Two weeks and 50+ hours of flying, waiting in airports and being planted on a brick hard seat in a crammed shuttle bus that would make a sardine tin look spacious has taught me a thing or two about living simply. On my most recent holiday – a tropical island getaway to Palawan, Philippines – I re-gained a sense of calm and self with the help of bad wifi, a local sim card that had no reception in the jungle and cluster of roosters who would diligently let off their alarms every morning starting from 4:30am.
These are my five minimalist lessons which I learned from my tropical island getaway:
ONE: The most critical things in your life can fit into a carry-on
Almost all of the things you own are things you don’t need. I brought 6 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 pairs of shoes which was more than enough for the trip. If you want to break it down to the real essentials, a passport, bank card and anti-bacterial baby wipes was more than enough in most situations. After coming back from holiday, I went through my wardrobe like a tornado and got rid of 2 suitcases worth of clothes and 5 pairs of shoes that I don’t need or want.
TWO: Big cities are full of mental and financial distractions
If you remove yourself from your environment, you’ll remove the distractions, vices and mental noise as well. What shopping did I do on holiday? Nada. Zilch. Because I didn’t go on holiday to impulse buy cheap thrills to distract me from the things I want to escape from. I went on holiday to live, see and explore. Living is cheap and time is more plentiful if you cut out all the valueless distractions in your life.
THREE: We’re spoilt rotten here in the developed world
Simple things like well-functioning plumbing, clean tap water and large, affordable supermarkets everywhere with fresh food are taken for granted. Travelling to under-developed places where precautionary and preliminary medial measures must be taken (like malaria tablets, tetanus and typhoid shots etc) easily emphasise the big gap between developed and under-developed countries’ standards of living. When your priorities change from finding the best cocktail bar to finding clean water, all the nonsense crumbles away and the realisation that above the basics (shelter, food, water, clothing) everything else is just decoration.
FOUR: It’s worth investing in quality
Being constantly on the road non-stop meant that my belongings were stylish for the destination and tough for the journey. I reaped dividend after dividend after investing in quality pieces as they survived and thrived as I swam in currents, trudged down rubble roads, got bumped around in brightly coloured, aged, diesel boats.
FIVE: Life becomes much much simpler with bad wifi and limited electricity
One of the places we stayed had limited electricity that only worked for 3 hours in the morning (8am to 11am) and 3 hours at night (6pm to 9pm). Almost everywhere else had multiple power blackouts everyday. When you have no wifi, suddenly all those social anxieties at work or friends become insignificant and world issues feel miles away. I woke up most mornings (with the help of my dawn alarm clock roosters clucking away) at 4:30am or 5:00am, watched the sunrise and enjoyed the crisp morning air before it turned into a sauna. I was in bed by 8:30pm and felt like each day was long, plentiful and refreshing.
And to leave you with one last photo to give you the Office Monday Blues, here’s a photo of the incredible sunrises Mr. Piggybanks and I would wake up to:
xx Miss Piggy
Cover illustration by Rene Grau