Mine is the larger suitcase, purple with orange trim which I chose because it is purple, bright and easy to recognise. His is slightly smaller, light brown with a lime green trim and both are decorated with colourful scarves, braided strips of coloured wool and several unusual luggage tags. The reason I mention the suitcases is because recently I was asked, as I often am, “What part of Australia are you from? Where is your home?”
Simply put, I am just a human who lives on earth. I prefer not to be labelled or categorised and I am not actually from anywhere, but rather I am where I am now. My home is where I currently live and that happens to be Chiang Mai, Thailand. For more than a year, my husband and I have been living in a furnished apartment, just 30 square metres in size. It is irrelevant whether we own or rent each place we call home. Apart from three packing boxes, one large, one medium and one small which are stored at my sister’s house, literally everything we own easily fits inside our suitcases.
We do not own a car, choosing instead to live in a location where we can walk to most places and have easily managed without one for over a year. When we shop for groceries every couple of days, we are careful to buy only what we need and what we can carry on the walk home. A lot of consideration was given to purchasing a second-hand vehicle when we first arrived here, but we decided against it so that we could walk more and save money. Owning a vehicle is a considerable financial burden considering the amount of time it is parked or not used. When necessary, we pay for a Tuk Tuk, Songthaw or Uber with each trip costing about AUD$2.00. Sitting in a vehicle being driven through the mayhem and noise by someone else, I am less stressed and more able to observe the surroundings and local daily life. I hope that not owning a vehicle is a small contribution to limiting the irreversible damage already caused to the planet by their over-use and excessive numbers.
Reflecting on the past twelve months living in such a small space with adequate but few possessions, I am reminded of how much more I now have in my life . Fewer possessions mean fewer choices and fewer choices make life simple. Sometimes I feel that I still have too many possessions such as two disposable razors I packed in my suitcase a year ago, which were a bargain when purchased in bulk. Three tubes of my favourite lip balm which are still unopened make me wonder if at some stage I anticipated a world-wide shortage of the product.
I carefully considered all seasons and possibilities before deciding which shoes to pack in my suitcase which is ironical considering Thai culture requires shoes to be removed before entering some buildings so mine have been left on hot, dusty, often wet steps and footpaths and nobody actually knows what my shoes look like.
There have been challenges so habits and routines formed over a lifetime have been adapted and changed accordingly. The kitchen proved to be the most difficult and even now when we sit to eat our meals, we still forget that the 2 knives and 2 forks provided in the kitchen have been used for cooking and are in the sink waiting to be washed. Only one saucepan means there are no decisions to make. Recipes are modified and alternative methods invented. Living without an oven, I needed to “think outside the box” to satisfy my craving for an old favourite – Pasta Bake – and prepared the dish as usual, then topped it with crunchy, pan-fried Panko breadcrumbs before simply heating it in the microwave. Using only a frypan and a microwave bowl, there was less mess and no need to scrub a burnt baking dish.
http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/ introduced me to a time and cost efficient method of cooking pasta using a lot less water and less electricity. Place the dry pasta in the frypan – yes, the frypan that you cook bacon and eggs in – cover with cold water and simply bring to the boil. The pasta does not stick together, is really soft and tasty when cooked and the remaining water can be saved and used as a base for a stock or sauce.
When necessary, I can increase the size of the kitchen bench by simply taking a step to the left and utilise the top of the washing machine outside on the balcony. Options are limited with few appliances so decisions are quick and simple to make. I no longer need to contort myself rummaging through difficult-to-get-at kitchen cupboards searching for appliances which are seldom used.
It has been years since I owned a clothes dryer as I believe they use an excessive amount of costly electricity. For some time I have appreciated how enjoyable it is to hang the washing on the clothes lines in the back yard at night with only the stars and my thoughts to keep me company. High temperatures experienced in the tropical regions of Australia and Asia can quickly damage both skin and clothing, so the routine of hanging washing out at night and bringing it in before breakfast is usual for me. Now, our pedestal fan which provides economical, efficient cooling is often used to dry clothes and as I discovered is also a great option for drying wet hair.
I have no need for a vacuum cleaner as the little amount of floor not occupied by furniture is easy to manage with a broom. I have not purchased Glad/Cling Wrap for more than one year as I continually try to avoid the use of plastic in my life aware of the damage it causes both our health and the environment.
Our small living space is modern and comfortable and was easy to adapt to. I acknowledge the challenges we encounter and am grateful for the learning and tolerance they teach me. With fewer decisions and less clutter, I feel my life to be easier, with more calmness, more clarity. Every day I meet new people, discover more opportunities, have more time to enjoy life and somehow feel more aware. I have more time to uphold my commitment to live ethically, protecting the planet and respecting all life. I am grateful for more time to spend with my husband, often just sitting in silence, sometimes exploring new places, always loving life.
Simplicity is not about deprivation,
but about creating a space for living