Minimalism and Simplicity: Around the World in 80 Years

Hey guys… I just met that guy from my hotel again! Remember, the one who almost attacked me a few weeks ago? I finally found out why he reacted the way he did… and some of the things he told me really made a big impact on me. In fact, he is a fellow traveler on the path… he, too, has been traveling for many, many years. And he, too, has no intention of ever returning to his home country.

Anyway – I was just about to leave my room, as that same guy stood in front of me again… but this time, he stood there with a beaming smile, greeted me happily and apologized profusely for the way he had reacted the first time we met.

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He also explained to me that he had just spent months and months as a hermit in the mountains… living alone, meditating all by himself and remaining in absolute silence for months. He had had no human contact… and he said he had to get used to speaking again!

I found that story fascinating, and so I told him: “Hey, I’m just on my way to grab some food – are you hungry, wanna come along?” He accepted, and our conversation only got more and more interesting…

People come toThailandfor all kinds of reasons. Some are looking for the pristine paradise they saw in DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach”… some want to experience “One Night in Bangkok” and see some of the world’s wildest night life… some are looking to go diving in the South, or riding elephants in the North… and others come here to meditate, as did my new friend.

I find Buddhism to be a fascinating religion. A couple of years ago, I spent some months in Singapore, visiting temples, reading books about Mahamudra and spending hours in meditation myself. And during that time, a monk told me a story I will never forget.

You see… in his order, the monks were not allowed to own any money – when they help someone, they do it out of the kindness of their hearts, but they never take payments. In fact, most have no possessions whatsoever, other than their robe and the bowl they eat from!

One day, however, he had given some spiritual counsel to a woman from town… and that lady was so grateful that she wanted to repay the favor in some way. She begged him to accept some money from her… but as you can imagine, the monk refused. Finally, she said – “Okay, I understand that you can’t take any money. So please think of something you need from town… maybe a tooth brush, or a pair of new shoes. And I will buy it for you as a gift.”

The monk finally accepted the generous offer, went back to his room and started thinking about what things he might find useful. A tooth brush would come in handy indeed… and his shoes were very worn out. After some time, he had compiled a list of items that would be useful to him – now it was only a matter of choosing the most important one to ask for.

But now he couldn’t make up his mind! Suddenly, all the items on the list seemed to be absolutely necessary… when he hadn’t missed any of them before the woman from town had made her offer. He cursed himself for letting himself get caught up in attachment to material objects again, decided to let go and ended up telling the woman that he changed his mind – he didn’t want anything from her. Possessions would only create the desire for MORE… and this form of desire is one that many Buddhists strive to eradicate in themselves once and for all.

I don’t know if I could ever go to the same extreme as this monk in Singapore… I certainly don’t want to live without a toothbrush! But there’s a part of this story that I can really identify with. When I was a teenager, I went on an exchange program for a year… it was to be the first time I would live overseas, and I had to make a similar decision as the monk: out of all my possessions, what should I take with me? Anything I’d leave behind, I wouldn’t be able to get a hold of for an entire year. After all, I was only allowed to bring a suit case and a small backpack on the plane with me.

But when the twelve months were up and I returned back to my home country, I realized something fascinating: during all that time, I didn’t miss any of the things I had left behind… not even once! Which brought me to a simple conclusion: Hey, if I can live without all this stuff for a year, then I can probably live without it forever.

And at that point, I decided to become a minimalist.

Today, all I own in this world is a backpack with some clothes and a laptop – that’s IT. In my opinion, all possessions are dead weight that tie me down and impinge on my freedom. As it stands now, I can go anywhere in the world at moment’s notice. If I wanted to, I could have breakfast in Sydneytomorrow morning… or in Hawaii, in Sicilyor even in Brazil. And that, to me, is worth much more than all the things we are conditioned to pile up in our modern society.

To quote the movie Fight Club: “The things you used to own… now they own you. We work in jobs we hate so that we can buy s*** we don’t need.” Truer words have never been spoken… and my friend, the hermit from the hotel, doesn’t own a lot of stuff either. Just like me, he owns some clothes and a computer to communicate with his folks back home… but that’s it.

And I’ll say one thing for this guy… once I got to know him better, he seemed to be one of the happiest, and most balanced people I’ve ever met. He is so in touch with his inner self, his emotions and his sensations that he can even sense what the weather is like… even when he’s alone in his room, with the windows closed and the shutters down. And that’s only the beginning of what he told me… maybe I will write a bit more about some of the things I learned from him in a future post.

If this article did inspire you to get rid of some things you’ll likely never look at again in your life, here’s some advice to get you started: Next time you come across an item that you haven’t used in a few months, throw it out. Chances are you’ll never use it again. And next time you come across an object in your house hold and you’re not sure, give yourself 30 seconds to think about it. If after 30 seconds you’re still undecided, throw that out too. You can also give it away… in fact, this philosophy of mine has saved some of my friends a bunch of money! ;-)

As always, leave me a comment and let me know what you think… if you had to leave your home country for a year, what would you take with you, other than the bare necessities? What’s the one thing you cannot live without?

I’m curious to hear your opinions!

Until next time, always the best…

~ Frank Florida ~

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Frank Florida

Frank Florida é professor de idiomas desde 1994 e fala oito línguas. Viajando o mundo por 11 anos, ele visitou umas 300 cidades em mais de 50 países. Ele se graduou da High School nos EUA, se formou em didática na Austrália e é criador do site Fórmula Fluente.

34 comentários

  • 20/09/12  
    Rafael diz: 1

    Wow! That’s article has inspired me for sure! I loved the idea of be minimalist, since I’m an addicted to the technologic stuff!
    I’ll keep that in mind for futures decisions.
    Thanks!

    • 20/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Glad to hear that Rafael! :) Yeah, it’s amazing how quickly things pile up… sometimes I’ve spent many months in a single place and by the time I’m ready to pack my things and move on, I’m always surprised how much stuff accumulates just from living life…

  • 20/09/12  
    Jen diz: 2

    Hi Frank,

    Your article is really good! I aggree with your point. The more you buy the more you want/need/have to buy.
    I was interested in knowing about your new friend’s time in the mountains. How did he do that? Is there a website where you can get some information about it?

    Many thanks for your attention and nice articles. Looking forward to the next one. :)

    Jen

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Jen, if I run into him again, I will ask him… though I’m no longer in Thailand! You can follow my travels on the English Experts forum, I have a thread in the section “diario de bordo”. That said, a friend of mine recommended this website for meditation retreats in Thailand. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’d really like to do that myself next year. If you end up going, please send me a message and let me know how you liked it!
      http://www.palikanon.com/vipassana/tapotaram/tapotaram.htm

      Always the best,
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    Carolina Fontes diz: 3

    Just for you to know that there’s still another person who expects your posts eagerly. They’re awesome! Thanks!

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Thanks Carolina, hearing that just never gets old! :)
      Cheers!
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    Gus diz: 4

    Hi Frank! First of all, your articles are great! I always dream about leave my house and travel around the world, and you are motivating me more and more. In December I’ll take a flight to Thailand, where I’ll travel for two months. I’d like to talk a bit more with you and get some tips about the Southeast Asia and travels in general. I’ve started a blog where I’m posting about my previous trips and the next one: http://iwalkisee.wordpress.com

    Can we talk sometime email or facebook?

    Thanks very much!

    Ps.: Sorry my english, I’m learning yet.

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Gus, thanks man – that’s really great to hear that you’re coming out to South East Asia. I’ll probably be in South America in December, so we’ll end up trading places… but I’m already thinking about my next trip to Asia as well! I had a look at your blog… it looks awesome. Did you take those pictures? If so, you’re a really talented photographer! And yeah, I’d be happy to help you out with some advice if you would like to exchange ideas, the best way to reach me these days is on the forum… just reply to this thread:
      http://www.englishexperts.com.br/forum/around-the-world-in-80-years-travel-journal-t25866.html

      I look forward! :)
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    Mel diz: 5

    Well, I’ve been following your articles and they’re really outstanding. They make me feel like going on reading and yes, they are inspiring. Thanks for sharing your experiences. My question about these amazing trips is: How do you deal with immigration issues? I mean visas, fees, papers… Usually if you don’t have money or a purpose it isn’t simple to enter a country. Please, could you talk about it when possible? Thanks

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Mel, thank you so much for your kind words! About the visa question – this is a two part answer. The short and easy answer is, I usually travel on tourist visas. That’s the easiest way, and you can get information at the consulates of the countries you’d like to visit… for a more detailed response, read Part V of this series, where I discussed the visa topic in more depth:
      http://www.englishexperts.com.br/2012/08/20/around-the-world-in-80-years-part-v/

      Hope that helps, if you have any further questions, just drop by on the forum… I check my diario de bordo regularly and answer all questions over there.

      Cheers! :)
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    Luis diz: 6

    Hi, Frank!! I´m assiduos reader of your posts and I always surprised how much I feel identified with your ideas. I absolutely agree with you although I recognise that´s a difficult proposal for most of people. I didn´t mention before but I took a time from my work for really learning english once and for all. Last year I went to England for 6 months, this year more 6 months in Dublin and now I just arrived in Paris for more 3 months studying french. All those time I lived with the money I saved before but of course it is not so much. However my life style is simple, I just expend money for school, a room, some trips, food and drink sometimes. I´ve never gone shopping. Before I left Dublin, I got rid of some stuff I realised I didn´t need: clothes, shoes, papers etc. I still have many things and before going back to Brazil I´ll do another “limpa”. And I still need to give other steps like learn how to get small jobs for earning some money and do the same you´re doing now. But someone has got my heart and I can´t do this for the moment. Thanks for all your shares. Hugs!!

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Luis, thanks for your comment… and congratulations for taking the initiative and seeing Europe on your own. That’s cool… I’m really aligned with your philosophy btw. I really don’t spend a lot of money – rent and food is 90% of what you really need. Stop by on the forum some time if you get a chance!
      Always the best,
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    Lucia diz: 7

    Hi Frank

    I loved the article. Could you give me your e-mail? I would like to ask you some questions, if it is possible.
    Thank you

  • 20/09/12  
    ivoney johann diz: 8

    Awesome article! What I need? I !!!
    Tanks.

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Haha… love it! Thanks for your comment Ivoney! :)
      Frank

  • 20/09/12  
    Regina diz: 9

    Hi there.
    I always read ur texts but i’ve never let u a comment until now. I just wanna say that i love the way u talk about daily things and how it gets so intresting.
    I really apreciated this text. So i did with the one you wrote about when its time to pack and travel.

    Keep writing. Ill keep reading…
    :)

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Regina, thanks for coming out of the shadows to comment, and thanks for your compliments! Will keep writing for sure… :)

      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 20/09/12  
    NÍVIO BERNARDO diz: 10

    when i began reading this article i thougt about a bunch of things. But one of the things that i don´t leave and that would be always with me was: the pictures of my parens and my dauhters.

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Good one Nívio… the one thing that’s truly precious in life, the people around us… I like your answer! It’s funny when people ask me to show them pictures, somehow I always end up showing pictures of my family too. Not sure if that’s what they want to see but that’s what I want to show. ;-p haha

      Cheers! :)
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 21/09/12  
    Rafael diz: 11

    Hello Frank,

    I am learning english, if I commit any wrong in this comment, forgive me, and if possible, correct me.

    I am really wondered, I agree completely with you about possessions are dead weight, always I will buy a new thing, I think if that is really necessary to me.

    It was a pleasure to left a comment. Congratulations, your articles are always very interesting and exciting.

    Bye.

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Hey Rafael, thanks for your comment my friend! Yeah, it’s not always easy to leae our “precious possessions” behind, but when we do, most of the time all we feel is more free…

      Corrections – say: “if I make any mistakes”, not “if I commit any wrong”.

      Hope that helps! :)
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 21/09/12  
    augusto monteiro diz: 12

    hey guy, love this!
    give us some pics and videos of your trip!

    bye!

  • 21/09/12  
    Marisa Peres diz: 13

    Hi,

    I loved very much your post. Congratulations, it put me think on the subject… and i conclude you are absolutely right.

    Marisa

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Thanks for the compliments, Marisa… glad you agree! :)
      Cheers!
      ~ Frank ~

  • 21/09/12  
    Telma Regina diz: 14

    I particularly like this Part IX of your “Around The World In 80 Years” trip. One has to be really resolved to do what you are doing. You are absolutely right about not getting attached to things. In my house, for example, I don’t have a lot of furniture and it feels great.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Frank.

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Thanks Telma… interesting, a fellow minimalist! Yeah, I think that started to become popular in the 90s… I have a couple of friends who are rich and I noticed their apartments were almost empty. It suddenly was a trend to not own a lot of things… even if just for the sake of “interior design”. I always thought that was interesting, because up until the 80s, rich people would clutter up their houses with a million different things…

  • 21/09/12  
    Diego diz: 15

    Hey Frank,

    Amazing stories man! I actually was in Thailand in July, could feel this environment which is truly amazing considering the poverty in the country. I have also been to Maya Bay, the beach from the movie The Beach and it was certainly one of the highest moments in my life once I dreamed of being there since I watched it. Anyways, good on u! Awesome experiences! Make the most of it!

    cheers!

    • 22/09/12  
      Frank Florida diz:

      Cool, then you know how awesome it is out there… yeah, there is still some poverty in Thailand, but the truth is the country has come a looong way since I was there in 2004. It is so much wealthier, the difference is simply astounding. I think there was like one mall in all of Bangkok at the time, and now there are dozens. I always find it fascinating how fast countries can develop. And yeah… the beaches there are still unbelievable…

      Cheers Diego!
      ~ Frank Florida ~

  • 22/09/12  
    Nancy diz: 16

    Frank Florida, congratulations for your post. it´s fantastic as you describe your travels´ experiences. I would like to see videos about countries you have visited.
    Thank you so much!

  • 24/09/12  
    Stephanie diz: 17

    Hello!
    Here I am again! : -D

    I think I am a “materialistic person”..I don’t know if I can put like this…but I always want something..I am always buying things…and some I don’t have enough money to buy so I feel very sad and disappointed. I think I should do like you, become a minimalist…’cause I have a lot of things and many of then are unnecessary.
    I am trying to be in touch with my inner self…feel in peace…because I really agree with that statement “Possessions would only create the desire for MORE”…and this is the main cause of some of ours main frustations.

    Cheers!

  • 15/10/12  
    Roberta Costa diz: 18

    Ual this guy Frank is amazing, this your history was so good for me. I’d learn so much here and yet I feel crazy for traveling world. Thanks for your job and patience. Hugs