Tag Archives: kimwei

Nothing’s Binary: The Song & Beyond

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted here, but don’t worry, I’ve been busy producing plenty of other content for you to enjoy in other mediums. Check out the Symphony For Happiness Vlog and Kimwei’s music Youtube to see what I’ve been up to in the last month, including my 7 day vlogging challenge, and plenty of new music videos.

In the past week, this original song which I recorded as a duet with Billy Bottle has been doing really well on Facebook, with over 6k in views and 100 shares. We created the video to co-incide with Exeter Pride (13.05.2017). It’s about being non-binary, but also celebrating LGTBQ+ as a whole. This goes out to anyone who seeks to be seen for who they truly are. When we accept each other, we love each other, and when we love each other we change the world.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the response and thrilled that the message has been so deeply received. We believe that expanding beyond the binary notion of gender is not just relevant to those who identify as trans, but to everyone, because we are all affected by the expectations of a society that sees gender in binary.

Now it’s time to take the phrase “Nothing’s Binary” even further. We want to put on events, entitled “Nothing’s Binary”, which are celebrations the full gender spectrum. We envisage a Post-Binary world in which anyone can freely inhabit any part of that spectrum and be seen, accepted and loved. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

Please do keep sharing this video, whether on Facebook, Youtube, or this post itself. You can also view/share this info through kimwei.com. I’ve created a special “Nothing’s Binary” page at kimwei.com/nothingsbinary

THE SONG: Click HERE to download for FREE!

THE MUSIC VIDEO:

THE VLOG:

-Kimwei

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The Wooden House

 

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Wooden House living room

I’m writing from a farmhouse in the Loire Valley, just having completed a 10 week house sit in a beautiful self built eco Wooden House just 30mins from here. Our host and friend arrived yesterday for a handing over of the keys, welcome meal and an afternoon’s unpacking and rearranging before we headed on, van packed to the gills.

 

At 10 weeks, this is the longest house sit yet, and although I’ve been calling it a “sit” that’s not truly accurate, because I don’t honestly think this friend needed their house occupied for that time period – it was more of a favour/exchange. It’s been the most ambitious house sit yet, being abroad in France where I don’t (yet) speak the language plausibly. It’s also my first try at being a true digital nomad, in that over 95% of my income for the period was from online work (Skype teaching).

DSC01545.JPGAs you can see from the pictures, we have been exceptionally lucky with a gorgeous location and beautiful house, however I wanted to write mainly about the challenges presented by a longer house-sit abroad and what I learned from them.

Van: I travelled without breakdown cover, because it would have cost £200 and I was advised that in France garages are plentiful. There were two problems in 10 weeks (that’s the type of van I own!). One non-starter – the local garage came to fix it, and one flat tire – I actually managed to drive to the tire-shop without creating further damage.

IMG_0056.JPGHaving no cover is quite high risk and I do still feel uncomfortable with it. Because I didn’t speak French, it took me two weeks to get the van fixed in the first instance, meanwhile cycling 14miles back and forth for food shopping. My bike was my “breakdown cover”. If you’re thinking of travelling without cover, it’s best with spare food, a bed and a bike in the van, not to mention never leaving the house without your phone and wallet. I learned that the hard way.

DSC01573.JPGHouse Care: With a longer house sit, it’s much more difficult to remember to put everything back in its original place. You might move furniture, or hide away precious ornaments you feel nervous about. I took reference photos, but even then it was tricky – which cupboard was that cheese grater originally from? I’d also ended up leaving my own stuff in many different places in the house without even realizing – a pain for packing up. If I did it again, I’d be stricter! I also wish I could travel with less stuff:

IMG_4460 My Stuff In France.JPG

My things. Music stuff on the left – recording studio, keyboard, guitar, flutes, live kit including amp. On the right, my personal possessions including cycling stuff (bike in van). May not seem like a lot but feels that way when you have to keep moving it. Sadly I’ve actually used all of it, so what can I discard?

DSC01578.JPGBeing in a house for longer there’s also more chance that something might break. I’d never broken anything during a house sit, but this time there were two broken glasses, a joint snapped on a chair and the plumber needed calling out when the toilet leaked. This panicked me! I prefer to leave a house just as I found it if not better, often cleaning, clearing or sorting some corner as a thank you to my hosts. Although we did plenty of that, I was still terrified. In the end I just had to accept that these things will happen from time to time.

IMG_4483.JPGFrance: The house sit was located in rural France, meaning that for the whole stay I really only spoke to 5 people besides shop staff. Although I wasn’t lonely, I felt very exposed, lacking the recourses of a more populated area. If I needed something, it wasn’t always possible to buy it. As a result, I joyfully found that the few neighbours were extremely collaborative. One picked me up from the rail station an hour away(!), after my train was delayed and the busses had finished. Another neighbour I took to work when her car was totalled. A culture of lending and giving freely was engendered by this isolation, despite the language barrier. Amazing!

Being a Digital Nomad: Focus focus focus! Many people must be imagining me leading the French lifestyle, a man of leisure, never having to go to the office. Whilst it is pretty idyllic, of course I go to the office, or rather the office comes to me. IMG_0087.JPGRight now, this is my view, sat in my van working. I’ve just had a Skype call with a colleague discussing a student’s essay draft, and look forward to writing up my lesson reports this afternoon, and preparing my tutorials for the evening. My schedule is different every week, but the most important thing is to be focused – both to be working when I am working and to play when I am playing. I’m still learning this and will write a post on it soon.

Hope this post has been useful to anyone thinking of trying house sitting, digital nomading, or other alternative lifestyle ideas.

-Kimwei

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Cure For Loneliness? – Be authentic

One apprehension I had about spending a few months in rural France was “will I be lonely?” After all, the situation is not that different to the 3 months I spent in Malaysia in my early 20s, where I was profoundly and painfully lonely. In fact, the decision to go alone and deliberately isolate myself was in part to explore my fear of loneliness. However, when I returned, I decided I was simply a social creature, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I set about investing in close friendships further, instead of seeing my need for people as some kind of weakness.

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My current stomping ground – miles of open farmland…

 

But here in rural France, I don’t see many people, there is a language barrier, I’m working from home and I only have contact with my English friends on the Internet. All this was the same when I stayed in Malaysia, so why did I feel lonely then and not now?

The difference is not how many people I see, or how often, but how fully I’m seen, understood and accepted by the people I do see. It’s about being able to be fully authentically myself with people.

When I stayed in Malaysia, I was only in contact with one friend in the world who truly understood me, so daily emails were like a lifeline. The main person I saw was my Grandmother, aged 80, who’s idea of who I was came entirely from her expectations of who I should be, and was vocal about it. Additionally, it was considered unsafe for me to go out on my own, as a single western female bodied person, so when out and about I had to keep my mouth shut. I was also aware that meeting a gorgeous lady and asking her on a date could end up landing me in jail. Essentially, during all my interactions with others I felt isolated.

I’ve felt this way within households I’ve lived in, and even whilst living with a partner whom I loved deeply, because there were other close relationships in my life at the time within which I felt painfully misunderstood.

There are aspects of me that may be totally outside of the field of vision of the person who I’m talking to (and show me anyone who can say different!). For me, these are the particular sticking points: fluid gender, sexuality, aspects of my mixed culture and spirituality, positivity. When these things went unseen or were seen negatively by others, it was hard for me to see them myself. Therefore, I couldn’t experience them, couldn’t present them or explain them to others, and experienced the pain of this as “loneliness”.

Over time I’ve found ways to make space for these aspects of me, to learn to be fully myself with the right people (I’m indebted to my friends & lovers for making space for this), and to find the language to explain who I truly am to new people on their own terms. I’ve realized the importance of being fully authentically myself in every aspect of my life – work, friendship, performance – an idea that is generally viewed as a recipe for disaster.

It’s said that social media and Internet communications cause loneliness, but I would argue that’s only true when they fool us into having interactions with people where neither party are being authentically themselves.

What I now believe is that the greatest gift you can give to another/to yourself is simply this – to be present and allow them to be whoever they are. This is easier said than done, as it requires a complete absence of judgment and abandoning of all expectations of who you think they are, or who you need them to be. This may also mean abandoning what you expect to be true about the world in general. It may widen your heart, your mind and your soul, since what happens next could be totally outside your current field of vision, understanding and experience. This is why making a space for someone is so powerful – it might give them what they need to finally be themselves, or to evolve into who they are going to be next…

-Kimwei

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Design 1 – My Dream Yurt

The 1st of three Dream Tiny Homes I’m designing and may build one day.

My Dream Yurt aims to be:

  • Comfortably liveable
  • Affordable (both to buy/build and to run)
  • Efficient in its use of interior space
  • Low maintenance (both time and cost wise)

The yurt used to live in had its flaws. It was damp. I kept my electrical gear in a cupboard in a house and barely got to use it. It had no power for the first few months and limited solar power after that. Because my setup was temporary it wasn’t possible to install plumbing or a toilet. But let’s imagine for the purposes of this design that we have a nice double skinned yurt or bell tent, on a platform, with no damp problems and good access to electricity, water from an outside tank and an outdoor composting toilet/bathroom.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

These are my needs for a living space:

  • A small double bed (smaller is better for warmth, but I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of having 2 people in the bed by choosing a single bed).
  • A minimal kitchen with running water
  • A space to use my computer (likely a fold out standing desk) and recording studio, including speakers.
  • Storage for clothes, guitars and instruments, music books.
  • A source of heat (woodburners are best for canvas dwellings as they keep them dry).

Other considerations

No matter what, I’d keep my possessions minimal. Even if I had lots of space, I like the simplicity of not having to deal with lots of stuff. Digital stuff isn’t so bad because it automatically files itself and is searchable, removing both the headache of having to find things and then tidy them away. The less I have, the smaller the space I can live in, which I find cosy. The smaller the yurt the cheaper it is to heat and the quicker it warms up when the fire’s lit.

I’ve decided on a 13ft diameter yurt, which is 132sqft inside. My previous yurt was 12ft and was a little small. There was enough room for everything, but it was hard to have guests or a rehearsal. However, they usually only come in 12ft and 14ft…if I had to choose I’d go for the smaller option.

For This Design You Will Need:

09 Yurt Ad Ever Wanted Your Own Hermit

My 2012 advert seeking a pitch – Click to read

A pitch (which may also provide a toilet, washing machine, water source, rubbish collection etc.)

  • A 13ft Yurt (if they even exist) – my last 12ft single skinned yurt cost me £1500 2nd hand, and was a great deal. New, a double skinned yurt would have been £3.5k
  • A Yurt platform – I built my last with a carpenter for £300 using a combination of new and skipped wood.
  • The resources and skills to build furniture from new or found/recycled materials (Even so, you’d need to pay for glue and screws, and probably have to buy some materials for the kitchen etc –  estimate £500)
  • A woodburner – I used Parp Industries (http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/Woodland_Yurts/yurt_stove.html) in Totnes and got everything I needed to install the burner myself, for under £400.
  • Access to electricity run from a nearby building, or solar (it’s hard in the UK to run totally off solar energy without it costing thousands). Estimate £150-200 per month for ground rent(?) bills (including wood), council tax contribution etc…)

Total budget esimate: £4700 initial outlay plus £150-200 per month running costs

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Building a yurt platform with Steve

Yurt before assembly, and the building of the platform

My old yurt before assembly

THE DESIGN

Click on the pics to read the annotations.

Bird's eye view

Dream Yurt – Bird’s eye view – Click to read annotations

Bedroom

My old yurt's bed and collection of bedside tables.

My old yurt’s bed and collection of bedside tables.

It seemed best to design purpose built storage around the bed. It would act as a thick layer of insulation for cold nights after the fire had died. In my last yurt, I pulled a curtain across the bed and the thermometer showed it kept the area 3 degrees C warmer – great for sleeping and for getting dressed in the mornings. Imagine how much warmer it would be in the Dream Yurt bed area!

I'd advise against a complete overhead curtain unless it's winter, since it means missing out on this view from the bed!

View of roof from bed in old single skinned yurt.

The last time I lived in a yurt I furnished it with bed-side tables, because they were often free. I also made some furniture – kitchen units and tables. I didn’t know how long I’d live that way, so wanted to keep my costs low, and not spend too much time on it. However, this is the Dream Yurt, assuming I have the resources to build bespoke furniture for a permanent dwelling.

The deepness of the storage units would mean that some stuff would be pushed to the back and be less accessible. I could use this for camping kit or other stuff that would normally be kept in a loft, but here it would still be useful, doubling as more insulation.

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area – Click to read annotations

Kitchen

Part of my last yurt's kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

Part of my last yurt’s kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

I’ve always been fine with just one gas ring and a woodburner. Other people might bemoan the lack of oven. The kitchen is deliberately minimal and probably has more crockery pictured than I’d use in reality. Hot water for washing up would be provided by the wood burner.

Experience has taught me that it’s best if the fridge is outside. Sometimes I’ve used a cool box rather than a fridge, which works for everything but meat. Even veg doesn’t last as long, but it can be the best solution for setups such where access to electricity is limited. A cool box can however be easily picked up and brought inside every time you cook.

Having a sink with a tap would be a step up from my last yurt, but it’s still good to be economical with water if you have to bother to refill your water butt yourself. There are probably rainwater collection solutions too but this article doesn’t deal with water sources. I used to pour water from 5ltr bottles, which was a drag. These days I still catch myself cleaning a bowl with a hot teabag out of habit, even when I’m in a house.

Dream Yurt Main Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Main Area – Click to read annotations

The Woodburner

Someone’s fed-back that it would be better to include a wider and strategically angled area of aluminium behind the woodburner than is pictured in my design. They are probably right.

My previous yurt was always stacked high with damp wood I desperately drying, but this design includes an outdoor wood store which should be water tight, meaning I’d only need to bring enough wood inside for a day at a time.

A facility for drying clothes over the fire is vital, but it’s important not to store your whole wardrobe there permanently, because it would all end up smelling of cooking. The coat and shoe rack are also near the fire for faster drying. I’ve balanced shoes on the hearth for quick drying in a pinch, keeping a close eye in case they ignite. Once I had the bright idea of toasting my PJs for 10 seconds on the burner before getting changed for bed. They melted after 8 seconds, so don’t try that one yourself!

Door Area

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter - disaster.

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter – disaster.

You may have noticed that I’ve written VITAL next to the doormat. This is because there’s nothing like living in a one room dwelling to show you what hallways are for. It’s amazing how easy it is to tread mud through your entire living area in seconds. My last yurt had 1 doormat inside and a path of 3 outside. It also had no porch, which meant that as soon as you opened the door, rain poured into your home whilst you tried to get over the threshold.

It’s vitally important to remove shoes whilst still standing on the doormat and put them straight onto the shoe rack.

Windows:

Having a double skinned yurt means opaque(ish) walls, so windows are necessary to let light in. They don’t need to open however, because you can just open the door.

Main Area/Living Room

The main area should be easy to transform for both work and play. Since there’s only one room in this house, it should be possible to fill it and clear it quickly so it can act as a study, practice area, gym, dining/entertaining area and more. At 132sqft, this dwelling can serve all these functions, unlike a 40sqft van which leaves me exercising outside, practicing guitar in the park and meeting friends in a cafe.

I’ve not included a standing-desk in my drawings but this is what I usually use to work on. There are a few reasons – it’s healthier, it saves space and it keeps you warmer (since you move more and more of your body is higher than woodburner level). A heavy duty music stand supports a laptop fine and then folds away. There are fold out chairs to create a social area (not my preference, but a compromise for the small space) and I’d consider a fold out table if I often had guests. It’s strange for me to think about this since I’ve not lived in spaces that have allowed me to have guests for some years, but I can imagine doing it often if I had the premises to. Floor cushions are another space saving idea but they are simply not an option because almost no heat from the woodburner reaches floor level. This is why I knitted extra thick guest socks for my last yurt.

As you can see from the diagram, the speakers are on casters so I can put them in the optimum position when I’m working on music. I’ve learned during my travels that I simply can’t mix on headphones, so if I had a permanent dwelling/workspace it would need to accommodate studio monitors.

What I’ve NOT included/addressed and why

Toilet: I’m assuming an outside toilet would be available. It’s best not to shit in the one room you live in, if you can help it. You may be pitched on land which is attached to a building, in which case you’d have access to a bathroom, washing machine and possibly even kitchen. If not, solutions may be specific to the limitations of your pitch, which is why they’re not detailed in this design.

Washing yourself: With a stove that can keep 3 pans/kettles warm at once, it would be quite easy to wash in a tin bath or basin. I tried this in my old yurt and it was lovely even in winter, since you have to stoke the fire to boil the water and can end up bathing in a body temperature room. I haven’t included this, but it would be easy to store a tin bath or basin hanging from the lattice.

Lighting: Assuming there’s electricity you could chose whatever lighting you wanted, but I haven’t drawn any in. Lightbulbs are cheapest and greenest, but candles are romantic. Candle lanterns suspended from the lattice are traditional.

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Four long candles and a carefully placed mirror used to light up my old yurt, although once I stumbled in late at night and grabbed the pull-cord for the lights… only to remember that I didn’t HAVE any lights and was just pulling on the rope that had been tied in to tension the roof!

Washing machine: To wash clothes, I’d assume that it would be better to find other facilities than to clutter up such a small space with a washing machine. If you had to have one however, I’d recommend building an outside cupboard for it, similar to the wood store.

Hoovering: I’d carpet my yurt for warmth for warmth, but any dwelling with a woodburner gets ashy and needs hoovering. Unless I had a decent electricity supply and could borrow a hoover from a main building on a regular basis, I’d get a small battery powered hoover, even if it took longer to do the job each time. A lot can be achieved with a dustpan and brush first of all.

Household Running Tasks

  • Chop firewood and light fire daily if possible in order to keep yurt nice and dry (This is partly why I turned out not to be suitable for yurt living – I travel too much. In the end, I wasn’t able to light the fire enough and bits of the canvas went green and the new owner had to have it cleaned).
  • Re-fill water tank (if you don’t have a rainwater collection system or pipes)
  • Food shop more often if you don’t have a full sized electric fridge
  • Clear woodburner of ash when needed
  • Check yurt ropes at least once a week
  • Only 132sqft worth of general cleaning and tidying

Maintainance Tasks

  • Yurt, naked without it's canvas, being maintained.

    Yurt, naked without its canvas, being maintained.

    Oil yurt wood once a year – 1 day’s work

  • Treat the wooden platform every summer – 1 day’s work
  • Replace ropes as needed.
  • Waterproof the canvas every few years as needed. A big task which involves taking the yurt down fully and essentially moving out temporarily.

So there you have it. I know I won’t be building this design any time soon, but I’m bound to some day. Basically, I wouldn’t be able to do it till I was ready to settle in one place for a few years at a stretch. Hope it’s helped you dream up your own design based on what you need. Alternatively, write to me with your needs and I could always draw you a design.

-Kimwei

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Letting Go / Standing On The Edge

It’s over a month since I last looked for work. I am self-employed and am deliberately letting my money dry up, to face my fears about running out. We’re still only in phase one of the experiment – allowing my bank balance to run to £0… and it’s not a zero yet.

But am I letting go of my fears about money?

Well, a friend played a practical joke on me by putting a fake parking ticket on my van. Despite the fact that the fine would have absorbed around 20% of the money I had left, I was surprised that I had no reaction to the prospect of being fined. When I found out it was a joke, I wasn’t angry either. What strange behaviour! Guess I am changing.

Picking up Chris the hitchhiker made a difference too ( https://symphonyforhappiness.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/the-wisdom-of-supertramps/ ). What I didn’t put in my previous post is that 10 minutes before I was due to pull over and drop him off, I said to Chris “Mostly everything I own is in this van. If there’s something you need, ask me for it. If it’s in this van I’ll give it to you”. I surprised myself in saying this, because I knew that I would honour it, even if has asked me for something expensive or important to me. I have so few possessions now that I only keep what’s important to me. But having so little, it occurred to me how much more difficult it might be for Chris to have even less. So whatever he asked for, even if I didn’t immediately have the money to replace it, I had more than him so what did it matter? As it turned out, all he wanted was some food and a tarp.

Just to get it straight, I’m not writing about my virtuous behaviour in order to paint myself in a good light, or be the hero of my own stories. In fact, as a Buddhist, it makes me uncomfortable to mention such things. However, I do believe that it’s important for us in the first world to re-examine the concept of money. Cataloguing my personal quest to face my own fears surrounding money is part of my contribution and therefore I feel the need to be honest about how this changes me and share it.

Out and about in London, with guitar and bike.

Out and about in London, with guitar and bike.

After conceiving the £0 challenge the first thing I did was go on holiday with the intention of running out of money. I went to London, to visit friends whom I hadn’t seen in years. My plan to run out of cash backfired when, being so pleased to see me, my friends wanted to pay for most everything. Even my hosts struggled to accept my contributions towards food, without even knowing about my £0 Challenge.

I struggled to spend money whilst out and about by myself because London is so abundant in food waste. Another way I’ve changed is that I’m developing a new resourcefulness, allowing me to operate with less money. My “wombling” skills have increased. One day I forgot my wallet entirely. Hungry at a food court I decided to eat whatever I found that looked safe and intact. Half an hour later, I actually had to stop because I was full, having found 3 half eaten foil containers of chinese takeaway, a bun (still in it’s wrapper), some chocolate, half a fancy cupcake and drunk an unopened bottle of softdrink. Later, when it got cold I found a jumper sticking out of someone’s bin. I wore it all week and then gave it to a charity shop, feeling good about having rescued something that would have gone to the landfill.

Image

Standing on the edge of some stuff.

The best result of this challenge is that I’ve been forced to come up with a way to make a great music video for free. For years I’ve wanted the money to make a slick music video, but it’s been out of my budget so out of the question. But now, I’ve come up with a great idea for a video for my song “Standing On The Edge”, that isn’t diminished by being low budget – in fact, it works BECAUSE it’s low budget, so anyone with a camera-phone can contribute. Whilst it won’t be “studio quality”, it will be great to watch, get lots of people involved and having fun in the process, and it’s totally free to make. Anyone can be IN my new video – all you have to do is send me some footage, as per the guidelines in this link to the “preview video” I’ve created ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XNDwS7wUwE ). 14 people have already contributed!

I’m getting more peaceful and less fearful overall, but not peaceful enough to simply give my remaining money away. Best to let these things happen in their own time. However, something is about to happen that could absorb my remaining money in 1 day. Watch this space…

 

 

 

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What to do in the meantime? Shoot videos, make websites, build kickstarter, but I’ll need your help…

Although I started this £0 Challenge on May 20th, the actual date that I stopped earning money was May 9th (about a month ago). I gave up all my remaining private guitar students to go adventuring in my van. After filling the tank with diesel I had £200-300 in the bank. A month later, I have been to the coast, to Oxford and London and somehow my bank balance still reads £200-300. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. When I started my challenge, I thought my remaining money would last me a week or two. A whole month later, I’ve still got the same amount as when I started?! ( https://symphonyforhappiness.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/im-taking-the-0-challenge/ )

So essentially I’m getting bored. A month of holiday was great – travelling around the country, seeing friends and not worrying about having to look for income. But now, I want to release the acoustic album I finished at the end of April, seek gigs, go busking and all that other singer-songwriter/independent musician stuff. But according to my £0 Challenge I can’t do any of those things until my money runs out, because they count as “seeking work”. I suppose I could just make it run out today by buying something I don’t need, or give it to charity, but as already discussed in previous posts, that defeats the point of the exercise.

Ninja Video Standing On The Edge

Stills from my “test shoot” for the upcoming music video shoot on June 14th. Thanks to Abi Crisp for giving up her time to film me standing on the edge of stuff.

Here are some of the things I can do in the meantime however:

  • Make music videos – I’ve got a great idea for a music video that you yourself could be in! It’s for the song “Standing On The Edge”, from the album Refraction & Redemption which I’m due to release this year. Be a part of the filmshoot in Exeter on June 14th. Alternatively, you can send in your own footage from anywhere in the world. See the event page for more details  ( https://www.facebook.com/events/1458751301038571 ) or facebook PM me if you’d like to contribute remotely.
  • Make a CD of acoustic covers that I could sell when I do go busking later this summer.
  • Update my website (kimwei.com) which I’ve just stripped down. I might even replace the section about my recording studio and production services with a whole new “Goldflower Studios” website, since it was getting a bit to big as my production portfolio has grown over the years.
  • Design album cover for my new album, soon to be released.
  • Write (but not launch) my Kickstarter page in order to release said album. For those of you who don’t know what kickstarter.com is, it’s a website which provides a great framework for an independent album release (among other things). Basically, you sponsor me as an artist by donating money – any amount. For a small donation you’ll be sent the new album as a thankyou. Sounds just like buying the album online right? Not quite. Because you can pledge any amount and there are many rewards to choose from. For example, a signed original lyric sheet (complete with crossing outs, missing verses etc), or a £100 might gain you a living room gig with the artist, in which you can pick your favourite songs. Some bands even include the guitar strings that were used to record the album, as a reward for a certain donation. I’ve still got mine on the guitar so that’s easily done. The artist uses the kickstarter money, either for a specific music project, or simply to keep on making music.

What rewards would you like to see on my Kickstarter page? Do comment / write to me with suggestions. The album is called Refraction & Redemption and the taster tracks can be downloaded from reverbnation.com/kimwei

Kimwei x

 

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

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…And So The Bank Balance Diminishes

With only a couple of hundred in the bank and having stopped seeking work until my money runs out, it’s been interesting to watch my own thoughts. Sometimes I want to spend/give away all that money at once, other times I want to make it last as long as possible because I’m afraid of running out.

Basically, I’m oscillating between “must spend” and “must save” – two intrinsic compulsions that money provokes in people, both of which are quite destructive and unbalanced. Observing these compulsive tendencies in myself further convinces me of the importance of facing my issues surrounding money by taking up this £0 Challenge.

Two compulsions...

Two compulsions…

Why not give all my remaining money to charity? Whilst this seems like a good idea, the point of the £0 challenge is to face my issues. Therefore, watching my reactions as my bank balance diminishes and working through my fears as I get closer and closer to zero, is an important part of the process and I should let the money run out in its own time. With any luck, I’ll end up less afraid of lack and be a more naturally generous person in the future anyway (which is worth much more in the long run than the small amount I could give to a charity today).

How should I manage the decline to £0? Rule 1 of the £0 Challenge ( see – https://symphonyforhappiness.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/im-taking-the-0-challenge/ ) I’ve set myself is to stop seeking any type of paid work until my bank account reads £0. I made this rule on the assumption that if I stopped seeking work, then none would come my way. But what do I do if I’m offered work before my money runs out? Well, the aim is to mimic what would happen if my business dried up, so I should take work as it’s offered, but not seek any. Surely my money will keep declining anyway?

But what if it doesn’t? What if I don’t promote myself, take no steps to seek gigs, students, clients for my recording studio, CD sales etc, and yet it simply refuses to dry up? That’s when I realized the beauty of The £0 Challenge. If I run out of money and then show that I can build a living for myself from that point, it’ll be a valuable journey for me to experience and for you to read about. If I try to go to £0 and find that I can never get there, in some ways, that’ll be even more profound! It would release my fears of running out of money in a completely unexpected way and it would be an anti-capitalist revolution.

Lets see what happens.

 

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

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The Wisdom Of Supertramps

It’s funny how starting on a particular path leads you to immediately meet likeminded souls. Having decided to take The £0 Challenge (in which I let my bank balance run to zero before I’m allowed to start seeking work) I met Chris almost immediately.

Chris is a 66-year-old professional houseless man, who subscribes to the-Gandalf-look hair-wise and the skip-diver look, clothing-wise. I picked him up in my van as he was hitchhiking to Wales and he informed me that he had been travelling around, living out of a rucksack for 30 years. During that time he’d no income, nor drawn benefits. He currently chooses not to take his state pension because it had been his own choice not to work during his eligible years. When I asked what he did for money he simply said, “I struggle along”, which could be a euphemism for begging, but I sensed he was not a standard tramp. For a start, he didn’t hang around in cities sleeping in doorways, but saw houselessness as a way to stay in nature, where begging would of course be more difficult.

Naturally I was fascinated at the idea of someone getting along in the world with no form of income. I asked him everything, from what was in his rucksack, to what he ate, where he’d travelled. It seemed that he got around mostly by hitchhiking, taking more than twice as long to get a ride than my young blond friend Jane ever does (which is a useful thing to know). He said “yes, young girls always get picked up easy, mostly because most blokes have a daughter that age”. Chris said his most important possession was his bed: a 4 season down sleeping bag and bivi. He claimed tents were too conspicuous and no use unless you were staying somewhere for several nights

It was clear that Chris could get along in the world with fewer possessions than most, but that’s also because all he wanted from life was ramble to around the countryside, sleeping outdoors. Naturally, all he’d need to do that was a rucksack’s worth of stuff. I asked him if he ever ran out of food and money. He answered “Yes, but you just keep going”. It was obvious then that Chris’s success at this way of life depended heavily on being able to accept going without his basic needs being met for short periods of time, without panicking.

Unfortunately what I want in life includes a wider range of activities than walking in nature. My drive for performing and recording music, necessitates a wealth of kit that just won’t fit in that rucksack. Although maybe this guy (below) is doing exactly that!

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This is not Chris. I didn’t take any pictures of him to preserve his animosity. This picture was taken from https://twitter.com/grumpy_oldbloke

However, this raises an important point – Chris proves that to live and be in nature is perfectly possible with the minimum of resources (although I don’t know what happens when he falls ill or needs dental work etc.) So why aren’t I doing the same thing? Well, it’s because I want to continue to engage with the modern world, socially, professionally, musically, use computers, phones, the internet and more.

It’s very important to recognise that this is my choice. It reminds me that each time I panic about running out of money, it’s not my survival, but my connections to the lifestyle I’m used to that’s threatened. One of my fears is that my computer/phone, which I depend on for work and enjoy for entertainment, breaks and I am unable to replace it. Even in the UK, people are running out of money for food but still refusing to sell their car or cancel their mobile phone contract. Why? Because doing so would cut them out of the game of getting another job.

Wait a minute! Panicking about having no food or shelter is sensible, but panicking about computer breaking is 21st century madness. Chris, and other’s like him serve to remind us of alternatives to the norm, where the norm has become as crazy as this: A computer is more important than food. How powerful are we willing to let Apple and Microsoft become?

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

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I’m Taking The £0 Challenge

As a self-employed musician, I have always been afraid of running out of money and having no work booked. I plan to face my fear and overcome it, by deliberately letting my money run out. Essentially, it’s about going to £0 and then trying to make it back to a healthy living from that point.

So what are the rules of the experiment? Well, they are dictated by what I’m trying to learn through this experience. I’m trying overcome a fear that many self-employed people harbour: what will happen if my work dries up? I don’t actually fear that I’ll starve, but my fear of running out of money is totally out of proportion. It almost feels as though I might die if I run out of money, even though I know that isn’t true. That’s how I know I have to overcome this fear.

The rules mimic what would happen if I simply ran out of work:

  1. To stop seeking any type of paid work until my bank account runs to £0.
  2. Once £0 has been reached, I can start taking steps to make my living through self employment.
  3. No begging, borrowing or stealing.
  4. No relying on handouts or state benefits.
  5. The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge.
Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying and instrument.

Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying an instrument.

When does the challenge end?

To face my fear, I don’t think that I need to carry out this experiment for very long – 1 or 2 months at most. That’s all I’d need in order to establish whether or not I can work up from £0. If I feel that my income is steadily increasing and that £0 no longer holds fear for me, I could end the challenge in order to, for example, borrow some money to invest in some music gear that helps me to make more money. Borrowing would be ok if I finally felt confident in my ability to make money, because I’d be confident that I could pay it back.

Another reason I might end this experiment is because of an extreme life event. Someone suggested that the challenge would be workable until an emergency happened to me or a friend or relative. This is a good point. What if my only remaining Grandparent fell ill and I missed out on valuable time with her because I couldn’t afford to travel to see her? I’d see that as going too far and would end the challenge in order to see her, if it meant breaking one of the rules to do so.

 

To answer a few questions:

A few people have asked me why the challenge I’ve chosen is so extreme. Others are saying it’s not extreme enough. I don’t think I’m doing a radical thing, when you consider that most self-employed people go to £0 sooner or later when work dries up. I’m simply creating that situation on purpose in order to face it now.

Keep in mind that the situation I’m creating must mimic what would happen if I ran out of freelance work. That principle shapes the rules that I’m giving myself. There’s no need to go to absolute zero with no money, no possessions, no food and be standing in the street naked. As with any challenge to do with conquering fear, its about going to the situation that I myself am afraid of. For me that’s about having £0 in the bank, with no job and no work booked. I’ve been in debt before, like many people, but each time I had work booked for the next week or so. Not this time.

 

Would I use the NHS and other taxpayers services?

I wouldn’t draw jobseeker’s allowance, because I have chosen to give up my job and so should face the consequences. I also wouldn’t feel comfortable taking state benefits if my business failed, because that would be my responsibility, not the state’s. However, I would still use the NHS and other taxpayers services unless I truly went moneyless and therefore stopped being a taxpayer. I’ve always declared all my income and paid tax when relevant and that wouldn’t change upon taking up this challenge.

 

Why not beg, borrow, steal or accept handouts?

The point of the challenge is to try and “earn” my way back from £0. That’s what I want to learn. I’m not aiming to learn how to apply for a bank loan, or how to persuade my friends into helping me out. I’d rather learn to catch my own fish. Once I’ve finished the £0 challenge, and am convinced of my own ability to make my way back from zero, I might be more comfortable with the idea of borrowing or even accepting gifts of money. Why? Because I’d know that I could pay borrowed money back. If someone really wanted to give me a gift of money I could accept their kindness because I could guarantee that their money wouldn’t be “wasted”. It’s like the parable of the careless man who loses all his money and asks his rich friend for help. His friend is very rich, but refuses to give him any money at all unless he can tend a flock of sheep successfully for a year without losing a single one. The rich man wants to be sure that the money he gives his friend won’t be carelessly frittered away.

 

If that’s the case, how can you justify accepting gifts?

One of the rules is: The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge. I don’t wish to stop people being kind or generous as normal. I might be more generous if I wasn’t so afraid of running out of money, so part of spirit of the challenge concerns encouraging generosity. So, if I went to stay with my Dad for a few days and he bought all the food, that’s ok because he normally does that when I visit. But if my Dad suddenly invited me to stay for a month, or sent me money because of this £0 challenge, then that wouldn’t be ok.

 

Would I break any of my rules if I was starving?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Footnote: I’m sure people will challenge or ask me to clarify EVERYTHING I’ve written as time goes on, so this post may be subject to additions and footnotes in the future as the fundamentals of the matter are bashed out.

 

 

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facing Fears Surrounding Money By Going To £0?

So what would happen if I ran out of money, with no job and no freelance work booked? It’s something I’m afraid of but it’s never happened to me. What would happen if I went to that point on purpose to conquer my fear of going to zero? It would be a lifestyle experiment.

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Stuff that I may have absolutely none of soon.

 

In my last post, I asked myself why I gave up a steady job as a University Lecturer in order to live in a van, with no current income planned? Let’s be clear about this – I also refuse to draw benefits. What right do I have to ask for state benefits when I can work, but have chosen not to? This leaves me in a very insecure position, with a van to run and only a couple of hundred left in the bank.

One reason that I quit my job is that even though it was only part time, it still didn’t leave me enough time to spend being creative as a singer songwriter. I had spent 5 years working on the same album in fits and starts, but after giving up my teaching job in March, I finished the album within the space of a month by working on it full time. Soon, I’ll start the process of promoting and releasing it by working full time at that… but first, a lifestyle experiment.

Here are some lifestyles I could have:

  1. Being employed part time = have enough money but not enough time for creativity (I already gave up this lifestyle at the end of March 2014)
  2. Having no job = have enough time for creativity, but where will the money come from? (this is where I am now)
  3. Doing freelance work = likely to be the same as option 1. In my experience, being self-employed takes up more time than a part time teaching job. (done this before)
  4. Being picked up by a record company or publisher = Being paid to be a singer-songwriter – but only if the deal is right! (If it’s going to come along, it will come along in it’s own time.)

I’m currently living in option 2 and wondering if a better version of option 3 is possible. Is it possible to make a good living from freelance work and have enough time to be a singer-songwriter? It would have to be done by either living on less money, or earning more per self-employed-hour.

But all 4 ideas are about earning enough MONEY to live on. There is another option – go Moneyless.

The Moneyless Man (Mark Boyle) lives without money and has devoted his life to helping others do the same. He lives an modest life and has everything he needs, but he gets what he needs without using money.

At first, I couldn’t see what the difference was between getting what you need with money or without it. Then I took a closer look and realised that money encourages a lot of negative tendencies in people that don’t exist with trade. Money can be hoarded (it’s called “saving”), an obsession with profit or gaining status through money is likely. People are constantly afraid of running out of money.

I am constantly afraid of running out of money.

I’m not planning to go moneyless, but what would happen if I let my money run out on purpose? Once my bank account reached zero I could begin to seek sources of freelance income, but not until then. The rule would be that even if I was struggling, I could neither borrow, beg nor steal, neither could I start living on hand-outs. I would have to earn, trade, or womble (to womble: to make good use of the things that the everyday folks leave behind) in order to make a living and work upwards from there.

The purpose of the challenge would be to try and dismantle the fears that I have around money. I can’t decide if I want to go moneyless or not, but if I AM to keep using money, I must stop being afraid of it. I could start trying to build a freelance business for myself right now, whilst I’ve still got money in the bank, but if I did, I’d always be afraid of going to £0. If I take this opportunity to go to £0 now and find that I can work up from there, then I can stop being afraid.

Just to be clear, this is not about some middle class kid irresponsibly running out of cash, having a hard time for a month or two and then thinking they know all about what it is to be poor. I would never presume to understand how poverty affects people just because I’d carried out a brief lifestyle experiment. This challenge would be solely about facing my own personal fears and issues surrounding money.

So what do you think? Should I do it? Comments welcome.

 

 

 

 

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