I’m Sandra from Minimalist Journeys – a website my husband Paul and I created to help others
- live a happier, more intentional and less wasteful life; and
- explore the world in a more sustainable way.
Realizing that our middle class life in Sydney, Australia wasn’t really what we wanted, we embarked on a life changing journey: from assessing our values and discovering minimalism to a life without fixed abode and without the financial security of a job… but full of amazing and humbling experiences. We’ve now had a year since leaving the shores of Australia. So, how has our lifestyle changed, and how has it transformed us personally?
Jenny kindly gave us the opportunity to share our story with you. So before I start, I would like to extend a BIG THANK YOU to Jenny for this wonderful opportunity.
How our lifestyle has changed
Coming from humble backgrounds, Paul and I were never materialistic people to begin with. The only debt we had was our mortgage, and we were well on track to pay it off as early as possible. The big thing for us about adopting minimalism was that it made us question whether something we had or did gave us value. As we reflected on our values, where we were in life and what we wanted our lives to be, an idea slowly formed in our heads: What if we could create a life that allowed us to pursue what’s truly important to us and earn enough money to sustain ourselves at the same time?
To be able to pursue the life we truly wanted to live, we sold or gave away (almost) everything we owned. What we own nowadays fits into
- two carry-on backpacks (the stuff we need to travel and work); and
- two 140 liter plastic boxes (anything else that is important enough for us to keep).
Since leaving Australia in September 2016, we’ve spent a month in New Zealand, three months in the US and Canada, three months in Ecuador, three months in the Caribbean and two months in Central America. We’ve visited 16 countries, taken 29 flights and slept in 85 different beds (for an average of 3.8 nights). 7 out of 10 times, we stayed in short term rentals – to have some home comforts like preparing our own meals (rather than eat out three times a day). In the last year, we lived on USD76 per person per day, comfortably. This covered everything: from airfares, visa fees and local transport to accommodation, food and leisure activities.
Our daily routine hasn’t really changed that much since leaving Sydney. We still wake up around sunrise, as Paul continues to run most mornings. Different to Sydney though, we are able to enjoy breakfast together, and instead of going to the office, we head out exploring (if the weather is okay) or stay ‘at home’ to work (if it rains).
Since we are running a business together, we have weekly business management meetings where we discuss and agree more strategic business matters as well as our tasks for the week ahead. Both of us have different strengths and experiences, and we have divided key roles between us accordingly. We are pretty driven and disciplined by nature, so pushing ourselves (and each other) to get things done isn’t difficult. In fact, developing our website and other business ideas doesn’t feel like work. We enjoy utilizing our skills and learning new ones – just this time, it’s for the benefit of our own business, not for someone else’s.
How it has transformed us personally
Oh gosh, where do I begin? If I was to sum up the last year in one word it would have to be LEARNING. We have learned so much about the world and about us. And with these learnings, our values have become even stronger than they were before. As we spent the last year in the Americas, we have not only become better Spanish speakers. Our knowledge of world history – particular as it relates to slavery, human rights and social (in)justice – has grown exponentially.
We’ve met so many wonderful people, locals and fellow travelers, people of all ages and backgrounds. These interactions have shown us that while we may speak different languages or look differently, in the end, we are all human beings, with the same emotions, the same needs and the same concerns for our loved ones. We will continue to cross physical borders as we move from country to country, but there are no (more) borders in our heads.
Exploring (so called) third world countries, taught us patience. It also taught us to be adaptive and make do with what is available – skills that make the people of these countries so resourceful and resilient, yet have been all but forgotten in our first world excess. Traveling around the Americas gave us renewed appreciation for the things we (used to) take for granted: a comfortable bed, a warm shower, clean drinking water and the ability to have fresh, healthy food.
When we are out exploring, we choose our activities wisely. We try to travel sustainably, which means we consider the economic, social and environmental impact when deciding where to go, how to get there and what to spend our limited funds on. We may not visit a tourist attraction, even if it is billed a ‘must-see’, if it does not predominantly benefit the local community, does not align with our values or unduly impacts our environment.
Slowing down has enabled us to see, enjoy and appreciate the little things that would go unnoticed when our days were long and hectic: butterflies chasing each other on our trails, the colours of Spring or the smell of freshly washed clothes. With greater awareness, we also see more of the sad things: the rubbish along roadsides and lakeshores, the tin sheds on city edges in which people live in the poorest of conditions, the mistreatment of animals. These experiences only reinforce our desire to use our skills to make this world a more (culturally and ecologically) sensitive, tolerant and respectful place.
When we went to the local supermarket the other day (we are currently in Auckland, New Zealand), we were baffled by the choice provided on the shelves. Having spent a good part of this year in tropical, (so called) developing countries, where all you can buy is long-life milk (or milk powder in some instances), the choice of milk alone made us shake our heads. It made us question: Do we actually need so much choice? Or are manufacturers trying to solve problems that don’t exist, just to get us consumers to spend more?
Before we left Australia, we had only once travelled together for three months, and we had never worked with each other. Nowadays, we are together (more or less) 24/7. It is not always smooth sailing but our shared values help a lot. We have become better communicators, speaking up when we are upset about something (rather than ruminating quietly). The last year has definitely strengthened our relationship. We know that we have each other’s back, and this a wonderful thing to be certain of, especially when you explore foreign countries.
We had both lived in different countries before – in fact Australia was a foreign country for both of us – but when we left a year ago, it was still a huge step into the unknown. And while excited about what lay ahead, we were also anxious. Having ‘survived’ the first year, we are no longer anxious about our future. We experienced first-hand how little you actually need to be happy, and it only reinforced our desire to live a simple life.
As our first year ‘on the road’ comes to a close, we have done what we set out to achieve: We have experimented, we have made mistakes and we are learning from them. And one thing is certain: We will continue to focus on creating the life we truly want.
Thank you to Sandra and Paul from Minimalist Journeys for sharing there inspiring minimalist journey with us today! Please feel free to head over to their awesome blog to follow along on their adventures. They can also be found on pinterest, instagram, twitter and facebook!
Any questions for Sandra and Paul? Would you consider such a radical lifestyle change?