Category Archives: Travel

The most important thing you need to know about completing your bucket list

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by Jessica Dang

Last year, I made a bucket list of some of the things I wanted to do in my life before I die. Usually, when I have an important goal to achieve, I would break down the goal – what do I have to accomplish by when? What do I have to do first in order to do second? Complex goals usually require complex planning.

However, I intentionally left my bucket list vague. Indeed, some of them are just one word long. Why? Because contrary to what it sounds like, the things on my bucket list are not goals. 

what a bucket list really is

My bucket list tells the story of an adventure – my adventure. A good story isn’t about the destination, but the journey there. No matter where you go or what you do, it’s what you learn, and how you grow on the way that matters.

Travel is about discovering yourself. The phrase ‘finding yourself’ usually conjures up the image of a mountaintop or some other glamorous destination. However, you won’t find out who you are by wading through the Amazon or meditating in a Zen temple. Everything you need to discover about yourself is already within you.

Knowing this is liberating. It means that you can find meaning in your own backyard. You don’t have to get on a plane – just going for a walk around the block, or taking a train to the next town, can be an adventure in itself. You can learn a lot just by being more mindful of the surroundings you’re in right now, and taking a moment to be grateful for what you already have.

However, if it’s possible for you, visiting other countries can also be worth your while. Going outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s in the same country, or within another culture, can open mind, and widen your perspective on the different ways of thinking by different people. It can challenge your beliefs – which is a good thing – and make you stronger as a person.

Wherever you choose to go, remember that there is a difference between travelling for the sake of travelling and going somewhere to enjoy the journey itself. In other words, are you just trying to get to ‘X’, or do you care about the road there? When people create bucket lists, are they really only thinking about reaching a destination? Or are they thinking about the journey too?

The real question is, which one are you thinking about?

real travel is about the journey, not the destination

by Jessica Dang

The Buddha’s story isn’t about reaching the goal of enlightenment itself, but about his pursuit of the rightful path

The concept is easier to understand when you look at the other things I have on my list. For example, ‘learn Japanese’ is so vague – how can one possibly know when they’ve ‘learned’ a language? The answer is that you can’t. I’m now living and working in Japan, and I could say that I’m fluent in Japanese, but I still haven’t crossed it off the list. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a place where I can say I’ve ‘completed’ this item, but that was never my intention. It was the process of learning that has given me so much. Because I’ve taken the time to learn a new language, a whole new world had opened up for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t made the effort.

In the same way, I didn’t run a marathon for the medal. After all, it’s just a piece of metal. A medal and a free T-shirt is merely a representation of my hard work. It was all of those hours I spent running that mattered. By training for it, my body became healthier, I learned to eat better, and I built my mental and physical endurance. The actual marathon itself didn’t matter nearly as much as the sweat and tears I had shed in all the runs I did before it. The strength I gained didn’t just happen to me suddenly when I crossed the finish line, I collected it slowly, step by step, along the journey that I had already made.

So yes, you and I may never complete our bucket lists, but that’s okay. This is not an excuse. It’s not supposed to merely be a list of stuff to be ticked off one by one – it can be so much more than that.

Your bucket list should tell your story. How it goes is up to you. 


Wing it for all you’re worth

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A lot of changes have happened in my life over the past few months. I completed my final exams, graduated, worked in central London… and moved to Japan.

I’m here to start a new life. No, I don’t have a job waiting for me. No, I don’t have a clear-cut plan. No, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

But that’s the exciting part. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I’ve always been up for a good adventure. My job in London was based in Whitehall, for central government. It was a great job and it paid well. I learned a lot, but it was too… safe. So instead of staying, I packed everything I owned into a suitcase and came to Japan.

Something irresistible pulled me back to this country. Maybe I left my heart behind when I lived here two years ago. Maybe it’s my intuition telling me that there is something important that I need to do. Whatever drew me back, I have a feeling I’ll find out the reason why soon.

tano river

From the bustling city, full of traffic and too many people, I am now living in a cosy countryside house with three tatami rooms. The view from my window is beautiful. Green mountains stand tall against the clear blue sky. Golden fields stretch far into the distance. The river by the house flows calmly towards the open sea.

Some might call my decision reckless, but I don’t care. After I find my bearings again, I might move to Tokyo or Osaka. And I can always go back to England if things don’t work out – not that I would give up that easily.

For now though, having peace to write, room to breathe and a reason to smile makes it all worth it.

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A beginner’s guide to one bag living

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For many aspiring minimalists, the golden grail is One Bag Living, or what I like to call ‘OBL’. It’s a lifestyle that comes from being able to reduce everything you have to only what you need and reaping all the rewards of not being weighed down by junky, excessive baggage.

If you’re interested in what it’s all about you’ve come to the right place.

what is OBL?

Firstly, I should mention that one bag living isn’t for everyone, just in case people start to think I’m advocating everybody and their grandmothers start throwing stuffed backpacks on their shoulders and hitting the road.

Nor am I saying it’s a permanent way to live – although I know it is possible to live long-term. Yes, the kind of OBL I’m talking about works best for single people but that’s not to say that downsizing for a couple or even just a little for a family isn’t possible.

For the last couple of months I’ve been living out of a suitcase… but I’m having the time of my life. I realize there’s something about the words ‘living out of a suitcase’ that scares people. It has bad connotations, as if one has no stability or adequate income or that someone is just unable to settle. But for me, these words have come to mean something completely different. They have come to mean freedom, fun, exploration and discovery.

‘One bag’ doesn’t necessarily mean a concrete measurement like ‘1x 30 inch suitcase’ or ‘1x carry on suitcase’. Essentially, it means reducing your stuff down to a level that’s right for you, which all depends on what you do for a living, how much you can handle, where you want to go and what you need for your interests or job and so on – as long as you get everything down to only. what. you. need.

It’s also not necessarily about fishing rolled up shirts from a zip-up suitcase or hotel-skipping, although it can be.

You can even do OBL from your own home. The point is to clear out anything irrelevant so that you can focus on what matters to you – whether that’s travel or family, school, hobby, art or even your business.

However, if you manage to reduce your things to about one (or maybe even two or three) suitcases, you can also just about live anywhere in the world. You don’t have to earn millions to be able to rent a small place in even the most expensive cities (believe me, I know). Or, if you’re not interested in travelling, clearing clutter can do wonders for your focus on your goals.

With OBL, the possibilities are endless. In fact, with all this freedom, you’ll be surprised to learn what was previously impossible is actually within reach. Things that ‘only happen in movies’ can become real life.

a clean slate

Imagine for a moment that you got to start again. For some reason you got a rare chance for a fresh start. You don’t own any clothes, shoes, bags, gadgets, books, toiletries or furniture.

Then somebody gave you one suitcase and you could put everything you needed in it for two or three weeks. How would you pack? What would you choose? How would your life be different?

5 steps on how to effectively live out of a suitcase

1. Eliminate. The first, most important step is to get rid of everything you don’t need. Things that you’ve kept ‘just in case’, extras, backups, things that don’t work or fit, things you don’t use or have forgotten about or simply don’t like – it’s all got to go. Most people have more things they don’t need than they do, so a sensible approach that might make it easier would be to mentally get rid of everything then bring back one by one things that are most essential to you. Be strict and firm and ask questions such as how often you actually use it and what reasons you’re really keeping it for.

2. Digitize. Whilst eliminating, you might find that a lot of the things you have can be replaced, so you won’t have to lose them forever. Paperwork, photos, CD’s and books are just a few of the many things you can keep if you can get them in digital format. My less-than-half-an-inch thick kindle has replaced dozens and dozens of my books (and made them instantly searchable!) and my external hard drive replaces boxes of lecture notes, shelves of CD’s and albums of photographs.

3. Minimalize your wardrobe. Clothing is usually the most difficult area to tackle when it comes to downsizing. When you have fewer garments, it’s important that most items can be worn in most kinds of weather and occasions. It also helps to choose neutral colours (which you can brighten up with one or two accessories) so that you can pretty much mix and match whatever tops and trousers you would like to wear.

4. One in one out. Just because you’re down to less stuff, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop buying altogether. There’s nothing wrong with getting something new if you swap it with something you already own (preferably by donating it away) since you’re not actually gaining in quantity. Think carefully before you buy – how long will it last? How useful will it be? Is it worth it?

5. Adapt. If you find yourself starting to accumulate stuff, try to remind yourself why you chose OBL in the first place. What are you doing it for? Has it benefited you so far? Sometimes people are too strict and allow themselves too little. Remember that minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself of things that you want, it’s about freeing yourself from the clutches of consumerism so that you can have the life you want.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that situations and people change, and that not many people can live a single kind of lifestyle forever, whether it’s OBL or living at home with one’s parents or a college, or corporate, or even country lifestyle. People crave excitement, and OBL can give it to you, but don’t be surprised if you see yourself looking for a change again – maybe a change of wardrobe or maybe a change of scenery.

I’m nearly finishing up with with my travels now, and I can’t believe some of the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I know I’ve made memories I’ll remember for a long, long time. It wasn’t always easy, but because of OBL, I managed to get through some rough times on the road and have the adventure of a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade that for all the possessions in the world.

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5 lessons learned from a year living in a foreign country

Today was my final day in Japan. By the time you read this, I would have probably already landed in Hong Kong, ready for my next adventure. It’s been almost a year of culture shock, ups and downs, exploring, learning, having fun and so much more. I’m grateful for how much I’ve discovered about myself, other people and about hard work, kindness and life itself. It’s hard to whittle down an entire life experience into a few lessons, but I’ll try my best. However, almost everything I learned doesn’t only apply to living in another country – but can also apply to anything you want to do.

1. Enjoy the honeymoon.

When you first arrive in a foreign country, everything is like a dream. You’re whisked here and there, taken to admire the cultural diversity, eat great food and talk to people who are always nice to you because they want to make a good impression. At the same time as being in a daze, your senses are on high alert and you notice every little thing that’s different from your country around you. It’s easy to get out of bed early in the morning even though you can hardly sleep all night from the anticipation of what the next day would bring.

But’s it’s not until you stay for at least a couple of weeks that you get a feel for what it’s really like. The transition from regular ‘tourist’ to ‘resident’ is like turning the heat of the bathwater up (yes, you can do this in Japanese baths) – you don’t notice it until it burns you. It’s not always necessarily bad, but eventually you start to accept that there are things that are different that are good, and then there are things that are different and not so good, but that’s okay, because that’s the way things are – like a best friend who have their own flaws but will always be there to comfort you in your time of need. Whenever you start something new, you’re likely to experience a these kinds of emotions. It’s easy to do things when you feel like doing them, but the real test of character comes when you challenge yourself to work on the marriage even when the honeymoon period is over.

2. Nothing compares to real life.

In the vain hope of reducing the chances of making cultural blunders, I read prolifically before I came to Japan – phrasebooks, history books, guidebooks, culture books, even cookbooks. Heck, I spent a year learning so much about Japan that I was basically eating, breathing and dreaming it. But when I got here, most of the things I’d learned either a) flew right out of my head (especially the language), b) were incorrect or c) never came up. I still haven’t had the chance to demonstrate that I memorised the names and locations of all 47 prefectures in Japan.

I’ve learned that you can read/watch/study all you want about something, but still not get a taste of how it really is until you get there. The same applies for anything from sushi-rolling to mountain-climbing to clearing out your closet. Sometimes it’s because people manage to make excuses to not do it, and sometimes it’s because people think they can substitute reading books and blog posts for the real thing, but nothing compares to really throwing yourself out there.

3. Jumping in the deep end is the quickest way to learn to swim.

On that note, I learned more Japanese and about Japanese people in a month than I did in an entire year of studying. There’s always going to be people who hide from actually doing amazing stuff because they’re too busy staying in their comfort zone. There’s really no method to learn quite like knowing that your life depends on it. After doing this year abroad, I’ve even realized that it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that you can gain daily-life fluency of almost any language (ie. making friends, working, ordering, going out etc) within a year or two of living in that country… which can add up to a whopping 2-3 languages in about a 5 year span! (Of course, one has to keep in mind the diminishing returns of trying to gain that last 5-10% of fluency). It all depends on how willing you are to swallow your pride, stick your neck out and make mistakes. I’ll be making my way to Hong Kong next. I haven’t decided how long I’ll stay there, but I’ll be interested to see how much Cantonese I can learn in that time…

4. You won’t get a good view just looking through the keyhole.

When I went to visit Tokyo, I felt kind of sorry for all the tourists that went there. Tokyo is a great city, and I had a fun time, but if it was all the exposure people got of Japan, and the only thing they could have based their impression on, I felt kind of bad for them. No offence if you’ve visited Tokyo, but Japan has so much more to offer than shopping and nightlife (living there is a different matter however!) In most other things, only doing it for a short while doesn’t mean you know what it’s like. You can’t just blitz through 5 countries in 10 days and expect to have gotten to know the people and culture. In the same way, only going for a run about once a month and deciding you hate it or having only read and analysed classical literature in school and deciding you don’t like reading in general is illogical. I’ve seen people start and quit things quicker than I can forget how to conjugate verbs, and it’s such a shame because people are definitely missing out on some amazing things that they might have been really good at too. Yes, you have to start somewhere, but you should also give it a fighting chance. Stick to it, persist, and you’ll never know, you might find someone, something or somewhere you’ll come to love.

5. Nobody lives in the same world as each other.

When you move to another country, your entire world changes. Things you thought ‘just are’ no longer apply. Not everybody thinks like you do, or does things the way you’ve always done it. Even rules or social practices you thought were blatantly obvious can be turned upside down. Yes, Japan isn’t a land of angels and rainbows, but I’ll miss living in a country where you don’t have to worry about leaving your bag on a park bench, or walking at home at night or even locking up your bike. I’ll miss living in a country that doesn’t tip because good service should be part of the experience and buses and trains actually run to the minute promised on the time table. I’ll even miss having to take my shoes off every time I enter the house, even if it’s annoying when I’ve forgotten my keys and I’m running late. Every thing that happens, good or bad, is part of the experience of living in a foreign country – that’s what makes it ‘foreign’. But as each of these little things occur you feel your mind begin to open up a little more and as you get used to it, you think of it less as as a foreign country, and more like a country… and eventually it becomes a home. rss twitter

My adventure in Asia begins

By the time you read this post, I’m going to be here:

This is Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan.

To go there has always been a dream of mine, but due to various circumstances I haven’t been able to until now. Now that I’m finished with my studies, I’m taking this opportunity to do some more travelling.

I will be starting my mini tour of Asia from Tokyo, from which I will be flying to South Korea. I’ll spend a few days in Seoul, then I’ll be flying again from Japan to Thailand or Vietnam and then cruising a little while in Hong Kong before going back to England.

My plans are a bit complicated, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time laying back on various buses/planes/trains/boats, but I’m so excited. The journey towards these places are some of the best parts of travelling, and with my trusty camera, Kindle and some good music on me, there’s not much that can go wrong.

I’ve scheduled a couple of posts, so don’t worry! I won’t have internet connection most of the time, but I’ll log on when I can. Follow me on Twitter for updates of what I’m up to!

Wish me luck!


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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on minimalist motivations

A question that I often ask myself is why on earth am I leading a minimalist lifestyle? Why don’t I just settle down in a nice town, get my own apartment, a steady job and live like a normal person?

The answer is simple, I don’t want to be normal.

I want to travel. I want to see the world.  I want to go to places people don’t go, meet people that have stories to tell, see things with my own eyes, not from the other side of a TV screen.

I want to grab a backpack, climb mountains, hike through forests, camp under the stars, explore. I want to get on a bike and ride my way across highways, along rivers, through small towns and beside farmland as as far as the eye can see.

On my travels I want to help people who need real help, real action, not just cash thrown at them. I want to make a positive impact on every single soul I meet on the road.

Minimalism is my means of doing that, which is why it’s so important to me. Without it, I can’t do it.

Do you have to travel to have achieved something? Of course not, this is just my dream. You can fulfill your dreams right in your hometown if you want to, the point is that you do it. It sounds simple enough, but you’ll be surprised at how many dreams get pushed aside for mortgages, debt and nice shoes.

when fear is good

I thought my biggest motivation was the want to travel. But now I realize, travel is only the answer to my biggest fear. I’m afraid that I’ll grow old and waste my life. I’m afraid that I’ll look back and wonder why I didn’t do something worthwhile when I had the chance. I’m scared that I’ll miss great opportunities because I followed what people told me to do instead of deciding on my own.

I’m scared that I won’t make a real difference.

Travelling around the world might sound like a fantasy for some people, but to them I say it doesn’t sound possible because they’re too wrapped up in watching reruns on TV from being tired from working too much to fund all of their spending habits.

I’m not living to work or to buy things, I’m living to live. That’s my motivation.

What’s yours?

PS. I just wanted to personally thank everyone who donated, your kindness and support means so much to me! Also, if you still want to contribute, you can do so on the homepage. Thank you again!

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Check out my Twitter which I now update daily with what I’m up to, minimalist tips and awesome links!

minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.


Live simply so that others may simply live.
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

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

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.

The secret to minimalist travel

Having spent a few weeks trying to settle down in a completely foreign country, I’m often asked, “Do you miss home?“.

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

Yes, I miss my family and my home, but that doesn’t mean I want to go back right now. I care about them a more than they know, but  I would much rather be where I am now. Even though everyday presents small challenges and leaps out of my comfort zone, I manage to learn something new about the world each and every time.

And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that even though I’m on the other side of the world, perhaps I’m not really away from home at all.

the secret to minimalist travel

Before I moved, I wrote a post about how to pack a minimalist suitcase. Carrying less is only one part of what minimalist travel really means. You can pack as light as you want, but you won’t be satisfied if you don’t have the second ingredient too.

The secret to true minimalist travel is having portable peace of mind.

What does this mean? In short, it means having the ability to take ‘home’ wherever you go.

If you can take your peace of mind with you, you will be content wherever you are. You can go anywhere and you won’t have to worry about being homesick if your home is always with you. Imagine if there was a way you could pack it up and carry it everywhere, without it weighing a thing…

redefining home

What does the word ‘home’ mean to you? For most people, it’s

  • the place they keep their stuff
  • the place they grew up/made good memories
  • where they ‘live’

If you take these three things and think about them carefully one by one, perhaps it’s not so hard to believe that you can make your home ‘portable’.

1. “It’s where I keep my stuff”. If you take your stuff with you, then your home is no longer where you keep your stuff! If you go travelling often, it might be the place you use as storage. If that’s the case, any safe place will do as storage space! When I first moved to university, I left a few things at home that I didn’t need. Because I had all of the things I did need in my dorm, it felt more like home than the one I left behind.

2. “It’s where I grew up”. When people get nostalgic, they’re not really thinking about the particular thing, it’s for the memory of it. A piece of clothing, an old toy or even a building isn’t what is making you happy, it’s all of the happy times you’ve associated with it. Memories are stored in your head, so if you really think about it, you don’t actually need the thing to be with you forever. You can move from place to place, and create new memories which will be just as good, or even better, even after you’ve moved away. Of course it will be a little sad if you never saw the place you grew up again, but not getting too attached to things that don’t last anyway, is the key to moving on. Even though it may be nice to revisit memories once in a while, dwelling on the past isn’t something you should do forever.

3. “It’s where I live”. By ‘live’ I mean where one eats, drinks, sleeps and relaxes in general. If you move to a new place, this is now where you will ‘live’, so who cares where it is? Wherever you eat and sleep is where you are, so a part of what ‘home’ means is you. You are your home.

My biggest aspiration in life is to be able to see the world and experience new and different ways of thinking. For me, I feel that my ‘home’ will always be a safe place I can go back to, where I can find my bearings if I get lost and where I can ground myself and think carefully when I don’t know where I want to go next. For me, ‘home’ is a place beyond an arrangement of bricks.

Home is special, it’s mine and it’ll always be with me.

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My minimalist bedroom

Hello everyone from Japan! This is the first post of many I’ll be writing from the Country of Awesome. I just wanted to let everyone know that I arrived safely and I’m having an amazing time. I was a little afraid before that the extent of Japanese hospitality was a big fat lie, but so far it proves to be absolutely true. I’ve never felt more welcome and happy, something I desperately needed being so far away from home.

Also, I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes from the last week’s minimalist suitcase packing post, I read them at the airports in Rome and in Kansai, which was really encouraging. I also want to thank those who donated, I will be forever grateful for your kindness and support.

So, without further ado, I would love to introduce to you my new bedroom…my new minimalist bedroom that is!

I had no idea what my room would be like before I came here but as soon as I arrived at the house and saw it I was ecstatic! It has wooden floors, wooden furniture and white walls. Compared to my old room, this one is much bigger, and yet I have less stuff to fill it with – perfect!

My room also comes with a beautiful black Yamaha piano – which had me smiling all day. I love to play, but at college I obviously couldn’t bring my piano, even though it was more like a posh keyboard anyway. For the first time, I have a really good chance to get back to something I started years ago and has stayed in my heart ever since.

Next up is my new desk, I absolutely love the simplicity of it. It’s sturdy and wooden, with two drawers. That’s it, no extra frills. It does it’s job as my new workstation perfectly. I also love that the chair is just a stool. I’ve been meaning to get a chair without a back because constantly leaning on one weakens the spine. One of the reasons why people find meditation so difficult is that they can’t sit upright for more than a few minutes before gradually slumping down – they’re too used to being supported by a chair. Also, because of the stool, I’m less likely to waste precious hours in Japan surfing the web.

There are two wardrobes in my room. However, the one on the left that you can see here is already being used for storage. Also, the top two shelves of the right wardobe is taken up by my host family’s holiday suitcases. And, one more thing, the bottom of the right one is being used for storing the futon (see below). If you do the mapping, you’ll work out that all I have is the middle of the right wardobe. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds!

These wardrobes are pretty deep and I could more than comfortably fit in all of my clothes with plenty of room to spare. The limited space fits me just fine, since it would discourage me to buy too many clothes which I can’t take back home with me anyway. As with most things, even though it’s small, there’s still much more space than in my old room!

And finally, there’s the futon. Oh. My. Goodness. I love it! I had heard that more and more Japanese homes are ditching the futon for framed beds so I couldn’t tell you happy I was to walk into a room without one! They’re so amazing I have no idea why I didn’t have one before.

For those that don’t know, a Japanese futon consists of a thick fold-able mattress, a sheet to cover it with, a duvet and a pillow. Every night, you would unfold the mattress, lay the sheet and pillow over it, flip open the duvet and sleep! In the morning, you would fold it away into a cupboard and you would regain the entire space of a bed in your room. If it sounds laborious, I’ve timed myself doing it and it takes less than a minute to do. Because of the futon, I finally have enough space to do yoga right here in my bedroom. I can also roll out the rug my host family gave me onto the floor and read, surf, play with the my the kids and study right here.

I can’t believe my luck, I’m still so excited (hence the overuse of ‘!’s, sorry about that) even though I think I’ve already phased out of the honeymoon period. Everything has worked out so perfectly with my room and my family, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now, I’m looking forward to checking things off my list of 101 things to do in Japan. Here’s hoping I have a great year and it’s all uphill from here!

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