Monthly Archives: March 2011

Life is the journey.

Life is what goes by as your waiting for it to happen.

It’s too easy to mistake ‘life’ as the moments when we’re having a good time. When we’re doing something amazing like travelling, lying on the beach, sailing on a cruise boat or only when the weather is nice and sunny.

It’s also easily mistaken only as the big milestones in your life, like when you graduate, get married, get promoted or watching your kids grow up. We think that the times in between are something we have to put of with before we get to the weekend or our planned vacation when we can finally ‘live life’. But what many of us don’t know is that we’re already doing it.

Life is happening right now as you’re eating, working, waiting, breathing. It’s a miracle and yet it’s the easiest thing in the world.

We forget that life happens in every crevice of our existence. It penetrates every part of your mind, soul and body. Life is amazing. Life is the happy and sad times and all the moments in between too.

Life is the train journey before you reach your destination.

Life is waking up early, or sleeping in late.

Life is sitting back with a good book.

Life is waiting in line at the supermarket checkout.

Life is running until your lungs feel as if they’re about to burst.

Life is the moment you turn your bedside lamp off.

Life is when a good song comes on the radio.

Life is getting caught in the rain.

Life is staying up late to watch trashy TV.

Life is the smell of good cooking.

Life is every gray morning.

Life is every smile, every tear, every hug, every touch.

Life is every moment of everyday. It is right now, waiting for you to embrace it.

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Minimalist Meditations – who’s counting?

Most people don’t believe that ‘Big Brother’ really exists. Sure there’s security cameras in a few public places, but there’s not a lot of people that believe that there’s somebody keeping track of them 24/7.

Until it’s time to eat a buffet.

Then they go crazy. They eat and eat and eat, trying to get their ‘money’s worth’… as if there is somebody keeping tally if they get what they paid for.

But there isn’t. There is nobody to judge you.

This is the principle of sunk costs. When you’ve already paid for something, and there’s no way you can get it back, then the best you can do is try not to make things worse.

So if you’ve already paid, for example, $15 for an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can either eat about $15-25 worth of food, or stuff yourself with junk until you’re about to burst. Either way, you’re still going to be paying the same amount of cash and the register when you leave… except that you’ll also pay the price for a stomachache later on or in the long term, you’ll pay the price in your weight or health.

There are so many examples in real life of people ‘trying to get my money’s worth’ but end up paying in other ways.  Think about the principle of sunk costs in these scenarios:

  • Business people push on with projects that aren’t working because they’ve already invested a significant sum of money.
  • People refuse to change their minds about certain things because they’ve already spent a lot of their lives believing things are one way and not the other.
  • Toxic relationships are held onto because those involved have already put in a lot of time and emotion into the relationship and don’t want it to be for nothing.
  • People who live in houses with fixed utility bills use way more gas/electricity/water. They waste environmental resources because there is no incentive to use less.
  • Junk is stored in people’s garages etc. because the owners don’t want to sell it knowing they won’t get back what they paid for it.

Humans don’t like to ‘waste’ things they’ve worked hard to obtain (mostly money) and they don’t like to admit they’re wrong. Of course this doesn’t mean that we should simply throw money away by paying for things and not using them, but we should remember that hanging onto sunk costs is rather irrational behavior – usually trying not to ‘waste money’ uses up more resources, or as economists like to call it ‘throwing good money after bad’.

Resources that have been irrecoverably spent shouldn’t influence your future decisions on what you do with it.

As minimalists, we should keep the idea of sunk costs in mind. When you hang onto things you’ve already paid for, you’re still paying for it in some way – whether it’s cash/time to maintain it or to store it (by needing to rent a bigger house).

If you don’t need it, and you can’t return it, just get rid of it now. Give it to someone who needs it or sell it, even if you don’t get back the price you paid for it. Nobody is going to knock on your door and exclaim that they will pay you RRP for it, so just sell it for whatever somebody will pay. Something is better than nothing (or minus cash!). Plus, the benefits you get from peace of mind from getting rid of clutter and knowing you’re not wasting even more precious resources should be enough of a reward.

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Back from another trip

Hello everyone, I’ve been on a trip to Hiroshima for a few days and have come back to find another spam post. I’ve learned my lessons from last time that because of google caching, I cannot delete the post, so I’ve replaced it with a request for help instead.

If anybody knows how to repair this (I do not think it is not a password problem, I have changed it) please contact me. Again, I am very sorry for this post, I hope you forgive me.

Thank you.

Much love, Jessica.

5 life Lessons learned from the earthquake in Japan

Many of you have probably heard about the earthquake that hit northern Japan last Friday March 11th, and the tsunami it caused and the current nuclear ‘situation’. Fortunately, the region of Kansai where I live is mostly unaffected, but much of the damage and devastation it caused is still ongoing.

A random accumulation of circumstances has lead me to be where I am now. You could call me unlucky that I happen to be in Japan, or you could call be lucky to have survived unscathed, but either way, assigning things that simply happen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is futile, what matters is what’s happening right now, not the labels that we’ve attached to it.

lessons from the quake

On foundations

When the very ground you stand on – something stable you think will always be there to hold you up – starts to shake and break  apart, you have no choice but to realize that nothing is permanent. If you can’t even rely on the ground you’ve always stood on to always be there, what can you rely on?

The fact that things are changing all the time is something to celebrate. Human beings have a superpower called adaptability. We can learn how to deal with changing situations, learn new things and have fun from new experiences. Our lives are short and the places we go and things we see and people we meet won’t be there forever, but that’s what makes life interesting.

On the media

If there’s one other thing I’ve discovered it’s the power of the media and what ramifications it can have if news reporters exaggerate and blow things out of proportion. I’ve suffered more stress from trying to reassure family members that I am quite alright than being worried about the earthquake or the radiation itself.

People are freaking and leaving areas of Japan where there is little or no danger of radiation because of how the news is being reported. Panic is being created which is making situations worse. Radiation is happening all the time, from our kitchen microwaves and food treatment, to our wireless routers and cell phones, to to medical scans and most ironically, airport security scans. Unfortunately, in the framework of a crisis things get completely blown out of proportion.

It’s impossible to police all news outlets, and even harder to ask people to look at evidence more objectively, which has lead to a worldwide misunderstanding of the issue. I’m not going to go into criticizing the media or human ignorance right now, but I just wanted to make clear that I have weighed up all of the facts and real evidence and have made an informed decision that it is completely unnecessary for me to quit university, abandon my travel plans and leave my host family just because of a few choice adjectives used for headlines.

On fear

I came to Japan fully aware that it is an earthquake prone country. If I was not okay with the fact that an earthquake can happen at any time, I would not have flown across the world to get here. Since I was largely unaffected by the earthquake in Sendai, my stance on this has not changed. In the world, huge earthquakes like this are relatively rare. In any case, an earthquake is always going to ‘might happen’ in Japan, but I shouldn’t let it control my life.

If I let this way of thinking take over, in that case, I would never go to the States in case I ‘got shot’ (thank you media) or to even leave my house in case I catch bird flu or mad cow disease or something. Everyday that we’re alive there’s a danger that something ‘might happen’ but we take that risk because not doing anything in fear that you could get hurt isn’t living, which is basically a slow death anyway.

On love

As much as people are panicking and making things worse, there’ s a lot to be said about the help people all over the world have given Japan in these hard times, whether it’s in the form of money or food/water/blankets or even their own time as volunteers.

There’s something about disasters such as this that makes people come together when they otherwise wouldn’t have. Even if they can’t give anything, they’re giving their thoughts, sympathies and well wishes, which is valuable too.

I’ve also been touched by readers who immediately contacted me to ask if I was okay as soon as they heard. I’m truly grateful to have such a caring bunch of readers like you guys, it means a lot to me.

On beauty

Over the past few months, this country has almost become my home. That’s why it’s quite upsetting to see the devastation that the tsunami has left behind. Not only is an entire part of Japan’s beautiful Tohoku area been wiped out, but so has potentially thousands of innocent people who didn’t stand a chance.

Japan is a country full of the kindest people I’ve ever known and some of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’m sure this country’s strength of unity will see it through this disaster.

I realize I talk about Japan a lot, so I’m just going to leave it here with a few postcards from my travels.

You can find more on my Japan blog.

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Things that matter

My first time in a kimono

Today is my birthday.

A whole year has passed since I wrote my first birthday post on this blog. I remember it was just turning midnight when I sat down, took a deep breath and wondered, what in the world will this year bring?

Little did I know, the best year of my life so far was about to come.

Flicking through old posts in the archives, I can tell that as I’ve changed, so has this blog. I’ve moved on from talking about a few trivial matters to things that really do matter. Not things that we think matter, but things that truly do. And there’s a big difference, because so many things that we think are important aren’t really, they just appear to be because they’re urgent or have ‘deadlines’, but in the bigger picture, few things really do matter.

I guess that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Find out what things are important to me. Then, minimalize. Focus. Do.

It hasn’t been easy, but if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that there’s actually more to gain from cutting down not adding up.

The blog has grown so much, and I think I have too. I feel like a completely different person from who I was last year. I thought this year abroad was going to be a little bit of fun and adventure, but just from a bit of travelling, I’ve learned and seen things that have changed me in ways beyond even my own understanding. My host family has shown me kindness that is indistinguishable from real family love, and the connections we have made are the kind that will last a lifetime.

I can’t imagine how next year can get better than this, but at least I can hope for it.

thank you

So I just wanted to thank you all so much for supporting me all this way. For every post I write, fewer than 2% of you actually comment, but I absolutely love hearing from you guys, so please don’t be shy and speak up!

You can also find me and more minimalist morsels on Twitter.

Please keep reading, and help me spread the word. We’re all aiming for the same goal here, so the more that join us, the merrier!

Lastly, if you wouldn’t mind, how about buying me a birthday drink tonight?

 

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

[EDIT: I wrote this post before the earthquake in Japan happened to auto-publish on my actual birthday. In light of the disaster that has been unfolding, I will personally donate proceeds to the earthquake relief fund in Sendai, Fukushima and Miyagi. Thank you for all of your concern and support].

Plugging holes

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying hard to not log on my laptop everyday like I used to, and enjoy my time offline a little more.

So the other day, when I sat down to relax but found a slew of comments from people informing me that I had a spam post on my site, I was horrified to see that someone had managed to publish a post of complete nonsense under a different username! What cheek! I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit upset for losing a couple dozen geek points too for having my security breached.

To all my readers that received it in their feed (damn you google caching), I’m so sorry about that!

I was quite upset and I spent the next hour looking up what could have happened and what I could do to fix and prevent it. Then for the next few days, I logged on twice everyday to check that the spammers weren’t back.

Slowly, I noticed that I was regaining some of my obsessive habits again, so after a few deep breaths,  I came to realize something very important.

We can’t spend our lives constantly plugging holes.

Things like this can happen anywhere and at any time, so I could either let incidents like this push me back on track of constant obsessing or I can fix it, learn from it and move onto bigger and better things.

If we spend all of our time meticulously tracking stuff, looking for problems, and trying to keep every single thing in our lives working, it would be impossible for us to get anywhere. There are too many things in our lives to keep a mental eye on, including anything from our weight, news/gossip, email, finances to our work/grades, gadgets and a thousand other things. To keep something working 95% of the time is infinitely easier than keeping it working 100% of the time.

Being careful about important things (like the security of my blog :S) is definitely helpful, but becoming obsessed can be more destructive to our goals than constructive.

It’s like spending all out time trying to patch up every hole in a run-down house instead of realizing that we’re supposed to be living in it, not maintaining it. So we can either stubbornly stay and worry about all of the things that are wrong with it or we can stop wasting our time and move on.

This doesn’t mean we should give up when things start getting tough, but instead that we shouldn’t let fear of our weaknesses and failures stop us from trying for successes.

In any case, if we happen to make mistakes, we should just take them as lessons learned (I had deleted the spam post straight away but looking back I realized it was probably best to have changed it’s contents to a proper post), and be glad that we even showed up in the first place, which is more than you can say for most people.

Sorry again, and thanks for reading! You can find me on Twitter for daily updates, subscribe to MS via email or leave a comment below!

How I’m living a millionaire’s lifestyle and how you can too

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The breeze is running through your hair. It smells so sweet and fresh. The sound of the sea waves parting under the boat is regular and calming. The sun is setting over the mountains and the sky is tinged in a deep pink and orange. You take a deep breath and there is just one thought running through your mind “Ah, this is the life“.

That was my weekend. (Photo credit: me☺).

A few weeks before that I was watching the sunset from the top of a mountain in Shikoku, Japan, and who knows where I’ll be at the same time next weekend – an ancient town, a modern city, talking to locals, eating ramen or a thousand other things that the world has to offer.

But I’m no millionaire. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t have a regular job and I don’t own a stick of furniture to my name. I’m living off a few tutoring gigs, a small scholarship and the generosity of the Japanese people.

So how can I afford to do all of these amazing things?

The answer is simple. It can be summarized as:

You don’t want to be a millionaire.

Sound ludicrous? “Of course I want to be a millionaire! What kinda crazy person doesn’t?!” It’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

I’ll repeat it because it’s very very important that you know this. Deep down, you don’t want to be a millionaire.

That’s because you want what you can do with a million bucks, not the cash itself.

There is a crucial difference. I’m going to be bold and just assume that if you’re reading this then you care more about experiences vs. stuff – you care more about living life, not working it, and you would rather do/go/see wonderful and amazing places or things with/to/for other people,  instead of owning material objects.

If you don’t, and you care more about accumulating expensive things you don’t need, stop reading now, pop over to minimalism 101 and if you’re still here then you can read on.

One day, (when I’m a millionaire) I’ll…

People literally spend their time, money, health, relationships, effort and lives burning themselves out trying to make a million dollars or something close to it, without realizing that the goal isn’t an arbitrary amount of cash.

It’s not much of a generalization to say that there are too many people stressing themselves out trying to do too much, just so that they can earn enough money to buy lot’s of stuff… but even worse than that, they doing it to save up for ‘one day’.

I’m all for saving up and being prepared for the future, but this meaning of ‘one day’ isn’t good enough for me. It implies that I slave over a job I don’t like right now, just so that I don’t have to do it later. It implies that I have to wait about sixty five precious years be able to do the kind of stuff I had really wanted to do all along.

These people don’t realize they want a lot of money precisely for the reason so that they can quit there jobs, fly to a beach and relax in the sunshine.

What they’re really saying to themselves is “If I had a million bucks, I would….” and so they work all there lives to get that million and they forget that they could just do whatever comes at the end of that sentence for a fraction of the cost. Common answers are:

  • quit my (soul-sucking) job
  • take lessons in… [insert dream hobby/skill]
  • sip cocktails on a beach
  • go on a cruise/mountain climbing etc.
  • go to x city (London, Tokyo etc.)
  • go backpacking

or even:

  • have everything I ever wanted

For me? Done. Done. Done.

Okay, so this plan won’t work if you’re goal is to roll around in a million one dollar bills, but for most reasonable or more importantly extraordinary goals, a couple thousand is more than enough. And this is not to say that everyone hates their job, just there are many people putting it first whilst forgetting what it is they’re working for in the first place.

Finally, I’m not saying we shouldn’t save up for when we’re too old to be able to work – just that we don’t know if we’ll even make it that far, so we should be prepared if we do, but live life whilst we know we have the chance.

Minimal Student’s guide to conquering the world

Making the realization that you don’t want the money, you want what you can do with it is the first step, next you just have to take the initiative. Let’s compare the costs of a few of the costs that we pay for just practically staying still:

  • a car, plus tax, insurance, gas for a year = from $2000+
  • rent of an apartment/shared house in a medium-big city = av $350 x 12 months
  • two seasons of av. Christmas presents expenditure =$500+
  • an smart-phone contract =$299 + av. $30 x 12 month contract (normally 24)
  • bi-monthly shopping trips expenditure per year = $120 x 6
  • gym membership = $20 x 12

Total cost per year = approx $8000+

(of course prices are approximate and vary from country to country and based on currency)

versus: skipping having a car/phone/gym contract, keeping only a small apartment (or storing stuff at parent’s house), and being forgiven for not buying a few presents – the cost to fly from America to London, then around Europe (Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.) for about 10 days:

  • approximate flight total* = $2000
  • hostel/hotel = av. $20-30 per night x 10 (free if staying with friends)
  • food = av. $15-25 per day x 10
  • other/travel/misc costs = $10-$25

Total cost of around  = approx $2500

*Not calculated but flights between European cities can be dirt cheap if booked last minute since airlines will take almost anything you can give them for left-over seats just before take-off, which can be as low as $25!

And that was calculated for an extensive (albeit quick) tour of Europe all the way from another continent!

I know this isn’t exactly a scientific analysis but you get the idea. Travel is much cheaper than most people expect and definitely cheaper than people are afraid of. If people just got rid of even one or two of the things from the above list, they would be putting themselves in the position to have a memory-creating adventure of a lifetime.

People who are paralyzed by ‘money troubles’ are using it as an excuse. If your dream is to travel around the world, you can do that for less than the cost of a year’s rent in a medium-big city.

If you look in the right places, plane fares are only a couple hundred at most to fly from one part of the world to the opposite side, but most people pay that in gas and insurance for their cars (in one year). Go on, I dare you right now to google flight prices from wherever you are right now to wherever in the world you want to go. Boat cruises and over-night buses are even cheaper.

As for accommodation, I’ve stayed in places ranging from semi-luxury hotels, to bed and breakfasts to an overnight Karaoke bar (in fact, in the latter was probably the most fun I’ve ever had). The trick is to save money by staying in ‘nice’ places in a cheaper city and then very cheap places in expensive cities. If you’re worried about ‘having a good night’s stay’, in my experience I’ve found that this trick balances it out because if you pay more in not-so-posh places you’ll get something adequate instead of gross and if you pay cheap in popular cities you’ll get something adequate, not overpriced.

It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have

If your excuse is that you ‘don’t have enough time’ well, that should be a good indication that should cut down a few commitments. Re-prioritize, say ‘no’ to a few hours of work or other extra responsibilities and put yourself first, at least for a few weeks. If your time is in that much demand that you can hardly break away, well, that’s more proof that you deserve a break.

And if you’re not really interested in travelling, there’s plenty of other options too. Go out and do something nice for yourself or with your friends or do something different, and memorable.

If helping people in need is what you want to do, you don’t have to be a millionaire for that either. You can change lives with just a few dollars or even just giving away some of your time. Figure out what you want and get creative!

I’m sorry if you were looking for a ‘get rich quick’ how-to post, but this isn’t an invitation to spend like a millionaire, it’s an invitation to live like one – which ultimately means to do all of the things you’ve only dreamed of doing. Of course, you might not get to stay in five star hotels or rent a penthouse suite, but you have to be open to compromises which are always better in the end than making excuses not to go at all.

So basically, this is what you will need:

  • guts  – it takes bravery to admit that you don’t really need a million bucks, or a massive flat-screen TV with cable subscription, or a fancy sports car, or massive house.Let other people do all the earning and waiting until they’re grey and old, waiting for life to happen to them, while you start enjoying your life right now.
  • a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just spend 20 minutes doing a quick Google search of costs/prices of the things you want to do. Is it as bad as you thought it would be? If not, keep working on your plan, cut a few bits here and there, but even if it costs a lot, it’s worth not abandoning the idea if you can save enough to do it within 2-3 years, almost anything is better than waiting 40 years!
  • to reduce your current life overhead costs.

What you don’t need:

  • ‘one day’ disease
  • to be wasting money on dream-unrelated stuff
  • a million bucks

Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions now:

  1. What would you do if you had a million dollars?
  2. Is there a way I can do it for less?

If the answer to question 2 is ‘Yes!’ or even a ‘maybe!’ then you’ve got a chance.

What’s stopping you? You only live once, go out and live your millionaire lifestyle now!

What is will your millionaire lifestyle be like? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter

 

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