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Learning To Live With Less

No dishwasher.

This used to be a deal breaker when we looked for a vacation house to rent for a week. For the next year, I’ll have to stand in front of the kitchen sink everyday and scrub, scrub, scrub under a very temperamental faucet.

Oh, by the way, no car. No Italian espresso machine and coffee beans freshly roasted and shipped to us from Kansas City. No Parma prosciutto. No dryer. No TV. No La Creuset pots and pans. The shower and toilet are in a different part of the house from our sink and toiletry. No cell phone. No fresh beef. No Beef!

The first time I needed to buy fish in a hurry, I had the entire 15-minute walk to Steinar’s dock to think about how I wished I had a car. I consoled myself then: “It would’ve taken 15 minutes to drive to Whole Foods, and now I’m getting fit while I’m getting fish.” When I got there, Steinar was busy forklifting boxes of crabs off a boat. I waited for 15 minutes and walked home empty handed. The guys working the seafood section at Whole Foods would not have done that to me.

But now, I hardly think about doing the dishes by hand, or having to walk everywhere. It’s incredible how rapidly this life became the new normal. Don’t get me wrong: Given the choice, I rather have a dishwasher. But not having one just doesn’t bother me much.

Humans have an amazing skill: the ability to adapt to a new environment without affecting our mental well being. Our ancestors honed this skill for millions of years before we emerged and became the most adaptable species ever to roam the earth. But too often, we forget that we have this skill, this genetic gift, and we squander it and make decisions in life as if we’d fall apart under adversity. And many of us sacrifice gravely in order to “maintain standard of living.”

Of course, there’re limits to adaptation. I can’t get used to a bad relationship. I tried. I can’t get used to hunger, even though I haven’t tried that one and I don’t want to try.

But a cell phone? Who needs one! I can even live without beef.

14 Comments
  1. Hanne Elisabeth Koppelman #

    Looks like you guys are having an amazing adventure. I *love* the writing, and agree with the previous comment around making a book about the Arctic Dream! Best, Hanne

    September 5, 2011
  2. Thanks Hanne! I had a professional blog (http://blog.kalido.com/author/winston-chen/) for more than a year, but a personal blog is a new to me. I do like having this creative outlet, which also serves to keep in touch with friends. We’ll see what this turns into in a year.

    September 5, 2011
  3. So what did you end up eating for dinner?

    September 6, 2011
    • I went to the general store and picked up a few slices of pork. :(

      September 6, 2011
  4. Less is more! I think adaptation is the key word… follow my blog if you’re into simplifying!

    September 26, 2011
  5. This is a good reminder for me. Sometimes we get caught up in things that are urgent but not that important, and distracted by meaningless things.

    September 27, 2011
  6. adaptation is key and sometimes it can take quite some time to happen. it seems that you and your family are doing great! this is a skill that I had to hone for my experience teaching in south korea but, in my case, it took about 6 months to really get it down. your blog is very interesting…one more follower!

    October 3, 2011
    • Thanks for following! My guess is that adaptation gets easier once you flip your life upside down a few times.

      October 4, 2011
  7. Ruth Bonapace #

    Winston — I adored the article on NPR. Very different from the usual “inspiring” stories that start out with someone being victimized and miserable and then having an epiphany. Yours is very life-affirming and shows that this is possible for everyone — at least anyone willing to re-prioritize. I have been thinking of doing something similar for many years with the usual fears of my work not being there when I got back, the risks, the mortgage and so on. But you are absolutely right — make a detailed plan, stick to it and have courage. I loved the chart of “to do’s” so you can make the most of that wonderful opportunity. Good for you !!!!!

    May 26, 2013
    • Thanks for your comment, and best of luck on your adventure!

      May 28, 2013
  8. Right away I am going to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming again to read additional
    news.

    July 15, 2013

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