Life is so much easier when you just concern yourself with....The simple bare necessities
I'm making a minimal fuss here
I’m getting ready to venture to the other side of the world. I’m lucky enough to have been to Europe twice before; the first time was for my big O.E (where I based myself in the UK for 1.5 years), and the second time was for my 4oth birthday extravaganza. For that trip, my partner (DMF) asked me where I wanted to go in the world, and I busted out “Andalucia!”
Note: Neither of us actually had a bloody clue where that was – I just liked the sound of it. So we Googled it (as you do) and it looked ace – so off we set. This time it’s DMF’s 40th birthday extravaganza-bonanza!
When I was last in Europe, I remember sitting in a café in Montmartre, Paris. While there, I started penning down a few things that I had noticed on my travels, such as the small — but important — differences between the various areas we were travelling (London, Paris, ‘The Souths’ of France & Spain and Istanbul). I also penned down the small — but important — differences that DMF and I displayed while we were there.
I really like how travelling the globe actually makes my world smaller. I find that it really puts things into perspective for me. Or rather, that it reinforces what I inherently know:
‘home’ is wherever MY DMF is
It’s a Relief to make-do with very few things
I find that this reduces my overwhelm, that it frees up my brain to enjoy what’s happening ‘right now’, and that it also makes me feel grateful for the little things.
WE all live in a yellow submarine
(Well, on a big-ass spinning orb anyway.)
We have this one chance. We are but mortal — we will never be here again. (In this particular embodiment, at least!)
I say, “Keep it simple, sweeties”. (K.I.S.S). The less we have, the more we really appreciate what we do have — and the more we take care of it and/or hold it dear to us.
This blog-post, therefore will be about how travelling to foreign lands reminds you about what’s important in life and how good this is for your health, happiness and wellbeing.
Note: Here’s another blog-post that I’ve written on keeping things simple: Less is more
To make a relationship work it requires a great deal of compromise.
As you go through the photos in this blog-post, you may begin to get a sense of which one of us (DMF or me) is more into photography than the other…
Unfortunately, I’m no fan of having my photo taken. One reason for this, is that I have trouble standing still long enough for this dreary process to occur!
Therefore the vast majority of our shots (any shots of me!) are all taken surreptitiously.
I like to think of it as a ‘running theme’ that we’ve got going on. 😉
Fewer things + fewer options = more clarity
Here's my perception of the different cities & regions I visited
London — familiar, fun stuff to do, easy to communicate, unfriendly, busy, noisy, eclectic, open all hours, relatively dirty, bad coffee.
Note: We had to travel out to Shoreditch to get an Antipodean to make us a decent cup of ‘slosh’. 😉
Turkey — super foreign, busy, noisy, eclectic, open all hours, relatively dirty, great food (awesome for non-meat eaters), interesting food (eg roasted chestnuts & corn), they really like cats.
South of Spain — friendly, laid back, clean, power generating windmills, traditional style, late morning starts, siestas, tostadas, churros, deep fried ‘everything’, no takeaway coffee.
South of France — friendly, sucre ‘everything’, crepes, french bread & pastries, traditional style, late morning starts, lunch.is.between.12pm.and.2pm, clean, no takeaway coffee, they really like dogs.
Life — really is just breath-taking — if you'll allow it to be.
This is the takeaway message that I got...
The thing that I initially found really frustrating about the ‘south of everywhere’ was how nonchalant they were about stuff.
I mean, places didn’t open until really late in the morning… and then seemed to close not long after (for lunch or siesta) and (get this!) you. couldn’t. get. a. takeaway. coffee. ANYWHEEERE…
“What do you mean I have to wait around until you’re good and ready to open..? AND you don’t do takeaway coffee?? How am I supposed to swan in any time I feel like it, all hurried and pissed-off-like, and insist you pour my coffee into a takeaway vessel because I’m far too busy and important to take 5 minutes out of my hectic schedule to sit around in an actual café sipping coffee from a proper coffee cup…?” 😉
‘Takeaway’ message: Take it easy, breezy, beautiful. xo
It actually feels good to have very few cares in the world
When you go traveling abroad you are ‘forced’ to take with you only what’s necessary. When you get to your destination you become all ‘primal’ anyway — seeking out your basic requirements (food, drink, shelter and sleep.)
01—This is all we need — really.
Something to fill our bellies and to quench our thirst.
Somewhere safe/sheltered to lay our heads.
Something clean (and dry) and sensible to wear on our body and on our feet.
A toilet and a shower.
Enough dosh to pay for the above, and to get around.
02—These things are technically nice-to-haves or luxuries
A CLEAN toilet and a HOT shower.
Someone who you love to accompany you and share your adventures with.
Interesting places to explore and stimulate your mind — and to provide your life with some necessary contrast.
Something to help you pass the time.
(A good book or a pen & paper.)
And now, in reverse…
When you first arrive back from your travels with your suitcase and your carry-on luggage, you initially feel as though you’ve stumbled across Midas’ treasure trove — when you suddenly realise how big your house actually is and just how much stuff you actually possess; that’s wholly surplus to requirement.
Give it a day or two back in ‘your’ normality… then cue the overwhelm again.
(This over-stimulating environment was probably the reason why you felt the need to ‘get away from it all’ in the first place.)
Wash the dishes... dry the dishes... turn the dishes over.
I’ve discovered that doing the dishes is a highly therapeutic activity! I kid you not.
I figured this out when I was staying in L’Isle sur la Sorgue (in the south of France)… there must have been something in the water there… and I don’t mean the suds.
Now, hear me out here, please. It’s a simple enough task to try out for yourself.
I’m not talking about scrubbing and scouring a pile of super dirty pots and pans. No, I’m talking about gently washing things like plates, bowls, cups, glasses and cutlery.
I don’t know, but there is something about the warm water, the bubbles, the fragrance of the dish-washing detergent, and the use of a cloth (not a brush) to ‘gently bathe’ these items that I find really soothing.
Note: It’s also interesting to note the difference you feel when you switch to using the scrubbing brush – it kind of makes you feel all tense and angry. If you then go back to the use of the cloth you will feel an immediate sense of relief.
Surprisingly, ‘doing the dishes’ is a nice activity to do in pairs. Lovingly towel drying dishes is also very calming — over a relaxed discussion about the day’s events.
Like fish out of water
01—DMF and I suddenly become adept at sign-language while travelling in foreign lands
I think it’s amusing when my partner and I have been in a non-English speaking country for a few days. We get so good at using a few key words with the natives that we start doing it with each other! We start communicating with very few words — and just relying more on pointing and gesticulating to get our ‘point’ across.
(And, point up.)
(And, point down.)
(And, point there.)
(And, point that way.)
(And, show your fingers doing the walking.)
(And, point to mouth.)
(And, make the international drinking gesture.)
(And, indicate your own ‘down-there’…with a quick pendulum-like pointed-finger motion back and forth to indicate ‘poos or wees’?)
02—Fewer things bring me more glee overseas than this
The English language.
I get ridiculously excited when I discover that I don’t have to play charades with someone because ‘the foreign’ person also speaks English (Eeeeeeee). OMG — It’s like I’ve discovered that my stuffed-toy has come to life!
“So — wait! You can actually understand what I’m saying? Blink twice if you understood what I just said.”
Nothing makes me more deliriously happy than this.
03—We galvanise our team work
DMF is way better at listening-to and speaking foreign languages than I am. However, I’m TOTES better at reading body language and remembering what the actual words mean.
Note: I feed words to DMF so he can bust them out in our desperate bid to be understood.
I remember one time in particular, when we were in Andalucia, DMF just watched on — baffled — as I had a conversation with a Spanish waitress at a Tapas Restaurant. She was querying in Spanish and me, responding in English! Somehow we both knew what we meant — based merely on watching and reading each other.
Note: In the context it doesn’t sound very impressive, but when someone is speaking a very fast foreign language at you, it can really throw you off.
DMF also has mad-skills in the actual navigational department — you know, using Google and GPS… Whereas I am a complete doofus when it comes to technology.
However, in my defence, I have excellent ‘Homing Pigeon’ skills. If DMF and I go exploring in a city, then I can easily direct us back to our accommodation by following — in reverse — all the ‘breadcrumbs’ that I’ve dropped along the way, or rather, the various landmarks that I noted along my journey. (Whereas DMF is literally lost without his fancy gadgetry.)
04—There is much value in the unspoken language
Sometimes it’s hard enough getting your message across when you speak the same language, let alone when you’re trying to communicate in different tongues. It’s a tiring, frustrating, and somewhat scary experience.
A look of recognition, an appreciative smile or a nod of understanding is universal and connects us.
It makes us feel like things are going to be okay.
I highly recommend the use of foreign restrooms for the prevention of Dementia.
Have you noticed that no two public restrooms are even vaguely the same in the small towns of Europe?
Just trying to figure out how to flush the dunny, and wash and dry your hands is like trying to perform the mental-agility round on Krypton Factor!
Note: The Krypton Factor was a British Gameshow that ran from 1977 to 1995. It was known for its comprehensive approach to testing its contestants. It included testing Mental Agility, Response, Observation, Physical Ability, Intelligence and General Knowledge.
Really though, trying to figure out how to activate THEIR facilities is like frantically fumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch — but it’s worse, so much worse — because it’s daytime and THEY can actually see you doing this…
Note: In one toilet in France, I had to be shown that you turned the tap on using a foot pedal. Kind of stoopid, but also kind of ingenious – from a goobies point of view.
And, don’t even get me started on the toilets (the poo holes) you encounter in Asian countries — how are you actually supposed to use these confounded things?
Here, they really DO need to bring back The Krypton Factor, as this could make up the ‘physical ability’ portion of the challenge. The degree of difficulty here is immense!
I mean, just trying to figure out where your undies need to go — in a situation such as this — is mentally challenging enough without then having to rely on your poorly conditioned thigh muscles to maintain the ‘crouching tiger shaking dog’ position while you carefully attempt to perform one of the most frantic — yet strategic — bowel evacuations of your entire existence…!
When life gets too heavy, we really need to adhere to the baggage limit.
Hocus pocus focus
Does going away on holiday really refresh us? Or does it simply relieve us from the overwhelm that we’ve created in our lives?
We spend the vast majority of our time ‘at home’ so wouldn’t it make sense to lighten up our lives? It’s a lot cheaper than having to take holidays to get away from it all…
Let’s reduce the crazy clutter in our world by taking stock of what’s really important to us: the people we love; having a roof over our heads; having something simple but nourishing to fill our bellies; having a bed & a pillow; having a couple of sets of sheets; having a few sets of clothes, taking a hot shower; having a small amount of Bric-à-brac (that we adore!) to tell a story about ourselves and our life; having beautiful experiences; making lovely memories; and just having enough dosh in our pocket to enable us to sustain THIS lifestyle…)
By narrowing your focus, it makes life more magical.
Charity begins from home
I’m a big believer of this: if you don’t love it, or if you haven’t used it/worn it for a year — then it goes into the charity bag — that way even the less fortunate among us can be well-equipped.
Otherwise, what? That item will only stare at you and take up double the space intended — in it’s actual location and in your head — as it silently harasses you for spending money on something that is technically worthless to you.
Note: And no, it wouldn’t do any good to stow it away (hide it) for possible future use. It would still be in your house – haunting you.
Give it away now, let someone else benefit from it sooner.
And I, am im-material girl...
DMF always worries that I’ll end up nude — with no clothes to wear!
This is because, I donate way more clothes (and things) to charity than I care to replenish…This is to the point where he feels the need to encourage me to purchase ‘material things’ — as in, he emails me clothing links in the hopes that I’ll feel compelled to buy something, or he insists that I physically go shopping…
The other day he actually organised some Faux Ugg boots to be delivered to our home because he finally got sick of me wearing his snowboard socks for the last few winters (Rude! But also very sweet x)
I’m not a Material Girl — I’m a Minimalist girl. I don’t want for many things.
Note: Although admittedly because I live this way, I do have to keep on top of my washing… Otherwise, DMF’s worst fears may come true 😉