Live Below the Line: Live Simply so ALL can Simply Live

You know the old saying ‘Live simply so others can simply live’ actually I don’t know if that is a saying or if I made it up… Anyway there is more to that saying than what you might first think.

The work I do with the Global Poverty Project addresses the simply live part of 1.4 billion people in the world who can’t obtain it but personally I am just as passionate about the live simply part for the opposite 1.4 billion people in the world (me and likely you if you are reading this blog…) who can choose it.

I am not going to tell people what to do but… personally I have really learnt from the poorest in the world that simple living has a lot going for it especially if you get to choose it and not live in hunger, fear, sickness or absolute uncertainty.

Anyone I have met who has visited a developing country has always said ‘the people seem so happy there’. Well they are because they have to be as there is very little else in their life to distract them from pure, humanistic and simplistic living of people, community, family and friends.

I am totally glorifying the noble savages here and making a slight mockery of poverty but there is a huge lesson in this for me. As I have slowly learnt to perpetuate the developing way of life in the developed world I have become richer for it. Less means so much more to me now and it keeps my body, thoughts, environment and community much purer and happier.

In developed countries to give me the purity of life I strive for with the most satisfaction – Live Below the Line is the best thing I have done along with hiking and cycling trips.

Like the 10km walk to the airport in Portland with this stunning sunset

For me Live Below the Line redefines how life can be in the developed world and makes those things that are so important in life that much clearer such as family, friends, community and nature – all of which are free but priceless. It really showcases to me that the best ‘things’ in life are ‘doings’ – talking, writing, walking, riding, helping, reading, learning, sharing, teaching, living!

I can’t tell people to change their life and live simply but I can do it for myself and hopefully model that less income, more time, more family, more community, more nature, more pure living is a richness that is totally undervalued and underappreciated in the developed world. If we can learn a few of these joys I am sure we will see a world where we can all simply live.

Day 27

  • Portland and on plane to New York at 11pm
  • Breakfast: porridge pancakes with my wonderful friend Julianna
  • Snacks: bread and plenty of it!
  • Lunch: onion soup broth with bread
  • Dinner: Leftovers from dine below the line – lentils, rice and quinoa

Another day of catching up on food – nailed the rest of the loaf of bread!

Another simple happy breakfast with an old friend!

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Want to experience a developing country from your own home?

Day 15

  • 23km walk from North Vancouver to South Vancouver via downtown and a cool meeting with Free the Children – but cold, wet, tired, hungry and grumpy upon arrival at my hosts!
  • Breakfast: half packet of very watery instant noodles and slice of bread
  • Snacks: apple (yay my first!) and hard boiled egg (was meant to be on Sunday [my egg day] but didn’t have it as was guilty from beef jerky)
  • Lunch: two slices of homemade bread and ¼ banana which I dropped on the ground and had to de-grit before smearing on my bread!
  • Dinner: garlic, onion, broccoli, third of a can of sardines in tomato and chili sauce, oil and pasta – the best meal I’ve had in two weeks!

I got an opportunity to do a shop where I could really cost things out and I think I have been living waaay below the line in guessing what I have been eating as yesterday I bought a large potato, broccoli, two apples, onion, bok-choy and can of sardines for under $2 of which I used about 60c!

If you have always wanted to experience developing country life you can now do it at home!

Not exactly but I believe if you take on the Live Below the Line challenge – eating on less than US$1.50/day each day for five days you will get some great insights into how billions of people live around the world everyday from your own country.

This campaign started with two good friends of mine in Melbourne who had previously spent time in developing countries and said ‘Well we have seen extreme poverty, how would you replicate that in a country like Australia?’ And Live Below the Line was born. 

Another great way to explain this campaign is to get Hugh Jackman to do it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2qPhwFokkA

Almost every host I have stayed with on this trip (BTW thank you so much hosts!) I have either guilted or inspired to take on the challenge this May 7-11, sorry guys. My big ask for my trip to others is not for your money but for you to give this campaign a shot!

It is a fundraiser but primarily it is about conversation, thought and perspectives. You cannot regret taking on this challenge – it is honestly a life changer…

But instead of me banging my own drum to death for Live Below the Line I want to share with you a couple of links from others.

The best one comes from a guy who writes a great blog known as Make Wealth History (and he writes grammatically properly and everything!). But he will give you lots of very cool insights in Live Below the Line and his thoughts during his week which he is doing now ahead of the official dates (May 7-11) to promote the campaign – http://makewealthhistory.org/2012/04/23/why-were-living-below-the-line-this-week/ there are also posts with a video, some great comments from others and a great look at the price of food in developed countries.

Passed through Granville Island on my walk and visited my friend who is the brewer at Granville Island Brewery - while not wanting a beer it was tough on a social basis!

So only thing left is to sign up eh! Link through from the Global Poverty Porject website: http://www.globalpovertyproject.com

Enjoying simple eating!

Simply Enough or Simply Not Enough?

Day 14

  • 8 km of walking after being too wet for extra riding around Whistler 😦
  • Breakfast: two slices of homemade bread with ¼ banana smooshed on top
  • Lunch: leftover pasta from the night before
  • Snacks: four slices of cut apple at the Tamwood presentation and porridge pancakes
  • Dinner: half packet of instant noodles at 9.30pm after the Squamish presentation

Definitely made up for my downfall the day before with very simple eating! Also had two wonderful presentations – one at Tamwood International ESL school in Whistler and one a community presentation in Squamish with a great turn out and a fantastic vibe!

My blog title for today ‘Simply Enough or Simply Not Enough’ is a great choice of thought and living that came into my head while walking with my Live Below the Line stomach…

We kind of have two ways to look at our lives when thinking about this:

  • Simply enough – with the basics in life we can be happy and fulfilled; or
  • Simply not enough – no matter what we have we can never be satisfied

The simply not enough interpretation can only be made if we are not faced on the extreme end of poverty where you might not have enough food, water, health, education or access to your rights.

It is not by chance that this popped into me head while I am two weeks into Live Below the Line (minus the damn beef jerky from two days ago!). Live Below the Line puts you completely into the headspace of simply enougheven when you go through hunger, tiredness, frustration and the occasional delusion.

Most people would think for Live Below the Line you would be of the mindset of simply not enough BUT Live Below the Line teaches you that you can have more with less and we sometimes don’t need all these foods or things to be ‘happy’.

I have been lucky that simply enough has been my life for many years now. It is something I feel very fortunate to have achieved and not only through hardship but through real and concrete experiences and happiness.

Some of the simple things in life are usually the best. A shared meal with friends is all anyone can want really...

I am sure that more people would be happier with less – I’m not talking about caves, sticks and water to live on. It is about controlling life more, with less to control. For example – I’m bored, I’ll go for a walk; I’m hungry, I’ll have an apple; I’m stressed, I’ll work less tomorrow. I sometimes think we put ourselves into excess far too easily and often with work, time, money and satisfaction. This is starting to sounds a little Buddhist and Nirvana orientated but it isn’t a religion it is just a way of thinking, practicing and acting and receiving the rewards.

I knew Living Below the Line for five weeks and doing a bunch of physical activity around it was only going to be a positive, inspirational and learning experience for me as I continue to love more from less (just have to be careful not to excess). I am as fulfilled as I have ever been eating on less than $1.50 a day for food and factoring in some cleansing healthy activity throughout the day whilst working/volunteering/giving very rewarding Global Poverty Project presentations to schools and communities.

Maybe this is a slight rant here that sounds like it has come from someone deliberately starving themselves but it is with wonderful clarity and appreciation that I believe less is more. I also feel and live this when I am privileged to be in developing countries or perpetuating that lifestyle in developed countries with things like Live Below the Line.

House, transport and nature doesn't get any better than this - maybe a few friends. If my transport is my feet then I'm on a winner also.

Lastly it is that time where I can’t advocate this campaign enough so I really encourage everyone to take on the Live Below the Line challenge for five days May 7-11!

http://www.globalpovertyproject.com and find your way to the Live Below the Line sign up!

This fun little video sketch is also pretty on the mark with this sort of thinking as well: The High Price of Materialism – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGab38pKscw

Imagine you lived on $1.50/day and had twins…

Day 8

  • 5.5km walk to pick up bike, 36km ride to Coquitlam east of Vancouver in cold wet windy conditions and to a lovely warm shower at the end point!
  • Breakfast: steal cut oats, bit of bran, a few flax seeds, orange peel and boiling water
  • Lunch: 2 minute noodles to warm me up after my ride
  • Dinner: pasta spirals with bok-choi and a roasted ½ sweet potato in onion broth

I was so cold on the bike ride as being hungry the cold really gets in your bones and it is amazing how much food warms me up very soon after eating.

It’s very interesting to be looking at the developed world through Live Below the Line eyes. Yesterday I got back on the bike for a short trip of 36km out to eastern Vancouver to stay with my ex-girlfriend, her husband and beautiful 10 month old twin girls.

Alicia & Lexi

I had a lovely evening hanging out with the twins Lexi and Alycia and hearing about life when you have two bundles of joy craving your attention and responsibility. What has struck me in hindsight is the big contrast to the way we care for our children and in particular infants in comparison to those in developing countries. I’m sure this will sound slanted to the poor but I mean for it to sound as though there is no right or wrong just different.

Shannon has had a tough 10 months in raising two babies at the same time. It would be hard enough if you had to just raise your first born but then double it with twins. It sounds like has had some good support around the place from institutions, grandparents, friends and of course her husband but she said the greatest and most valued support came from Facebook where she was able to connect to a network of mothers with twins. Here she could have her questions answered and feel ‘normal’ as she was only experiencing what anyone else in her position would be.

Having been fortunate to live in developing countries and in particular my year in Ethiopia where I lived in a teachers compound with many young children, I got to see how children are raised when you don’t have all the technology and infrastructure. Things like baby carriers, toys, disposable nappies, etc. What I saw was that it is a village that raises a child. All the mothers live close together in small housing making space an issue but also a blessing. While one single roomed house is being cleaned the child goes to the neighbours house and then vice-versa. All cooking duties are shared. Play time is with other children of similar age and very independent.

Shared childcare Ethiopian style, kind of like community school
In western culture we tend to shut ourselves off from the world when we have children to look after them. For me it seems it is harder on the guardians and maybe less enriching for the children as they have their own set of everything and have to fight parenting battles on their own and in a less shared and supported way except for when someone visits or we have to go outside for support.
It is all an interesting concept but for me this is where I have the upmost amount of respect for the way of life in developing countries as it seems more humanistic, shared, community orientated and pure than an artificially sculpted concept of what we think it should be like when we have greater access to income and wealth. I idolise this more simple and shared way of life knowing that I have health care, education, clean water, food security and employment as I need which of course those in developing countries don’t always have.

I’m trying really hard to not make value judgments in this particular blog today, just to offer a display in the contrast to how it is done by those who Live Below the Line. I am not a parent, have no idea how tough it must be and am not anti-western culture. I have just been lucky, I feel, to have experienced a very different way of life that is at the front of my mind as I recreate that existence eating on less than $1.50 a day.

Parenting is tough no matter where you are and there is no right way so the biggest respect to all parents anywhere in the world – especially those with twins!

Pretty cute eh!