Five months ago, my life took a swift turn. The country that I had called home for more than seven years was no longer inviting me in. Truth to be told though, it never really did. The US is like Teflon for foreigners. And let’s face it, it’s not like the new administration is hurrying to change it.
Nevertheless, I had decided to take a breather before diving into my next job. Little did I know, I’d be bouncing around four different countries over the next five months. But only after three would I find what I had been looking for: something that draws me, something I feel passionate about, something that allows me to create and that has a genuine and beautiful goal.
This project I found in the Bolivian Amazon. Right now, I’m on full Sherlock mode trying to find a space to rent here. And yes, of course the places cost a fraction of what you’d find in the States but are far from as modern. The stark contrast between these two ways of living has made me dwell quite a bit on the topic of luxury and what it really means to me.
Because of unexpected family matters I traveled back to Sweden but made a pit stop in Miami to see friends and more family.
I was scared to go.
Why? Because I was scared I’d miss the living standards. The last thing I want to do is brag, but when you’ve lived the past three years in an almost brand-new apartment with a waterfront view, close access to parks, gyms, grocery shopping, beach and marvelous beaming sunlight it would surely not be an odd thing to yearn after.
I was surprised to find though, that when I did come home, a few things happened:
- I was absolutely overwhelmed by the number of stimuli in the city
- I couldn’t process the food
- I missed my non-hot water 5-sqm room and the open fire kitchen that takes about one hour to cook anything on
I thought it was quite interesting that though I could fully appreciate the warm water, speedy cooking, soft beds, balcony with postcard views, I did not miss it. I did not miss it because I remember what type of lifestyle it usually takes to maintain it.
So luxury, and quality living, huh? What does it really mean?
This will likely sound like a cliché, but then again clichés are clichés for a reason. Getting rid of almost all my belongings (furniture, clothes, car etc.) before moving was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had. It was like a purge.
I don’t think of myself as a very materialistic person but I do believe we can all very easily let our things possess us. The more you accumulate, the more responsibility to maintain it you accumulate. Of course, that doesn’t always need to be a bad thing. If you enjoy it you enjoy it and that’s that. But if you don’t, you can quickly become a prisoner of it all. And for me, the simple ridding of it was a very freeing choice.
Coming back to the States and having hiccups in my digestive system though I only eat fruits and vegetables was frightening to say the least. My body has been fueled by local non-GMO produce for the past couple of months, so now an “organic” Publix apple gives me a stomach ache. Scary stuff to say the least.
Moreover, being used to the slow motions of a 20,000-person South American pueblo, where at night the loudest thing I hear is a symphony of the beaming sounds from the waterfall outside my room mixed with a concoction of singing from crickets and nocturnal birds, Miami’s traffic and rushing energy was quite overwhelming. In more developed countries we are often quite proud of the speed at which things take place. Your job tasks, UberEats, online orders the list goes on. Life can seem pretty seamless. Though I too appreciate all these things, I think there’s a downside to it. And it’s likely one of the most infectious diseases this type of society has. It’s called stress.
I quickly found that in Bolivia, and even in the city, people are not stressed in the same way as they are in the States. Sure, things take 5678890458x times longer to do but there’s no rush. And when you live to learn with more patience and some lower expectations, there’s less stress. And for me, I’d rather live in that type of world. Where the quickest I can do my groceries is in 40 minutes because I need to go to 4 different people (one for fruits and veggies, one for eggs, one for condiments and one for grains) than in one where I consider filling in an online order in 1 minute because it’s the most efficient way for me to balance my schedule. Rushing things has a tendency to take the joy out of it.
I have now realized that at this point in my life, luxury is my time, the quality of the food I eat, living close to nature and of course nurturing my close relationships. The rest is secondary. Certainly, this meaning can evolve over time (vocabulary tends to), but for now this is where I’m at. And it’s pretty great.