Houseless not homeless

17309658_10154836723741928_3237548098829814946_nWhat does it mean to “go away for a week” when you’re homeless anyway? I say “homeless”, but I prefer “houseless” or “nomadic”. For the past month I’ve been based in and around Exeter, and now I take my first trip “away on business” to Birmingham and London. Will it be any different I wonder?

Post trip I’ll let you know, but for now, here’s a rundown of how it works “at home” in Exeter:

When I returned last month, after an extended trip in France, I was adamant that I wouldn’t rent. I have a van (big enough sleep in but not that suitable for full time living), a job as an online teacher, and I wanted to use that combination to move around organically on a whim, whilst mostly being based in Exeter. Renting would tie me down and make that financially impossible. 

This way of life is almost possible purely living in my van, but it wouldn’t be very much fun. I’d work in cafes with wifi, or at the Exeter office provided by my workplace. My van doesn’t have a complete kitchen, so I’d eat out a lot, and of course the van provides a bed. Laundromats would be a weekly pilgrimage, and showers… improvised (gym? pool?). It’s feasible. I could be self contained. Instead, I’ve spent the past month either “docking” or house-sitting, which is much more fun. 

“Docking” is my word for being a temporary house-mate. Rather than having guest or visitor relationship, where the host is expected to entertain, my hosts and I co-exist. I might do the washing up, make tea/dinner, bring groceries. We’d spend time together and also do our own thing half the time. I really appreciate my friends having me dock with them and try and make sure I contribute in a balanced way.

Not only does docking feel like a lovely way to give and receive with people I care about, it also allows me to see more of them; most people are so busy these days it’s hard to find a window to meet up for a coffee. I might be sleeping in the house, or in the van (but using the house in the daytime when my host is at work), but still have the chance to come in and chat over breakfast. I’ve got to know people in new ways as a result.

House-sitting is wonderful too. It can give me the opportunity to maybe get some recording done and have a little time alone. 

This way of living means my surroundings are always changing, and I very rarely have plans for where I’ll be from one day to the next. The key to living this way is extreme flexibility, both in attitude and logistically. I love moving through people’s lives in this way, crossing paths and making connections with unexpected people. After all, who needs to be self-contained?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ol’ faithful next to shiny new shiny-ness

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

Now what to put in it?

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

For my body:

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

For my work and creative mind:

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

Ideal Weight limit =10kg

Turns out:

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

B: I can live with that

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

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

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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My Year of Travelling as a Digital Nomad

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My “lake of the year” 2016

After becoming a digital teacher in 2015, it took me a whole year to work out that I didn’t necessarily have to stay in the UK. So, in 2016, I set off to house-sit in Europe, for what was supposed to be 3 months but turned into around a year.

Here is my summary:

Freedom is What You Make it:

The house-sit I came out for was 3 months, and I could have easily called it a day at that point, but with a flexible attitude anything can happen. Each time I moved to a new place, I had no idea what would happen next and no long term plan. People kept asking me “Do you think you’ll settle here?” I never thought that way. I took each phase as it came; that’s been very important to me.

Travel Doesn’t Have to be Busy:

This has been one of my most leisurely years on record. I didn’t go to loads of tourist attractions or famous cities, but have been living a quiet life in rural areas, hamlets and villages. The aim has been “retreat” and to seek a sense of peace. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to bring that inner sense back to the UK, and have even found that on trips home I’ve not been affected by the rush of London in the way I used to be. I’m much more in my own space. Another aim I had was to really live wherever I lived, and see what it was like to be a local there. I wanted to spend time with the land, at nearby lakes and woodlands, rather than feeling that I had to go and see all the nearest tourist attractions.

Learning a Language is Hard but it also Doesn’t Matter as Much as You Think:

I’ve been surprised at how hard I’ve found it to pick up a language from scratch, even if it’s French, which shares so much with English. Of course, I’ve been living in sparsely populated areas where the only people I might see for weeks are market stall holders. Ex-pats come out of the woodwork pretty quickly, but natives are unlikely to strike up conversations when you only speak a few words of their language, so it’s hard to break in. I was also learning from CDs, which unlike a tutor, can’t correct you on your pronunciation, so no matter how many words I learned nobody understood me any better, and I ended up returning to the art of pointing. However, the quality of my miming has hugely improved, and this has helped communication overall. Amazingly, even with a language barrier I’ve been able to negotiate most situations.

When Life is Travel You Can’t Put Your Life on Hold Whilst You Travel:

This is probably due to the “retreat” nature of my trip, but I wasn’t going to give up cycling or being a multi-instrumentalist just because I was travelling. In fact, half way through I snapped and took a trip home to pick up ALL my stuff, because I just couldn’t be creative without all my instruments with me.

Never Let Your “Nomad” Get in the Way of Your “Digital”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Work comes first, travel comes second, since one makes the other possible. Never pick a house-sit with unreliable internet (this has really bugged me as sometimes it’s been impossible to tell until I’m there). Don’t move house-sits on a work day. Make sure your phone works wherever you are and always answer it. As discussed in other posts, making the most of this lifestyle means developing the ability to switch in and out of work mode quickly and often.

I Didn’t Earn Enough:

Turned out that even though I was mainly house-sitting, this lifestyle held lots of unexpected hidden costs, from the price of my trips home to running a van abroad. When I realised I was going to end up making a loss and had to borrow money to get by, I was disappointed at first. Then it dawned on me that in 5 years from now I would laugh to think that making a loss in my first year of digital work + travel was a failure. Indeed, the only way from here is up and I’ve been able to secure more income for the coming year.

I Can’t Give Up This Way of Living:

Whether in Europe, back in the UK, or whatever happens next, I love the freedom of moving from place to place, having new experiences, and not having to worry about sorting out leases, plans, or dealing with a load of physical possessions. On preparing for my return to the UK, I surprised myself by being very straight with my employer, by saying  “I want you to see the fact that I don’t live anywhere as an advantage”. Gone of the days of my being embarrassed about living in a van or yurt, and hoping my workplace never finds out. In fact, they can enjoy my willingness to travel, which will likely become part of my new expanded job-role when I get back.

So that’s it folks. What are your experiences of travelling and working at the same time?

-Kimwei

Related Articles: Make Your Dreams Reality Part 1How To Get More Motivated

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 Part 2

Consider the following:
1iduyo

The difference is everything. Personally, it took me a long time to realise that I didn’t want to become a world class guitarist; if I did, I’d want to practice for hours every day.

Making You Dreams Reality part 1 talked about how to tune your lens to your dreams so that you can easily attract them in the world, and touches on how to find out what you truly want. Let’s go deeper. Finding your wants and desires can be a deep process, involving getting fears and expectations out of the way.

When it comes to making dreams into reality, I tend to shy away from “goal orientated” success. Lets make it abstract: naturally we yearn to meet our basic physical needs, plus our needs for love, contentment, happiness and fulfilment. We might also want to have virtues such as generosity or kindness, but it’s my opinion that those come naturally when our basic physical and human needs are met, so there’s no selfishness in focusing on ourselves.

Ok, so it turned out I didn’t want to be a world class guitarist; I knew that because I had no desire to put in that level of practice. So what do I want to do for hours every day? Could it really be as simple as getting up in the morning, doing whatever I want, and later finding that all my dreams have been realised… well, yes.

Trouble is, doing what you want to do is not that simple.

As mentioned in Part 1, finding out what we truly want can be very difficult. For most of us, there’s a bunch of stuff in the way; mostly fears of different sorts. Many people are so paralysed by fear of failure they find it impossible to get into the relaxed state needed to be creative (The Artist’s Way is packed with processes to dismantle these fears) for example.

Part 1 gives the example of someone thinking they want a sports car, when actually they want the acceptance from their peers they believe a sports car would bring them. This, being a “displaced desire”, it can never be satisfied. After all, it’s not possible to receive a deep level of acceptance from a group of peers, based on car ownership. It’s closer to being a fear of exclusion than a desire for acceptance.

What’s important is dedicating ourselves to a process of seeking our true desires, whilst noticing and calling out the fears and expectations that get in the way.

This can also be shown in reverse: when we want something, we can notice why we want it, and therefore identify whether it’s a genuine desire, or simply led by fear.

When I first heard of the idea of doing whatever the hell I want all day long, instead of being disciplined, I thought it a barmy notion bordering on madness. I imagined I’d miss all deadlines, become unfit and never follow through and finish a project. However, having devoted some years to the matter of getting firmly in touch with what I really want, I’ve dispelled those myths. I broke through false beliefs such as the idea that I’m naturally un-motivated, or that working all hours of the day is the best way to be. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Yup – there will be quite a lot of dossing about in PJs. Go on: binge on it. You’ve never let yourself before! This doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you’ll ever do from now on. Just let it run its course.
  • No, I don’t want to work all the time. I discovered I don’t suit a 40hr working week. If I want to be highly productive I’m better off on half that. I enjoy it, and you’ll be surprised how much I get done.
  • I meet my deadlines; not sure exactly how this one works out, but I do.
  • I don’t procrastinate; there’s no such thing as procrastination anymore. I can trust my inner sense – if I don’t want to do something right now, I don’t do it.
  • When you’re in touch with your sense of what you want, that sense gets stronger. It shouts pretty loud and everything becomes clear; fears become easier to notice and let go of – snowball effect.
  • You can trust yourself to want good things. As humans we want love, connection, growth, happiness, for us an ourselves. It’s displaced desires or those based on fear that lead us to want power over each other, or for others to suffer. When we are truly in touch with what we want it the good stuff.

Before I started trying this approach I was known for my discipline. These days I’m known for my productivity, and for my energy. Of course I’ve plenty of energy now: I’m no longer wasting any of it doing things I’m not interested in.

Love and light

-Kimwei

Related Articles: Make Your Dreams Reality Part 1, How To Get More Motivated

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, Guitar (Acoustic/Percussive/Fingerstyle), life coaching, Self help, Uncategorized

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

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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Gendered Clothes – Men’s clothes are boring?

kimwei-beard.jpgIt’s been a couple of years since I’ve been dressing almost exclusively “as male” (but not trying to “pass” as male).  You know what I’ve discovered? Men’s clothes are boring.

Isn’t it weird that clothes are so gendered? Trousers, no longer. A woman wearing trousers is not “cross dressing”, but apparently, a man wearing a skirt is???

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and need I add “everything in-between”?

For those of us who are gender fluid, transgender or who simply don’t want to be defined by stereotypical gender boundaries, clothing and image are effective tools in sending a message about who we are, since they are both visible and instantly communicative.

I’ve two friends especially struggling with this right now, who will go unnamed. One has a female body and the other a male body. My female bodied friend identifies as non-gender-binary, but looks extremely feminine. She rings me up in frustration at trying to express her masculinity through image, whilst being blessed with curves and delicate features.

My friend in a male body is firmly cis-gendered, but thinks women have all the fun in terms of nice clothes. He is very worried about what male friends or potential female partners would think if they saw him dressed in the clothes he really likes, which are stereotypically worn by women. Is he a transvestite? I wouldn’t say so.

In the words of designer and gender-superhero Arian Bloodwood, I would say more that my male bodied friend simply wants to wear clothes that he likes.

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Arian models Charles’ handiwork

My two friends and I all want the same thing – to be perceived as ourselves. Since, in one way or another, we don’t fit within conventional gender boundaries, it’s difficult to work out how to “present” as who we really are.

When my male friend walks out the door in his favourite outfit, some people will see a guy who just looks fabulous and knows how to dress. However he also fears attracting negative attention if perceived as a gay or transvestite by people who view those groups negatively. Essentially, when he dresses as himself, he worries about being seen as someone else entirely.

My NGB trans friend in a female body doesn’t like being seen as a very feminine woman, whilst the masculine part of her goes unnoticed, since she struggles to send the “right” signals through her mode of dress.

But what ARE the right signals? We’re in a strange intermediate phase as a society, where gender boundaries have started breaking down, but they haven’t snapped completely. Dressing as male has helped people to better understand my gender, yes that’s true. But, would I need the label of non-gender-binary transgender if society’s ideas about gender were blown wide open? If that happened each person would meet me as me, without applying a set of parameters to my personality based on the gender of my body? Would I need to “dress as male” then? Probably not.

Kimwei shirt.pngI’ve thought a lot about the signals I send out through image and my decision in a couple of years ago to only wear “what I would wear if I had a male body”. Out went strappy tops, bras, anything that showed midriff or accentuated breast size, and in came tailored shirts, waistcoats and… no that’s all really. Told you men’s clothes were boring. And the truth is, if I really did have a male body, I’d wear dresses skirts and other “female” clothes here and there, because they just look fabulous are great fun!

Male and female bodies and brains are different in some ways, yes. But ultimately, I believe we need to throw out our expectations of what people should be like/should do/should be treated based on the gender of their bodies (or clothes). Only then, will both transgender and cis-gendered people alike be free to express and be accepted as who they are fully. In some parts of the world this is a mortally serious point*.

We can contribute to moving this issue forward by opening up to it on a personal level. Support the cause by cross dressing this Christmas, but don’t call it “cross-dressing”, just call it wearing clothes that you like.

-Kimwei

* Each year Amnesty International run the Write For Rights campaign, which is a wonderful thing. Cases are varied and it’s worth noting that each year there are some cases relating to gender/sexuality. Click here to participate in the campaign.

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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

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Christmas Gifts – I saw this & thought of you / I thought of you… I saw nothing.

How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping?

xmas-shop.pngAs an anti-consumerist, each year I freak out a little about the Christmas Season’s enforced gift giving. Gifts and generosity are beautiful things to behold, but the push – the pressure to give objects on a particular date, feels driven by commercial industries that want to sell. It’s lovely to be able to say to someone “I saw this and thought of you”, down right embarrassing to say “It’s the thought that counts, because I thought you’d like it but you clearly hate it” and totally taboo to say, no matter how true “I thought of you… but I saw nothing”.

I am notoriously difficult to buy non-edibles for, as a minimalist, traveller and anti-consumerist. If anything, I’m hoping to reduce the contents of my backpack, not increase it! I even looked through “ideal gifts for Digital Nomads” articles and couldn’t see anything I wanted, so goodness knows how anyone else is going to fare.

Having said this, almost paradoxically, as a traveller I’m incredibly sentimental. Many things I own/use/carry are from loved ones. This helps me feel connected to my friends and family wherever I am. Right I’m wearing, pocketing or using 12 things that were given to me. Not all were necessarily “presents” wrapped up for a birthday or Christmas. Some were also given as an alternative to donating, or bought for me onthe spot. It really doesn’t matter to me if it was expensive, wrapped, or presented on the “right” date. What matters is being given something I’ll use, by a loved one, so I can be reminded of them every time I use it.

There are certain ideas surrounding Christmas gifts, largely from advertising, which I’ve always found odd. At their worst, they can make gift exhange feel like a form of tax. As follows:

  • It’s not a proper gift if it’s used (especially if it’s been used by you).
  • Something bought is better than something home made (I’ve heard home made cards referred to as “cheapskate”).
  • Consumables are not gifts unless they are a special “gift box” of soaps, biscuits, chocolates which often are over-packaged and overpriced. Honestly, show me a chocolate lover who would rather receive 100gms in the shape of Santa rather than 200gms the same stuff in squares!
  • The “how did you know” factor, is all that matters. Yes, it’s lovely when it works, but there’s also an assumption that if you can’t get someone a surprise gift they’ll treasure, there’s no magic (possibly Santa’s to blame for this one – but seriously guys, he had a list!).
  • Presents must be un-wrappable (although digital gifts are getting more normal now).
  • Cost matters. Seen exactly what your Gran would love on sale for a fiver? Well, better hope she doesn’t find out it cost you so little.

It’s exactly these ideas that left my mother despairing and simply buying everyone a white bath towel one year. “Well, they can’t say it’s not useful” she said, “and if they don’t like the colour, they can dye it”.

Returning to my original question: How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping? Many people just want to forget the whole thing, but my experience is that it’s a baby bathwater situation, in which loved ones are blocked from being generous. I would seriously recommend breaking the above taboos wherever needed, by having a talk with friends and family about reframing gift giving and receiving. Many people would be relieved by the suggestion of a “consumables only” rule, a spending limit, the “ok” to buy 2nd hand, or even guidance on what sort of gift you would like. Other ideas include agreeing to give handwritten personal vouchers such as “I’ll take you out for a curry”, “A massage from me”, “Breakfast in bed – redeemable Boxing Day”. Have whatever conversation it takes to take the stress out Christmas shopping/making, and free yourself from the pressure. After all, we all know the embarrassment of going to the shops, thinking of you, but seeing nothing!

Whilst this article is about attitudes, check out my next post on sustainable/anti-consumerist gift ideas at buymeonce.com, here: BuyMeOnce (stocks things that last a lifetime): Brilliant for Christmas Shopping!

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

1 Comment

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Digital Nomad Tips – Work, Play, Travel

Academy Crowdfund Pic.pngIt’s been my most digital nomad trip yet – 10 days, 7 UK cities giving Crowdfunding/£0 Talks and teaching in person. Also did 8 Skype tutorials, not to mention phone calls, email and paperwork to keep up with whilst constantly moving. Did it all on public transport, carrying one backpack and a guitar, washing clothes in the sink and travelling as light as possible, staying with friends where I could and sleeping somewhere different almost every night.

Although I’ve had digital nomad status for a while now, it’s been in the form of long house-sits supported by my online teaching. This trip is much more packed and transient – classic digital nomad-ing like I’ve only ever heard about. Ok, so you could say it’s a bit like being ‘on business’ or ‘on tour’, but this particular cocktail of travel, offline work, online work, non-work life and normal day-to-day is pretty new. It’s a 20-teens phenomenon that feels like hippy backpacking/couchsurfing, but with full digital kit and the need to turn up smartly dressed and well rested. At times these factors seem at complete odds with each other! So, what did I think of the experience and what are my top tips for surviving it?

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Reading student’s essay drafts whilst the band soundchecks

Never let your ‘nomad’ get in the way of your ‘digital’. In other words, create your schedule around work – put it first. After all, it’s your digital work that makes it possible for you to travel. Say you’re in Paris, about to enter the Notre-Dame and a work call comes in. Do you take it? Yes. Sounds crazy at first, but without your digital work you wouldn’t even be in Paris. Today, you might not getting inside, but you’ll get be ‘at work’ with a view of the Notre-Dame! See you work something which allows you to travel rather than something that gets in the way of your sightseeing. It’s that way around.

Prioritise your bodies needs – sustenance, sleep, exercise. You’re not on a hedonistic weekend, you’re living normal life. Put your body first and you’ll be able to enjoy this and keep it sustainable (easier said than done!)

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Burshing my teeth at a cafe bathroom – fortunately the mirror doesn’t judge me

 

Do stuff when you can. Don’t wait till you ‘get there’, cause you never know when you might be delayed. In a queue? Answer an email on you phone. Nap on the bus, even if it’s just 15mins. Do some yoga on the train platform. Take little snippets of time and do what you need to, and you’ll find yourself much more resilient to the unpredictable nature of travelling, both in terms of getting work done, and meeting your bodies needs. You’re at home wherever you are, so don’t wait to relax when you get to your destination. Take your time. Other people may be commuting, rushing around you but you are effectively in your living room/office/bedroom whether you are waiting for a bus, strolling through a city. I try to never spend time “waiting” for the next thing.

Create habits around your stuff, so that when your disorientated, rushed or tired you’re less likely to leave things behind or be unable to locate them in your bag. My habits include, putting my wallet and keys in my shoes when I take them off, making it impossible to miss them on the way out, keeping my bag packed whenever possible and always putting things back in the same place within that bag (same for jacket/trouser pockets). I back up any digital documents I work on every time I use my laptop, just in case.

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How to sleep on the train: alarm set for 5mins before my station, with idiot proof list so I don’t forget anything!

Create focused work and play time. Your day will require you to switch in and out of work mode frequently. For me, the key to doing this is using alarms and what I call ‘blackouts’. If I’ve got 45mins with a friend, or 30mins for an online tutorial, I’ll set myself an alarm so I can totally focus on where I am without having to worry about the next thing. If I have to switch from one mode to the other, sometimes I’ll use a ‘blackout’ – a timed 5mins of no stimulation – eyemask, noise cancelling headphones, lying down if possible. I might do this just before a work Skype, or when I’ve finished my laptop time on a train and am moving onto reading for pleasure. It’s amazing how refreshed I feel after just that short but total break from the world!

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Yup – backpack over 10kg – time to stuff guitar with clothes then

Be ready to run! I’ve had several sprints for public transport this week. Being prepared for that really makes a difference. By default this means travelling light, and getting everything in the bag securely. Backpacks are the easiest type of luggage to run with, and I find 10kg and under manageable. This trip I travelled with 12kg (plus guitar) and really felt the difference. For me it was almost unworkable. Instead of being able to make decisions on the fly and carry my pack all day, I was strategising where/when I could dump my stuff. The main problem is that I use everything I carry, so without upgrading to lightweight kit it’s hard to get the weight down any further without leaving things behind that I need.

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My luggage obviously feeling tired too.

How successful was I on this trip? I’d say 80%. I aimed to keep up with all my work, and stay rested and presentable. Today is my last day and I’m pretty tired despite my efforts to prioritise rest. I’m up to date on all my digital work, which is fantastic. My habits are getting better – I didn’t lose anything. I’ll be seriously considering lightening my luggage even further for my next trip. But all in all, I’m thrilled – really enjoyed work, play, friends and adventures. This feels like the future!

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