Settling into Shenzhen

Shenzhen China

On the street where we live

I really do not like to use the term settle down. I feel as if settling down means that I am stuck. As I once heard it described, to settle down is like the sand when it floats to the bottom of the ocean. So, I rarely use the term. But for the lack of a better one, we are settling in to our routine in Shenzhen.

I gave us one month to get used to the daily life and rituals in Shenzhen: have our apartment looking presentable and to feel at home. I am happy to say it took a little over 2 weeks. I was surprised at how swiftly we have both adjusted to our new environment. I believe the number one thing that helped was to focus on all of the similarities to the other places that we have visited.

Language differences– I reminded Bean that when we went to France, she didn’t understand what the people were saying. At the beggining it was hard. By the end, she understood everything and can now speak French. Remembering this fact has kept tension down for both of us when we have no idea what we are reading or what someone is saying. I also recite the fact that our brains are really smart. Even if we do not know what is going on word for word, our brains can help us figure out what is being said. That is why I can be seen standing at a market stall, hotel or with the motorcycle taxi drivers having a conversation about what we want to buy, how much we will pay and where we are going. They are speaking Chinese, I am speaking English and we are both speaking in Sign Language. It works!

Stores– Though I am still astounded at the sheer number of malls here in China, finding stores that we have known in other countries has helped me to quiet my concern about differences in quality. I normally feel it is important to buy local, but when local sheets are paper thin and Ikea sheets are not, I would rather go across town and find an Ikea. Grocery store chains are helpful as well. Knowing that I can have good Irish butter and French bread if I want it, I relax if I mistakenly buy a meal that I can not imagine eating.

Public Transportation– Every city that has public transportation runs the systems about the same. I am thrilled because here in China, I feel very safe. The trains have a security checkpoint before EVERY entrance. I have no fear of guns, bombs or knife attacks. The buses and trains are extremely clean. The people will stand up and let the children and old people have a seat. Getting around has been a breeze.

Daily Interactions– I told Bean that in China we are celebrities. How else can I explain all of the people who stare at us and talk about us to our face? There are people who want to take our pictures and to touch our hair. We have continued to be open and friendly. It has won us several new friends already. Bean invites talkative people to eat dinner with us, and it works. We have been on a few dinner dates already and I see many more in our future.

Eating– Food in China was and was not what I expected. The saying is that the Cantonese will eat anything and that scared me. I knew they ate a lot of vegetables and of course rice at every meal. Keeping it simple, we have adopted a primarily rice and vegetable diet. There are a few special foods that we like to try, so I give them a special day in the week to eat them. Because the vegetables and pretty much everything else is cooked in loads of oil, which surprised me, when I find a restaurant where the food is good, we go back. Being a repeat customer and a foreigner we are treated well.
Why don’t I cook? Because it is cheaper to eat out! Bean and I can eat 3 good meals a day for under $10. Why would I burden myself with cooking and grocery shopping? I am enjoying the freedom from unnecessary household chores. Having fruit and a few staples around the house in case of emergency is working so far.

I believe the most important reason that we have adjusted so well and so quickly is that I am working a full time job again. Traveling around from one place to the next, we were able to keep our own personal routine, but that did not always match the community we were visiting. Being on the same schedule as everyone else around us has given us friends, acquaintances and a sense of community much quicker. Then again, maybe the Chinese are more open than the French. What do you think?

Hong Kong-Part 2

Lantau Island Hong Kong

Lantau Island, Hong Kong

A twenty hour flight. I have flown that long before but I was flying alone. Traveling around the world with Bean on a flight that would last over twenty hours is something entirely different. But I knew we could do it. I just was not sure how we would be holding up at the end. I did everything that I have been doing since we have been traveling: let her choose her activities,eat as much as she likes and take things easy. The trip was long, but not hard.

When we arrived at our last layover in Taiwan,I was once again impressed with foreign airports. Why don’t American airports provide children with a play area? Our favorite thing to do at the airport is find the children’s play area so that Bean can let off some steam. THe Taipae airport was the best I have visited to date. Besides the normal restaurants and play area,there was an exercise area with equipment, shower rooms, nap rooms, massage chairs, a tasting corner for treats and more. I have never seen anything like it. If we were stuck here, it would be a pleasure to spend the day in it.

Finally making it to Hong Kong,we needed to find our hotel.I get around pretty good in all of the countries we visit. They have letters that we can recognize! I was concerned about Asia because I can not read the characters. I shouldn’t have worried. It seems that most people in Hong Kong speak English. I exaggerate a little. However,I did not have any trouble with anything that I needed during our entire stay.

Riding the train was simple. Taking money from the atm, no problem. Getting to the hotel, a little more challenging. We stayed in a guesthouse that had good reviews. It was the tiniest room we have ever been in! However, we were happy to have a bed to sleep on after such a long journey.

Before coming to Hong Kong, I thought spending a lot of time in New York this summer might have prepared me for the size and the amount of people in Hong Kong. It didn’t. I can’t get over is the shopping…the malls…the restaurants. Ever corner,every street, everywhere you looked, there was a mall. Huge malls, loaded with people. Brand name clothing,watches,cars, luxury items and more. I walked around wondering “How can there be enough people wanting all of this stuff?” Then I see the people. People everywhere. The easiest way to imagine it is the mall on the day before Christmas, or a sold out concert/ sporting event; every single day.

Bean and I took a few excursions to quieter areas of the city. We were brave and road in a cable car up to Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. We spent time at Po Lin Monestary, ate lunch and visited the Giant Buddha. We watched the drumming ceremony enjoyed walking around.

Another day, we went up to The Peak, one of the highest points of Hong Kong. The views were beautiful, but the day was hot. We found a hilarious museum, The Trickeye Museum, and took some hilarious photos. We walked and walked, discovered parks near the hotel. The light show could also be seen at night near the Science Museum not far from where we were staying.

The city is so big! I am glad Hong Kong is just a train ride away from where we will be staying in Shenzhen. I look forward to going back and exploring some more.

Hong Kong- Part 1

Spending time in Hong Kong was a great adventure. I walked around much of the time going “I have never seen anything like this.” Which is obviously true, since I have never been here before. We spent a few days having a great time!

Hong Kong

Hong Kong by day

buses in hong kong

We definitely road the double decker buses!

Lantau Island Hong Kong

Big Buddha of Ngong Ping, Lantau Island

The Peak, Hong Kong

At The Peak, taking in the views of Hong Kong

Trickeye Museum

The Trickeye Museum were we took LOTS of silly pictures!

More to come!!!

Getting a Home Base

Being on the road for the last year or so has been great. Bean and I have learned so much about the world and different ways of life. The number one thing I have learned: I have lots more to learn. And I like it. It keeps me interested in the world and people around me. While we have enjoyed traveling from one destination to another, it was not my Plan A. Plan A was always to teach in a foreign country and travel while there.

There are many things that we haven’t done in the past year that Bean and I are looking forward to. Bean has been talking about pets for months. Every time we pass stray dogs and cats, she wants to talk to them and adopt them.I have had to tell her more times than I wish to count, that they are dirty and have fleas and can not come with us. That doesn’t stop her. She will do her best to make friends with them.

Once, in Morocco, we were shelling peas. Inside of one pea pods a caterpillar was living. Bean adopted him for several days;taking him outside to play with her. She let him sleep in the bowl by her bed. She might have named him. He stayed with us until he started to turn a different color. I convinced her that he would be happier outside and she finally let him go.

The latest is a snail that was on grapes that we were washing. Bean is very good about giving it leaves to eat. I have to tell her not to take it everywhere because that is not what snails would like to do. All of her adopting strange pets let me know it is time to have a home base for a while.

I had forgotten how much I like to decorate. Simple, minimalist and pretty decorations that Bean and I can be proud to show others that this is where we live. I have redecorated and rearranged different lodgings in my mind for many months, letting me know that it is time for me to find somewhere and indulge my interests.

There has been no need to cook or clean for so long it may take some effort to get into the habit again. Where we are going, restaurant meals are super cheap. Bean prefers to eat out because we are around other people.I am happy not to wash dishes every day. As for cleaning, if everything has a place and everything stays in its place, cleaning should be simple. The most difficult thing will be finding a place for all of our few things.

I am excited to be able to try a few things that I have thought about and read about over the last year. For example, spending nothing. Getting all the paperwork necessary to go to China has seemed to be one long series of handing out money. Going back and forth to the consulate meant travelling four hours one way. Gas, car rental, more for the papers needed to process our visas, airplane tickets, items we may not find in China, eating on the road and on and on the money flows from my hands. I feel like I am acting as if money grows on trees the way that I am spending it. I will be glad to spending nothing for a time just because I have no need to spend money.

And if I am spending nothing, that means I am buying nothing. I know that I must buy things that we need. We need things. Bean needs clothes. I need shoes. We need food and soap and shampoo. Like I wrote previously,it is not so much about buying the things we need, it is the amount of time we spend in stores. It seems unavoidable, because as we travel, it is necessary to find a store that has what we are looking for. We spend a lot of time looking for things we need. Even though we may be shopping at a mega store, it may not carry the same items that American mega stores carry. We may need to go to somewhere else to find deodorant or tea tree oil or baking soda. I will be so glad to get all of things we need and stop shopping for a while. Bean asks to go to the mall. As a minimalist, that is not what I am trying to show to my child.

I would like to experiment with no waste as well. There are stores that sell only fruit and vegetables. Street vendors who sell meals and set tables and chairs in front of their booth. Electric kettles are widely used to boil water and I don’t need to buy bottled water. The list goes on and I am ready to see if we can successfully create less waste.

I have used a type of capsule dressing for the last year or so. There is just no way to have one suitcase and lots of clothes. I would like to try uniform dressing. The school children all wear uniforms. Bean will not need to think about what she will be wearing every day, I believe I will benefit from that as well. As our schedules will be demanding at the beginning, for my peace of mind, uniform dressing just may be the key.

We are excited about what this opportunity is bringing us. There is always something to discover. If you would like to know about something in particular about what we plan to do, leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer you!

The Next Step

on the road again

On the Road Again!

I wrote last year about the Waiting Place. That uncomfortable time of life when you are waiting for the next big thing to happen. You are ready to go and begin new adventures, but life tells you, you must sit here a while. I don’t know if this will be a yearly thing, or if it is just in the cycle of life, I have been in the waiting place again.

I was contacted earlier this year about a teaching position. I felt that I was ready to see another part of the world on someone else’s dime, so I said yes. I signed the contract, sent it back and that was the easiest part. I didn’t know I was going to be sending myself to the waiting room.

I am very independent. I have always been. Some of it has to do with my birth order, the middle child. Some of it is my nature and my circumstances. To sit around waiting for the next big thing is torture. I must incorporate every technique I know in order to mentally accept what is happening to me. I spent a lot of time this summer journaling, counting to 10, looking for activities that give me joy, counting my blessings and writing them down, and more. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I had to phone a friend on occasion and vent. If you were that friend, thank you!

Waiting really should not have been that hard. I traveled: New York, Chicago, Baton Rouge, Daufuskie Island, South Padre Island, Austin and too many times in Houston. I wasn’t bored. I kept busy. I made plans with friends. I went to restaurants, celebrated birthdays and had a few girl’s night outs. Bean was spending time with her father, her cousins, her grandparents and other family members. It was good for her to make memories with family. That is just as important as making memories seeing new countries and speaking new languages.

But I admit, it was HARD. It is hard to know what you want to do and be ready to do it and then you must wait. I had all of my papers ready. I sent them to all of the people who were supposed to receive them. I talked to everyone with whom I thought I needed to speak. I asked questions and took notes…and yet, I had to wait.

I met other single moms who travel, online and off. I offered my advise and watched as one took off on her own great adventure. I am so proud of her. But I was stuck. I couldn’t move until I received the “Go” light from the consulate.

I have spent so much time this summer trying to be positive. Finding ways to stay positive, especially since I didn’t expect to spend so much of my summer in the United States. I feel active and useful when I am traveling to new countries, meeting new people, butchering other languages. I did my best to fight self pity. I said “shut up” to myself several times when I wanted to complain about staying in my parents house and feeling like I was 16 again. “Focus on the positive,” I said over and over.

Finally, it has all paid off. The light is green for go! We are on our way and our new adventure begins right away. Bean is as excited as I am.

We are going to China!!

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

A gullah cabin

A Gullah Cabin
Sea Island, South Carolina

When we attended my Aunt Margaret’s memorial in December, my family planned to release her ashes into the Atlantic Ocean at her request. They decide that the summertime, around her birthday would be ideal. I had no intentions of attending. I thought I would be in France, helping another friend with her newborn and other children. Things didn’t work out the way that I imagined and I am glad.

When I arrived in South Carolina, adjusting to life on an island was quite a mental exercise. I had just come from big cities, being on my own, hanging with friends to being with family for a somber occasion. I was not sure the state of everyone’s emotions. I was not ready to sit around and cry. I wanted to explore and discover the island. Fortunately for me, so did many other family members.

We learned that the most recent history of the island was that of a resort. The developers attempted to turn the place into a golf camp for young people. Something in their plans went seriously wrong. One ended up in jail, another committed suicide and another fled the country. There were big event centers on the island that were just closed and everything was left on the table as if the staff where coming back again the next day to prepare for a big dinner. It was the perfect place for ghost story.

In fact, the whole island was like stepping back into time. Daufuskie Island first gained some popularity many years ago after Pat Conroy wrote The Water Is Wide. He wrote about a place that was cut off from the other parts of the world. Anyone seeking to go into or come off of the island needed to access it by boat. Like much of the south, the people of color were disadvantaged and answered to the ruling class. He poured his heart into helping the children of the island to gain some education about the simplest things. They could barely read, write or do math. They could barely speak good English. Their parents were superstitious. The world outside would eat them alive.

A farmer's market on daufuskie

A Farmer’s Market on Daufuskie

As we went around the island, I had not yet read the book. However, my brother and I had a few discusssions about what we felt was truth versus what we were told by others. I felt a little uncomfortable during my entire stay, (some of that was because I was watching Underground every night). As I travel, there is always an awareness that in order for big resorts to be built, someone needs to have given up their land in order for it to happen. In the back of my mind, I am always thinking “was it voluntary?” Sometimes it is, and sometimes, it isn’t. There is a lot of information available about the Gullah people who inhabited the sea islands of South Carolina. Looking around me at the “progress” of Daufuskie Island, I hope that they don’t make so much progress that they become extinct.

Overall, we made new memories with our family. Aunt Margaret’s send off was a success and touching. We swayed to Stevie Wonder singing “All I Do” as we released her to be free and fly. The dolphins came around and swam alongside our boat. In the evening we toasted marshmallows, looked for nesting turtles and played campfire games.

History has its time and place. Our story is being lived here and now. Let’s make great ones with the people who are around us.

Making it in New York City

One World Trade Center NYC

One World Trade Center
NYC

I have been to NYC many times in the last few years. My first trip to New York City happened years ago and I was visiting with people from New Jersey. They did not like the city. They could see it from their backyard and were not impressed. Begrudgingly, they took me around and showed me a few things they could tolerate to visit whenever they happened to be in the area. After that, I decided that I would never visit anywhere with someone who did not want to be there. Slowly, with every trip I have made to New York City, my experiences have expanded and improved. I am finding that I am falling in love with the city that never sleeps.

Bean and I are able to follow our schedule when we visit. We get up in the morning and meet a friend, or explore the city on our own, depending on the nature of our trip. There is so much to see and do, we have a wide variety of options. I still like going running every morning.

The last time we were there together, I went running in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I was having a great time. Enjoying watching people fall behind me, seeing the diversity of runners, feeling the breeze on my face and the smoothness of the asphalt beneath my feet. I decided that I did not want to go back on the same path on which I entered the park. I took a path that was not far and seemed to curve back in the same direction. I ran and ran. I took a detour through the woods. I ran some more. I looked around and everything looked pretty much the same as it did before, but why was I not back at the entrance. I ran a little further. I passed a girl riding a horse through the woods. I saw a man talking on his phone in Spanish. I really wanted to ask him where was the exit. I started walking along the path that I thought I came in on, and everyone was really into their workout. I couldn’t interrupt them. It was a beautiful sunny morning, so I decided to just enjoy my time in nature. I started walking in the direction that I thought was the exit. Finally, I saw a mom running with her two kids in a jogging stroller. I asked, “How can I get out of here?” She told me stay on the path and turn here and then turn there and walk this way and I would be out.

Coney Island

Coney Island

I started off in the direction she mentioned, and I must have done something wrong. I have been to the park many times, once for the farmers market, another time just to walk around a little. I had no idea how big the park was when I took off for a run. I finally made my way out and found myself on the far southern end of the park. I had no idea how close I was to the hotel. I spent another 20 minutes walking back to the entrance with which I was familiar. I had to laugh at myself. I got so caught up in the moment and enjoying myself in New York City, that I got lost in the park. It wasn’t the first time it happened and I am sure it will not be the last, but for someone who has a good sense of direction, it is always a surprise.

Another thing I enjoy to do in The City is go on walking tours. Actually, in any city, I like to take a tour either by bus or foot to get a feel of the place. New York City being as big as it is, I often don’t feel like I will ever know it well. I also never know when I am going back, so I try to do as much as I can when I am there and spend some time getting to know the place better. I have a friend who is a tour guide there and he has shown me some very interesting places like the African National Burial Ground.
This time I did a FreeToursByFoot to Harlem and their six hour Manhattan tour. I am writing about them because I enjoy the tours. I find tour guides fascinating because of their knowledge of a place. I asked these guys if they had other jobs and they said no because both of their tours are special. The Harlem tour, no one else wanted to do it. The six hour walking tour, no one wanted that either! Maybe when I grow up, I will become a tour guide!

After my tours were finished, I spent some time walking around on my own. I saw a sign for dancing in Marcus Garvey Park. I took dancing lessons last year before I left Chicago and loved it. I decided to try it and LOVED it! We did the Argentinian Tango. I have never tangoed before. As with all of my previous dance lessons, I make sure to apologize to my partner beforehand for all of the times I will be stepping on his toes. They are very understanding. By the end of the session, I was whirling around the floor like someone who knew what she was doing! That gives me hope for my future as a dancer.

I went back to Marcus Garvey Park for The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of The Three Musketeers. It was amazing. The costumes, the dialogue, the music, dance and just the whole production was truly a delight. I wish I had more time in New York City, I would have seen this play at least once a week. I think New Yorkers are definitely spoiled because they get these types of performances so often that they don’t come out in big numbers to see them. I think tourist are just too timid to find diamonds like these. They don’t know what they are missing.

I have tried to only share a few things about this great city, but as I am writing, there is just so much more to share. New York is truly a place that doesn’t sleep and there is always something exciting and interesting to do. I feel that if people are sitting around lonely and sad in a city like this, it can only be to the lack of imagination. I look forward to visiting again and again, getting to know this place better. Why not? People already think I live there.

Have you ever been to NYC? What was your greatest experience? What do you plan to do the next time?

My Favorite Things- Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower paris france

Bean and the Eiffel Tower

Whenever I am in France, I feel like I am home. I know I have said that before, and it is truly the way that I feel. I thought it was anywhere in France, but as I have discovered, it is really Paris. I hate to be cliché, but there IS something special about Paris that I just can’t explain.

For me, it happened the first time that I traveled abroad. My first overseas destination was Paris. I had no idea what to expect. I walked off the plane and for the first time in my life truly felt chez moi. Every time I am home, here are a few things that I love to experience.

Bakeries-
Bean and I love the bakeries. It isn’t just the smell of the fresh-baked bread that hits you walking down the street. It is the anticipation of a delicious treat that we wait for all day long. Bean loves goûter because she knows that she will be able to choose some beautiful and delicious confection. I like going with Bean because if I were left to myself, I would choose something simple like a pain au chocolat or croissant aux amandes. Bean is adventurous and daring. She doesn’t care if she is choosing a treat that should be eaten for dessert. She knows that what she is seeing is beautiful to the eyes, the mouth and the rest of her senses. She always chooses well.

Community garden at parc de la villette

Community Garden at Parc de la Villette

Community Gardens-
Since having a garden of our own, I am always excited to see community gardens popping up in big cities. I read that community gardens were arriving and becoming popular in Paris. We kept running into them on our walks throughout the city. We stopped and spoke to one lady during a garden open house of sorts. She was serving tea made from the herbs of the garden. She mentioned that every arrondissement has at least one community garden. I have seen them along the tram tracks, in front of the museum, along an old bridge, by schools. What is so delightful about them is that they can pop up anywhere.

Paris playground

Top Paris destination: Playgrounds

Playgrounds-
Play areas are big for me and Bean. I can sit and watch as Bean interacts with other children as I read a book. Bean can get a little of her endless supply of energy out as she tries crazy tricks. Play areas, like community gardens, are everywhere. The neighborhood in which we were staying had one or two on every block. Walking along the Seine, we found play areas constructed along the wall of the bridge. Some of the more popular parks have humongous areas for children, with huge slides, swings, climbing walls and more. Even with the abundance of playgrounds, there are some neighborhoods which block off streets on certain days so that the children can play together. Bean comes back to the house every day saying how many friends she has made. I come back to the house excited that she is speaking French.

Diversity, diversity, diversity-
Fancy parties in trendy arrondissements, next door neighbors with two wives, Chinese people speaking Mandarin with African children, Indian people who lived in our old neighborhood. Everything, and everyone that I would want to meet is right outside my doorstep. They may be from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Korea or the Ivory Coast. They might be from Sweden, Romania, New Zealand or Brazil. All I need to do is go outside and say Bonjour. I know this can happen in practically any big city if I take the time to get involved. However, there is just something special about speaking French and having enjoying the joie de vivre of the French.

I am especially thoughtful of all the things that I love about France as Bean and I get ready to make a BIG jump to another country. We have enjoyed our time in France and will always come back every chance we get. Bean will continue to practice her French. I will work on mine as well. It is time for new adventures in foreign lands! I can hardly wait to get there.

Adventures in Daily Living

dafauski island south carolina

A South Carolina Sea Island

There are some days and some occasions when I look around me and feel happy to bursting. With a big smile on my face, I think to myself, “I live an amazing life. I do amazing things.” Usually it happens when I am traveling,meeting new people, and doing things I only imagined.

Sometimes, as life does, I must sit and wait for the next phase or excellent adventure to come my way. I am in a place I have been before, doing things I don’t really enjoy, trying to find that special spark to make the day bearable. I have read articles of people who advocate for adventures in daily life. Maybe I am a travel adventure junkie, because I feel that I need to look for daily excitement.

I was looking around me the other day. Hanging with friends and family. Riding the bus,doing my regular non glamorous routine. Once I returned to the house, a friend asked me about my bus ride. I looked at her in surprise. “What about it?,” I asked. She mentioned to me that I always ran into someone on the bus and have stories to share. I had to laugh because it’s true.

While on the bus, a lady with questionable mental faculties, wished everyone who stepped through the doors a good morning at the top of her voice. During the ride she sang, tried to play with the children who hid behind their alarmed parents, talked to tourist and was a complete spectacle for the entire bus ride. She did this all at the top of her voice,with no embarrassment or intimidation at all. She was an unforgettable character.

Another day I visited the gym with a friend. I prefer to get my exercise outdoors, but she offered and I accepted. We were hanging out in the jacuzzi when another lady joined us. After striking up a conversation, she told us she was an alien artist. “Excuse me,” I said,”did you say you were an alien artist?” She said that yes, I had heard her correctly. We all began talking about her creative process and various other topics. As we got out of the hot tub, she asked if we danced. I told her about some of my little attempts to learn how to be a better dancer, my wish to improve and my desire to go out dancing. She said “Let’s make a date!” We did!

I needed those two incidents to remind me that I can have adventures in daily living. I don’t always need to chase adventure on the open road. It is hard because I must be more aware of simple interactions. I must be open to receive what comes during my day. I must be patient. I need to open my mouth and talk to strangers. When I am thinking only about getting to the doctor’s appointment or the courthouse in search of the papers I need, that is difficult. I needed those incidents and others like them to help me to remember the time before I became a travel adventure junkie.

We met some of our favorite people when we rode the bus every day. Every day was an adventure because we didn’t know who we would see or what surprises they brought with them. Bean and I have had great fun going to festivals, museum special exhibits, and more. This all happened when we were living our daily life. If it happened then, it can happen now. Today, my eyes are open to the adventures in daily living.

Did you find yourself having an unexpected adventure this week? Tell me about it in the comments below! I like reading about you too.

The Shopping Minimalist

Aeroville Roissy France

The Mall in the Middle of Nowhere…Aeroville in France

I have a confession to make. I shop a lot. But I have a reason.

As a minimalist, I have very few clothes. Bean has very few clothes. The clothes we have are multi-purpose. We don’t have enough space in our suitcases to carry clothing for every activity; our clothes must work double or triple duty. Bean is a child. She doesn’t know that people dress to impress other people with their place in society by their clothes. Our clothes can mix and match, working in many situations. It is easy and works for us.

As much as I don’t worry about brands and where we buy our clothes, I had to take a moment to reflect. Why am I, as a minimalist, spending so much time in the stores and shopping? I want to show Bean a different side of life. I want her to see other things besides spending money in stores every day. What is going on? Am I becoming a recreational shopper?

Ultimately, I realize, it is our lifestyle. I decided to carry only seasonal clothing many months ago. As we have been traveling between different climates, it has been necessary to buy different clothes. When we were in southern France, it was cool and rainy for days at a time. We needed our jackets, sweaters, and tights. It was spring, but the weather was not warming up quite fast enough.

We then went to Morocco. It was also spring in Morocco, but the weather was significantly warmer. I made the decision that we could get rid of our fall/ winter clothes. The weather got hotter and hotter. It felt like summer time. We started our treks to the mall, the market and the discount stores. Because we are not familiar with the stores and what they sell, it is necessary to visit many stores to find what we need. Bean loves it. I am always interested in learning more about a country and its people,but shopping so much makes me uncomfortable.

We traveled back to France and unfortunately, it was still cool. We found a thrift store to buy simple jackets so we would not freeze when we took our walks. I was kicking myself mentally for thinking I could get rid of the jackets in Morocco and that the weather would be warmer when we returned to France. I was overly optimistic. I kept in mind the fact that we would need to shop again before leaving France since we were headed to Illinois and Texas. It is always HOT in Texas.

I have since relaxed and accepted the fact that we do need to shop. Minimalist or not, we can not travel naked. We would not get very far that way. I hope that in all of our trips to the mall and the market, I am showing Bean that we are not participating in recreational shopping. We have a purpose when we go to the stores. We are looking for sandals. We are looking for light summer dresses. We need to find shoes of a certain style, size and so that she will have a pair to wear that is interchangeable with all of her clothes for the next few months.

I suppose if we had a car, the trips to the mall would not be so frequent. We could do all of our shopping in one day. No need to spend a few days a week looking for things to wear. After we find things to wear,we then must shop for groceries. I am more comfortable with shopping for groceries because that is a necessity. We HAVE to eat. I know this should not necessarily be seen as recreational shopping, but maybe it is for Bean.

Bean loves to go to the stores. I make sure to be clear with explaining the purpose of our visit. Maybe when she is older, she will remember that we shopped with purpose. Maybe she will just remember the shopping trips and how much fun she had spending money. What ever happens, I am still a minimalist. A minimalist who doesn’t own much. A minimalist who considers her purchases. A minimalist who spends a lot of time at the mall.

Do you consider yourself a minimalist? How does shopping and minimalism look in your life? Are you able to resolve the apparently contradictory messages of the two ways of life? I would love to hear about it. Please leave me a comment below.