have been possible if she hadn’t been able to sleep directly on hard floors. So in a sense, as I learn to do this, it feels as though I honour my mother’s determination and my history.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Living In Transit

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Finding happiness on the road all depends on which road you take!

What’s a week away from home when you’re homeless (houseless) anyway? The past week has brought home to me the difference between travelling and “living in transit”. I’ve been away from Exeter, the main city I nomad around, for a trip which included work, play, misc and a total of 3 cities including London.

Travel is a word that usually refers to a temporary trip, during which normal life stops and another sort of world takes over. In contrast, living in transit involves taking even the mundanities of life on the road, and our careers or life paths keep developing as we go along. Unlike gap years or extended holidays, there is no “I’ll do it when I get back”.

The question I asked myself before the week started, was “how can I come up with a sustainable method for travelling? How can I avoid getting exhausted or burnt out?” By the time the week was out, I’d realised there was no such thing as a sustainable “method”, only a sustainable “approach”.

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Yup – I’d got that tired again that this was the only way I could guarantee to get off the train will all my stuff

I’d intended to set boundaries to make sure I didn’t end up working intensely long days, with hours on public transport thrown in, get too hungry, or exhausted. The reality was, that too many factors were out of my control for this to be possible. I did work long hours, get overtired, skip meals, sleep in weird places and get a crick in the neck, but I also managed to take opportunities along the way to recover. The only full day I had to myself in London, I slept rather than seeing the sights, because I knew I couldn’t return home tired when “home” means “moving from sofa to sofa”.

The key is, to make the best of every opportunity, and find what you can do right this moment, rather than focusing on what you can’t do.

One thing I love about this approach is the constant presence of mind it requires. To move through the world in this way, I need to be constantly paying attention, and making the most of the opportunities each moment provides. For example, on the morning before my train back to Exeter, a great opportunity came up for my friend and I to cut each other’s hair, which turned a task which is usually a hassle, into a beautiful chunk of time to be close with them.

What did work beautifully was my new bag and kit setup. I’ve put so much time, thought and money into this system I was beginning to wonder if it was just another distraction or excuse. I mean surely you don’t need kit you just need an adventurer’s spirit, right?

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…and yet the rule is, no matter what bag you have you’re going to try and max it out beyond capacity.

Well, an adventurer’s spirit is good, but the right kit has been a real game-changer for my travelling. It’s saved me time, pain, and money*. Check out my gear post. 

This trip didn’t require any recording kit, so I had plenty of extra room in the bag to pick up groceries or carry food/drink. I was carrying more weight than ever, but with no back and shoulder pain, due to the more comfortable backpack. One place I stayed at required me to clear the room I slept in every morning. This was dead easy because my new bag is clamshell meaning you can access its contents without “unpacking” it. So moving rooms was as simple as zipping it closed.
So what’s my new approach to life in transit? To abandon ideas of routine, dicipline, making plans or forcing my will, but take available opportunities to meet my own needs, give to and connect with others. I’ve discovered that being willing to explain my needs makes people feel more comfortable with me in the long run. At the same time it’s important to be physically prepared with the right kit, and mentally prepared for lots of changes of plans. Something little like always having an extra snack handy and all my devices charged is enough to get me productively through a couple of hours of unexpected transport delays and come out fresh as a daisy.

In a nutshell, be mentally flexible, physically prepared, sleep when you can, and try your best to let go of anything else. Lastly, be present: it’s the best way to make every minute count.

-Kimwei

*Actually I have no idea yet if buying kit has saved me money or just improved my experience. Probably both: investment in clothes that need washing less often, saves money on laundry; bigger more comfortable bag allows me to carry food and drink which is cheaper; lighter load means never having to pay for luggage when flying or get a locker; electric toothbrush saves on dentist fees (and pain); and so on…

Related posts: My Houseless HerosMy Year of Travelling as a Digital NomadHow To Pack Light For A Week’s TravelDigital Nomad Tips – Work, Play, Travel

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, lifestyle, minimalism, travel

Digital Nomad Kit List 2017: What’s in the bag? (Video + rationale)

I’m always trying to improve my one-bag-travel set up. I obsess about clothing vs music kit. It’s a constant struggle to get the right balance. This is the only time in my life when how many clothes I carry is directly linked to how productively creative I can be. More clothing = less music kit so less creativity. Less clothing = more music stuff so constant laundry issues. Lots of clothes AND music kit = bag too heavy.

Alternatively if I had loads of money I could buy lightweight versions of everything I’m currently carrying… ok forget that.

So, what are my aims for my ultimate setup? Well, as teenager I really enjoyed the freedom of weekends. I’d ball underwear and a toothbrush into a pair of socks each Friday morning and drop it in my school bag, so I could end up anywhere on Friday night, and usually did: road trips, nights out, sleeping on random friend’s floors and sofas. My main subject was art and my sketchbook filled up on these adventures, making it seem like I’d gone to exciting locations to do “extra coursework”. I loved the freedom of having a little ninja package with me that had me ready to say yes to opportunities.

Guess that’s what I’m seeking now: to be able to be freely creative on the road. Trouble is, as a digital nomad and musician, I need lot more kit than I did as a sketching artist.

Previously I’ve tried I’ve travelling with a 19ltr backpack and guitar, or even just a laptop bag (no guitar). The effect: I don’t have enough stuff either clothing-wise or creative-wise; definitely not enough for semi-permanent travel. There’s no room for snacks / my jacket, plus travelling without a guitar is unacceptable. When I carry my 30ltr backpack I have almost enough stuff, but it’s too heavy for comfort.

My solution to all this problems is: to increase my luggage (shock, horror)!!

Ol’ faithful next to shiny new shiny-ness

I’ve just bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 (litres): the only “Digital Nomad” backpack I could try on in a shop. It’s brilliant: more space than my old 30ltr 1970s hiking backpack, plus a much better strap system so more weight doesn’t really feel heavy. When you live out of a bag, changing the bag could change your life.

Now what to put in it?

This is the functionality I’d like from my kit:

For my body:

  • Clean, weather and occasion appropriate clothes every day.
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks and drinks

For my work and creative mind:

  • Kit to make and upload decent quality video for YouTube (and photos too)
  • Kit to record and produce high quality audio.
  • The electronics needed for my Digital Nomad teaching role.
  • Pens and paper for notes and sketches.
  • Enough instruments to keep me happy: will settle for guitar, penny-whistle and kazoo (if it’s a really good kazoo)

Ideal Weight limit =10kg

Turns out:

A: It’s not possible to keep it under 10kg

B: I can live with that

In the end managed to get down to 12kg (minus snacks and drinks), 2kg over target. I can try it for a while and over time, decide what to shed, or where to invest money in order to lighten the load. Plus, my next few months will be a mix of van living and travelling van free, so for short trips away from the van I could take less. The kicker is my recording studio kit (3kg) but it would cost over £1000 to buy a lighter version of that, so sod that!

In my experience, yes, 12kg will affect my independence a little, but it’s workable. With guitar added, that’s 16kg, so I’d find myself wanting to get a locker or take the bus rather than walk. That’s a shame, but it’s a work in progress.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, self employed, travel

What I’ve Learned From a Year of House-Sitting: A Practical Guide

I’ve house-sat here and there since 2012, but 2016 is my first year of pretty much full-time house-sitting. The longest stint in a property has been 4 months and the shortest 2 weeks. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Note: This is a post about the practicals involved in living in someone’s home whilst they’re away, how to take care of a house and logistically deal with frequent moving. It doesn’t cover the host-sitter relationship or how to find a house-sit.

BTW – I’m travelling HEAVY for a house-sitter, since I have a van, but many of these tips will apply to one-bag travellers too. It also might help university goers, since what I’m doing also resembles the frequent house-moves students must undergo. Travelling heavy is a no brainer if you have a vehicle as you can move with your consumables instead of throwing out and re-buying them every time.

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My personal stuff, minus bike and bike kit, which is usually stays in the van as “breakdown cover”

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My music stuff (shed-loads I know, but with a van, I can)

Moving Tips: The Load-In

After months of moving from property to property and unpacking at each place, I finally realised it was much simpler never to unpack. Instead, I organise my stuff in bags in such a way that everything inside each bag is accessible. I don’t hang my clothes in a wardrobe but keep them in packing cubes. I even keep my cupboard-food in crates so when it comes to moving out I can just grab the crate as it is.

Not unpacking has several advantages:

  • Whatever house I’m in, I always know where everything I own IS, because it’s in the same bag as always, not in an alien drawer.
  • Hosts live in their houses, so they may not have empty cupboards for your things too (exception pictured below).
  • It makes the load-in and load-out incredibly easy.
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Everything stays in bags

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Portable food cupboard

House care: What Not To Touch!

The trickiness of what to touch and what not to touch has always foxed me when it comes to house-sitting. In a longer house-sit, it’s practical to move a few things, or easy to wash up dishes and put them back on the wrong shelves by mistake. In theory this is ok, and most hosts will be fine with you moving anything you like “as long as you put it back”. The problem is, 3 weeks / months later it’s quite hard to remember what you’ve moved and where it came from. Getting it wrong could irritate your host for weeks to come, not because they mind the relocation of objects on principle, but because they can’t find their cheese grater / dish cloths / particular book.

I’ve tried several strategies to combat this problem. I used to take over 50 photos of a property before load-in, but both the photographing and the “returning to factory settings” at the end of the house-sit just proved too time consuming; turned out I’d moved so many objects without knowing it.

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Tip: If a host says “read any books”, always half pull out the book below/left of the one you’ve taken so you can see at a glance where it came from.

I called a friend who’s house-sat for years and asked him how he dealt with this conundrum. Giving equal weight to each word he said slowly “I NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING!” The oracle had spoken. This became my next strategy. However this felt too restrictive. For example, in one cold house I wanted hot tea in bed before rising in the mornings, so a friend suggested moving the kettle into the bedroom. My immediate reaction was: “out of the question!” since “I never touch anything”, but reason persuaded me that the middle path was to give in. After all, I was unlikely to forget that the kettle came from the kitchen. Now I move a few things if needed, but write it down; you think you’ll remember, but you won’t!

Other tips on this matter:

If a host says “don’t use this”, seriously don’t. Integrity aside, it’s not as simple as “they’ll never know”; sod law dictates that if you do use it, it will break and then you’ll have to explain yourself. It could ruin your house-sitter-rep, which, as we all know, is worth more than gold.

On the subject of breakages, own up to every single one for the same reason. You can plan not to break anything, since you’re a careful person, but it’s not that simple. For example, in one house, two glasses were smashed by the chimney-sweep who, rotating his 10ft flue-brush into position, knocked them off the dish dryer! I’d never have seen that one coming. However, good precautions include avoiding the use of unique or hand-made crockery, and glass lamps. I also practice using fewer things within a house (e.g. one mug, one towel), since that’s fewer things to clean and remember where to put back. Having a van, I can also bring some kitchen stuff, and bedding. This really takes the stress out of it for me.

Keep all your stuff in one place/room. Don’t be tempted to hang your coat on the coat rack, or put your keys on the shelf by the door. It may seem ludicrous, but trust me, it’s better in the long run. Dotting your stuff around the house is the quickest way to get it mixed up with your host’s stuff and risk forgetting it on load-out. It also ruins your travel habits.  If you really need a dumping ground, pick a totally clear surface and use that.

House Care: How To Clean Up

Cleaning is one of the hardest things for me. I both dislike it, and have no natural aptitude for it. In fact, I rejoiced at the idea of Digital Nomad-ing as I expected that travelling would result in having to do less cleaning. How wrong I was; the properties I take care of are much larger than anywhere I’ve ever rented, and it’s necessary to keep them much cleaner. I spend a lot of time on cleanmyspace.com and boy has Melissa saved me time over all!

Here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way:

Keep it clean. At first I’d imagined I’d clear up all in one go at the end of the house-sit, and do as little as possible during.

This doesn’t work.

Although less overall time is spent cleaning, it’s hard to predict how long that final clean-up will take, causing stress or rushing. Also, what happens if a neighbour pops in the day before you move out of a 2 week house-sit, and sees 2 weeks’ washing-up piled high? Well, they are likely to tell your host that on their return.

Contrary to my instincts, it’s actually better to keep the place looking as much like a show home as possible (which means daily attention) throughout the house-sit. This results in immunity to “drop-in’s”, or host’s early return. It also shortens the final clean-up; at my last 2-weeker it took under an hour.

Finally, try and leave the place cleaner than you found it, by choosing something extra to attend to… in some cases this is impossible. In most cases I find I can at least tidy kitchen cupboards, and sort through the fridge. By the way, with careful planning and strategic eating it is possible to eat down the contents of the fridge and cupboards and move with almost no food. Do this if you can; it’s much easier.

Moving Tips: The Pack-Down and Load Out:

If you’re me there’s hardly any pack-down, since everything’s already packed. If you’re a one-bag traveller, even less. But what about the things you’re using right up until you leave? Do you pack then clean, or the other way around?

One idea, which works in a safe area, is to pack an overnight bag, and load-out everything else to the vehicle a day in advance.

However, I find that the minimum disruption is to clean the room nearest the front door first, move my bags to that room, then keep cleaning (as pictured at the top of this post – my move-out-formation of luggage). That means everything is accessible right-up until the clean-up is finished, but isn’t in the way. Need a snack? Finish early and fancy playing guitar? All is possible with this method. Finally, before the 10min load out, I like to prepare the van’s front seat with accessible snacks and a thermos of tea.

One of my favourite tricks, since I bring my own bedding, is to transplant the whole thing like this.

moving-day-hack copy.jpg

Hope this unapolagetically long post has helped you in your house-sitting/travelling/nomadic lifestyle. Do please send me more tips, especially any on housework!

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, house sitting, lifestyle, self employed, Uncategorized

BuyMeOnce stocks things that last a lifetime: Brilliant for Christmas Shopping!

Most who know me would be shocked to hear that I’m actually recommending a shop, but this one is really something special! When it comes to my issues surrounding buying brand new “stuff”, Christmas and otherwise, buymeonce.com solves all of them, with their commitment to sell products that will last a lifetime. This website gets the Symphony For Happiness seal of approval!

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The stress of “what to buy” seems like such a “first world problem”, and of course it is, but this is why it’s so important. As western over-consumers we can make a huge impact when we make the decision to consume responsibly, so let’s do it.

When I buy something new (meaning I can’t make it or find it 2nd hand) there are a number of things to consider.

  1. Is it ethically made?
  2. Is it sustainably made (both processes and materials)?
  3. Will it last?
  4. Does it serve my purpose?
  5. Is it reasonable value for money?

Figuring all this out can be a real nightmare, both in terms of getting the info and weighing it up. How do you know if a product will last? What good is buying something made from sustainable materials if the damn thing just breaks and has to be thrown away? What if something’s ethically made but actually doesn’t work very well? I’ve also seem plenty of sustainably produced disposable items, which seems to me to defeat the point. BuyMeOnce takes the headache out by having done the research for you, weighing up these factors and presenting the info on a plate.

It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst some of what’s listed is sweatshop free, sustainably produced, or recycled, the main focus of the website is longevity.

“Buying once” makes sense in so many ways. On a personal level it can save both money and time, since you’ll never have to re-buy, and over a lifetime this will be cheaper if you can afford the initial outlay. On a planetary level, long lasting goods are naturally more environmentally friendly, since less units are produced, saving on materials and other polluting factors involved in the production line.

In terms of Christmas presents, buying from this website would ensure that you’re giving a loved one something that won’t break on them, but as a personal note, I’d recommend discussing your gift with the receiver before ordering. After all, if they are going to be stuck with it for life, you’d better check if they’d prefer the red socks or the blue ones!

My only criticism is that there are plenty of categories that BuyMeOnce doesn’t yet cover. However this in itself is a symptom of one of their core strengths – taking the necessary time to rigorously research every item before making the commitment to list it. I’ll be watching as they grow and expand.

When I have to buy something I’ll often scour Digital Nomad Kit Lists, since our breed are terrifying testers of our possessions. We carry few things and no spares, so we can tell you exactly how well each thing performs, how reliable is it, and how long it lasts under relentless daily use. I wonder if in future I’ll start seeing collaborations between buymeonce and digital nomads. Brands I see both referring to already include Darn Tough and Patagonia.

For more of my thoughts on Christmas Shopping, click here: Christmas Gifts – I saw this & thought of you / I thought of you… I saw nothing.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under christmas, christmas gifts, Digital Nomad, minimalism, Uncategorized

How To Get More Motivated!

A friend asked me how I stay so disciplined and productive in my work. When I told her I have no work ethic, no discipline and no schedule, she wanted to know more.

My strategy is this: Remove everything that gets in the way of my natural sense of motivation. 

Then I want to do stuff. I never force myself to do anything.

(as shown below)

Motivation.jpg

 

Sound too good to be true? In a way, it IS. Whilst the principles of this process are simple, it’s taken me years to put it into practice (still ongoing). Turns out, blocks to my natural sense of motivation were present in every aspect of my life from housework to study to art!

Overview – the main blockers I’ve been working with:

  1. Filling up life with tasks I don’t like.
  2. Self doubt based inertia (mountain molehill stuff)
  3. A habit of not enjoying tasks (even those I like!)
  4. Working against my natural work rhythms.
  5. Emotional blocks.

Here’s what I’m learning to do instead:

  1. Fill my life with tasks I love
  2. Overcome inertia and nurture enthusiam
  3. Enjoy what I do.
  4. Understand my natural work rhythms and relationship with distraction
  5. Work through emotional blocks

The results are simply amazing! I get up in the morning, decide which project I want to do most and get on with it. Although I’m not working many hours p/w, feeling motivated means being focused, so I’m getting loads done!

Here’s more detail (also see my vlog on procrastination).

  1. A life full of tasks I love!

Let’s get this straight – There are very few tasks I love everything about, but for me to take something on…

…I have to be excited about doing it and about its (non-monetary) outcomes.

Going through this process can be terrifying!  When I first started I discovered that all my paid work fitted was “stuff I didn’t like”! I couldn’t just chuck it all and start again… could I? In fact I didn’t need to. I only dreaded aspects of each job and loved the rest. So now I still gig, but only take gigs I’ll love. I relaunched my recording studio to be even more holistic, creative and artist centred. I realised I didn’t want to teach unless 100% of my students were keen and self-motivated (thought impossible at the time but now a reality!). I still write and record music… ok that one was ticking over fine in the first place.

But what about stuff that you have to do that you don’t want to, like the washing up? This is a weird one, which needs strategising and rationalising. Tim Ferris has a good explanation of “batching” in his book The 4-Hour Work Week, which involves identifying tasks that can be done in bigger hits, less frequently, diminishing the overall life-hours they occupy. As well as batching, delegating or giving up where possible, could you change how you do these tasks so that you enjoy them more (see point 3)?

2. Overcoming inertia and nurturing enthusiam

When I get a sense of intertia surrounding a task, it might be that I have doubts about being able to do it. This isn’t necessarily under-confidence. If point 1 is in place, each task should be something I’m excited about and that’s important to me, therefore it’s likely also to be difficult in places. Given that it’s important to me, the flip-side is, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t do it well, so there’s naturally some trepidation. You can spot a task like this if you always enjoy it, feel great afterwards, yet always feel reluctant beforehand.

Rather than forcing yourself to get started (which just results in associating the task with unpleasant feelings), a good strategy is to distract or encourage yourself.

Distracting: Listening to happy music whilst I set up my recording kit to help avoid self doubting thoughts about recording.

Encouraging: Keeping a guitar/vocals practice diary and reading back how great I felt after my last practice just before the next one (the same could work for exercise?).

3. Enjoying what I do

Being used to forcing myself to do stuff I didn’t like, I was shocked to discover I was also doing tasks I like in the least enjoyable way possible! Seriously!

You might be doing the same if you have the following thoughts: “Ok, if I can get this done in the next 30mins I can go to lunch early. If not, I’ll have to skip lunch.” or “I’ll just get my head down and blitz it all day!”

What are we thinking when we tell ourselves this stuff?! Do we think we’re going to have a nice day working super intensively and get frazzled? Or the other trick – giving ourselves an unrealistic time-slot to get it done, resulting in a rush and panic? If we go through life thinking “I’ll just do this, get it over as quickly as possible and then get on to something I like”, it’s much more likely that our lives will just be full of tasks that we’re trying to get over and done with! Worse still, we’re training ourselves to feel stressed about all our tasks, causing huge demotivation!

If everything on your to-do list is exciting and important to you, it should be enjoyable too. So set yourself up to enjoy it! Let projects fill the space they need to. Work at your own pace – if the project holds your interest, you’ll be naturally productive. When we enjoy what we’re doing we become focused and absorbed. The psychological term for this state is “flow” or “in the zone”.

4. Understanding Ones Natural Work Rhythms / Distraction

“I’m turning over a new leaf” you might say to yourself, “I’ll start first thing tomorrow morning, break for lunch at 12.30pm, then crack on till 5pm.” But what if that’s not your natural rhythm? If you work in an office and can’t choose your hours, you might be able to choose the order of your day to an extent. Are you creative in the morning, but slump mid afternoon? Do you need a half hour’s “play” time surfing online before getting started? Find out about yourself.

I remember first understanding this concept as a kid. Fortunately my parents never made me do homework. Other kids would be forced to get started straight after tea, to be done by 6pm and “have the whole evening free”. Well, I never felt like coming home from school and getting straight back to the grind after marmalade on toast! My brain was tired from a whole day’s study. Often I’d nap, waking up at 6pm to actually find homework appealing and less grind-like.

Finally, be aware of your body’s natural rhythms. Whilst you may feel more productive working through lunch, or staying up late, you’re probably not. Breaks, and keeping your body happy facilitates motivation too. However, bear in mind that despite the modern obsession with the matter, increasing productivity has a ceiling. If your work is very intense, your natural ceiling may be far less than 40hrs per week.

A note on distraction: It’s well known that distraction is a huge enemy to the “flow” state. When someone is interrupted, it can take up to 10mins for them to get back on task, which is why setting up a distraction free work environment is important – quiet working space, clear desk, full screen mode, notifications off.

But what about one’s distractibility? Once getting in “the zone” becomes a habit, it’s suddenly easier to work in distracting environments (trains, cafes etc). Conversely when we become drained, we find we’ve clicked onto social media without even knowing. Rather than chiding myself, I’ve had much better results aknowledging that such behaviour is a sign I need a break.

5. Emotional blocks

One of the trickiest reasons for task avoidance is an emotional block. Each block is unique, and must be worked through rather than pushed through. An holistic accountant (who addresses money relationships as well as tax returns) once told me that many mathematically capable people completely fail to do their accounts because their financial fears stop them even opening a spreadsheet. Showing them a user-friendly systems for recording expenses has no effect unless the emotional blocks are addressed.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this overview! I could definetely expand on each of the 5 points, giving each a full post of their own and walking through processes for addressing each one.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under Digital Nomad, life coaching, musicians, self employed