I’ll admit: at this stage in our life, we’re nowhere near as disconnected from The System that we’d like to be.
We still own a home in suburbia, we’re still fighting off debt, we still own WAY too much stuff for our liking. We still eat too much junk food. We still visit Mac Donalds. Nick still works way too hard (and doesn’t spend nearly enough time with his family as he’d like).
The Status Quo is still clinging to us… as much as we’re desperately trying to shake it off…
But there are other parts of our lives where our choices may seem pretty unconventional and we are living differently. Not just for the sake of being unconventional or living differently – but because they were very deliberate choices that we made to change the things that just didn’t… sit well… with us.
This is how we live differently:
1. NICK AND I BOTH WORK FROM HOME
We both come from families of entrepreneurs and I think that we’re both people who inherently dislike being told what to do. We’ve both had very brief stints working for bosses and having “jobs” – but for most of our lives, we’ve worked at home and haven’t relied on a company pay cheque for many years.
Obviously, this has it’s pros and cons. The predictability of a certain amount of money in the bank… at a certain time of month… is, certainly, very comforting. We haven’t had that “security” for most of our adult lives – and we’ve grown used to it. We have good months and bad months (and the occasional cash-flow issue), but neither one of us would change it for the world.
I guess I often… assume… that most people are like us (working from home, coming and going as they please, making a plan to pay the bills). But every now and then, I’ll meet someone (who has a regular 9 to 5 job – which they often hate)… who says: “Wow, you are so fortunate! I wish I worked from home. It has been a dream of mine for years”.
And then I close my eyes and count my blessings.
As a final thought: the reason why it’s fairly easy for Nick and I to transition to a nomadic way of life is because we already have the means to earn an income on the road. We need our laptops. Nick needs his cameras. I need a few art supplies… and we need an internet connection. With those few things, we can earn money… anywhere.
2. WE DON’T HAVE A TV
We deliberately turfed the television (over 3 years ago). We both realised that it was sucking away quality time and family time… and endless hours would be wasted while staring – zombie-like – at the box.
Most the time, we watched TV simply because the TV was there. We flipped through the channels and watched programmes that we really weren’t interested in – just because it had become habitual to do so.
I also hated the endless advertising… and particularly the advertising that targeted my kids – telling them what was “cool”… reminding them of the latest stuff that they needed to nag their parents for… making suggestions as to how they should dress… and what they should want… and so on, and so on….
So – we turfed it.
And we haven’t missed it. At all.
Sometimes, I’m taken aback at how people react when we tell them that we jettisoned the box. Some people even get a bit offended – as though our decision to toss-the-TV is a direct affront on their decision not to.
Some people have even asked us: “How will your kids learn about the world without the television?”.
Seriously? … I mean, seriously???
Someone else wanted to know how we would keep up with the latest news without the TV. Short answer? Al Jazeera, BBC and (locally) News24 – (all online!).
3. WE REMOVED OUR CHILDREN FROM SCHOOL
I’ve written fairly extensively about our decision to educate our children differently (on this blog). I think the homeschooling / world-schooling / un-schooling thing is probably the one of the biggest differences between us and our family (and closest friends)… and the most obvious part of our lives where we are, indeed, ‘living differently’.
I often get quizzed by curious strangers who want to know why our kids aren’t at school.
If somebody is genuinely interested in the topic of life-learning / world-schooling / doing education differently – I would happily engage in a conversation. But if somebody tries to interrogate me… or criticise our decisions, I prefer to just smile-and-wave (like the Penguins of Madagascar).
4. WE ARE DELIBERATELY AND METHODICALLY AIMING TO BE DEBT-FREE
In a consumerist world that tells us to buy! buy! buy! – it’s pretty hard to stay out of debt. Almost everyone we know is in some kind of debt… I don’t think we know anyone who is completely debt-free. (Do you?)
“Debt is the slavery of the free”
We also function within a system that demands and expects a life of servitude to debt. Even your credit record is designed to improve – the more you BUY! The system isn’t designed for frugal people who pay cash. (Ask my sister what kind of annoying, red-tape process she had to endure – just because she methodically saved her money and then wanted to pay cash for a new car!).
Getting into debt is EASY.
Nick gets regular calls from credit card companies, insurance companies, cell phone companies – offering him deals and “special offers” that will, inevitably, drag him into more debt.
Every month, I get mail in my post box that contains at least one or two offers from various department stores – offering me store cards with various perks so I can… yes… get into more debt.
It’s easy to get into debt. Not so easy to get out of it.
Getting out of debt has been a long-term, methodical process (and a bit of a pain in the bum!). We’ve come a long way. We’ve paid off the car. We’ve slashed our medical aid fees (on a family hospital plan now). We’ve ditched all department-store cards and other hire-purchase debt. We only have one credit card (and although they’re constantly offering Nick the option to increase his credit limit, he keeps politely turning them down). We’ve cut our cell phone bills in half (and ignored the many calls and offers to update our phones to the latest model – IF – we sign on the dotted line and yes… get into more debt).
And yes, it also helps that we don’t pay school fees or after-care fees (an enormous expense for many families).
But we’re not there yet…
The house is a guzzler of money. Just to maintain this house… to keep it running… to keep it clean… to keep the garden tidy… it guzzles away our cash! (and it’s a big house… we really don’t need a home this big!).
Nick and I are aiming to bring our overall expenses and debt down to the bare minimum. Why? Because we want to spend our money on experiences and on making memories… instead of on “stuff” and “things”.
It’s a challenge – and we’re not there yet. But, it’s another way that our family is choosing to exit The System and to live a bit differently…
5. WE DON’T “DO” BIG BRANDS
It IRKS me – that when I want to buy my kids some clothes, I have to fish through vast mountains of “Barbie”, “Ben Ten”, “Spiderman”, “Sponge-Bob”, “Hello Kitty”… (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg!)… just to root up a reasonably-priced, unbranded T-shirt or pair of shorts.
The same is true for Nick. What’s with all of the “Quicksilver”, “Billabong”… “Pringle”… (whatever!) T-shirts out there? I have to search really hard to find quality UN-branded stuff.
I just want a T-shirt! I don’t want to be a walking billboard for someone else’s brand – thank-you!
The same is true for my kids. Why must my daughter’s outfit advertise Barbie? – and we PAY the Barbie-brand to advertise Barbie? The Barbie brand should be paying us!
I truly don’t get (and I never every have gotten) this whole BRAND obsession. This crazy idea that if you wear a particular brand of clothing… or buy a particular brand of handbag… or wear a particular brand of shoe… or drive a particular brand of car… that you’re some how – I dunno – “cooler” than the rest of us?
Like I say – I just. don’t. get. it.
My children own some branded clothing. Joah has a Ben-Ten green hoodie jacket (that – frustratingly – he loves). Morgan has a Barbie nightie. I think there’s a few Spiderman bits and pieces in there too. Nick owns a number of branded T-shirts.
Just so you know – all of the branded stuff has come from other people (as either birthday gifts or Christmas presents). If I buy clothes – I go out of my way to buy un-branded clothes for myself and for the kids. We also buy T-shirts at stores (like Big Blue) where clothes are made locally… (and, thank-the-good-Lord, they don’t print frikkin’ “BIG BLUE!!!!” all over their effin’ merchandise!).
(It’s like me printing T-shirts for Eezil… that instead of a cute little design, picture or message – that the T-shirt just says “EEZIL!” “EEZIL!” “EEZIL!”)… (ugh!)
(That was my rant of the day).
6. WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF RENOVATING AND SELLING OUR HOME SO THAT WE CAN TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD AS A FAMILY… INDEFINITELY.
Many families are doing this already (and I eagerly devour their blogs for inspiration). In fact, there are hundreds of travelling families and digital nomads all over the world – who are location-independent and who earn money while they travel. Most just need a laptop and an internet connection to be able to bring in an income.
This way of life (that these families have chosen)… didn’t just “happen”. They made a deliberate choice to live that way. Many of them have sold their homes and their stuff – preferring to travel and world-school their kids.
I’m not saying that a nomadic way of life is for everyone. There are many people who prefer the stability and security of a house in the ‘burbs and a full-time job. And if you’re truly HAPPY to be there – then I absolutely support you.
But what if… (like us)… the suburban home has NOT brought you any happiness? What if (like us) you’ve felt trapped in – and resentful of – that big house (chock-full of stuff). What if… (like us)… you have always dreamed of travel, adventure, exploration, meeting new people and seeing new things?
Well then… you make a decision (as we did).
And you plot out your dream and your course of action (as we did).
And then you DO it (as we are).
It usually doesn’t happen quickly. We made the decision to sell & go in Easter 2012 – and the house still isn’t sold… and we still haven’t left… and there’s still admin and tax-stuff to sort out… and there’s still a mountain of STUFF to purge…
But we’re both working really hard to make this dream happen. The goal is still firmly in front of our noses – we walk a step closer to it, every single day.
Here’s a nice little quote to wrap up this article! 🙂