The Liebster Award and a Cringe Worthy Expat Faux Pas

The Luxpats nominated me for a Liebster award a while back (winners answer a series of questions about travel) and I took the challenge! I think this may be a first for me – I’m terrible about getting tagged in these types of things – but I loved the questions for this. Plus mining through travel photos and memories was fun and now I have the travel itch.

1. What was your first travel experience and what did you take away from it? 

Probably my first big travel experience was a college recruiting trip to the Northeastern US when I was 16. My sister and I visited three universities on our own with multiple connecting flights. I still can’t believe everyone was comfortable sending us on our own – we’d only been on one flight before that and it was less than an hour to Seattle for another recruiting trip. It was quite an adventure with travel snafus and sleeping on dorm floors. I loved that feeling of independence and not knowing what to expect or what was next. This was pre-Internet so we were really going in blind to the visits and what the colleges would look like.

2. What is the best food item / dish you have tried, and where was it?

My husband and I had an incredible meal on Capri at a beachfront restaurant back in 2009. The meal was so good, pasta with pumpkin, but the story of getting there and the ‘pinch me is this real’ view really elevated the experience. We decided to go to Capri from Sorrento with no real plan. On arrival I was nonplussed with the heavy throngs of tourists and didn’t see what the fuss was about. We hiked the hillside and then hiked down the other side and stumbled upon this gorgeous restaurant on the water.
While I enjoy researching for trips there is something special about happening upon something with no guidance from Yelp reviews or TripAdvisor’s top ten list.

3. What is the best advice you’ve received?

One of my sisters told me years ago that she highly recommended paying for walking tours. She had just returned from a European vacation where she hit up some big cities and she said having someone guide her through a city really allowed her to soak it in and appreciate it instead of staring at a map or guide book on repeat. So we always sign up for a tour of a new city on the first day there to get a feel of where things are and to learn more about the city. Once we’ve had a tour we pick a few things that we want to see more of and head to them on our own.

4. What is your ideal setting for travel/vacationing and for work?

Right now we are partial to all-inclusives that offer childcare though we haven’t really been on a big vacation in quite a while. Depressing, right? But I’ve found over the years that for us travel with younger children in the mobile baby to 2.5 year old age is exhausting. Particularly now that we have three kids. First rule of making travel and vacationing enjoyable: know what you like! Luckily our youngest should be a bit easier to travel with in the next year or so and that should open things up for where we can go.

My husband and I both loathe driving for ‘regular’ life but love road trips. We did a road trip through Italy pre-kids and it was fantastic. Many people told us we were making a mistake driving, that we should do it all by train, but even with a broken GPS and getting lost multiple times, I would do it all again. I would love to be able to do a road trip through Scandinavia when the kids are a bit older. Like most families we are partial to renting apartments and homes through websites like AirBnBs rather than staying in a hotel. It just makes sense for us financially and I don’t like spending my evenings reading with a flashlight while the kids sleep!

As far as work setting, anywhere? I work from home, cafes and sometimes an office space. The nice thing about my job is how portable it has been. I remember working on something while on vacation in the Dominican Republic and thinking, this is the best! I know other people would be unhappy to have to do a bit of work on vacation but I was thrilled.  Flexible and portable work is ideal for my family right now as we have young kids and we seem to move every few years.

5. What is your least favorite place you have been/visited/lived?

Morocco. We really did not have a good experience there. I blame some of it on me being pregnant at the time but we also got lost in the Medina and were in the non-tourist side and people spat at us. I’m also not a great haggler and so the swarms of people trying to get your taxi fare was stressful. That said, I would love to go back some day. I know quite a few people that loved Morocco so I know my experience was just one experience.

6.  What is the weirdest job you’ve ever taken on?

This could get long. I got up super early and got in line at the passport office and sold my spot for a few weeks. This was when I was really low on money. I was a full-time athlete from 2001-2004. I demonstrated digital cameras, photo printers and vacuums in stores. After my freshman year at university I painted school classrooms for a summer.

7. What made you want to start a blog?

So much clutter. I was really frustrated with all of our stuff and got excited about the minimalist movement. I started a blog to keep myself accountable as I decluttered. I could never have imagined that six years later it would still be going, I would publish a second book and that the blog would spawn a big online community of people trying to live with less stuff.

8. Name a book that changed the way you see the world.

These questions are so hard! But off the top of my head: Bonfire of the Vanities. I read it in high school, living in an ethnically diverse and fairly affluent (but we were not) suburb. Every character in the book was described by their race and religion and I was floored at that. Most of the families where I lived were first generation Canadians – including mine – and kids never really talked about our differences. I never thought of my parents immigration to Canada as noteworthy because most of my friend’s parents had also moved to Vancouver from Iran, South Africa, the Czech Republic, England, etc.

9. What has been the biggest professional challenge and how did you overcome it? 

Making a full-time income as a self-employed writer. Still working on that!
I kind of fell into being a nonfiction writer after having my first baby in 2009. Prior to that I worked in sponsorship and marketing for a bank. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but being a blogger and author wasn’t on my radar. I did my undergrad in English Literature and creative writing and later did a year of film school for screenwriting. Having a successful blog and writing books has been a happy accident.

10. What mark do you hope to leave on the world? 

What a big question. I hope that I helped people – be they my children, partner, family, blog readers – live more freely and with less stress.

11. Do you have any funny/awkward cultural faux pas to share? 

It took me a long time to understand that in the UK if you invite a person over to your house or they drop by, you MUST offer them tea. And if they are Irish they will say “I don’t want to bother you” which actually means “yes, of course I want a cuppa” so you keep asking until they say yes or insist that you were going to make tea for yourself anyways.

Also, pants are underpants in the United Kingdom. That’s an important one in my experience.

So much fun Luxpats! Thanks for nominating me.

The No Spend Vacation

 

Congratulations to Bettina who won the Versalette 2.0 and Carrie who won a copy of Minimalist Parenting.

A post from the archives today on how we shop less for and on vacations in recent years. Topical for families gearing up for summer getaways.

When you calculate the cost of your vacation do you add in all the things you buy for it and on it?

New outfits, luggage, swim suits, travel devices and that afternoon spent shopping at the outlet mall everyone told you to go to can drive up the cost of a family getaway.

Those costs used to be a given for me. If we were going on a trip I needed a new outfit, possibly a new laptop case and I definitely wanted an afternoon to peruse the shops in places like Florence, Paris and pretty much any big American city.

We were in Spain last week and I realized I don’t shop for and on vacations anymore. When we budget out how much the whole thing is going to cost us there is no need to add in some blow money for that French department store or the half dozen garments we’ll buy before we go.

Food. Shelter. Transport. Fun. Those are the only things we spend on. Fun is entry to a zoo or a tram ride up Tibidabo mountain. Not a dress that looks amazing on the hangar, okay on me and that I’ll probably wear once in two years. We will visit a local market to see and smell the sites, taste a pastry or purchase local fruit, while on vacation. That’s quite enjoyable to me. But I no longer scan stalls for something, anything, to bring home with me.

Downside to no shopping: our pool wear wasn’t that exciting.

Our son was wearing swim trunks, a t-shirt and hat in the pool instead of a fancy UV suit. There was no flotation vest on just a pair or two of watchful eyes nearby to keep him safe. His sandals have seen a lot of miles this summer and have a certain odour. I don’t have a maternity swim suit so just wore an old two piece. My husband wore a pair of black running shorts as swim trunks. We weren’t impressing anyone with our wardrobes.

My clothing for the 8 day trip consisted of two skirts, one dress, a pair of jeans for travel days and a small mix of tops, tanks and light cardigans. Nothing was new or purchased specifically for the vacation. The whole thing fit into a medium packing cube like this one.

Upside to no shopping: more time in the place we’re visiting, less luggage and no mystery holiday costs.

We had three days in Barcelona and to lose an afternoon to the mall would have been a shame. At one point we ducked into a mall to use the bathroom when we were lost or as my husband says, just not sure where we were. It was like a lot of other malls I have been to. Except everything was in Spanish.

I’d rather spend an afternoon lost in an interesting city than an afternoon in a mall in an interesting city.

After walking through that mall I remembered that that hasn’t always been the case. When I was an athlete I went to Europe for competitions and my teammates and I always looked forward to an afternoon of shopping in places like Hamburg, Lucerne and Milan. Later when I traveled with my husband I always carved out time to visit a big American or foreign mall. Shopping while on vacation was part of the to see and do list.

Things have changed a lot in the last two years.

Less shopping means more travel.

If I still wanted to go to the mall we wouldn’t have been able to afford the vacation. Actually, we probably would have gone but most of it would have been on credit. Credit holidays are a lot less enjoyable in my experience.

There were no souvenirs, no t-shirts, no mini Sagrada Familia replicas or Park Guell snowglobes brought back with us from Spain.

I’m fine with that. The pictures and memories are enough.

Do you factor in preholiday and holiday shopping costs when you vacation? Any reformed outlet mall shoppers like me out there?

Eating My Hat: Living In A Small Town

 

When you live in a 598 square foot condo in an urban area and are expecting your first child, many, many people tell you to move out of the city. They tell you it may not happen now but eventually you’ll want to leave the big smoke for the greener pastures of the suburbs: a bigger house and safer streets.

I scoffed at them.

We loved living in downtown Vancouver.

When our son arrived we loved it even more.

Community centers, the sea wall, parks and libraries were mere blocks away. I met a great group of women with children around my son’s age and my first year as a mom was filled with play dates, mom and baby bootcamp and long walks with other new moms that were just as tired, elated and confused by motherhood as I was.

I firmly thought I would never live in the suburbs or a small town for that matter.

Three years later we’re living in a small (for us) town on an island. No Starbucks. No skating rink. Nowhere near the amenities or conveniences of our old life in a big city.

The biggest surprise for me: I love living in a small town. So does my husband. We like the quiet. We like how slow it is. There are frustrations for sure but right now we’re enjoying all the perks of this quiet life and this small place.

I can say now that I was wrong. I thought the suburbs and small towns were boring and limiting. I identified what we valued with the area we lived in.

As many of you can tell me, and as I can see clearly now, it’s now where you live or what you have available to you there that defines your lifestyle and values. It’s how you live that matters most.

Many of your are living well, and simply, in big homes or small homes in the city or suburbs or off a windy country road in a rural area. The small urban home isn’t a necessity for simplifying.

Being in this small town is tied to my husband’s job so we don’t know how long we’ll be here. I do know that this experience has expanded the possibility of where we could live in the future. Big urban center is not a necessity anymore. We’re much more flexible on where we could live.

Do you think simplifying, living with less or slowing down is harder because of where you live?

 

A No Buy Vacation

When you calculate the cost of your vacation do you add in all the things you buy for it and on it?

New outfits, luggage, swim suits, travel devices and that afternoon spent shopping at the outlet mall everyone told you to go to can drive up the cost of a family getaway.

Those costs used to be a given for me. If we were going on a trip I needed a new outfit, possibly a new laptop case and I definitely wanted an afternoon to peruse the shops in places like Florence, Paris and pretty much any big American city.

We were in Spain last week and I realized I don’t shop for and on vacations anymore. When we budget out how much the whole thing is going to cost us there is no need to add in some blow money for that French department store or the half dozen garments we’ll buy before we go.

Food. Shelter. Transport. Fun. Those are the only things we spend on. Fun is entry to a zoo or a tram ride up Tibidabo mountain. Not a dress that looks amazing on the hangar, okay on me and that I’ll probably wear once in two years. We will visit a local market to see and smell the sites, taste a pastry or purchase local fruit, while on vacation. That’s quite enjoyable to me. But I no longer scan stalls for something, anything, to bring home with me.

Downside to no shopping: our pool wear wasn’t that exciting.

Our son was wearing swim trunks, a t-shirt and hat in the pool instead of a fancy UV suit. There was no flotation vest on just a pair or two of watchful eyes nearby to keep him safe. His sandals have seen a lot of miles this summer and have a certain odour. I don’t have a maternity swim suit so just wore an old two piece. My husband wore a pair of black running shorts as swim trunks. We weren’t impressing anyone with our wardrobes.

My clothing for the 8 day trip consisted of two skirts, one dress, a pair of jeans for travel days and a small mix of tops, tanks and light cardigans. Nothing was new or purchased specifically for the vacation. The whole thing fit into a medium packing cube like this one.

Upside to no shopping: more time in the place we’re visiting, less luggage and no mystery holiday costs.

We had three days in Barcelona and to lose an afternoon to the mall would have been a shame. At one point we ducked into a mall to use the bathroom when we were lost or as my husband says, just not sure where we were. It was like a lot of other malls I have been to. Except everything was in Spanish.

I’d rather spend an afternoon lost in an interesting city than an afternoon in a mall in an interesting city.

After walking through that mall I remembered that that hasn’t always been the case. When I was an athlete I went to Europe for competitions and my teammates and I always looked forward to an afternoon of shopping in places like Hamburg, Lucerne and Milan. Later when I traveled with my husband I always carved out time to visit a big American or foreign mall. Shipping while on vacation was part of the to see and do list.

Things have changed a lot in the last two years.

Less shopping means more travel.

If I still wanted to go to the mall we wouldn’t have been able to afford the vacation. Actually, we probably would have gone but most of it would have been on credit. Credit holidays are a lot less enjoyable in my experience.

There were no souvenirs, no t-shirts, no mini Sagrada Familia replicas or Park Guell snowglobes brought back with us from Spain.

I’m fine with that. The pictures and memories are enough.

Do you factor in preholiday and holiday shopping costs when you vacation? Any reformed outlet mall shoppers like me out there?

Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...