Category Archives: minimalism

Van Living Offline: If It’s Not On Instagram, Did It Really Happen? 

IMG_3808Usually I’m the odd hippy in the corporate world, working as a university lecturer on Skype, living in a van/house-sitting. Now that summers on, I enter into being the odd Digital Nomad in the world of offline-van-dwellers and travellers. Alternative lifestyle blogs are unusual because people are usually either doing it, or writing about it, not both. As I know from my yurt days, it’s hard to get online when you’re off-grid.

A quick visit to any festival van field shows me a different world. Whilst my colleagues are often shocked to discover that my Vansion neither has a water tap nor fridge, rock-n-roll bed, nor toilet, this setup comes as standard for van-dwellers who self-build. Why would you want to replicate a house in a van? Fridges need power. Water tanks are a hassle compared to bottles. Fold out beds are for holiday makers, and lastly, when you live a in 65sqft box don’t poo in it!

What’s inspiring to me about chatting to the folks who live almost totally offline, is learning about the wide range of lifestyles available. It’s so easy to think that you need to be online to make a living. What’s rule one of starting your own business? Answer: get it on social media of course! That’s what we’re used to thinking anyway. Even during my £0 Challenge of 2014, I survived largely by making sure I stayed online. Yet there are alternatives.

As musicians go, they all outstrip me; of course they do. Full time buskers are hot as hell on their instruments because they play for hours per day. They don’t have space in their packs/vans for tons of sheet music, but they don’t need it because they are constantly learning new tunes from each other. I only have to sit with a van-dwelling busker for 5mins and they’ll teach me a song so we can play together. With that and seasonal work, they get by more than fine.

As travellers go, I met some super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent, hitch-hike anywhere and get there before you, build their own benders at the drop of a willow, and skip-dive like their in Mission Impossible. I thought I was experiencing a collision of worlds when I realised how much more extreme that collision must sometimes be for offline hitch-hikers:

Me: Thanks for the great meal Jake. Lovely to have loads of veg after a few days travel where it’s hard to get it.

Jane: Yeah me too.

Me: You too? I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.

Jane: Well, yes but… via service stations.

This reminds me of the folk I met who were hitch-hiking and ended up stranded at a motorway service station for so long they set up camp in the woodland just off the carpark.

 

Jane, incidentally, who can survive in the wilderness for months on end using only stone age tools she has made herself, is soon to be flown to Germany to “perform stone age living” at an immersion project, in the strangest mix of modern and ancient worlds I have ever heard of. She also told me a secret: “I’ve got a smartphone now.”

There is a myth that the offline world doesn’t really exist. If you can’t google it, or there isn’t a photo on Facebook to prove it, did it really happen? 

My income is online; I straddle two quite disparate worlds… and I like that (“I love my hybrid nature – no binary can contain me!” – Meredith Tea ). But it’s refreshing to see people making their way in the world through offline networks, or at least a real mix between the two. The online world isn’t as dominant and powerful as all that: whole worlds still function under its radar.
Over the past few years, I’ve given up so many things I thought I needed, and have felt freer each time. Being immersed in the offline world, even for a short time, inspires me to ask “What more I could free myself from?”… I’ll let you know when I have the answer.

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, house sitting, minimalism, musicians, self employed, travel

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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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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Sleeping on The Floor: an Experiment, Part 1

bedAfter another bad night’s sleep in the van, on that dreaded piece of foam I found by the roadside on Crammond Island a few years back, I decided enough is enough: it’s time to take some action regarding the surfaces I sleep on.

Being a Digital Nomad means “sleeping around”: staying with friends, housesitting, van livin’ and more. I never know what I might be sleeping on, from the luxury master-bed, to cushions on the floor. I mean no disrespect to the hospitality of my hosts, who are always generous, caring and sharing, but I’m asking myself how I can take responsibility for making sure I have a good night’s rest each night, on a bed that suits me.

One age old traveller solution is simply to take camping kit everywhere, even if this means ridiculously rolling out your favourite camping mat next to the guest bed in a friend’s house. Why? Because it’s the bed you’re used to and will therefore sleep best on.

Yes, I could buy a top of-the-range lightweight inflatable mat, but maybe there’s another way to guarantee a comfortable and consistent sleeping surface wherever I am: to learn to sleep on the floor.

Let’s get this straight: I’m only going to do this if I find it comfortable. I’m a minimalist, not a masochist.

BUT, if I could truly get used to floors, they are everywhere. I’d have the most flexible sleeping solution possible, since they also have floors at airports, train stations, parks and fields. I could ditch the bed in the van entirely, giving me more space.

A quick google search turned up the following anecdotal info from bloggers. Sleeping on the floor can be comfortable if you:

  • Sleep on your back with no pillow
  • Spend a few nights getting used to it

There are claims that this can be better for your health and sleep quality than sleeping on a bed, but really, with so little evidence, the only way to find out if that’s true for me is to try it. Previously when I’ve had to sleep on floors it’s been unequivocally pointless on every level, but this could be because I habitually sleep on my side and use a pillow.

Let’s try this then.

Night 1:

Well, I can’t say that was a great night’s sleep, but actually, falling asleep on the floor wasn’t that hard. As soon as I lay down without a pillow I noticed that my head actually comes equipped with a flat bit at the back, seemingly designed exactly for the purpose. I was surprised to wake in the morning to find my neck didn’t hurt, and neither did my lower back.

The only problem was that I kept waking up every time I tried to turn onto my side out of habit. According to my research, my body could well stop doing this after a few days, so I’ll just keep persevering. Some parts of my back do hurt, but then those bits hurt before I even went to bed, having slept on that rubbish piece of foam in the van the night before.

So, the experiment continues. Will report back in 1 week to tell you the results.

-Kimwei

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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

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

Making Everything You Own Sacred

IMG_0691I am a minimalist because I LOVE stuff. This is the clash I seem to have with the minimalists I read about who don’t care about stuff. However after 5 years of reducing I’ve finally understood WHY I’m a minimalist who loves stuff, and what it is I’ve been trying to achieve.

My aim is to only own and use things packed with dense positive energy. In other words – I want all my possessions to be sacred objects

Those of you who don’t like the word energy might turn off at this point, but hear me out. If you don’t like that word, try sentimental value, or Marie Kondo’s “Spark joy” concept*. When I use and wear things on a daily basis which have this quality, I literally feel like they are transmitting healing me.

Sound crazy? Let me explain more.

I generally experience the following to have high positive energy:

  • Something I’ve had for a long time
  • Something a friend has given to me or made for me, or made by me
  • Something old that’s been used and loved by many people
  • Something made from natural materials (which I believe take energy well), such as wood, wool, cotton, metal.
  • Found objects.

I generally experience these things have low/neutral energy:

  • Something mass produced (in other words, something made without love, and likely during the trauma of poor working conditions)
  • Something brand new (in other words, something that’s never been loved)
  • Something made from plastic/synthetic materials.
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Making my watch strap took 1hr and produced a much warmer result than buying factory-made.

Even if you’re not familiar with the concept of energy, can you relate this to your own life? Look around your home. Do you have more positive thoughts and feelings about by a handmade gift from a friend than you do for, say, an empty juice bottle? If nothing else, the gift at least holds warm associations. To be surrounded by these things is to be surrounded by our warmest memories, thoughts and feelings. Everyone has a “special” or “favourite” something. What if everything you owned had that quality to it?

 

If you habitually experience energy, these ideas might immediately resonate with you. Or if you’re simply curious, try picking up a pebble and carrying it in your pocket all week. Each night, take it out and hold it in your hand as you think of a happy memory from your day. At the end of the week, can you perceive a denser positive energy in that stone?

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I use this knife for all cooking even if it’s ‘the wrong tool for the job’, such as for grating cheese or cutting bread. I’d rather give my knife more use and therefore more energy.

My perception is that natural materials take on energy better, but even something synthetic, with the right intention can become a “healing” possession or sacred object. For example, I have one gaudy polyester shirt which I bought 2nd hand as a joke. Strangely it suited me, and I ended up wearing it at my wedding, so now it’s one of my most energised possessions.

For me, one of the biggest things that gets energy into an object is use. To use stuff more often I have to have less of it – the result is minimalism. This is why I only cook and eat with one knife, and have done for 5 years.

Up until very recently I was doing this instinctively without understanding it. I’d upgrade something, like my rucksack, only to find myself taking the upgrade back to the shop and keeping the old one. I’d shy away from high tech traveller’s clothes, even if they’d make life easier, and stick to bulky cotton.

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My rucksack, originally bought by my mother for our only walking holiday when I was 7. The trip was formative for me, so I wanted to use the bag as an adult, but also strangely wanted rid of it. Finally I remembered that my mother hated the trip herself! Once I addressed the imprint her experience still had on the rucksack, I stopped wanting to replace it and started using it.

Since I’ve fully understood that I’m creating a healing energy environment through “stuff”, I’ve changed tack and gone for it completely. I’ve got rid of stuff that I actually was using, because it wasn’t (and couldn’t be made) energy dense. Once rid of it, I could feel that even the energy between my possessions flowed much better. I’d no longer consider giving away highly charged items just because they are bulky (like hand knitted jumpers) but am cutting down on electronics.

If I need to acquire something I’ll make sure it’s energy dense, by perhaps making it from found materials, or asking a friend to do it with me, or buying 2nd hand. If I have to buy something new, I might decorate it. I’ll also look out for long lasting things, giving me years to put energy into them.

The result is amazing! I feel totally aligned and am truly supported by my possessions. This is not about loving stuff more than people. My stuff keep itself in check now, and I have more time for the people in my life.

 

*A note on Marie Kondo: When I first read about Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” concept I was thrilled. With slightly different framing our ideas were similar, and she even writes about imbuing everyday boring functional objects with positive energy by complimenting them. What I’d add to it is that some possessions do not “spark joy” or are not positively charged objects because they either will not take energy or they have negative energy in them which needs addressing (cleansing). For example, if a loved one had a traumatic experience whilst wearing a piece of jewellery, then gave it to you, you may feel a heaviness, sadness or tiredness when touching it. However, the heaviness can be freed from the object, leaving only the warm intentions and generosity of your friend. Someone attuned will be able to tell if an object does not spark-joy because it needs discarding or because it needs attention.

Also, whilst Marie Kondo relates that most people naturally end up with less stuff after her process, I would argue that in the case of making objects sacred, it’s vital to have few possessions and the fewer the better. As long as the functionality of your life is not compromised, interacting with a smaller number of objects more often ups the energy in each one.

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The Result Of 4 Months Of Walking Barefoot

img_0677Just over 4 months ago, I noticed that after 45mins of exercising in my expensive running shoes, my feet ached for the rest of the day. Rather than buy a different pair, I wondered about exercising barefoot. It was a complete success and since then I’ve been barefoot for part or all of each day. I am really pleased with the results so wanted to share them with anyone wondering about trying it.

However, this does come with a disclaimer – on asking around, I’ve discovered that some people who try going barefoot have really bad results. Hopefully it’s possible to have a go, but stop if you think it’s not for you or you notice damge

I was apprehensive about barefoot exercise because I assumed that sports shoes have cushioning for a reason. So I researched the matter and found that changing the way you land on each foot, so that you don’t land on your heel, allows the muscles in the leg to engage and prevent jarring. This is naturally done barefoot, whilst the shape of shoes encourages a heel-striking stride.

I suddenly remembered that this was how I used to walk as a teenager, when I’d spend each summer barefoot. I also remember a sporty friend teaching me the “correct” way to walk by heel-striking, and subsequently losing my natural stride.

So I switched to bare feet 4 months ago, and found that my stride reverted automatically. This is because it’s hard to heel-strike without shoes because it either hurts or feels very jarring to do so.

I had to build up slowly, both to give my soles the chance to harden up, and to give the muscles in my feet, ankles and legs the chance to re-strengthen for movements they haven’t done in years.

Here are the benefits I’ve experienced.

  • Feet don’t ache or smell
  • Better grip, especially for climbing
  • Enjoying the sensations of walking on different surfaces (once soles are thick enough)
  • Stronger feet and ankles – injury less likely and can grip the ground for better balance. I actually twisted my ankle (as in landed sideways on it) the other day without injury.
  • Silent stride – great for sneaking around the house when others are asleep.
  • Smooth stride – noticeably less jarring on all joints, both when walking, running and even jumping.
  • Better circulation – I now find it too warm to wear shoes at temperatures that previously had me reaching for my boots. Will be interested to see how this pans out in winter.
  • Walking/running faster – no heavy shoes.

Yesterday I went out for my longest barefoot walk yet – 2 1/2 hours, on asphalt and gravel. I actually enjoy the sensations under my feet believe it or not. Walking barefoot feels like regaining something natural, even if many walking surfaces are man-made.

But what about the downsides? Dirty feet? Danger of injury from sharp objects? Objections from others? Yes, actually these are all quite real problems. I’m selective about products I recommend but what’s solved these problems for me is Xero Shoes. They are basically the most minimal sandals you can get – thin enough not to interfere with your natural barefoot stride, but thick enough to protect your feet from sharp objects and dirt. I leave the house barefoot, but carry these just in case. I reckon they are good for the environment too since they take less volume of materials to make than shoes and come with a 5000 mile guarantee (that’s 10 years at 10 miles per day)

Please share your experiences of walking barefoot.

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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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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