Why I Choose Not To Chase the “American Dream”

Untitled design (1)

The “American Dream” is a dream that many people aspire to achieve. However, it is not exclusive to Americans and is pursued by nations from all around the world. This “dream” claims that happiness comes from buying and owning more things (and the latest versions of these things) and consuming more in general. Success is achieved by accumulating wealth and climbing the corporate ladder to earn status in your career.

When you start climbing the corporate ladder and gaining status in your career, you will inevitably start to earn more money. But with more money, comes the desire to spend more on things you don’t really need. You will end up enjoying living a luxurious life, and start working more hours in order to earn more money to pay for your expensive tastes and lifestyle. But through doing all of this, you are losing one of the most valuable things that you have – and that is your time. Time that could be better spent towards spending time with your family and friends, time that could be used in pursuing your passions, learning and growing, time that could be used in contributing to your community, time that could be used to travel and explore this beautiful world that we live in.

If the “American Dream” is the ideal life that you are striving to reach, you will likely be disappointed when you realize that it fails to offer what it promises (ie. happiness and a stress-free life). Accumulating more “stuff” and more money creates more stress in your life, because now you will have the responsibility to maintain, organize, repair, research, shop and pay for all of these things you are buying. Buying the best of everything translates to car payments, mortgages and credit card debt. Owning more stuff means that your life will become more cluttered and physical clutter can be overwhelming and stressful. In addition, you will worry about protecting your money, where to invest it, etc. With all of this, comes less time and freedom.

Striving to achieve the “American Dream” is a vicious and never-ending cycle that will never bring lasting and true happiness. It may bring you short-lived happiness but you will constantly be seeking to maintain that feeling and will purchase more and more to maintain that “high.” This is not truly living. The more things you own, the more your things own you. We become trapped and enslaved to our stuff and our things weigh us down (physically and mentally). Having more money, more power, more prestige and more status in our lives, does not make us happier. In fact, this lifestyle will create more stress and busyness in our lives and will increase our desire to keep up with the Joneses. Think of someone you know that has a lot of financial wealth. Do they seem truly happy to you? They may portray surface happiness, but deep down inside, we all know that money doesn’t bring happiness. It’s a trap.

We have to be careful though, as it’s such an easy trap to fall into. I have fallen into this trap myself. I used to spend a lot of money shopping for new clothes, shoes, handbags, makeup, body products, and electronics that I didn’t need at all. I had enough but I continued to desire more and more. I was always pursuing more financial wealth. Shopping for new things gave me a temporary “high” but I came to realize that it is very short lived. I continue to enjoy seeing my bank account grow, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a measure of success and happiness. We have to resist the pull of this trap, because these things are not the key to long-lasting happiness. I don’t ever want to make a large salary. When we have more money, we tend to spend more money, and I am scared that I would fall deeper into that trap of desiring better and more things and never be able to break free.

Since discovering minimalism a year ago and continually simplifying my life, I now have no desire to wear the latest fashion trends; to own the newest electronic gadgets; to drive a nice new car; or to take a mortgage out on a large house. I have realized that I don’t need these things and they would only add clutter to my simplified life. I have discovered the amazing benefits of simple living and there is no turning back.

A minimalist lifestyle is so freeing and empowering. It is freeing to realize that you have enough and don’t need to keep adding more. It is freeing to realize how little you truly need to survive. It is empowering to know that you are able to live with less and reject the messages of society telling us that we need more things or to buy specific products in order to make us happier. You will come to understand that buying a new vehicle won’t add adventure and beautiful wilderness scenery to your life. You will understand that purchasing those beauty products won’t make you more beautiful or increase your worth (Beauty comes from the inside and from being the most authentic version of yourself). You will understand that buying more things will never bring you long-lasting happiness, like the commercials so often portray and want us to believe. Happiness can only come from the inside. It starts with you. It is freeing to not have a desire to own more things. The feeling of wanting less is amazing.

Through simplifying my life and decluttering my possessions, I have come to realize that long-lasting happiness and freedom come from living with less, desiring less, and being grateful for what you have in life, not through buying more stuff. I believe that the best things in life are not things. The most important things in life are relationships and connecting with others, contributing beyond yourself, personal growth, pursuing your passions and doing what brings you happiness. A minimalist life is about enjoying the simple pleasures. My goal is always to further simplify my life; to consume less and to make more intentional and conscious decisions about what I do choose to consume and purchase.

What appeals to me, and what I desire far more than accumulating more money and possessions, is exploring and discovering the beauty of our world. I want to venture into the unknown, meet people and connect with people from all over the world, immerse myself in and learn about many different cultures and languages, get off the beaten path and discover hidden gems that only the locals of a place know about, have authentic cultural experiences by traveling like a local, challenge my perspectives and learn to appreciate other viewpoints, outlooks and ways of living, debunk negative stereotypes and perceptions that our society perpetuates about certain places, people and cultures by exploring these places, grow and learn more about myself, and discover my passions and purpose.

I believe that traveling, exploring and learning about our world, its cultures, people and languages, is a more valuable and worthy pursuit than that of wealth, financial security, nicer possessions, status and the traditional definition of success.

I am not saying that we should abandon the notion of working hard to make money. We all need to earn an income in some way in order to purchase the necessities of life, like food, clothing and shelter. However, I think that what we choose to do for work should be aligned with our passions and values, in order for our work to feel meaningful and to give us a sense of purpose.

But I do believe that the pursuit of wealth, status along with more and better possessions should not be our primary pursuit and goal of our work. Our work should inspire us, encourage us to grow and learn, and provide us with purpose and meaning. We should love what we do.

The “American Dream” would consider you successful when you have accumulated a good amount of wealth and have climbed the corporate ladder to earn status in your career. But this is not the only way to define success.

There are many ways to measure success, aside from how much money you make, your position in your career and how many nice and expensive things you own.

My definition of success is experiencing and exploring more while discovering the benefits of simplifying your life and living with less. I believe that success is living a life filled with purpose and passion. It is making conscious and intentional choices that are aligned with your values. It is doing more of what you love and focusing on what makes you happy. It is living simply.

Have you ever read the Fisherman’s Parable? Here is a link for you to read it in full. The story is about a Mexican fisherman who spends his time fishing, taking siestas, sipping wine and playing guitar with his friends while living in a small coastal village. He is focusing on the things that he enjoys doing. Then an American comes along and tells the Mexican that he should spend his time fishing more to make more money. With the money he could buy more boats to catch more fish and expand his business. The American informs the Mexican that this process could take up to 20 years. The Mexican questions the American by responding with, “then what?” The American tells the Mexican that he could then sell his fishing company, become rich and make millions of dollars. The Mexican is doubtful and continues to question the American: “Millions – then what?” he asks.

The American then said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Get it? The end result of the American’s proposed business plan for the Mexican, which would take upwards of 15 years, is the same life that the Mexican is currently living. He has less money and is living with less, but he is happy and he is doing what is important to him. He is focusing on what he loves. That is the moral of the story.

This famous parable illustrates the fact that there is more to life than the traditional definition of success and ultimately the pursuit of the “American Dream” – that is, earning more money, gaining status and wealth and consuming more. I no longer measure success in terms of wealth and the amount of nice things I own.

A rich life is filled with experiences, purpose, freedom, passion and contentment.

Life should be about collecting memories and experiences, not more things. It should be about living a purpose-driven and passion filled life, while focusing on the important things, like building relationships, connecting with other people, learning and growing, and exploring more of the world. Living with less and embracing simplicity can provide more happiness and the freedom and time to pursue your own dreams and passions and engaging in activities that you love.

I recognize that the “American Dream” is not my dream. I don’t desire to have more wealth, a higher social status and the newest and best possessions. This is why I choose to invest my time and money into experiences and exploring. I choose to stop the desire for more and instead be grateful for what I have. I choose to appreciate and seek the simple things and little pleasures of life. I choose to pursue my own dream of traveling and learning more about the world. These pursuits are far more valuable to me than living a luxurious life which is why I choose to make these priorities in my life. Embracing a life of minimalism and simple living has provided me with the freedom, time and empowerment to pursue the things that I love and those things that bring me true happiness.

Note: I still buy things, but only what I need and when I need it. In general, I consume less than I used to and am more thoughtful about what I purchase. Minimalism does not mean getting rid of all your stuff – it means keeping the things that you use and love, while eliminating the excess stuff and distractions.

I have come to realize that I would much rather have less money and more time to pursue what I love to do, as opposed to the reverse. With less stuff, you have more time to focus on what is important to you and you can do more of what you love. When you own less stuff, you create the space to experience true happiness.

What do you value more: your time and freedom or financial wealth and more possessions? I recommend choosing freedom.

If you are interested in living a life of passion, purpose and happiness while simplifying your life and eliminating the excess possessions and distractions, check out this amazing and inspiring TED Talk from The Minimalists! www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgBpyNsS-jU

Have you stopped chasing the “American Dream” in favour of pursuing your own dream? Are you choosing freedom and simplicity in your life instead of more wealth and higher status? Are you investing in experiences over stuff? Let me know what your dreams and passions are and how embracing simple living is helping you to achieve them in the comments below or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/SimplyTravelBlg).

Suggested Further Reading:

http://www.roadaffair.com/falling-into-the-trap-of-the-american-dream/

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-good-life-how-i-quit-materialism/

http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/12-04/let-travel-transform-your-life.html

http://www.theminimalists.com/dream/

http://www.theminimalists.com/nad/

Guide to Get Started Living a Simpler, Minimalist Lifestyle

www.website.com

Minimalism is a lifestyle that I have chosen to embrace since early 2014. It involves simplifying your life in order to make room for what is important to you, and getting rid of everything else. Minimalism calls us to have less, spend less, do less, and need less and be happy and content with our simple lives. It requires that sacrifices be made and it’s not always an easy lifestyle to live. But I believe that this lifestyle has so many benefits, that it is worth the sacrifices and challenges!

We are constantly being bombarded by advertisements on television, on the radio, on billboards, on YouTube, on websites, among other sources. Everywhere we go, there are messages telling us that we should consume more, that we should buy that product because it will make our lives better, that our purpose in life should be to be accumulate more “stuff” that we don’t actually need in order to live. It is difficult for us to reject these messages, because they are taking advantage of our innate human emotions and feelings (like happiness, fear of missing out, feeling adequate, feeling beautiful, feelings of power and prestige, feelings of worth and success, etc.).

Having more “stuff” and too many time commitments creates more stress and busyness in our lives and these “things” take away our time, energy and money which could be spent pursuing more important things in life. We spend time researching our stuff before we purchase, earning the money to buy them, and we spend time repairing, maintaining, and organizing our stuff.

If you’re interested in reclaiming your time, having more energy and saving more money, then keep reading! Minimalism might be the change you need in your life.

So where do you start on the path to minimalism?

How did I get Started? 

My journey to a life of embracing and practicing minimalism began in the spring of 2014. I had started to eat healthier by cutting out processed foods and weaning myself off of drinking soda (as I used to drink one Coke a day, sometimes more). As I was researching how to eat healthier and learning about genetically modified foods and the harmful effects of ingesting chemicals from food (and by putting chemicals on our skin, with makeup, lotions, etc.), I stumbled upon a website which lead me to discover the concept of minimalism. It intrigued me and I wanted to learn more. I had always had a lot of stuff and I used to be somewhat of a hoarder. I kept every paper I had ever written on and had boxes upon boxes of papers, old schoolwork, books and other random things.

I began researching what a minimalist lifestyle looked like and how I could live simpler. I delved deeper into my research and read hundreds of articles and blog posts over the course of the year. I began clearing away the physical from my possessions, simplified my diet, and started to live my life more intentionally. I started by decluttering the possessions in my house, closet by closet, drawer by drawer and room by room. I then worked on eliminating the unnecessary obligations and commitments that took up my time.

It’s a slow process and I’ve been chipping away at it for almost a year now.

There is always more to learn and always more that I can do to simplify, so I still continue to read books and online articles about simplifying and minimalism to keep myself motivated and inspired, and to help me get new ideas for simplifying.

I have come to learn that the best things in life are not things, and that we actually need less than we think we do. I spend less time desiring to have the latest gadgets, and newest possessions, and more time being grateful for what I do have in life while appreciating the simple things and focusing on my passions. It’s so empowering and freeing to be able to reject the messages that society continually feeds us through advertisements; companies telling us that we need to buy their products in order to be happy and look beautiful. It’s freeing to be able to take control of my life and make conscious decisions about where I choose to spend my money and how I choose to spend my time.

Many of us spend our whole lives trying to accumulate more possessions, nicer things (clothes, cars, televisions, houses), and more money. I used to fall into that trap of desiring to have the latest and greatest things, but after experiencing the benefits that a minimalist lifestyle offers me, that kind of superficial lifestyle no longer interests me. I used to go shopping at the mall every other weekend, not needing anything in particular, but always purchasing something anyways.

I started to notice that the people who own a lot of stuff, are not happy. They are often stressed, overwhelmed and overworked while trying to earn money to pay off all of their luxury purchases.

When I traveled to Mexico this past spring, I experienced the generosity, friendliness, warmth and positive nature of the locals, despite them owning so few things. It humbled me and I realized how little we actually need to survive, and more importantly, to be happy. It’s all about making the best of our situation and consciously stopping that desire for more. It is a choice. More stuff does not equal happiness. Less stuff equals happiness.

I believe that the key to happiness is freedom and more time spent focusing on the things that matter to us (relationships, connecting with others, contributing to our communities, pursuing our passions, learning and personal growth).

What is Minimalism? 

Minimalism is about spending less, having less, and needing less, while focusing on living more, experiencing more and doing more of what you love.

It is about removing anything in your life that does not add value in order to make space to focus on what is important to you. It is eliminating distractions, clearing away the physical/mental clutter and unnecessary time commitments that keep us from enjoying life, living in the moment, being happy and appreciating life’s simple pleasures.

The simple answer to the question “How do I get started living a minimalist life?” is to identify what is most important in your life and eliminate everything else (distractions, physical clutter, unnecessary time commitments, and other excess stuff).

Minimalists believe that there is more to life than accumulating more stuff, spending money on things we don’t really need and filling our lives with time commitments that we aren’t passionate about just to stay “busy.”

Minimalism is about living an intentional, meaningful and fulfilling life through making conscious choices. It means less clutter, less time commitments, less stress, anxiety and possessions; more time, space, and energy for things that matter to you, more happiness, peace, solitude, rest and freedom.

Add things you’re passionate about, things that add value to your life, meaningful relationships, contributing beyond yourself to help others, personal growth and learning, experiences and travel.

What are the Benefits of Living a Simpler Life? 

There are so many benefits to choosing a minimalist and simple life! Minimalism might be a good lifestyle change for you if: your living space makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed, if you spend the majority of your day feeling rushed, stressed or anxious, you feel like you don’t have time to engage in activities that make you feel refreshed and energized, and if you feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything.

Here are some of the benefits that a minimalist life can offer you:

More Time – When you eliminate all that is unnecessary from your life (time commitments, excess possessions, distractions), you have more time to focus on and pursue what is important to you (your passions). Through getting rid of unused and unneeded possessions, you free up time because you are spending less time cleaning, maintaining, organizing, researching and shopping for possessions, repairing, and more. With this extra time, you can it living in the moment, connecting with people and building your relationships, growing and learning new things, spending time with family and friends, pursuing your passions and focusing on your physical, mental and emotional health.

More Energy – When your time is focused on doing things you’re passionate about instead of things that you dislike, you will feel more energized and alive.

More Freedom – When you have more time, you also have more freedom to spend your time doing more of what you love and what matters to you. When you have less possessions, you also feel lighter and freer to be able to move around whenever you want.

More Money – Spending less money buying new things, means you are saving more money to spend on your passions, experiences and travels.

More Rest – When you have less time commitments and distractions in your life, you are able to make time for rest and relaxation, which are important to our physical well being.

More Happiness and Joy – Joy comes from doing what you love, being grateful for what you have in your life, and appreciating the simple things.

More Productivity – Focusing on one task at a time can foster increased productivity and efficiency. Single tasking is better than multi-tasking.

Less Stress – When you have less physical clutter surrounding you and thus, spend less time cleaning, organizing, shopping for and maintaining your possessions, you will likely feel less stressed and overwhelmed. Also, committing to less things that take up your precious time helps you to feel less stressed and busy.

More Space – More physical space in your house (from decluttering possessions) leads to mental clarity as well.

Make a list of the reasons why you want to start living a more minimal life – Come up with your own reasons and personal goals for your new minimal life. Decide what minimalism means to you and how your home and life will reflect this definition. Everybody has different ways of living a minimalist life. The lifestyle exists along a continuum. For some people it means getting rid of their TV and satellite, or living debt-free, or not having a car and only using public transportation/bicycling/walking, or downsizing to a smaller house, or living with a certain number of possessions, or quitting shopping as a recreational hobby, etc. Minimalism can mean different things to different people.

Focus on what you want in life, on your passions and on what makes you feel alive, and strip away the physical things and time commitments that get in the way and distract you from doing more of what is important to you.

Steps to Simplifying Your Life and Becoming Minimalist:

Note: Don’t add more stress to your life by trying to implement all of these steps at one time. Start small. Focus on one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just take it slowly. Minimalism is a journey not a destination.

Identify your Priorities and Values – Identify and simplify your priorities. What is important to you (ie. activities, relationships with specific people, experiences, passions, etc.)? What do you value? Does the way you currently spend your time reflect these values? Who or what adds value to your life? What are you passionate about? What are your interests? What do you wish you had more time for? What do you enjoy doing? Who do you like spending time with? What do you want to prioritize in your life?

Identify what is important in your life. It could be activities, spending time with certain people, experiences, passions, etc.

Minimalism is about making space for the things which matter to you and add value to your life. A key thing to keep in mind when you are figuring out your priorities, is to separate what you want in life from what you think you should want (according to other people and society’s expectations). It’s easy to get the two confused and they can quickly become intermingled with each other. Take some time to really examine your priorities and your values. Stop doing things you don’t want to do or unnecessary things that are taking up too much of your time (browsing the internet and social media, watching TV, shopping for things you don’t need, etc.).

Get Rid of Physical Clutter (Declutter your Possessions) – This is the hardest step, but it is a necessary one. It’s hard to decide whether or not to keep items that we don’t use, but that have sentimental value and emotions attached to them. I still have difficulties with this and I often keep holding on to things for these reasons, even though I don’t use them in my daily life. When we are surrounded by physical clutter, we can feel stressed and overwhelmed and anxious.

Decluttering is an ongoing process. It is important to start small and focus on taking slow steps. Do one closet, drawer, or room at a time and then stop and do more the next day or the next weekend. Make a bit of time every day to focus on decluttering (15-30 minutes) to tidy surfaces and clean up things laying around. Don’t stress yourself out and try to cram a bunch of decluttering into a short period of time.

The first time I decluttered by bedroom, I didn’t get rid of many items, but it was a good starting point. I have since gone back to declutter my room a few more times and with every time, I realize more and more what I don’t actually need or use, and thus, I get rid of more and more. It feels really good to get rid of stuff. It gives me a natural high.

My mom and I have been slowly but surely decluttering every room in the house. It’s liberating to be able to let things go yet still keep the memories and history attached to them. Keep what you need, use, love and things that bring you joy.

When you’re going through your possessions, take everything out of the area you’re decluttering, and then pick each item up, one by one, and decide where it should go. Have four piles or boxes next to you: one for donating, one for selling, one for keeping and one for trash. If there are items that you’re not sure about, put them all in a box and label it with today’s date. Then set a reminder for yourself to check on that box in 6 months time. If at that time, you realize that you haven’t even opened that box and clearly haven’t needed or used anything from it, then it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t be needing those items in the next 6 months either. Donate the box.

Go through your papers and files, books, clothing, basement storage, kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. Learn to understand the difference between what is a want and what is a need.

Ask yourself questions when you’re decluttering like, “When was the last time I used this item?” “If I haven’t used it recently, how much would I miss this item in my life?” “Does this item bring me happiness/joy?” “Is this item distracting me from what’s important in my life?” “Do I really need or use this?” “Does this item add value to my life?”

Getting rid of your physical clutter will have a positive impact on your stress levels. Once you start decluttering, you realize how much stuff you had that you didn’t need. Most of the stuff you think you need, you actually don’t, and you will see that you can live without it. Minimalism is not about getting rid of everything you own, it is about getting rid of things that you don’t use or need and are cluttering your life and physical space.

Simplify Time Commitments and Obligations – Simplify your schedule and examine the time commitments in your life. Evaluate whether or not those things are important to you or not. Did you sign up for something (ie. course, club, membership, project, program, class, etc.) out of obligation to someone else? Get rid of any time commitments that are not absolutely necessary or that you are not passionate about and stop filling your schedule with so many things to do. Keep only those that truly add value to your life. Your time is the most valuable asset you own. Use it wisely and make room for more important things. Only keep those commitments in your life that are aligned with your values and priorities.

Declutter Your Digital Life (Minimize Distractions) – Examine how much time you spend browsing the internet, mindlessly scrolling through social media, deleting emails you’re no longer interested in, watching TV shows that don’t enrich your life, etc. For one day, keep track of what activity or task you are doing at every hour of the day. At the end of the day, see how much time you spent browsing the internet, scrolling through social media or watching TV. You will probably find that you spent a large chunk of your day connected to the digital world.

Set aside specific times during the day in which to process your email until there are no messages in your inbox, browse social media and the internet and watch TV. Set time limits for yourself so that you don’t get so caught up on it and forget about other important things in your life.

To minimize distractions in the digital world, stop the information overload. Unsubscribe from newsletters and emails that no longer interest you. Focus on a few favourite websites to stay subscribed to and leave the rest. Turn the notifications off on your phone for emails and social media updates so that you do not have a constant noise distraction. Notifications give us a false sense of urgency and we feel like we have to respond immediately, when really, we don’t.

If you want to make even more changes in your life, stop watching TV and especially the news (it’s usually all negative) altogether. Distance yourself from the messages of advertising, by not watching TV and not listening to the radio. Consume only the media which you enjoy. Focus on the forms of media that inspire and motivate you (ie. TED Talks, YouTube videos, Netflix documentaries, etc.).

Enjoy Life’s Little Pleasures – Make a list of the little things in the life, the simple things, that bring you joy and happiness, and a smile to your face. It could be the smell of freshly cut grass, the taste of fresh apple crisp with ice cream, the wind blowing through your hair as you ride your bicycle, and more. Think of these things and moments that awaken and excite your senses.

Declutter Your Mind – It’s not just physical clutter that you need to get rid of, mental clutter is just as important. Set aside and schedule time in your day to relax, rest and recharge. Spend time in silence, alone without distractions and do something that calms you, like reading a great novel, diffusing essential oils, etc. Go offline, disconnect and spend time appreciating the beauty of nature. Spending time alone in a peaceful and quiet environment, is a great time to reflect on and evaluate your life. Are you where you want to be? Do you enjoy your life? Do you wish you were doing something different? Ask yourself these questions.

For me, I really enjoy reading, going for relaxing walks, and relaxing in a sauna.

Go Natural – Simplify your beauty routine. Look at the ingredients lists on your shampoo, conditioner, facial moisturizers, soap, etc. How many of those ingredients are words you can’t even pronounce? All of those unpronounceable ingredients in conventional beauty products are chemicals that are harmful to your health. It’s beneficial to use products that contain only organic ingredients that are in their natural plant form, or you can make your own products.

Spend Less and Buy Less – Be mindful about what you bring into your life. Purchase things with intention and be thoughtful about your purchases. Instead of buying something brand new, see if you can find it used in your local community. Check the website Kijiji if you live in Canada or Craigslist in the United States. See if your community has a local buy and sell group on Facebook and look for items there. Before purchasing, ask yourself questions, like “Do I really need this?” “Will it add value to my life?” “Can I live without it?” Work on being more intentional about your purchases and about what you bring into your home, instead of impulsively buying things you don’t really need. When you do feel justified to make a new purchase after you have asked yourself the above questions, make sure you invest in high-quality items. High-quality items tend to last longer and thus, you will save money on replacing, repairing or maintaining it in the future. Stop buying things that you don’t need and learn what is “enough” and how to live with less. Stop the desire for more stuff. Every time you have a desire for more stuff, question that desire. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?”

Be a good gatekeeper. Examine what is coming into your house. Before you make any purchase, ask yourself if you really need that item or if it can wait. Buy less. Stop shopping for things you don’t need. Spend money on experiences rather than stuff.

By spending less money on filling your life with more stuff that you don’t truly need, you will find that you have more money and time to spend on experiences, travel and your passions.

Simplify Your Diet – If you want to feel more energetic and alive, you have to cut back on or completely stop eating packaged and highly processed foods, as well as fast food and fried foods. Instead, eat fresh, locally grown/home grown (where possible) produce that provides nourishment to your body. Head to your local farmers market to buy ingredients. Use fewer and mostly whole ingredients as close to their natural form as possible, to make simple home-cooked meals (instead of spending money eating out at restaurants). Make a big salad for lunch with lots of toppings (make it the night before so you can bring it to work with you). See the recipe for my favourite lunchtime salad and homemade dressing using simple and healthy ingredients that you probably already have at home! Check out my other recipes to get you started. To save time thinking about what you are going to eat every day, make a short list of your favourite dinner meals, and eat similar meals on a two-week rotating schedule. Try eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Plan your meals for the week at the beginning of the week and then list the ingredients that you need to pick up in order to make them.

Simplify Your Relationships – Evaluate your friendships and determine what purpose each person serves in your life. Be intentional about who you spend time with and socialize with. Stop communicating with “friends” who are negative and only bring you down instead of building you up.

Simplifying Your Budget and Spending – Use one of many smartphone apps, online websites or a simple spreadsheet to track your expenses for a month. See exactly where you spend your money based on categories (food/groceries, transportation, car fuel, car insurance, clothes/books/beauty products, eating out, alcohol, entertainment, rent/mortgage, phone bill, etc.). Once you are able to view a summary like this, it’s easier to find categories where you can cut back or eliminate unnecessary spending. Figure out which expenses are “fixed” (you have to pay them every month) and which ones are flexible. Once you know how much money you spend in each category, create a flexible budget for yourself. Define how much money you want to be spending on each category monthly and stick to it as closely as possible. But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track sometimes or if emergency purchases come up. Just start fresh again next month and try to improve with your saving every month.

Basically, spend less money and save more. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need. This will help you to save more money which can be spent on experiences and other important things in your life.

Travel Lightly – For me, backpacking in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was a true test of minimalism and living simply. Living out of a backpack really shows you what things you need and which ones you don’t. Plus, when you travel light, you feel freer and are not physically and mentally weighed down by your stuff.

Spend Your Time Intentionally – Write down what you love doing, what excites you, what interests you, what you are passionate about doing or learning about. What are your skills and talents? What are you gifted at? Where do your strengths lie? What is important to you? Focus on what truly matters in your life and eliminate other unnecessary time commitments that do not serve your life’s purpose. Make room for your priorities and focus on spending your time doing things that you enjoy and focusing on what is important to you.

Single Task – Doing one thing at a time actually helps you to be more efficient and increases productivity. Focus on completing that task before moving on to another. At the beginning of every day, make a list of the tasks that you have to complete during the day and order them, with the most important tasks at the top of the list and those ones completed first. Be mindful about whatever you are engaged in and focus on doing just that before moving on to the next task.

Don’t give up – Decluttering your possessions, learning to live with less, and rejecting the consumerist messages of society are all difficult things to do. You have to be willing to work hard at it. Being intentional, mindful, and purposeful in your actions is key. We will sometimes acquire things and accumulate unneeded stuff that we don’t even realize it’s happening. We will clutter our homes and schedules with physical stuff and unnecessary time commitments. Don’t give up on your quest to simplify. Just keep going.

Check out my resources page for a list of all of my favourite minimalism and simple living blogs that I read for inspiration, guidance and practical information and tips.

Other Helpful Links for Getting Started:

http://into-mind.com/2014/10/27/minimalism-a-beginners-guide/

http://into-mind.com/2014/10/28/9-easy-ways-to-start-living-a-simpler-more-intentional-life/

http://into-mind.com/2014/11/28/free-printables-collection-20-workbook-discount/

https://minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com/living-a-minimalist-lifestyle/

http://blondeonabudget.ca/2015/03/09/3-truths-about-minimalism-the-30-day-challenge-to-get-started/

http://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/

http://sellallyourstuff.com/3-easy-things-you-can-do-to-start-living-a-minimalist-lifestyle/

http://sellallyourstuff.com/wondering-how-to-start-leading-a-minimalist-lifestyle/

http://www.twolessthings.co.uk/minimalism_how_to_start/

http://simplicityrelished.com/ways-to-prioritize-what-you-love/

http://thriftyfrugalmom.com/7-reasons-declutter-live-less/#sthash.iYCMA7Ug.dpbs&_a5y_p=3634722

I like how this photo sums it up:

IMG_1688

Basically, minimalism is about living an intentional and meaningful life, filled with things that are important to you, things you are passionate about, and things which add value to your life and bring you joy, while eliminating anything that does fit into these categories. It is about finding joy in life, making space for experiences, being grateful and appreciating the little things.

Are you trying to live a simpler and more minimalist lifestyle? If so, what benefits have you experienced in your life? Are you interested in this type of lifestyle? 

Let me know in the comments!

Liebster Blog Award

I was notified recently that a fellow blogger whose blog I love reading, has nominated my blog for a Liebster Award! After receiving the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award not too long ago, and as a new blogger, I was surprised yet grateful to see that I was nominated for a second blogger award.

Thank you so much to Fabiola of My Heart of Mexico for the nomination! I am very grateful and appreciative, and I want to thank you for reading my blog and always leaving such thoughtful comments. It means a lot to me!

I have heard of the award before, and am honoured to have received a nomination. It is an award that is given to new bloggers by other bloggers, as a way of recognizing them.

After you receive a nomination, you are to do the following: express thanks to the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog, answer the questions that they have created, create a list of questions for your nominees, and post your list of nominees (comment on their blogs, so they are notified of their award).

liebster-button

Here are my answers to the questions:

1. Why did you start your blog?

I started this blog to share my experiences while traveling, to provide tips and advice for others traveling to the places I have been to, to share my journey embracing a minimalist and simple lifestyle and ultimately, to inspire others to pursue their passions, break down the barriers that are stopping them from doing so, to experience and travel more, and to experiment with minimalism in their lives.

2. How do you find inspiration for your posts?

I find inspiration from reading other blogs about travel and minimalism, and from the online articles and books that I read.

3. What do you like and/or dislike most about blogging? 

I love writing. I dislike how time consuming the writing, research and uploading photos actually takes. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into one post.

4. What is your biggest challenge as a blogger? 

I think the biggest challenge for me is gaining engaged readers who come back to your site often and who find meaning in what you are writing, and figuring out how best to promote my blog to potential readers. It is also challenging to find the time to research and write, especially when you have a full-time job.

5. What motivates you to keep blogging? 

What motivates me is the support and encouragement I have been receiving from other people. I have been told by family members, friends and followers online, that they really enjoy reading my blog and that I am a good writer. This motivates me to keep writing.

6. What do you like to do in your free time? 

I really enjoy cooking vegetarian and healthy meals and baking healthy sweet treats! I also love reading and learning new things, playing board and card games, bike riding, walking and exploring new areas in my home city, and spending time with family and friends.

7. What would the perfect day for you be like? 

I have many variations of the perfect day. It could involve doing something fun with family, or exploring a new country, or reading and learning about something that interests me, etc.

8. What is number one in your bucket list? 

I don’t have a typical bucket list of things to be checked off, but instead, I have a list of things I want to truly experience, life goals I want to accomplish and cultures I want to immerse myself to learn more about them. The goal I want to accomplish next on my list, is traveling to Guatemala, taking Spanish lessons there and living with a local family.

9. Who is the most important person in your life? 

The most important person in my life is definitely my mother. She is my best friend and I love chatting with her and doing fun activities together. We are so alike!

10. What is a motto or quote you live by? 

This quote by Mark Twain – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” What motivates me to make the most of this short life we have been blessed with, and to take advantage of opportunities, is knowing that life is short and that one day, we will regret not doing those experiences that involved stepping outside of our comfort zones.

11. What will you do when your blog makes it big?

If that happens, I would celebrate! But in all honestly, my goal is not for my blog to become famous. All I hope for, is that I write content that is interesting and informative and engaging and that people enjoy returning to my blog to learn more about minimalism, or my travels. I just hope to inspire people, even if it’s just one person.

My Nominees:

Bodacious Adventures

Life and Design

Newbie Minimalist

Yucatantastic

Minimalist Sometimes

Decluttering the Stuff

A Brave Little Blog

Roosendans on Tour

Always on The Way

Profound Unknown

Wayfarer Kate

Sadie’s Been There

It’s Tidy Time

Simplify 2Day

Simply Save

Peter K Travels

My Questions For You:

  1. What book are you reading right now, or what was the last book you read?
  2. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
  3. What is an off the beaten path place or attraction you have been to, that you would recommend others visit?
  4. If you could choose any country in the world to live in, which one would you choose?
  5. What are three of your favourite foods or meals?
  6. What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging?
  7. What are some of your hobbies that you enjoy doing in your free time?
  8. What is something you’ve done or experienced once that you would never do a second time, but would recommend that other people try it once?
  9. What is the scariest thing you have ever done or experienced?
  10. What inspired you to start blogging?

Thanks again to Fabiola for the nomination and I can’t wait to see all of your answers!

The Costs of Traveling in San Francisco on a Budget for 6 Days

Costs of Travel in San Francisco

San Francisco is definitely one of the more expensive US cities to visit, especially for Canadians at a time right now when our dollar is doing so poorly against the American dollar. Of course, I only realized the value of the dollar after I had booked my flights! But it cost me over $100 extra in exchanging my money and paying for accommodation. Yikes! Next time I will check the dollar first before booking, but traveling to San Francisco was so worth it and I don’t regret it for a second. The really great thing about San Francisco is that most of the activities that I did, were completely free! One of my favourite things to do was exploring new neighbourhoods and checking out the gorgeous and colourful Victorian homes. The Golden Gate Bridge was free, the many scenic stairways, Chinatown, and more. The only attractions I paid for, were Alcatraz and riding the cable cars.

Here is a breakdown of exactly what I spent on my trip to San Francisco, California:

Where I Traveled:

San Francisco, California, USA

Number of Days:

6 days (July 28, 2015 to August 3, 2015)

Type of Travel:

Independent, Budget, Mother-Daughter

Accommodations:

We stayed at an Airbnb apartment rental in the Mission District.

Flights:

I booked my flight with the Canadian airline company WestJet about a month and a half prior to leaving on my trip. I booked on a Tuesday night – I have had the most success of finding cheap flight sales when I book on Tuesday nights (not sure if it’s a coincidence or a trend). My flight was from Winnipeg, Canada to San Francisco, California with one connection each way (Calgary, Canada on the way there and Vancouver, Canada on the way home).

Food:

We ate at local “taquerias” (Mexican taco places) in the Mission District for dinners, usually a Cliff protein bar for lunches on the go, and we would buy groceries from local markets in the Mission District (eggs, yogurt, milk, fresh fruit and kombucha).

Transportation:

We used the BART train and MUNI city buses to get around San Francisco. The BART is a convenient option for getting to and from the San Francisco Airport. We also used BART when traveling from the Mission District to downtown San Francisco (Powell Street or The Embarcadero).

The MUNI buses were also easy to use and a great option for getting around the city.

A one-way ticket with BART costs $1.85 USD and a one-way MUNI bus ticket costs $2.25 USD. Taking the BART to and from the airport costs between $8.60 and $11.65 one-way.

Activities/Sights/Attractions:

The majority of the attractions that I visited during my stay in San Francisco were either completely free or very cheap. The only activity I paid money for ($37 USD) was touring the prison and island of Alcatraz.

Entire Trip Cost Per Person:

$1497.60 USD – This price includes flights, food, transportation, accommodations and the Alcatraz tour.

$959.24 USD – This price includes everything I spent in San Francisco, excluding the cost of flights.

Average Cost Per Day Per Person:

$159.87 USD per day which includes everything spent in San Francisco (excluding flights)

Breakdown of Travel Expenses – How Much Did I Spend?:

Activities/Sights/Attractions:

The only attraction that I paid money to see was a tour of Alcatraz, which costs $37 USD. All of the other attractions that I went to were completely free.

Flights:

I paid $538.36 CAD for my flight from Winnipeg, Canada to San Francisco, CA (with a connection in Calgary, Canada on the way there and Vancouver, Canada on the way back).

I purchased my flights about 7-8 weeks in advance of my trip, using the WestJet airline website. The flights had originally been priced at over $700 CAD, but I was searching the airline website on a Tuesday evening and noticed that they were now on sale. I ended up getting a great deal!

Food:

I spent a total of $162.49 USD for groceries and eating out while in San Francisco. I purchased groceries to make my own breakfasts, protein bars for lunches, ice cream, and tacos for dinners.

My average daily cost for food was $27.08 USD.

Transportation:

I spent $57.75 USD on transportation in San Francisco. This included the $17 one-day pass to ride the cable cars, as well as BART and MUNI tickets for getting around within the city and to and from the airport.

My average daily cost for transportation was $9.63 USD.

Accommodations:

I spent a total of $702 USD per person for six nights for the Airbnb apartment rental, which translates to $117 USD per night. Hotels in the downtown area of San Francisco would have been much more expensive.

Notable Expenses:
Alcatraz Tickets: $37 CAD
Cable Car One-Day Pass: $17 USD
Golden Gate Transit One-Way to Golden Gate Bridge: $5.25 USD

Tips for Budget Travel in San Francisco:

Here are some suggestions for keeping your budget down while traveling in San Francisco:

Travel in the off season:

The high season for travel to San Francisco is in September and early October. This is when the weather is the warmest and the sky is the clearest. The weather is usually foggy, chilly (average of 17 degrees Celsius) and windy during the summer months. You would see the least amount of tourists during the winter and spring months, although it can be rainy during these times. However, when you visit a destination in the off-season, you can expect to pay significantly less for hotels and flights, which would save you money.

Cook your own meals:

If you want to eat as cheap as possible, you can purchase groceries from a local market or supermarket and make your own meals. I made my own breakfasts and bought protein bars to eat for lunches, as we were often on the go exploring the city, with no time to stop and eat lunch.

Find Cheap or Free Activities:

Even though San Francisco is a touristy and expensive city to visit, there are so many free and cheap activities and things to see in the city if you are on a budget. You can check out my detailed guide to these attractions here. If you do a Google search for “free or cheap things to do in San Francisco,” you will get lots of results. The only attraction that I paid to visit was Alcatraz, which was very reasonably priced at $37 USD per person.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Mosaic Steps, Filbert and Greenwich Stairs, Lombard Street, Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, The Painted Ladies, Buena Vista Park, Mission Dolores Park are all free to visit, and there are many more.

Some of the museums and gardens in the city also offer free admission during certain days of the month, or certain times of the day.

Use Airbnb Instead of Staying at a Hotel:

Airbnb is a website that allows homeowners in destinations all over the world, the ability to rent private rooms in their houses or apartments for a fee. Some people even rent out their entire homes. If you sign up for Airbnb using this link, you will get a $25 USD or $33 CAD credit that can be used towards your first booking!

Airbnb rentals are awesome because you can have the comforts of home, stay in a variety of neighbourhoods and not be limited to just the downtown or other touristy areas, and you have the opportunity to meet some of the locals who can provide you with great recommendations on things to do and places to eat in the city. You can find many rentals that are cheaper than the hotels in downtown San Francisco.

I enjoyed staying in an apartment in the Mission District. You can read more about my Airbnb experience here.

Use the Local Public Transportation Instead of Booking Tours:

The local transportation in San Francisco is easy to use and convenient, yet I saw so few tourists actually using it, which surprised me. I suppose the more popular thing to do is book organized tours to the attractions that you want to go to, however, you can save a lot of money if you choose to get where you want to go independently.

San Francisco has the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) which is a subway-like train that take you from the airport to the Mission District and downtown San Francisco, as well to various suburbs. The MUNI city buses can take you everywhere within the city.

You can look up the train and bus schedules online or by using Google Maps.

How Did I Save Money for this Trip?

I have a separate savings account that I created through my online banking, which is my dedicated “travel fund.” On the morning of my pay day from my full-time job, I log in to online banking and immediately transfer $400 every two weeks from my primary savings where my check was direct deposited, into my travel fund. That equals a total of $800 CAD monthly that goes towards my travels. I know this sounds like a lot of money! But you can choose whatever amount you would like, depending on your financial situation, budget and current expenses and obligations.

I live with my parents and pay cheap rent, which definitely helps me save for travel faster. I also sacrifice a lot, in terms of my spending. I rarely go out to eat, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t go to movies, I live minimally and frugally, I rarely go shopping unless it is for something that I need (and not just something I desire) and I eat a simple but healthy diet of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. I also live about 5 minutes away from where I work and thus, save a lot of money on fuel for my car that way.

It’s not easy, but if traveling is a priority for you, you will have to find a way to make it happen and fit it into your budget. You will have to make sacrifices to save money. I suggest setting up a specific bank account for your travel fund and don’t touch the money in there, unless it’s for travel! Choose an amount of money that works for you and diligently transfer that amount to your travel savings whenever you get paid or set up your online banking to do it automatically, so you don’t forget.

San Francisco is a gorgeous city with so much charm, character, history and diversity. Although it is an expensive and touristy city, it is still a great destination for budget and independent travelers as well, and there are many ways that can cut down on your budget while traveling there.

Have you been to San Francisco? What was your budget like? How much did you spend?

Let me know in the comments.

How To Maximize Your Vacation Days From Work

seasonalspecials.com (16)

I recently read a statistic that bothered me and also made me sad for the state of our western culture. A recent survey (2014) found that 26 per cent of Canadians do not use their allotted paid vacation days from work. Many people claimed that they had too much work to do, while others said they saved their vacation time for emergencies and still others said that they just didn’t want a vacation. Seriously?! I almost couldn’t believe it when I read that. Travel is such an enriching and transformative experience filled with cultural experiences, exploring and learning. As someone who suffers from wanderlust, it really doesn’t make sense to me why people would CHOOSE not to travel, especially when they have paid time off to do so. I love travel so much that I would even take unpaid leave to pursue it. I understand that traveling is not everyone’s passion or interest and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they could still use their vacation time to spend quality time with their families or just have a stay-cation, relaxing at home and exploring your own backyard.

When you compare the vacation time that employees in other countries and continents are provided, to that which Canadians and Americans are provided, it is really quite sad. Our western culture rewards busy-ness and we live in a culture where success tends to means working hard, climbing the corporate ladder and focusing on building your career, first and foremost. Traveling is not seen as that important, and as a result, hardly any vacation time is given to employees in Canada and the USA. When I informed my co-workers that I would be backpacking solo in Mexico for 12 days, a lot of people thought I was crazy for doing so. But really, what is life without adventure, stepping into the unknown and being uncomfortable sometimes? That’s when growth and learning occurs.

I wish more people would realize and understand that working hard your entire life while saving your money for retirement when you choose to relax, travel and enjoy life, is no way to live! We are never guaranteed the future, so why not live in the present, pursue your passions now instead of waiting for “someday,” which will never come? There will never be a perfect time to do what you love, so stop waiting until you have less work to do and just follow your dreams now. I think it’s best to travel and do what you love while you’re still young and healthy, rather than waiting for a day when you don’t know what your capabilities will be. There is so much more to life than slaving away at work every day of your life. Life is short. Working is not the most important thing in the world. I guarantee you, when you’re old, you will wish you had traveled more or at least pursued your passions (whatever they may be) while you were still young and spent more time with family. You will never wish you had worked more and gained more money and possessions. In my opinion, our priorities should be spending our time wisely and investing in more experiences as opposed to more possessions and “stuff.”

The Canadian government only mandates 10 days of vacation time. In comparison, employees in Sweden, Greece, France, Finland, Denmark, the UK and Austria are provided with 25 vacation days; New Zealand, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany and others all receive 30 paid holidays per year. The United States has zero mandated vacation days. Check out this Wikipedia Page listing the amount of paid holidays for every country.

So far in this fiscal year, I have taken a 12 day trip to Mexico and will be going to San Francisco for 7 days next week. I am also planning on going to Mexico again in the fall for 17-18 days. All of these vacations would be using my regular paid holiday time. Want to know how to do it too?

As a full-time employee myself with only 13 vacation days per year, here are some tips for other full-time workers on how to maximize your vacation days from work and get the most out of them:

Take Advantage of Statutory Holidays – If Monday is a federal holiday (like Boxing Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, etc.), then you can use a vacation day on either the Friday or Tuesday, or both, to make a long weekend of between 4-5 days. For example: If you book a trip from Saturday to Monday, you wouldn’t have to use any vacation days. If you include the Friday or the Tuesday, you would only have to use 1 vacation day. If you book a trip from Saturday to the following Sunday with Monday as the holiday, you only have to use 4 vacation days but get 9 days off. This is a decent length of time to go on a shorter trip, within Canada or the United States.

Take Advantage of Weekends – When I booked my solo trip to Mexico in May, I made sure that two weekends (4 days) fell during my time off. The more weekends you can fit in, the less vacation time you have to use. When you book a trip, try to book it so you are using both weekends on each side of the week. This automatically gives you 4 days where you don’t have to use your limited paid days. For example: If you book a trip from Saturday to the following Sunday, that gives you 9 days including two weekends and you only to use 4-5 paid vacation days, depending on if there is a federal holiday included there as well.

Ask to Work Flexible Hours – At my workplace, employees have the option of working an extra 50 minutes every day (either before or after your regular hours, or a combination of both) in exchange for every second Friday or Monday off work, making every second weekend an automatic long weekend. I currently work on this flexible arrangement. What I have also done in the past, is choose to work on my second Monday off, thus giving me a free day off to use at any point in the future. This has come in handy for booking longer trips.

Book Evening Flights – If you book an evening flight, you can still go to work during the day, and thus, use one less vacation day. Additionally, if you book your flight early in the morning on a weekend and fly back in the evening a few days later, you will have more time in your destination. Don’t book a midday flight, as then you have to take half a vacation day.

Book Weekend Trips – A weekend can be enough time to go on a short trip. You could go camping or hiking in an area close to where you live or take a short road trip. You could also take a short flight to a nearby city in your country. You could schedule your flight to arrive on Friday evening, giving you a full day Saturday and Sunday to explore, and then fly back home on Sunday evening.

Take a Day Trip – You could go on a day trip to a nearby city or destination. My family and I have driven to Grand Forks, North Dakota (2 and a half hours south of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) early in the morning, spend all day shopping and exploring and then drive back in the evening.

Be a Tourist in Your Own City – You could explore new neighbourhoods, restaurants and local attractions in your own city or town. You could also check out a new festival or event that you haven’t had the opportunity to attend yet. Do some research on local forums and blogs and see what you can find.

Use Other Random Paid Days Off For Travel – If your workplace offers you volunteer days, or personal days or family days, see if you are able to use those for travel in addition to your other paid vacation days.

Ask for an Unpaid Leave of Absence – If you have used all of your paid vacation days and are still looking to travel more, ask your boss if you can take unpaid leave. You never know until you ask.

Quit Your Job – If you are dissatisfied with the amount of vacation time you receive and you believe that your true passion is traveling, then quit your job. Make sure you have enough money saved up to support yourself for traveling. Sometimes in life, when you figure out your priorities and your passions, you have to follow them. You can always find another job, but your time is your most precious resource.

When you book your travels, always take advantage of federal holidays and weekends! You will have to ponder how you want to spread out your vacation time during the year. You could use all of your vacation time at one time for a big international trip; you could take a couple of week-long shorter vacations; or you could tack on vacation days to long weekends or weekends with federal holidays for shorter weekend getaways or family time.

Just remember one thing… ALWAYS USE YOUR VACATION TIME! Don’t save it up for emergencies or wait for “someday” which will never come. Use it now. Live in the moment. Travel and explore now. Pursue your passions. Do what you love. Stop waiting.