Category Archives: lifestyle

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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Filed under Digital Nomad, lifestyle, minimalism

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

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.

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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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Unlocking The Healing Power Of Envy

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Excerpt from Hoggart’s wonderful book shaming round robin letters designed to invoke envy

Everyone experiences jealousy or envy… well everyone except me. I’m not joking. For years I’ve been baffled by envy, what it is and why other people feel it when I don’t seem to. Recently I’ve understood that I DO feel it, it’s just that those feelings so quickly transform into positive information that I barely notice them. I’m not trying to make you jealous. Here’s how to do it.

The truth is, listening to what our envy is trying to tell us can be the key to unlocking our lives. Jealousy or envy are messengers, just like anger is. The quicker you get the message, and act on it, the quicker the unpleasant sensations that come with these emotions evaporate.

Anger tells us about something we don’t want – behaviour towards us or others, injustice in the world, unfairness, inconsideration, aggression. Envy (and lets focus on envy rather than jealousy) tells us about something we do want, specifically when we see that someone else has it, and we feel “discontented or resentful longing” as a result.

This is as far as most people get, but did you know that envy occurs when we see someone who has something that we ourselves could bring into our lives? It tells us about something we do want, but are failing to pursue. In this way, envy is a gift: it lets us know what our desires look like, through someone else. It puts our eye on the prize. Envy alerts me to wherever I’m blatantly failing to notice an opportunity, or desire: “Oh, I didn’t know I wanted that. Best reach out and grab it.”

Unfortunately most people never get this message. They feel envy, but couple it with a statement such as “I’ll never get what they have”, and therefore take no action. The envy continues unabated, gnawing at them for years.

To unlock the healing, transformative power of envy is simple: listen to what it’s telling you, then take positive action.

At its simplest level, the process can be summarised through the “I wish I’d ordered that” phenomenon. At a restaurant, envy occurs when you see what your friend ordered and say “I wish I’d ordered that!” They ask you, “Then why didn’t you order it?” Of course you respond, “I didn’t know I wanted it till I saw it!”

Great, you’ve got the message. Now you can take negative action: eschew the restaurant forevermore, never order it, never eat it, be nasty to your friend, try to steal their food. Or you can take positive action and say, “Hey, I’ll have the pistachio ice cream next time. Thanks for showing me that it exists so I could find out I want it.”

Often, a resolve to order it next time makes you feel ok about this time. Your friend, instead of being alienated by the force of your envy, will have a better time with you and might even share with you (although that shouldn’t be your motivation of course).

Ask yourself, “What do I want that she/he has, and where in my life can I take positive action towards it?” You’ll be able to tell when you’ve hit the nail on the head, because all negative feelings will dissipate. If you believe you’ve got it because you feel motivated towards your goal, but underneath you’re muttering “Screw them! I’ll show them next time, and rub it in their face! ”… then you haven’t really got it.

To go into more detail on how to get the message from your envy, first, let’s distinguish it from “admiration” and “awe”.

Admiration is when we think someone’s great, but we don’t feel bad as a result. It doesn’t bother us that they are great. They may even have achieved exactly what we’d like to achieve, but knowing that gives a us warm fuzzy glow inside.

Have you noticed that someone having what you want doesn’t automatically result in envy? That’s because there’s no message to deliver. You’re cool with wanting what they have; you’re already working towards having it some day too. You’re in touch with what you desire! Envy serves to identify blocked desire.

Awe too is good. We don’t need to do anything about it  – it’s already positive. I’m in awe of professional dancers. I’m inspired by their discipline. What they do is like magic to me. But, whilst I might say to myself “I wish I could dance”, I don’t feel upset that I can’t. I’ve no desire to rehearse for 10hrs a day either, so I think we can safely say I’m in awe of dancers, rather than envious of them.

The funny thing is, we often don’t feel jealousy for something if it’s totally way out of the realms of our lives, it has to be much closer to home.

I’ll give you a very literal example from when I last felt envious. For about 6 months, I’d been trying to get a gig in the UK which paid enough to justify travelling from France for it. I’d created a pitch, approached venues: no joy. Then one day a UK friend told me they’d been offered a gig in France, with such a good fee they couldn’t turn it down, but were complaining about the hassle of travelling. Straightaway I told them, “I’m so jealous. I’m TRYING to get a gig just like that, whilst you’re complaining that you have one!”.

My feelings of envy quickly evaporated when I remembered that I hadn’t been trying. I’d given up months ago. Immediately I sent out emails to the same venues as before. Guess what…not one, but three of them said “YES”.

Ok that’s a very literal example, but what about something more difficult to decode? What about feeling envious of someone who’s won a prize for example, or the lottery? After all, you can’t plan those things, or take action towards getting them yourself.

Again it’s likely that feelings of envy are highlighting something which is both close to home, and that you can take immediate action on. In the case of the lottery, you might covet financial security, and this feeling could alert you to a financial issue you can easily address.

A prize shows that someone is recognised for their merits by an esteemed body. Envy could indicate where you feel unacknowledged, perhaps within your own family, and give you the impetus to talk to them about it. Alternatively it could be a feeling that you’ve let yourself down in areas which might have otherwise landed you the prize. Strangely, once you start to put effort into those areas, it probably won’t matter to you at all whether you’re given an award for doing so.

Interestingly we tend to project skewed images of those we envy. For example, the lottery winner may not be feeling financially secure, but thinking “Oh no, I’ve got all this money and I bet I’m going to fritter it away and be skint again in no time.” Likewise, the prize winner might not experience a warm sense of acceptance from their peers but feel embarrassed and pressured. This is how we know that envy is a messenger for our own desires, because it does not consider our victim’s true feelings, only how we imagine we’d feel if we had what they have.

This final point is very important. It’s easy to think that if we had what they have we would be happy. But, buy the car they bought, the clothes they wear and find out it’s not true. This is of course, how advertising works: look how happy that family are eating breakfast cereal together!

It’s very important to focus in on how we imagine we would feel if we had what they had. Would we feel content, loved, secure, grateful, appreciated? Whichever it is, envy is telling us to look for actions we can take that would bring us more of that feeling.

The Minimalists have a great example which they use in their talks. Ryan had a domestic cleaning job with his dad and he noticed that the people who’s houses they cleaned seemed really happy. I have no idea if he felt envy, but nontheless he found out how much they earned, $50k p/y, and decided to make that income his number 1 goal. When he reached it, the penny dropped: happiness didn’t come as standard with $50k. In fact, it turns out it the penny didn’t fully drop there, since Ryan assumed the problem was inflation, but that’s another story.

To recap, if you experience envy, here’s what to do. Ask yourself:

  • How would I feel if I had what that person has?
  • Would I feel like that if I too had what they had?
  • If yes, is having what they have the only way I could feel like that?
  • If no, what would make me feel that way?
  • What actions can I take to bring more of that feeling into my life?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this article and find the process useful. I’m afraid it’s not referenced as I haven’t read about this process, it’s just the one I use myself. Please let me know if you find any existing literature that relates to it. For me, the actions I take as a result of listening to my envy tend to be the most exciting breakthroughs of my life, like a dam breaking. Why? Because there was a block I didn’t notice and envy pointed it out.

-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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Make Your Dreams Reality (By Playing Yellow Car) Part 1

I’m writing this post from a beautiful 4 bedroom wooden house in rural France. It was lovingly built by its owner and I’ll be here until spring. This marks my first outing as a digital nomad. I’ll be mentoring on a Music BA over Skype through the blended learning project AMBA. It’s a dream come true and I’m very grateful to everyone who helped it to happen!

DSC01595So how did I get here? Many people make the transition by going independent in the same job they’ve had for years, such as photography or journalism. Others simply ask their employer if they can work remotely. Since my income came from music performing, teaching and lecturing, as far as I knew, there weren’t any options for working from home.

I brainstormed lots of ideas, including becoming a busking minstrel, running a mobile recording studio (which I still do, and am currently making albums with 2 clients) and working as an illustrator.

Then, quite out of the blue, a company I used to teach with called me up and asked if I would be the main Skype Mentor on a blended learning Music BA they was setting up as a new venture. I was in the middle of the £0 Challenge at the time and was therefore totally unemployed and free to take up the offer. I’ve now been working with that project for a full year and have never enjoyed a teaching role more! Lucky? Yes, but there’s more to it than that.

There are many “how to” guides out there on how to become a digital nomad, and lots of advice on how to “make it happen”. This may just be my personality, but trying to make things happen doesn’t work for me. The way I see it, everything exists somewhere on the planet, so if we tune our minds to it, we start to spot it. The path of my life has come to me by focusing on what I want, then allowing it to happen by saying yes when opportunities come up.

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By co-incidence I do actually have a yellow car, which came to me when I was housesitting in rural Devon and noticed a neighbour washing it in his driveway. He said he was preparing it for a Gumtree ad, so I bought it on the spot.

It’s like the game Yellow Car. I’m sure you’ve played it – spotting this rare car colour on a long drive. Although yellow cars are unusual, it’s amazing how many you see when you’re looking out for them. Someone might ask “How many yellow cars did you see today?” and you’d be able to tell them easily. But, if asked “How many red cars did you see?” I doubt you’d have a clue.

I believe the same can be true with opportunities. We can set our yellow-car-lense to “digital nomad” or “free firewood” or “size 14 denim jacket”. It doesn’t necessarily mean these things will immediately appear, but once we are tuned up to look out for something, we can’t miss it when it comes along. On the other hand, if we’re not focused on what we want, those opportunities could whizz by like red cars without us even noticing.

That’s the overview, but there are other stages to this process too (there are even more stages/aspects than list here so I might do a follow up article).

Really figure out what you want.

It’s important to boil your dream down its key components. When I was a kid, my dream was to earn a living backpacking through the lake-district as a watercolor painter, selling my work to local galleries. As an adult, I’ve boiled that dream down to a few key things – freedom, creativity, needs met, sense of adventure, and gravitated towards opportunities that offer me that.

BUT many times I’ve had to let go of a dream because it no longer brought me those things. Two years ago I planned to busk around Europe in a van, but so many restrictions appeared that I abandoned it. I widened my dream to “I want to have new experiences whilst enjoying earning my living”, which has led me to where I am now.

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My space in the wooden house, mezzanine level.

If your dream is to own an expensive sports car, boil it down to what you want. You can do this by asking yourself what you would experience if that dream became reality. It might be simple: “I’d enjoy driving a fast car. I’d feel exhilarated.” Fine – save up and buy the car, or if your priority is purely driving, you could hire one. If you can afford neither, you might have to give up your attachment to the racing car but might find exactly what you need by seeking other experiences that you find exhilarating.

But if your immediate answer is “I’d be accepted by my peers” or “I’d feel successful”, some further digging could lead you towards a deeper dream. You might be lacking a circle of close friends who don’t judge you on your income, and could re-orientate yourself towards cultivating that. Then you could buy the car anyway if you still want to.

Our true dreams are usually fearless and naturally draw us to be giving towards others.

If it’s not working, do something different.

There’s no point looking at the world through your “yellow car” lens if you’re not even near a road. Sometimes it’s not obvious whether we’re in the right place for an opportunity to come to us. My approach is: if in doubt, do something different.

A new experience or approach has merit simply because you’ve not done it before. You could meet someone new, gain a new skill, see a new place and this could be the key to getting you onto the road and finding your “yellow car”.

I often hear people say “then I was sat next to this guy on a train, and it turned out he had a flat to rent/cocoa farm for sale/kitten who needed a home, and it was just what I was looking for!” Sounds like a co-incidence, but in a way it’s not that far fetched. When we focus our yellow-car-lens, we think about our yellow car all the time. When we talk, we can’t stop talking about our yellow car. Soon, all our friends know we’re looking for a yellow car, and they might mention it to their friends, one of whom might just have a yellow car. But if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. We just keep on talking about that yellow car to every new person we meet, until eventually someone says “hey, I’ve got a yellow car – do you want it?”

-Kimwei

Follow up article: Make Your Dreams Reality Part 2

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Watch out! Everything is trying to addict you to it!

“Why do people watch so much TV?” someone asked me. “Because like most things, it’s trying addict us to it” was the first response that came to my mind.

It’s true. Humans love to interact. Screens provide us with a form of interaction and we respond. But SCREENS ARE ALL AROUND US! We watch people’s lives on TV, send messages through facebook, text, watch online videos, comment on posts by our favourite celebrities, all out of our desire to interact. What’s wrong with that? Well, a friend of mine always says “you can tell something is addictive if the more you do it, the worse you feel, yet you keep wanting more of it”.Square-eyes Ask yourself if there’s anything in your life that you feel this way about? The likelihood is that “screen time” is on your list. You know how you’re tempted to just keep clicking on more and more distracting things on the Internet even when you’re not really enjoying it? Or maybe you can spend 16hrs playing a computer game without noticing RSI, eyestrain and muscle cramp?

The problem with all these interactions is that because they are through a screen, they are not truly emotionally fulfilling. A dog knows that people on Skype have no smell, and part of us knows that we are not getting any human warmth from screens, even if we are interacting with friends. But on the surface, we are fooled, and the more we engage with screens, the less time we spend with real people. We get more lonely. Screen time doesn’t stop the loneliness but it temporarily blocks it. So whilst we don’t feel satisfied by screen staring, we feel worse when we turn it off. This is how people end up spending all their recreational hours in front of the TV or computer. It’s addictive because it pretends it’s alleviates loneliness, whilst making you feel MORE lonely. It’s masquerading as the cure for the problem it’s creating.

Don’t forget: TV wants you to watch it, so it can show you adverts. It uses cliff-hanger endings to addict you to programs so you’ll watch more. Computer games want you to keep playing, so you’ll buy the next game. The Internet wants to keep you clicking on little 3min distractors until they total hours. It wants to collect your user data and show you that sidebar of ads. These ads, compound the problem, fooling your psyche into thinking you’ll feel happier if you buy a certain product or service. But really, this is the same premise – spending creates temporary high that can mask unhappiness for a little while. Consumerism too masquerades as the cure for the problem it’s creating.

So what’s the answer? Well, go back to your list of things that make you feel worse, yet are strangely compelling. Now, make a second list: a list of things that really do make you feel good, like seeing friends, or learning something new. Instead of simply banning yourself from the things on your first list, start doing more of the things on your second list. Put one in your diary every day of the week, and soon you won’t have time for the things on list 1. You can ban yourself from list 1 too if you like, but it’s much more important to fill your life with things from list 2, otherwise you’ll be left with an empty hole where list 1 used to be. Chances are, if you don’t give up screen-time altogether, you’ll notice that it’ll lose its additive pull for you.

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Filed under alternative, leisure, lifestyle, minimalism