Live Simply

By Jane Mountain | October 2, 2014

One of the trends that Stephen and I have been noticing on our return to the civilized world – the world where most people have actual beds to sleep in and showering is a daily activity – is how complicated everybody’s lives are.

On our trip, life was blissfully simple. The biggest daily tragedies were a few flat tires, and the only challenges we had to worry about were where to sleep and what to eat.

Though there are mind-achingly complex issues surrounding poverty, education, politics, and the environment in the eastern countries we visited, the people we encountered tended to lead simple lives.

They focus their energies on family, friends, and earning a living. Not an extravagant 90-hour-work-week kind of living, just a simple living that could pay for their necessities and help raise their children.

A Vortex Of Stress

In the circles we’ve been travelling in the west, most people meet these basics requirements without much thought. No one we know is too worried about how they’ll pay for dinner or that they won’t be able to afford to send their kids to school.

That should make our lives life easier, right? We should experience far less stress because we live in a part of the world where there is a mandated minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and access to pretty decent jobs for most people.

But of course, just the opposite is true. Instead of just hanging out in a hammock and watching the clouds go by during our free time (like people in Cambodia do), we make up things to worry about.

What colour white should I paint my walls?

Where can I store the 87 pairs of shoes I never wear?

Do I need to camp out overnight to get the new iPhone on release day?

Expat footwear, Shanghai.

We have so much stuff that we spend as much money and time trying to organize and store it all as we did to buy it in the first place. And then, when our homes are too cluttered, we pay someone to come take all our junk away, just to make room for something new.

And women, dammit, we worry way too much about getting just the right shade of nail polish and what kind of moisturizer to buy.


I’m absolutely not immune to this behaviour. I spent a whole whack of time* earlier this month researching (obsessing) about cars, trying to figure out which one is best for my needs, most environmentally friendly, and most budget-friendly.

(*Is this is a Canadian expression? I think it might be.)

In reality, I don’t really need a car, so the answer to all the above questions is “no car”. But it sure will be nice to have when the rainy winter comes.

What If We Just Stop?

So here’s what I’ve been thinking.

What if we – and right now I’m talking about the My Five Acres we, just us guys who read this blog – what if we stopped worrying about all the stupid stuff in our lives? What if we focussed on family and friends and food. What if, once these crucial needs are met, we just stopped there?

What if we didn’t even consider getting bigger and bigger houses, all the latest gadgets, flashy cars, and expensive meals out? What if we just wiped frivolous worrying right out of our minds?

(I know, easier said than done.)

But we could try. At the very least, we might make ourselves a little happier, right? A little more free?

What if we like this feeling of freedom, and we just let more and more crap fall by the wayside?

Big city outskirts are all the same.

With all our extra time and happiness, we might even start to feel like doing something amazing. Like helping those people who struggle to feed their families, or who don’t have access to drinking water, or who can’t afford education.

My mantra for 2015 was going to be “Be Bold”. But I’ve upgraded it. Now it’s a little more complicated, but a little simpler, too.

Be Bold; Live Simply

What are you worried about right now? Is it something that you could just let go? How would it feel to let it blow away on the wind? Go ahead and give it a try.  


  1. Comment by poe

    poe June 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

    You’re taking words right out of my head on this post. Love this so much. Even since I got back from traveling to Tonga, I’ve been saying things very similar. I’m about to head out on a 1200 mile trip from NYC to St Louis and a mutual friend told me about your blog. Love it!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 15, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Thanks, Poe. So glad you relate. Have a terrific trip – sounds like a great way to spend the summer!

  2. Comment by Staffan Neth

    Staffan Neth October 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    This sums up the thoughts we had after our cycle touring trip very nicely. It’s a hard battle to live those thoughts and you need to remind yourself all the time..

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane October 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Yes, I’m finding it difficult to hold onto the ideas of simple living that we learned on our trip, and I don’t ever want to forget how easy it was to be comfortable with almost no possessions.

  3. Comment by Geoff L

    Geoff L October 2, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I wasn’t very far into your post, Jane, before I was reminded of these lines from William Wordsworth:

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

    You are right, of course. Thank you for the reminder.


    • Comment by Jane

      Jane October 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      It’s great to be reminded that these are not new ideas. People often suggest that this kind of thinking (and environmentalism too) is a modern luxury, or that our obsession with stuff is modern problem. Thanks for this!

  4. Comment by Scot

    Scot October 2, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I’m always amazed at how susceptible we all are to advertising and suggestion. Even smart people who think thoughts like those you’ve written above can’t help but start to feel the “need” for bigger and better things when we are bombarded by their images and consumer culture all around us. As soon as you go somewhere else, and remove yourself from the daily pressures of what everyone else has, it becomes a lot easier to start to see how ridiculous it all is.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane October 4, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      So true, and even seeing how ridiculous it is, it’s still easy to get caught up in it. There are so many things I want, that I could easily just go out and buy… I keep reminding myself to at least wait until I’m reunited with all of the things I already have sitting in a basement in California.

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