Nothin’ left to lose…

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.

These Janis Joplin lyrics pop into my head all the time, (I have no idea why, I’m sure there is some deep subconscious meaning here) and they always launch me into a mental thrashing around of what freedom means to me.

Fire is a terribly frightening force.

A few weeks ago, I was woken up at midnight by pounding on my front door.  When I opened the door, there was no one there, but I saw flames shooting from the building 20 yards across the parking lot. As we all ran out into the street, the fire engulfed two condos, and before the fire fighters could put it out, 2 units were completely destroyed and a 3rd badly damaged. Thankfully there was no loss of life. It was very frightening. I did not sleep very well for the next two weeks.

After a fire, we all automatically begin making mental lists of what we would take with us as we flee. What I found very interesting about my reaction was that I began looking at everything I own more critically. I am definitely not ready to suffer losing everything, but I suddenly felt that 95% of my possessions had little real value to me. I was overcome by an urge to purge. To get rid of all of that stuff that was cluttering up my closets and shelves. One of my neighbors, who had lost everything, said “oh well, most of it was crap anyway”.  I knew she had suffered a much deeper loss recently, and I admired the way she was handling a second tragedy.

Even when we know too much stuff is oppressive, it’s so hard to get rid of it.  Fire does it for you, it cleanses the clutter, leaving space for clarity. I would not wish the trauma of a fire on anyone, but, in a sense, it must be very liberating? How freeing to have “nothing left to lose”! I have a new perspective, and inspiration to pair down to what I really value, in order to better appreciate what truly matters.

I’ll let you know if I can actually DO IT!  It will not be easy…

Live Small, Travel BIG!


Am I crazy, or are they?

I certainly don’t have the credentials to be blogging about economics (I was a stockbroker for 10 years, so I have a decent grasp of how the financial system supposedly works), but listening to politicians talk about how to stimulate our economy, leaves me pondering… I feel like they are missing the primary issue.

Lots of laughter in Vietnam!

“America is a consumer driven economy”. True, but what if Americans are changing? (isn’t insanity doing the same thing over and expecting different results?) And our politicians, promoting the status quo system, fail to recognize this? Maybe I am in “la la land”, but it seems to me this economic crisis could actually have a very positive purpose, if we don’t allow the “powers that be” to distract us from the valuable lessons we can learn here.

We talk so much about “security” in our country, yet we promote the thing that leads to massive insecurity – consumption as the answer to everything. Maybe Americans are beginning to consider the possibility that consumption of “stuff” is not the path to a fulfilling life?  Maybe they want to pay down their debt, forgo that kitchen remodel, drive their old car for a few more years, and seek enriching experiences – like enjoying nature, community service, voluntourism, and travel – as the new normal? And maybe the reason corporate America is not hiring, is that they see this new reality? I have faith that America can figure out how to prosper in a more sensible culture. That we can toss off the shackles of our addiction to credit. This paradigm shift may cause a slower economic recovery, and patience, but in the LONG TERM, we would be building a better, stronger, more “secure” world.



Live Small, Travel BIG…

Happy with what they've got in Cambodia!

There are many different ways to live this life. So many choices, that we often don’t even realize we are making.

Much of the way we travel through life, an expression of things we were taught by the experience we were born into, for better or worse.

Living “within your means”, to me, has always meant spending less then I earn. Early in my adult life, I realized that, above all, I did not want to become a slave to my possessions. Debt makes me nervous. This may not be the recipe for accumulating enormous wealth, but it lets me sleep at night. Isn’t it interesting that living “small”, or frugally, seems to be frowned upon in our culture? Or is it just human nature to want to accumulate?

As a kid, this would have been my dream house, I loved building forts and sleeping in them!

Society, media, government, all tell us that it is our responsibility to consume, acquire, buy more, and bigger. It is easy to rationalize charging it all on credit cards when we really believe we NEED all of these things. I somehow missed that part of the ‘how to be a patriotic American’ indoctrination. I am just not a big consumer. I did try it for a brief stint, but found it left me cranky. Buying is intoxicating, but the high wears off quickly, and I was left pissed off at myself for wasting money that could have been allocated to my next plane ticket.

My “Live small, Travel BIG” motto has not always been easy, I have at times questioned myself.  Do I lack drive, ambition?  Am I just lazy? Am I missing the boat by not taking advantage of “leverage”? (that oft-heard, cocktail party buzz word of the 90’s) For the last few decades, I watched people pass me by in the race to have a bigger house, newer cars, and more toys, and I wondered, why don’t I want all of that?

No garage to fill up with stuff!

Well, I am still not sure what made me a saver, not a spender, but I am damn glad I missed the “credit” boat! (That doesn’t mean I am completely immune, we have a mortgage, and I somehow managed to clutter our little condo with way more “stuff” than we need)

We have to discover our own path to happiness, and I do not presume to have the answers for the rest of you, all I know is that living a simple life that allows me to pack up and GO, is what fulfills me. Maybe, contrary to what has been drilled into us, it is an option for you too? I guess we just continue to strive for balance in our lives.

Recently, I have been feeling an even stronger urge to purge, load the backpacks, and wander the world for a few years. Watch for more to come on those plans! 😉