My original car and van living experiments were inspired by an old Georgia friend named Kenny Peavy. We used to sit at sidewalk tables in downtown Athens (GA) and discuss Thoreau… and how we could apply his philosophy of living simply, freely, and well in a modern context.
Kenny started his experiment by living in an old Ford Bronco while working at the Athens Nature Center. At night he camped in the park. By day he maintained a professional job as a naturalist… and few knew he was living out of a car. He called his experiment “YHP: Young Homeless Professional”.
That same summer I lived in my Nissan Sentra with my dog… and decided on the name “Hobopoet” to describe my similar experiment, inspired by Kenny.
Much has happened since that summer… but Kenny and I continue to experiment and adventure in our own ways. Kenny now lives in Malaysia, and he is currently involved in another great adventure.
He just quit his job in order to start his own company and non-profit (and hopefully this time I was able to provide him with a little inspiration)… and this summer he and a friend are riding their bikes from Thailand to Bali (minus the water parts)!
The focus of the trip is on environmental/ecological projects in SE Asia… so as they ride they visit various people who are doing cool things for the environment. Kenny & his friend call this project “Green Riders”.
They just finished day 3… and are currently in Southern Thailand. I’m happy for Kenny and I’m happy we have remained friends and vagabonds for all of these years!
Check out Kenny’s latest adventures on the Green Riders blog at: http://greenriders.asia/blog/
Ride Kenny ride!
The beauty and tranquility of the old-growth forests, the vistas that stretch for miles over unbroken treetops, the waterfalls and rivers, the severance from the noise and electronic hallucinations of modern existence, becomes, if you stay out long enough, a balm to wounds. It is in solitude, contemplation and a connection with nature that we transcend the frenzied and desperate existence imposed upon us by the distortions of a commodity culture. –Chris Hedges
One of the reasons for my upcoming hike around the island of Shikoku is stated in the above quote: “severance from the noise and electronic hallucinations of modern existence”.
It is amazing to me that the vast majority of people seem to live their whole lives lost in the “electronic hallucinations of modern existence”. In other words, they live their whole lives focused on the bullshit presented by TV, radio, movies, etc… They believe that this electronic hallucination of human society is the sum total of “life” and “the world”. They live according to the programming presented to them.
Most modern people are asleep.. hypnotized by media.
Luckily, there is a cure.. a sure way to wake up… and Chris Hedges points it out: Nature. There is a reason that saints and holy people throughout human existence have left human society… and gone into the wilderness. They needed to escape the bullshit of human conditioning and get to the essentials of life and existence.
When you go into nature, the bullshit and programming and fake drama quickly fade away. You quickly gain a wider and wiser perspective on both your own life, and on human society as a whole. Your mind clears.
Nature is healing. Compared to it, human society is insignificant. It’s important to remember that.. because you are bombarded every day with manufactured dramas to entertain and distract you. To be sane and healthy and whole, you must unplug.
Unplug from the TV. Unplug from movies. Unplug from music. Unplug from newspapers and magazines. Unplug from books. Unplug from the internet.
Return to the direct experience of your life, now.
The best way to do that is to put on a backpack, and walk into the mountains. Or the desert. Or the forest. Or sail into the ocean.
That’s where you’ll discover what is real, what is essential… and who you really are.
Todd is flying to Thailand, and eventually Koh Phayam, tonight. We said goodbye to him at the airport. You can watch the little video we just made at the airport: watch here.
What’s really cool about all of this is that we will document another Hobopoet success story in real time. My old archives (http://hobopoet.blogspot.com) and this site already provide the fully documented process of my path to freedom and self-reliance (from wage slave, to car and van living, to living abroad in Thailand, do scraping by in San Francisco, to micro-preneur, to successful and free entrepreneur).
Now we’re documenting Todd’s path to freedom… starting now as he flies off to Thailand… and continuing as he builds his bungalows, builds his web presence, and fulfills his dream of living a free, simple, healthy, and happy life on tropical Koh Phayam island in Thailand.
The reason this blog excites me is that YOU can see what’s possible… not in theory but in reality. You get to see the whole process… with all the bumps and warts and challenges…. and the victories. I want you to see that freedom, self-reliance, simplicity, and happiness are possible… without following the mainstream programmed path.
So I hope you’ll follow Todd’s adventures in Thailand, both here at Hobopoet and on his new blog.
And I hope you’ll see that my essays and exhortations are not just grand ideas and theories… but hard-nosed reality-based blueprints for anyone to follow.
Most of all, I hope you’ll find your own path to freedom and abundance!
Good luck to you too!
My friend Katie has a great new blog called Trail Dreamer. Check it out at: http://www.traildreamer.blogspot.com/
Tropical beaches. Riotous Asian cities boiling with energy. Fiery spicy food. Massages 4 days a week.
Voluntary Simplicity has it’s benefits!
Unfortunately, when most people hear the phrase “voluntary simplicity”- they think of hardship…. they imagine eating instant ramen noodles and living a boring hard life.
But that’s exactly the opposite of the Hobopoet Way. Voluntary Simplicity is a means– a means to greater security, greater enjoyment, greater freedom, greater opportunity.
My good friend Chris has another term for it– he calls it “Disciplined Hedonism”… and that, I think, captures the spirit of it. We are disciplined in order to enjoy a great deal of hedonistic pleasure in our lives (whatever that means to you).
In fact, what led me to adopt a very simple life were some questions. I asked myself:
What really gives my life passion, happiness, excitement, and meaning?
Given a certain amount of money, what is the best way to use it to maximize the excitement, passion, happiness, learning, and meaning in my life?
After asking myself these questions for many years– I came to some obvious conclusions. I concluded that while a big opulent house might be “nice”, I’d much rather spend that 100,000 dollars (or, in SF, $600.000) on travel, seminars, books, gifts, coaching programs, journeys, adventures, etc…
I also realized that 10,000 in savings, for example, gave me a much better feeling (of comfort, security) than 10,000 worth of gadgets and furniture.
I realized that I needed to evaluate my economic choices based on the longterm emotional, mental, and spiritual impact they would have on me. That evaluation led to a radically more simple life (in terms of material possessions), a radically more hedonistic life (in terms of experiences), and a radically more social life.
The problem with most people is that they are trying to buy their happiness with things. But happiness grows out of experiences and connections. We grow and learn from experiences, not from things. We grow and learn from people, not from things.
Longterm, we are most thrilled and excited by new experiences and new people.. not by new things. We are most stimulated by experiences and people.. not things.
When you buy a new thing, you feel interest and excitement for a day… MAYBE a week. But the memories of a great experience last years. Learning experiences last a lifetime. Friends can last forever.
These aren’t just platitudes– they are basic psychological truths.
So doesn’t it make sense to develop a personal economic plan that is designed for maximum happiness, learning, excitement, passion, and growth?
If these were your guiding principles, how would you spend (or invest) your money differently? How would you alter your work schedule and habits?
Ask these questions repeatedly, every day. Record your answers in a journal, repeatedly and daily.
See what answers come to you.
(Warning– this simple exercise could totally change your life).
Want to understand the dramatic and unprecendented changes happening in our world today?
Watch the video slide shows at:
This video series is an excellent primer on the economics, energy, and ecological changes that are coming to a head.
Just how portable will my “empire” (business) be?
Well, I plan to fit everything into a small carry-on bag. By everything, I mean not only what’s necessary to run the business, but also all clothes, toiletries, and random stuff I’ll be using to live for 4 months in Thailand/Asia.
I dont know why, but I really love the challenge of simplifying. I think of it as a game. In fact, I heartily recommend this mindset. When faced with scary economic news and warnings of doom– why not see simplifying as a fun challenge rather than something horrible that will be forced upon you.
My first simplification challenge happened prior to living in my car the first time. I’ve always been nomadic, and I REALLY hated moving all my stuff from one apartment to another. I’d rent a truck, haul a bunch of heavy furniture and junk, and feel exhausted.
So one day I decided to reduce my possessions to the point that everything would fit in my Nissan Sentra. I sold or gave away almost everything. I decided to use only free or near free furniture- so I could just leave it behind whenever I moved. And happily, I accomplished my goal after only a few months. I felt light and free.
Of course, the car and van living experiments created even greater challenges for simplifying.
Now, I’ve given myself the task of not only living out of a small carryon bag for 4 months.. but of also running my company from it. Ill be doing demonstrations and seminars in Thailand, launching new lessons, launching a new website, creating & editing videos, and continuing my usual writing and podcast recording.
Here’s the basic packlist so far:
* A Macbook Air laptop with wifi…. and a webcam for making videos
* A Blue Snowflake microphone for podcasting and other recording
* Final Cut Express video editing software. Garageband software for podcast editing.
* Cheap Thai cell phone for most local and international calls.
* iPhone with international plan for a few select business calls.
* Small headset for Skype (free international calls to friends & family.. and to my singing teacher)
* Hiking/Backpacking Clothes made from quick-drying synthetic materials… easy to wash and dry,.. and they pack up very small & tight.
* Dark, very lightweight running/hiking shoes. Also a pair of Teva sandals.
* Toothbrush, contacts, glasses.
And that’s about it.
Most of you probably can or do travel with a similarly light load. But here’s a powerful idea– if you can and do happily live from a small suitcase or backpack when on “vacation” or “camping”… why can’t you continue to happily live from that same small suitcase or backpack once back home?
Why is it we are perfectly happy to live so simply when traveling, but at home this is considered a terrible hardship? The shift is merely mental and attitudinal.
This is a powerful antidote to fear. Realize that you could lose or sell 90% of your “stuff” and yet continue to be warm, healthy, and happy.
Living in the car… and later in a van… taught me just how fun and free a very simple life could be. It taught me that most of our ideas of “poor” and “poverty” are just that– ideas. Poverty is mostly mental, emotional, and spiritual,… not economic.
When I moved to San Francisco, I learned a similar lesson. I was very nearly homeless- having come with a small amount of money and no job lined up. At the last minute, I found a part-time job and a tiny little apartment (one room and super cheap).
Was I “poor”? I didn’t think so. I had an apartment near the center of town.. within walking distance of everything I needed (quite a novelty in the US). I only worked 16 hours a week… and I loved teaching at the school. I had enough money for food… and I had a lot of free time.
So everyday I went on long walks through the city. I relaxed in coffee shops and read books and wrote. I met friends. I started and built my business. I was “poor” in money-terms… but rich in time and rich in freedom.
Ironically, that freedom and time gave me the energy and opportunity to develop my tiny business– which has since grown and given me financial security too.
So, the point is– don’t believe the fear-mongering bastards on TV. Don’t succumb to fear or panic or worry. Simplify your life voluntarily as a GIFT to yourself– a gift of freedom, a gift of time, a gift of energy.
This is an opportunity, not a problem!
I’ve been learning a lot about financial literacy since I started my micro-business. And, as usual, I’ve plunged in all the way… reading everything I can get my hands on.
What I’ve been reading lately, from conservative practically minded investment types, is truly frightening.
Most are predicting not just a “recession”… but a Depression that will far exceed the Great Depression.
I’m not particulary worried about this for myself… as I now have plenty of cash flow and still live very simply (there’s always van living, after all
But its truly frightening for the average Americans I know. They’ve lived all of their lives focused on comfort and more, more, more. They are soft, undisciplined, emotionally weak, and totally unprepared for the tough challenges ahead.
I’ve ranted about the “fatness” of the American body and mind for years now… and this is why– it has produced a nation of spoiled brats.. utterly devoid of self-discipline. And now that nation will be forced into poverty and austerity and simplicity. Most Americans, I fear, will crumble emotionally in the process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This blog offers hope for a fun, adventurous, free, amazing life… no matter how little money you have. My car living and van living experiments, for example, were fantastic points in my life.
As Thoreau said, when you voluntarily simplify your life, poverty is no longer poverty. Poverty in the US is mostly a mental, emotional, and spiritual deprivation.
What I’m saying is this– don’t fear. There’s nothing to fear.
Simplicity is a blessing when you embrace it. It frees you. Frees you from compulsive desires. Frees your time for more enriching activities. Frees your mind to focus on more enlightening thoughts and ideas.
Losing a few doodads is not the end of the world. Moving to a much smaller and cheaper home (apartment or house) is not the end of the world.
Tomoe and I still live in a 12 x 12 room without a kitchen or a bathroom. We cook on a hotplate. We use the shared bathroom in our apartment building. I built a loft for our bed, and have a small “office” under the bed from which I run my “Portable Empire” (ie. my web business). We have the cheapest rent in San Francisco and get to live right downtown. No car necessary, so we don’t have one.
This is all that’s necessary– a safe, dry, warm place to sleep,… a place to bathe,… food and a place to cook a meal,… warm functional clothing,… friends/community.
That’s all. None of the rest is necessary (nice perhaps. fun perhaps. but not necessary for happiness or health).
When living in my car & van, I had a safe, dry, warm (enough) place to sleep. I bathed in rivers in the summer, in public restrooms or gyms at other times (or at friends’ places). I cooked food on a small camping stove… and made just enough money from a 10 hour a week part-time job (food stamps are always an option of last resort). I had simple functional clothing that kept me dry and warm.
And most of all, I had friends. I relaxed with them in coffee shops. I visited them at their homes.
I also enjoyed my solitude– walking at nature centers or parks, meditating, doing yoga, working out at the gym, writing….
That’s why I still live the way I do… even though I could afford a nice McMansion at this point. Happiness is found in connections. Its found in learning. Its found in creativity. Its found in exploration and adventure.
So…. do not fear, no matter how bad the economics get.
Your humanity is not dependent upon money or doodads.
What is “voluntary simplicity” and why do you want it?
Voluntary simplicity means “living below your means”. If you make 1000 a month, then you live off less than that (ideally, much less than that). Thus, my definition of voluntary simplicity is a very fluid and flexible one. What it really means, in spirit, is getting the most achievement and fulfillment possible with the least amount of money/time/effort necessary.
But perhaps the most important question for many is why? Why in the world would you want to live more simply than necessary? What are the benefits?
What if you would actually feel much happier as a result of living a simpler life? What if you would feel less stress, and a greater sense of certainty, ease, and power in your life…. would simplicity sound appealing then?
Well, that’s exactly what voluntary simplicity offers- in purely practical terms. When you live off of less than you earn, you gain a tremendous amount of certainty in your life. You become certain that you can get by. You are certain you cann save money. You feel more secure– financially and emotionally.
Voluntary simplicity is an amazing stress reducer. Living ABOVE your means (by using credit cards and other loans) is a guaranteed bringer of stress. Just imagine– you are totally and absolutely debt free. You owe nothing– no credit card debt, no house mortgage, no car payment… not even a car insurance bill (because you paid it in full). Imagine how incredibly relaxed you would feel in this situation.
Now imagine that you are not only totally debt free– you are also saving money EVERY month. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. After a while, you save enough to cover ALL of your living expenses for a full month. Then enough to cover all expenses for 3 months. Then enough for a full 6 months of living.
Imagine how certain and secure you would feel. Not much worry about losing a job– you’d have 6 months of full living expenses (not to mention possible unemployment benefits). Hell, you might even welcome getting laid off– time for a vacation!
In fact, that’s exactly how I felt once I committed to voluntary simplicity. I no longer worried about losing my job… and in fact, I quit jobs quite readily in order to take extended vacations (several months of travel).
Voluntary simplicity brings ease, relaxation, certainty, and effortlessness into your life. It is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.