Category Archives: self employed

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

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.

DSC01894.JPG

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

DSC01900.JPG

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.
6 Cupboard.JPG

Everything stays in bags

IMG_1553.JPG

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.

IMG_1552.JPG

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

Leave a comment

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

3 Comments

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

Response To The “Musicians & Their Day Jobs” Article

It was refreshing to read Hannah Ewen’s exposé, revealing that many musicians from the current UK charts work  minimum-wage day jobs. Of course this makes sense, because such jobs can be temporary and can be jacked-in to go on tour. It seems like many bands simply slog it out… work 9-5 for minimum wage, followed by evening & weekend rehearsals, plus endless promotion & pushing. Sounds like a grind!

This weblog was conceived to show one musician’s solution (mine) to exactly this problem: original music doesn’t pay the rent. In an economic climate rife with wage poverty, even those working full time are struggling to make ends meet. What hope is there for those who wants to fit a few days of art into each week?

My current home - a winter let near Exeter at very low cost since the room is in the middle of being re-decorated to be let "properly" next year.

My current home – a winter let near Exeter at very low cost on account of the fact that the room is in the middle of being re-decorated to be let “properly” next year.

My solutions in the past 6 years have centred around living in alternative dwellings, to save on rent. Thus I survive working part time and making time for music. And of course, the best way to have a reliable part time job is to be self-employed. Honestly, I don’t know why bankers have so much against it! People are being made redundant all the time, but I’m never going to fire me!

Musicians also talk about “the teaching trap”. This is when you lose sight of wanting to push your own music because teaching is so much easier and more rewarding. As a teacher, you’re generally much more appreciated than you are as a performer, but don’t let it extinguish your lust to be creative!

Hannah’s article points out that rock-star’s fans don’t imagine their heroes working in McDonald’s. Even she, a music journalist, didn’t know that most musicians have day jobs until she researched the article.

It’s often commented that people should make music for the love of it, not the money. But I think that’s flawed logic because that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be paid. Just think how much more productive each of those musicians would be if they had those 40 extra hours per week to make music instead of working!

I’m glad she wrote the article, as it will help non-musicians understand the situation. Although my extended family are very good to me, some aspects of my life are hard for them to grasp since they’re not musicians. On their terms I’m simply not as successful as other family members my age. Of my 3 cousins, 2 have the same teaching qualification as me and teach full-time. It’s hard for older members of the family to understand why I don’t have a full-time teaching job too. The years I’ve spent teaching on a BTEC and lecturing on a music degree don’t seem to register, maybe because it’s always been part time. I can only imagine that my music career registers with them as “failed”, since they haven’t seen me on TV.

But Hannah’s article also serves to make me aware that just because my original music doesn’t pay my rent, that doesn’t mean my music career is a failure…in fact it’s a success! Three self-released and self-produced records in the past 6 years, regular gigs and a good reputation is a success. Not to mention my work as a producer (goldflowerstudios.com) and teacher. I’m not saying so to blow my own horn, but to encourage anyone out there in the same boat. The impossible task of celebrity rock-stardom is so often held out in-front of us like it’s the bar. It’s as if Adele & Coldplay are the only artists who are considered “successful” and the rest of us haven’t “made it” because we still have day jobs. Rubbish!

If you make music every day, you’re a successful musician! Simple as that.

Pass it on!

Kimwei

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei ,

watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom ,

interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom & @kimwedotcom

everything at kimwei.com

Leave a comment

Filed under music, musicians, self employed