What Matters

It’s been raining and yesterday, rain all day.  It’s also cold outside.  In times where it’s cold outside, I think about a lot of things.  Most of the time, the cold brings back that feeling of sitting in a tea house in the Khumbu waiting for the Sherpa to light up the stove and burn up some Yak dung.  That feeling going into a cold and dark tea house room to wear every single warm clothes I had and layering socks to keep warm.  I think about sipping hot lemon ginger tea and looking around the tea house just to kill time.  The higher you climb towards Everest Base Camp, the colder it is – even during a good season of trekking.  Evenings are rough.  The stove only goes until everyone is done with dinner.  The porters sleep in the dining room with what was left of the heat and all snuggled into their comforter provided by the tea house.  We snuggle into our sleeping bags along with our Nalgene bottle filled with boiled water which last through the night heating our bodies.  The toughest part of the night is climbing out of the sleeping bag to go to the toilet.  The goal was to do it as fast as possible without slipping on icy toilet seats or iced up water on the ground.  Once back into the sleeping bag, it takes a few minutes to warm up again by hugging of whatever heat left from the Nalgene bottle.

Sitting in a warm apartment is luxury.  We learn to appreciate the small things such as heat and hot water.  What matters is that we are warm.  In the full 28 days of trekking up in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal without a hot shower and minimal heat, I remember the feeling when we came back to our then home with running hot water and the appreciation we had turning on the heater to heat the whole house.

In the years of backpacking and trekking mostly in Nepal, we’ve come to realize  what matters in our life.  It’s the basic necessities.  Food, shelter and clothing.  We’ve realized that we can live with little with small expectations while traveling around the world exploring places that make us better people.  We collect memories and experiences to share to our relatives as well as learn about new countries.

People often ask us if we are on vacation or how long are we traveling or are we retired etc.  It’s still hard to explain our lifestyle to others.  We are not retired, we are not on vacation and our lifestyle is indefinite.  We’ve been asked many times if we miss home or where our home is.  Our “home” is an address to send mail to for the purpose of having an address.  In reality, we don’t have a permanent home to go back to and our home have been many places.  We really don’t miss the Bay Area at all.  Our life have been peaceful and slow lately.  Time matters but time doesn’t dictate or rule.  Time to us is not time to get from one destination to another but time spent learning about others, experiencing culture and people, precious time together doing what we love and time to understand ourselves through others.

If asked what really matters in life to us, our answer is appreciation for what we have.  That is what matters.  We only have a few clothing in our 30L backpack, our mountain bikes and running shoes.  We appreciate them all and value them when we travel.  There is no need to buy what is not needed because it’s extra load to the pack and a waste if we don’t even use it at all.  We learn to appreciate simple things in life like a studio with a kitchen or a simple hotel with a soft bed.  We appreciate what we learn living minimally and our new found frugal ways of living.  There’s so much to learn.

People would ask us how do we do it.  Again, it’s hard to explain but it’s also hard to explain that we also are living with very little.  Just imagine for example, we have the same clothes, shoes and bike now for over a year of traveling.  We hardly shop for anything new but we do shop for something that will be useful – wisely.  We travel to countries that are affordable but have activities with can do.  Our rental for a studio apartment is less compared to the mortgage and property tax we use to pay – significantly.  Rent normally includes everything – electricity, wifi, water etc.  We no longer have bills every month.  We don’t owe anything, debt free.  We pay for cell service as we go.  For example, I purchased a SIM card in France for €25, no expiration – only used it twice and only use it for emergency.  I still have a balance of €21 to use, which will probably last me until next year.  If data is needed, wifi at the apartment or places with wifi works fine.  Our iPhones aren’t new at all.  Both are hand me downs from relatives.  We aren’t into new gadgets but learned from others from our travels that if a phone works and does the job, it’s good enough.

Different culture view work very differently everywhere we go.  In Asia such as Vietnam, our staff at the apartment we stayed at could not understand why we don’t work.  It’s unusual to be living without a job.  Yes, it’s not really a norm even in western countries but it is somewhat acceptable.  In Asia, having a job is something of a social class and much respected.  Social class pressure is a big thing in Asia.  In France, it’s not a big deal.  A little different on the way western countries view us when we tell them, we sold everything and now just roam around the world with our backpacks.  Most of them are very happy for us.  They all think it’s the way to go and is excited about our exploration!

Appreciating what we have and make the best of what we have.  It’s hard to explain how that feels in words.  It feels good.  To value something so bad that it gets fixed many times to give it more life – something like that.  The wonderful people we met that live that way made us understand that material things don’t replace happiness or health.  Tangible things in life cannot replace the intangible ones such as love, happiness, health, freedom, peace, joy, sadness, fear etc.  Tangible things in life either go to waste or decay after it’s thrown away – hopefully recycled.

Grateful, thankful and appreciation for life…that’s what matters.

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