Posts Tagged: simple living

happy#149 – letting go

Sometimes you need to let go in order to achieve something new. As odd as it seems, first look for something to give up…
So often it is mainly the distraction, the lack of focus that gets in our way of achieving something.
The day has 24 hours, that‘s it. The attention span lasts only so and so long. There are new studies that the average attention span keeps decreasing and went in 2018 is low as 8 seconds. And then… the next piece of information (or misinformation) catches our attention. Furthermore it is a matter of fact that the conscious brain can only do one thing at a time. Some people get quite good in switching back and for between two topics within miliseconds. Still they will never be as good and as effective as if they did one after another and paying full concentration to each one.
Letting go of what distracts you, of what annoys you, of what is just clutter, mental and physical gives you an enormous potential to achieve even more of what you are thriving for.
Are you looking for more joy, more laughter, more satisfaction and more happiness?
Find some of the opposites in your life and let them go.
You will be amazed.
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KIDZ

This is why we founded a children education project: KIDZ.

Although I believe one should not put too much meaning in the end of the year I am still using the date for a little review of the old and an outlook into the new year. Especially with Christmas season, plenty of time, new year and my birthday all within two weeks there are quiet a few reasons for a review.

End of December I came back from 4 weeks in Zanzibar and had family and friends time in the Swiss mountains. I love the difference between the winter and the tropical island and gives me the opportunity to get the best out both world.

One thing lacking in Zanzibar is education though. I am not talking about an European school or value system at all. I mean having enough basic knowledge to be able to form an own opinion. In contrast to that the local eduction focuses on stupid repetition only.

Therefor the only way to receive an ‚important‘ and/or ‚powerful‘ position later in life is through intransparency, misinformation or just force.

Most people in Zanzibar fit into one of the following roles, the dictating authoritative or the repressed person. Sometimes people are both depending on the situation. Both roles lead to a stagnation in society, which nobody enjoys. Almost everybody you ask, is unhappy about the lack of possibilities, the amount of wages being paid, the ongoing corruption, the inability of the officials and so on.

It is sad that although nobody likes the status quo, nobody is able or willing to change for the better. I belief that one major reason for that is education, which be it at home or at school consists mainly of two things: shut up and repeat.

Young people learn to sneak around, not getting caught and repeating what is expected without understanding why. Society is a mirror of that.

Now that I somehow slipped into being a Hotel owner in the most southern village in Zanzibar I asked myself what to do about it. I thought that I have the chance to either complain as well or do something about it and I chose the latter.

Back in Switzerland we founded the association „KIDZ individual development for Zanzibar“ K-I-D-Z.org and we are collecting donations to send as many kids from Kizimkazi as possible to a private  non for profit school. At the moment private school seems to be the only form of education that makes a difference, at least until enough people become aware how important a decent education is and the public school system will start to improve.

If you want to support that idea, you can either head over to K-I-D-Z.org directly or support me on Patreon patreon.com/flohjoe where you will also support the children in Zanzibar as well as exclusive content from me.

life is now – coming back to zanzibar

I am on my way back to Zanzibar as I write this.
I left the island May 5th to travel to Toronto, Canada where I met Chris Thompson and Mike Mandel of MikeMandelHypsnosis.
On the one hand I was tired of the island, tired of the slow processes, tired of the officials who are just not willing to help for any process.
Often it seemed to me, as if people I worked with are only interested in their own corruption money and once you gave it to them forget about it immediately so you will have to start all over again.
As soon as you plan to make any fast progress it will be more than likely that you reach a point of frustration sooner or later.

On the other hand, I was so exited to go to Canada and was even more impressed to reach Canada, where it seemed to me, as if everybody was just friendly and helpful.
If there was kind of problem to appear, somebody came to immediate help. I even arrived at the airport with a number twist in my visa application. Somebody called the embassy and sorted it out.Even better was my one week training with Mike Mandel, where I had hoped to learn some insights and gadgets about Hypnosis. I thought that I might catch up some party gags that I could use to make people more curious about their unconscious mind.What I did not expect was such a profound and deep training into hypnosis as a coaching tool. We did not only learn how to hypnotize, but also how to utilize our learnings to help people improve their own life. While learning our own consciousness and unconscious mind improved dramatically.

After Canada I stayed in Germany for two weeks and then went on vacation in Ethiopia for three week where I had enough time to deepen the learnings of the one week in Canada.

Now I am on the way back to Zanzibar and am curious to see the Caveman Lodge again. It seems as if our team has done a great job and is well prepared for the Zanzibar summer. Some of the official documents that where missing when I left are still not processed, but I guess that is part of the deal when you get in exchange the life on a tropical island.Although I have experienced and seen so much, on Zanzibar almost nothing has changed while I was gone. When nothing is changing, or at least not with any recognizable speed, it just makes no sense to hurry up with whatever you are doing.So maybe, I am asking myself, there is nothing such as a universal time for all. Maybe time is only what we experience and everybody has its own.

Wherever you are, wherever you go. Take your time. What you make of now, is what you make of life.

time distortion in summer

I discovered my own kind of time distortion over the last 6 month. In the rearview they took for ever and I have no idea where they went and how all of that could have happened so fast.

Early May, shortly after Django suddenly died, as I wrote in the second last post, I left for Canada and my hypnosis training with Mike Mandel, followed by a stop over in Berlin and a nearly one month trip to Ethiopia (see my last post).
After Ethiopia we went back to Zanzibar to do the final preparation of the Lodge for the coming high season. Some stuff broke or collapsed in the very intense rainy season and had to be repaired.
We left end of June for Switzerland where Judy had to start her new job at Berns main hospital.
Since then we share a small apartment in Bern with another doctor. I jumped all the way into computer work. I was so happy to finally have sufficient internet again and jumped onto my new website since I had rebranded everything to Happylife.Coach, went for English only and planned to offer some downloadable products.
That meant a lot of time sitting in front of my computer in the smoking hot summer, it had been.
In between I tried to be in the mountains as much as possible and train for my ultra runs in the mountains and in Berlin. Training was a ton of fun and I enjoyed every moment out on the trails. The runs went not as good as expected and where a mental setback, leaving me surprised on how much I seemed to have lost while living on sea level for so long and having no possibility to train in the mountains.
Soon it was end of August and we discovered the possibility to get hold of a small mountain hut near Bern. Situated at 5250ft and with a stunning view we went for it immediately, not knowing yet how much work it would be. The house is not connected to any public infrastructure and will not even have a road for 6 months in the winter. I’ll write more about that in another post.

Mid September I offered the very first edition of the RIDING experience in Southern France and it was lovely and magnificent. We will go on the second tour in June 2018 while all of the lavender is blossoming.
Back in Switzerland I jumped head first into the work on our house Heidi, as it is called and left for edition #6 of the SAHARA experience mid October where I brought a film crew to shoot a little documentary about the tour. It was purely magic.
Nov. 1st I returned to Heidi (which can be booked through AirBnB now) in the mountains and am now day in and out working on the house to prepare it for the winter season. Already covered in snow I am very positive to be ready before I leave to Zanzibar 28th November to check back on the Lodge and prepare everything for the winter high season. It feels like the blink of an eye since I published the last blog post but looking back it seems an eternity since I left Zanzibar. I suppose that’s a good sign and am looking forward for a great winter season in the mountains… After returning from the tropical island.

last month’s review

As I am writing this I am sitting on the top of a mountain in northern Ethiopia (3300m). The town nearby is Lalibela and worldwide known for its wonderful churches that were carved out of the mountain. Some carved more than a thousand years ago.

Since I left Zanzibar about a month ago I have been traveling quite a bit. From Zanzibar I caught a plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We had the president of Zanzibar on board who went for some meeting to Addis. This gave us the wonderful opportunity to fly around and right over mount Kilimanjaro after having stopped at Kilimanjaro airport. From Addis I flew over Heathrow in London to Toronto, Canada. I had near been to Canada before and was positively surprised. I heard Canadians speak about Toronto, as if it wasn’t there most beautiful town and still I enjoyed it a lot.
Seemed to me as if it was a City in the US, just more green, more pedestrians and even friendlier. I stayed in Kensington market which gave me the opportunity to walk to University of Toronto early in the morning for class.
There I took a one week hypnosis training with Mister Hypnosis himself: Dr. Mike Mandel. To put it shortly, it was mind blowing and had the potential for changing life. Mine as well as those who will profit from these learnings in the future.
After that amazing week I flew to Berlin to meet my brother, some friends and take care of some stuff. Three days later I left for Cologne where I had another business training. I met my parents, grandma and a good friend and his family. After three days I left for Berlin again, where I met Alex Dahms of ‚One Million Good Thoughts’. We recorded a great interview for the next ‚One million Good Thoughts‘ edition this summer.
I also had to clean up my former office at ESCP Europe and had a little farewell party at the Campus, met some more friends I hadn’t seen in ages and went to business conference for digital nomads ‚DNX‘ organized by my podcast guest Markus Meurer. Great people, great audience, great day. It was definitely worth it.
Only eight hours after the ‚DNX‘ ended I was on my way to Frankfurt to catch a plane back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to meet Judy. We had planned to go on a three weeks vacation.

The winter season in Zanzibar was a dream that came true I would never want to miss. Still it was a whole lot of work. Judy doing her best in the Zanzibar health sector, working and teaching in three different hospitals and me building up the Lodge, mainly creating and installing processes.
When I go there I will do several things different, but for the first times I still had to learn a lot. Now I have a place at the Indian Ocean that keeps growing and expanding with a great team at work. And Judy will start her new position at the University Hospital Bern, Switzerland in July.
First it was time for some vacation for us. As I am planning some Ultra Mountain Races in Switzerland over the summer I wanted to be up in the mountains somewhere. Judy who has a personal history with Ethiopia wanted to visited the country for the first time in her life and since most of the country is above 2500m above sea level it was the place of choice. We started in Addis Ababa in a runners camp of Haile Gebrselassie whom you might know, then went on to Gonder and the Simmiens mountains for a week, where we went above 4000m for several times and I climbed the highest mountain in Ethiopia.
Now we are for some days at Lalibela to see the gorgeous historic monuments they crafted here decades ago. After we will visit Harare, the ancient muslim center of Ethiopia and then will go on to Zanzibar before we leave to Switzerland for the summer, where I will work on the online programs for happylife.coach.

I can tell you, as beautiful as traveling is, sometimes I need to rest a bit to be able to process all the learnings. I don’t know how it is in your life, but it might make sense to go for a change every once in while. And may it be only to become aware that you enjoy what you already have.

django

By now, it is a while ago that the story I am about to tell came to an end, a story about trust, thankfulness and the ability to let go.

I moved to Zanzibar for the winter 25th of October 2016. While still adapting to the island life and getting used to the work that needed to be done, to open our Lodge fully by December, we found somebody feeding on the garbage at one of the houses in the village.

It is quiet normal to see a lot of animals (well a lot of cats and every now and then a dog) searching for food. Amongst them are always a lot of kittens and puppies since pets don’t grow very old in Zanzibar and they reproduce quiet active.
There was a difference though. This time it was one single puppy and it didn’t run away in an instant. Although very afraid of humans he was curious enough to stay around and started playing with us in pure joy.

I posted a sentence the other day saying: „A friend is someone with a soul that resonates with your own.“

That was the sentence that came to my mind when I thought about that dog and how our relationship was going to evolve over the next 6 month. It happened to be, that we adopted that little skinny doggy and made him be our lodge masquot from that time on:

Django.

Back to November 2016:
I clear him from literally hundreds and hundreds of ticks, clean him all up and fead him as much as he likes.
Within hours he absolutely trusts us, changes his posture and his behavior towards people in general. Was he a scared and shy dog yesterday, he happens to have the sweetest character and turns out to be the Lodges happy soul.
Unfortunately he becomes very very sick during the first 3 week and becomes even skinnier during that time. I seriously fear that we might loose him right away and start to care of him 24/7. Now he is (other than planned) allowed to sleep inside the room and although that is very untypical in Zanzibar he is allowed to join us everywhere. From that day on he doesn’t miss a single tour to the mangroves, snorkeling or the island.
All of a sudden it is impossible to leave him anywhere alone. As soon as we try, he sneaks out and tries to us. I end up being accompanied on every step I take.
Although not planned before, I have a (dog)friend all of a sudden. He manages to survive his sickness and starts growing and growing.
He is coming with us on mainland trips, to Daressalam, lake Malawi, lake Tanganyika as well as on safaris. I guess, he might be one of the very few dogs in Tanzania to have ever been on a safari at all.

Now my biggest problem becomes the thought of leaving him on this own when I will leave Zanzibar for weeks and months. After all a travel by plane with a dog will not be the easiest and cheapest way to travel.
By March 2017 we have our current team for the Lodge complete, I give responsibility to the team, start to leave him with the team during the day and now he is allowed to leave the Lodge on his own, since he is not approaching other people anymore and always comes back on his own.
He starts sleeping next to the night-guard, is fed by our kitchen staff.
He remains the proudest dog in the village though. Always tail and head up. He is not afraid of anyone and still he somehow figures out to whom he could go and to whom not. I never see him near other people he doesn’t know. He goes to the beach with our guests and shows up on his own.
He has grown a lot and is around 7 month old. Everything seems to have worked out. I am confident, he will manage to be a happy dog when I leave. I am so happy that I will be able to come to Zanzibar and have Django waiting for me in the future.

By now it is end of April. The Lodge is up and running, the team is working smoothly, Django feels at home and does a lot on his own. In 7 day I will leave for a training in Canada and we are in the middle of the rainy season.

He still doesn’t like water and chills with Judy and me who doesn’t have to work to day all day long. It truly feels like he knows it is the last weekend together with both of us, as if he wants to say goodbye.

What I don’t know, is that is really is a goodbye. In the evening the sky clears up and it stops raining. Django runs out to chase the cat. I finish my dinner, turn around and there lies Django. Peaceful, without any sign of stress or pain, but dead.

We have no idea what happened and will never know…

So the last week in Zanzibar truly becomes a week of saying good bye. It feels like loosing a close friend and digging his grave in our little valley at Caveman Lodge is not how I pictured my last week here.

It becomes a week of facing my own fears, my own sadness and my own mistakes. Letting him go teaches me a lesson on life. Everything that comes, will go, it is just a matter of time. Don’t be attached and enjoy to the fullest what you want to enjoy, the moment you have it. When it leaves you, be thankful that you had it before. You will loose everything anyway, at the latest when it is time for you to go.

Enjoy now! Be thankful for what you have.

And a safe travel to Django…

back to the roots

I am sitting a my Computer, checking mails, process bookings for the Lodge, record Podcasts and am planning my milestones for 2017. Then one question hits me:

Do I really want to keep writing stories on my blog? Yes!

Good, but what exactly? I wasn’t sure.

Since I shifted my focus on recording and broadcasting my German and my English podcast on a regular basis I missed out to write any articles. The main reason for that is that I am so much more spontaneous when talking. I am able to think about a topic, sit down to list some notes, start recording and the episodes evolves while I am talking. When a thought slightly shifts because I mention another dimension of the same problem it feels and it sounds natural to the listener.
When writing an article though, I always thought that I was expected to write „the perfect“ article. According to my own standards I often didn’t meet those and therefor created frustration in my mind.
While resonating about that, I thought about the time when it became so hard for me to write. I didn’t figure out yet what exactly it caused. I only know that there was a time when my expectation shifted and I tried to write not only an interesting story but a really good article, simultaneously in English and in German.
That was not the reason for me to start a blog though. I never meant to write news articles. I wanted to write stories from life and for life. I wanted to take you on the journey to the happiness through simplicity. A journey of life, where mistake are to happen, were experiences are to be made. I don’t aim to tell you what to do, I want to collect examples where it did work and where it did not, for me or for others.
What conclusion you are drawing from that will be up to you.

I will take my blog back to the roots of blogging. Writing a web-log about life and dreams and inspiration. Since I started to write, I created a life I would have only dreamed about 5 years ago. I am taking you on that journey and very much appreciate your thought and opinions.

Back to blogging! About the simplicity of happiness!

crappy on the outside?

Hi there, I am back in Berlin for some days. I spent the last month in my Zanzibar home after having spent all winter in a skiing resort in the Swiss mountains.

Custom officers keep asking me about my crappy passport but I always tell them, that although it might not look new on the outside, it has so many stories to tell in the inside.

Just like I want my life to be.
Not shiny on the the outside but full of memories in the inside.

For those who want to learn more about how I managed to live the life I dreamt about, I created a webinar. It doesn’t tell you what to do, but helps to ask the tough questions and create the surrounding you need to truly thrive.

If you send me an email with the topic “Your Happy Life” you can participate for free.
June 8th 2016 6:30pm CET. (this time in English)

minimalism documentary

These guys are a great inspiration to me concerning minimalism and focus. Now they made a documentary about what matters most and what doesn’t. Here’s a preview:

strike down by the desert

This is one of last year participants personal story about the sahara experience. I love it and just in case you want to find out about yourself, let me know.

Ever heart the saying: “Send him to the desert’?” Where that might come from?
When I told my family and friends that I was about to walk through the desert, I was questioned: „Why would anyone walk so far?”, „Isn’t that meaningless?”, “That’s totally dangerous!”. When I added that I was about to go there because of work, they just felt pity for me and I already had the feeling that the trip was going to be worth it.

Actually I did not come back as a better person. I just remained myself.

I spent two of my days in desert on a camels back, riding or whatever you would call it. I think, it’s no difference if you sit in a small dinghy in a storm on the Ocean or suffer completely exhausted on such a desert ship longing for home. It rocks like hell.
I have a job in which a project is chasing the other and my rest periods on the weekends had not been sufficient anymore. While my mind was still in the last project, I already had to deal with the next. Nothing unusual nowadays. I’m already doing this job for quite some years. I changed the company lately. No big deal, I thought, but still it felt so damn wrong. I had the feeling that I’m not happy with my boss and it won’t work out well.

The desert trip, if I stay with this topic, was a way for me, to let all the thoughts that rushed through my mind come and go. I had the time and the space to think a thought from beginning to end and learn to accept. That worked for me.
I thought I need the full five days to deal with myself, but after two days of thinking I had it figured out and then the heat hit me, almost knocked me out. So I spent the next two and a half days learning yet another dimension of the desert on the camels back. I did not expect that to happen. Although I felt much better, I was now separated from the group. Well, it was a strike down by the desert.

It wasn’t before I was back home that I realized how much that small corner of the world had inspired and enriched my life.
There is so much to tell about diversity, experiences with nature and his own body, with people who just show up out of the nowhere and disappear back into the desert, about habits that are important to know, about communication and …
All this is accompanied in the wonderful, personal and professional way of Florian!

Jan R.

worlds end – in ibo

Just the other week, I met Jörg, a person who gave me an answer to the question: what it means to do something for the first time. More than 10 years ago he left his good paying job in Germany, got on his bike and hit the road South. I met him on a remote island in South East Africa in an old, long forgotten Portuguese town, many call it a hidden secret in the Indian Ocean.

What, where, why? As you may have read in earlier posts, I am traveling in Africa for a bit. During the Tanzanian elections which could turn out to become a chaotic catastrophe for the country and Zanzibar in special (which is another story to write about), we headed South into Moçambique to get an impression of that beautiful land of hidden mysteries.
While coming from Europe and Morocco already seemed to be out of different time and space but Tanzania is even more so. Surprisingly there is another huge gap to Moçambique. A country which not only had to fight against colonial rule but also against apartheid influences from South Africa and Rhodesia. Those countries were giving its best to destabilize the country which let to decades of civil war. That war didn’t end before the nineties when the devastated country had to be rebuilt from scratch, most of the cities, villages, industry and colonial heritage lying in ruins.
After flying in to Pemba, we stayed for two days, being very surprised that nothing has changed over the last 4 years while decay seemed to be in even further progress now. We left with a local bus which, like all other busses in Mocambique and for no obvious reason had to leave at 4:30 in the morning. Even more frustrating than the need to be at the bus station so early was the fact that the first hours the bus was driving around the town to hopefully pick up some more passengers. Busses in Mocambique go without schedule and if you really need to be somewhere that day you better be there at 4:30 because you never know when they are full and actually leave. What followed was a five hour backcountry overland drive. Half the 120km on a tarmac road, the other half on dirt tracks. Only very few settlements with only few houses each laid on our way, the whole land being dry as a bone, all the trees leafless and no grass to be seen anywhere.
Finally we reached a little place at the ocean or lets say where the ocean was supposed to be. We arrived at low tide and except for water we only saw mangrove forrest, which was crucial for us since we wanted to catch a ferry. That meant to sit down and wait for the water. Our ferry was a local dow that was to be sailed to our destination, together with a motor bike and some other 30 people on board. The sea better be calm, I thought. After another hour on the boat we reached the little island of Ibo, part of the Quirimba island in Quirimba national park in Northern Moçambique. Ibo used to be the Portuguese capital of Northern Moçambique and was an important trading post on the Portuguese spice route. At least until the harbor and Capital was moved to Pemba. Afterward the world forgot about Ibo, I seems. A place full of ancient ruins, forts and houses among those. A sand covered main road, with sidewalks left and right, nonetheless. A piece of lost paradise, if you can find it.
Some of these ancient houses found a loving new owner who built themselves something out of ruins, literally.

And that is how I met Jörg.

Jörg who took his bike 12 years ago together with a friend of his and drove South. Through Balkan, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania to Moçambique, later all the way to South Africa. The tour took them two year of traveling with some time spent at different places. On this route they discovered Ibo and while spending some time here, they saw complete Solar Eclipse and fall in love with this place. They knew they had to come back. Which they did, after completing their tour, having covered more than 12.000km by bike. Another two years later. They bought one of the completely destroyed ruins at the place. The one with the biggest trees around, two of them standing right in front of their house and they called it: Miti Miwiri http://www.mitimiwiri.com/n/ (two trees) or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Miti-Miwiri-112186838817416/, nowadays one of the finest places in the area. It took them another two years to finally restore the building and have it up and running.
I guess that is how you break with all the conventions and just follow your heart. They didn’t do anything anymore, because they were expected to do so. All they did, they did only because they wanted to do it and on that road they found a passion and love to a place and decided to built something up. Still, friends and family called them nuts, now they go there for vacation. Sure, they had and have their hard times but they followed their heart and live their dream.

Do you have an inner calling? Listen to it!

natural building

Is it backward or forward thinking when you go back to construction techniques that are thousands of years old?

hard to view the green

Sometimes it’s hard to view the green between the rocks when you are in the desert.
And sometimes its hard to see the positive when you’re alive. I had quite a busy summer with a tragic car accident, an unexpected travel to morocco, an injured kid, a struggle with my land lord, a broken laptop, a broken car and a 100 miles ultra race I failed to complete.

While all of this happened in the last 6 weeks I didn’t manage to write my posts bilingual. If you know some German, check the German side of this blog or stay tuned, I am going to translate the written posts soon.

Anyhow, most things are on track again and I learned to accept that things happen the way they do. Once they did, you can’t change them.

Make the BEST of now!

ups and downs of minimalism

perspective matters

Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes it’s just the wrong time, sometimes it’s a bad thing altogether. Often we become angry, when things go wrong. At least, that happens to me all the time. Then I ask myself: why now, why me, why again, why so bad…

I don’t like being angry and when I am, I often become more angry because I’m angry with myself. Do you know what I mean?
Not long ago… yesterday to be exact, it happened again. I had so much stuff to do on the opposite side of town and I had to take my car, which as you may know is a 40year old 6t camping van: EMMA. I had to get some stuff for maintenance of the car. And voilá: half way through town my clutch stopped working. That sucks especially in inner city stop’n’go traffic. I somehow made it into a smaller street stopped and immediately climbed under my car. I wanted to find out what the problem is and keep going. I was in a hurry.
It took me a while to figure out that bars of the clutch were broken. Nothing I could do about it.
Oh boy, I was angry: Why now, why here, why me etc. The rest of the day I was pretty pissed off.

This morning I had another look at it and came to the conclusion:
I am so lucky it happened yesterday. I wasn’t somewhere in the mountains or in the desert. I wasn’t in Switzerland but in Berlin. I found a parking spot right away and was allowed to stay there for free. I was able to make all my yesterdays appointment by foot and on time. I already fixed (another part) of the clutch a year ago and knew what i was doing this time and the broken part is easy to replace after I found out which part it was. My MercedesBenz Oldtimer dealer is located near Berlin I could pick up the spare part by public transportation. And I hadn’t plan to drive anywhere special, today or tomorrow.

Well, its still a lot of stress and work, BUT it’s a question of your perspective. Once again I realized that it`s up to me to see the good or the bad, in any situation. If I compare any given situation with the best possible or do I take into account what could be worse. After all I can’t change the situation. I (or you) can just try to make the best out of it.

Every single moment, you decide about the quality in your life. Do you see the good or the bad? Do your best!

stuff statistic

One of the most inspiring people blogging about simplicity and minimalism is Joshua Becker from Arizona. He recently published some statistics for the US that might be interesting for European readers as well since we have the same tendency. I am posting an excerpt of Joshuas list that was originally posted here.

  1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
  2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).
  3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).
  4. British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).
  5. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).
  6. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).
  7. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).
  8. American homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).
  9. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago (The Story of Stuff).
  10. Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).
  11. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).
  12. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).
  13. Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).
  14. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items.The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).
  15. Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

That I owned so much stuff over the last years is one part of the story, that I owned so much stuff I didn’t really need is the other. What about you?

what our brain does when it does nothing at all

I am so happy to present yet another wonderful post by Lisa. Without knowing she wrote about the reason why my sailing and Sahara seminars have such an impact:

Sometimes it happens, someone asks me:“What are you thinking about right now?“ Suddenly I am torn from my thoughts which were just wandering on their own. In order to come to a suitable answer I try to structure the chaos in my head and bring my thoughts into some order. But then my only answer is: “Well, nothing.at all“ Knowing that this is not true at all.

Because our brain never stops spinning the wheel.
Amazingly I find my own mind on special colorful routes, coming up with the most creative ideas when I am not productive at all. When I feel almost bored.
Like recently in Melbourne. Far away from my routines and social network I found myself with lots of time and my brain with unsuspected capacities. I used to stroll around without destination when my mind came up with a thunderstorm of thoughts – memories from my early childhood, the taste of long forgotten dishes; dialogues that have never happened; people I never met… it felt like a theatre play of my past, present and future mixed together with countless actors and endless storylines. Way too complex to put it into words. Daydreams…
Some brain researchers explain those moments with the so called DMN (Default Mode Network) which gets activated when our brain is not occupied with other tasks. The DMN does not respond to stimulations from the outer world but is specialized in introspection and the processing of experiences. This makes it essential for the construction of our identities: In an ongoing inner monologue we are telling our own story over and over again. As if the DMN is working itself through a huge pile of ‚post its‘ that were hidden in our unconsciousness. Piled there through our daily experiences. And it keeps assigning, structuring, reinterpreting. Building the basis for reflected decisions.
That is why we come up with creative ideas and complex troubleshooting when we less expect them… under the shower, taking a run, or staring at the ceiling.
But in our modern overstimulated world, tight schedules keep our brain constantly challenged. And we don’t have much time for letting our thoughts wander. That’s why my experience in Melbourne taught me to leave space for idleness. Because I am more in line with myself and my life when I let my thoughts wander around regularly.
Aristotle would be proud – in antiquity the highest value was idleness.

BUD principle

I love to own things. In my past I always wanted to own everything that somehow seemed interesting to me. I sometimes still have the tendency to do that. Most of the times I nowadays realize that it is not important to me to own stuff, but to actually use stuff.

So more and more often, before buying I ask myself the following question: Do I have any other possibility to use what I am aiming to buy other actually buying it. Often I come up with an idea of trying it out for a few times and then letting go again. Sometimes it works just fine to share stuff with somebody else. Sometimes I buy already used stuff because, it will be used the same the minute I unbox it.
I also buy things that I now I will hand on to somebody else and/or I am going to resell. That would even be better when I already bought it used. That’s almost like sharing.

Sharing is the new owning!

But, you know… sometimes there are these things that I just want to have. I am sure I am going to use it every day. For me those things have to be according to the BUD principle.

BUD: beautiful – useful – durable

I love beautiful things. I want my things to be beautiful. If resources are used and people put their time into producing something that I will spend my money on it shall be worth the effort and be something beautiful.

I also don’t want to carry a burden with me either. Stuff I own has to be useful. There are definitely many beautiful things that are not useful to me. They might be useful to somebody else. If I can’t find a reason why they are useful to me, they are meant for somebody else.

I want it to be durable. Why? If something is not durable and basically produced for the trashcan I don’t I want to buy it. I don’t want to own garbage.

When you buy stuff at all, always remember BUD!

a new discovered freedom

the simplicity of happiness on swiss trails
A free day to me is a day in nature, in the mountains, on meadows, on my own feet with a rucksack on my back and depending on the season with trail or snowshoes on my feet and sticks in my hands.

Already days before, I think about that day. Where I will go, which mountain peak I am going to explore and which trail am I going to show my shoes that day. The anticipation is big and that very day my feet tingle in the morning… soon I will be up and running.
The scenery especially if there is good sight is breathtaking. The pure view enlightening and every change of perspective offers something new and thrilling for my eyes to see and my heart is yelling: I want to see this mountaintop and want to walk on that meadow.
Infinite freedom. Starting at the threshold of my home trails are passing and they lead me to others trail and those to even more.The trail network spans thousands of kilometers passing lakes and going along huge mountainranges. Unlimited possibilities for small trailruns, bigger trailruns, extensive hikes, and soo much more…
A paradise to me! And so simple – not much equipment needed, no big deal… but lots of space and time for me and us.

It can be so simple to find out, what makes you happy, but way too often, it’s just so difficult.

thankful for the moment

I just spent my last week in Sahara with the members of „sahara experience III“. My intention was and is to show others how different life can be. Even I forget, that everything I do in my life, I do by free choice. In almost every case I have the choice to do something different or to not do it at all. I just have to live with the consequences.

I focus on all the little things me and others keep complaining about. Situations that we would so much like to be different. I try to remind myself that it is still my own choice to react the way I want to.
What I keep forgetting though, is how much we managed to keep our world in its boundaries in the western world. We can barely imagine a power cut, not to talk about anything severe. In my everyday life, the worst thinghappening to me is that I lose my internet connection. I rarely think about other people on this planet, who don’t live in such a technological world and how they have to deal with the powers of nature.
After we arrived in M’Hamid, a week ago, the sun was still shining and then the weather turned slowly into a heavy sandstorm that day. I still thought that this was a one day sandstorm that will disappear again after some hours and well, fortunately it did.
Unfortunately it came back every day with one big difference. From the following morning on we were in the desert and headed directly into the direction the wind (and all the sand) came from. I had a feeling that I normally don’t have. I was helpless. I hated the sand in my eyes, I hated the sand in my nose, I hated the sand in my lungs. All I wanted to do was hide from it, but I couldn’t. I had to move against it. Resting didn’t really help either. Preparing food was like playing in the sand. In the night the sandstorm slowed down, to come back every now and then leaving loads of sand in my sleeping bag. Even when I woke up, I was chewing on sand. Nothing helped but to become stoic. Just keep on moving and hope for the storm to settle down. On the evening of the third day it settled down. The sky cleared up and we had the first night with stars shining. In the end, we had a remarkable experience and could enjoy the clear nights with music around the fire even more. We knew that it wasn’t for granted.
I suppose this is the way the world goes round. It’s not always and everywhere sunshine. Sometimes problems occur and you have to go through hard times. It doesn’t help to hide from your problems. That won’t make them better. The only way to deal with them is to face them and work your way through. Once they lie behind you, it is even nicer to enjoy the smooth times. You deserve it because you made it through and that feels good.
If you manage to think about that, you will live a happier life.
I hope, that, when everything runs smooth for me, I will always remember not to take that for granted and that I’ll always be thankful for the moment.
Now I am enjoying Taghazout in Morocco for one week. No sandstorm and nowhere to walk. Just time to relax, organize, plan ahead and write.
I am thankful to be here.

what is simplicity about

I stumbled upon this concept about 1 1/2 years ago. I was questioning myself and life in general and thought about what I would really like to do. I came up with my adventure idea: Sahara by foot. Special about walking is that you have to carry all of your stuff yourself. Since there are certain limits, I had to focus on what was really necessary.

During that research I found out about other people living the concept of minimalism/simplicity. I liked it, because they were so much happier than ever before. It seemed so simple. Just get rid of all the stuff you don’t need and minimize your stress. Only later I had to find out that most of the things are connected to beliefs and it became really hard to let go of things I actually didn’t need.
After I came back from a three weeks trip in the desert I was overwhelmed with all the stuff I had a home. At that time I decided to take this approach seriously. Since I just moved to my girlfriend I decided to bring only the stuff I really needed. All the things I touched were questioned: When did I use them the last time? Did I miss them at any time?
In most cases the answer was quite simple: NO.

I had two or three eBay auctions running at all times and I gave away the rest for free.

One of the websites that I discovered at that time and which posts I am always reading are the minimalists and they describe their 21 days journey towards minimalism:
Here is a quote out of their journey. Have a look as well:

It is amazing to realize that we often don’t need the things we think we need. And it’s equally amazing to think about what the true cost of these things are. The dishwasher from yesterday is one example. But everything we buy has extra costs associated with them, not just the price on the price tag. They cost you money, which cost you time to earn. They cost you more time to take care of (e.g., wash your car, clean your furniture, etc.). They take up extra space in your house or apartment, which costs you more money because you need to procure extra square footage just to hold all of your shit.

The things we think we need…

That electronic gadget you wanted so bad six months ago? You know, the one you don’t ever use. What’s that? It’s in a junk drawer or a closet? Really?

Or how about that shirt you just “had to have” last season? How’s that working out for you? Couldn’t live without it, right?

That new car? Great, huh? How many more payments left? Oh, really? Just 42 more? At least it has leather seats that warm your ass on your long drive home from your eleven hour workday, the workday you’re forced to return to tomorrow so you can continue to make those car payments.

The bottom line? It’s all just stuff. And you don’t need it.

But because you have it doesn’t make you a bad person; it just means that your priorities are out of whack. Believe me, we know; our priorities have been out of whack for quite some time. But our journey into minimalism has helped us re-prioritize; it has helped us focus on what’s important. That pair of shoes you put on layaway just isn’t important.

m’hamid under water

Three weeks ago, I thought I would simply fly to Agadir, take a night bus to Zagora and a Taxi to M’Hamid to visit my friend Yahya and walk for one week through Sahara’s heat. I ended up in the rain at the Atlantik coast, in a surfers hot spot, in an overfull minibus in Sahara, at a river where no river is, freezing in the desert, out of five nights in a row three in a bus or a plane.

How did that happen? As I wrote on one of my previous posts, southern Morocco was pretty much under water and all the streets going further south were closed. So I ended up working some days in a small surfers hot spot called Taghazout. Since I had enough work to be finished, I enjoyed the Wifi I found at any café and my hostel.
When the weather settled down and the sun was shining the second day in row some roads toward Ouarzazate and Zagora were cleared and I took the nightbus there. Although traveling in the night I could tell that bridges were damaged and the street at some places went over dirttracks. I was really surprised that obviously the buses in Morocco not only drive without Airconditioning in the summer but also without heating in the winter. I pretty much froze my butt off. In Zagora I tried to pick the „Grand Taxi“ to Zagora which are special enough. But since the two bridges between Zagora and Taghonite were destroyed it looked at first if I couldn’t find a way to get there… Two Moroccan tried to sell me a 4×4 trip right away, but I thought, that if a 4×4 can find a route there will be others who drive there with their normal cars. I was right and found a minibus. These are the normal Mercedes transporter with seats, plastic chairs and wooden benches in it. That way 22 people fit in one car and tons of stuff on the roof. Off we went for 2,80€ three hours mostly off road to M’Hamid.
There I was and as unbelievable as it seemed to me M’Hamid was now divided by a large and three meter deep river. Unfortunately local officials decided to rebuilt the bridge over that river. It was without water for years now. A day after the old one was torn down, it started raining and the river came back. Since the normal desert inhabitant can’t swim and boats are normally not built in the desert there was no way to go from the one side to the other. To help the other side with food army trucks were going a 150KM detour route to find the next bridge.
Outside the little town the desert was covered with greens and rocks seemed to be covered by velvet greens. Even the highest dunes were completely wet as soon as you dig more than three cm. As soon as I was in the shade, clouds covered the sun or it was becoming night I started freezing a lot. I wore everything I had with me and was so happy I had my 0°C down sleeping bag with me.
My friends’ desert camp was flooded, destroyed and swam away just days earlier. He showed me the video of the helicopter coming to rescue the Swiss guest who called the Swiss Ambassador to rescue them, sitting in a tent on top of the dunes… leaving the Moroccan back. They just waited another day and walked back to M’Hamid. Obviously the Swiss had an appointment they needed to make.
We discussed until late in the night, what needs to be done before new year. They have bookings but no camp and Dec/Jan is the most important season for the desert camp.
I once again learnt to put things into perspective. What is an appointment you have to make compared to your whole existence? Especially if you consider the costs of the evacuation (Switzerland has to pay) being more expensive than the rebuilding of the whole camp will be.
And still… all my friends had to say about it: I’m neither happy nor sad, it is the way it is and we just figure out how to proceed. For sure, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow…

due to the current situation

 

no digital nomads

Do you want to know what the sahara experience is like? I read a blog post the other day.

It is about the „analog nomads“. Katharina & Henryk used to be both Berlin based and are now traveling the world to collect memories. Having digital jobs they try to keep working while on the road and therefor write about the digital nomads. In this article nevertheless they put down their memories being unplugged, living by the rise and the dawn of the sun in the Moroccon Sahara. I  immediately thought about me (and maybe soon our) time in the desert.

why EMMA?

Why oh why did we choose Emma? We had two good paying jobs in Berlin. A really nice apartment in Kreuzberg that was not only good situated but also calm, with a southside balcony, a view over Schlesischer Busch and Treptower Park. We were able to combine all good sides of city live. Everything in walking distance with an idyllic view. Organic and regional supermarkets with international restaurants. Friends with lots of activity possibilities. Why would somebody give that up?

Well, I can tell you at least why we gave that up almost a year ago. Both of us love traveling and we have already seen a bit of the world. We like Berlin and we enjoyed our life there. But we had one feeling in common. The more we saw of the world, the more we had the feeling that most of it remained unseen. It became obvious to us that we wanted more. Life is so extraordinary and has so many variations around the world that sticking to one place for rest of our lifes felt like a limitation.
Life is a journey. It’s about travelling, it’s about moving forward. Time doesn’t stand still. Time is always now, but a twink of an eye later it is past and the future lies ahead and everything is changing. The thought to preserve a status quo is an illusion. Time moves on. The moment that you truly don’t move on anymore as a person you are dead. We are not yet and want to decide about our life, not fitting into a system because others may think that it should be like that.
This massive wish for personal freedom made us want to break free and enjoy as much freedom as possible. Freedom means to be as less dependent on others as possible. Most people I know (including me) are dependent on certain financial situations. Made commitments in the past and have to deliver nowadays. Having ongoing contracts, be it with your landlord, your telephone company, your employer is also limiting your personal free choice.

Therefore we took four decisions:
1. Quit ongoing contracts (apartment, telephone, internet) and switched to an RV and prepaid contracts
2. Quit our jobs respectively changed to a halftime
3. bought a historic (analog) car without IT systems, so we could repair everything independently
4. We started travelling and worked on the road

It was incredible to experience how much time I had after leaving my comfort zone. So much of the stuff we do during a day was dominated by routines. Although I thought that I was even quite flexible before it but found it amazing how much you win when you have less stuff to care about.
With a lack of distraction it becomes obvious to me what I dislike. Much of that I left behind. With little left to disagree with my mind focused more and more on what I really love, really value.

  • Running
  • Nature
  • Writing
  • Teaching
  • Silence
  • Peace
  • Tranquility
  • Smoothness

Having this in mind I keep thinking about to achieve more of this for myself in the future.

The more I see, the more I know how little I know.

Life is a journey. I am traveling.

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