Give Me The Simple Life

Just like being in a relationship, things go much better when your needs are being met.  I think the same applies to starting a new life with a foreign country.  Prior to arriving and up until recently the big question in my mind was, “What could go wrong?”  I kept wondering if I packed the right items, forgot anything, etc.  Arriving, my first concerns were locating clean drinking water, internet, cell phone and food sources.  Once these major items were secured it was then a matter of getting items I needed for my studio for daily living.  Little by little each day I built up a place of refuge that I could call ‘home’ in this foreign land.

Now, granted, it’s a single-man’s studio.. but it’s the only domicile I have at present.  It’s secure, clean and newly constructed.  It’s a place to keep my ‘stuff’ and lay down my head at the end of the day.  Everything ‘out there’ in this foreign land I’ve chosen to live in is outside my control.  But this space I have to live in is where I customize it with my own list of creature comforts that are important to me.  And what I have confirmed here that I practiced in my former land is the concept that there is beauty in simplicity.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of a minimalist.  I like life to be simple, whittled down to just the stuff I need and the people that make a positive impact in my life.  I save complexity for my thoughts, where I spend away the days analyzing just about everything from every possible angle.  Having too much stuff, or drama, going on interrupts my focus.

So, as I began to say, up until now I’ve had the overwhelming ‘feeling’ of being a stranger in a strange land.  It’s unavoidable.  So many things are literally foreign to me here.  Things are done for a different reason or via a method I’m not familiar with.  And I love the little adventures that this provides.  For two weeks I’ve been in search of a wider table that I could devote solely to my laptop and related ‘tech’ items.. a committed workspace.  When I first arrived I only had one small table which served as my work-center, dining table, food-prep location and general place to just put stuff when walking in the door.  Not very efficient.  But everywhere I looked for a table it was either over-priced, too small or already damaged.  Today I found just the right table at the marketplace and set it up solely for my tech/work space.   And I am just as happy as a monkey with a banana.  The only time getting more ‘stuff’ is worthwhile is when it serves a good purpose and this simple item.. a table, makes my life so much simpler.

Now I can actually keep the blender and rice cooker constantly plugged in on the other table.. AND have a place to eat my meals without moving cables, DVDs, cameras and speakers each time.  A table just for eating.  Wow.  At this rate I can entertain company.  But not anytime soon, aside from my girlfriend.

After setting up my table and being altogether pleased with myself, I went out into the cool afternoon (we do get some cool afternoons here every so often).. and I spent some time in the hammock that is strung beneath the shady branches of several mango trees just beyond my front porch.  I swung there lazily, looking up into the varying, cool colors of green leaves above me and just enjoyed some time doing absolutely nothing for about 45 minutes or so.

After a while of that I came back inside and pulled one of the fresh pineapples out of the fridge that I’d bought while at the marketplace that morning.  The vendor there cut away all the outer rind, thus leaving me with a large, singular block of pure pineapple fruit.  I sliced it up and slipped it into the blender with some mango and purified water.  A bit of whirring and I now had a pitcher of fresh fruit juice to quench my thirst.  Thick and pulpy.. just the way I like it.  Earlier today I had a great lunch of lumpia and a variety of grilled chicken skewers with some hanging rice.  Now it’s early evening and in a while I will take my evening walk, about a mile, for some exercise and.. more chicken skewers cooked up at a bbq place run by my maid.


My point in all this is that it really doesn’t take much to make me happy.  I have my free time, plenty of creative projects to keep my mind busy, a few good books to read, a novel to write, plenty of good food to eat and interesting people I run into almost every day.  I would say the only major difference in my mindset between here and when I was ‘back home’ is the amount of hours I spent working, working, working to make ends meet.  Back home I lived a simple life and was pretty happy.  But I never really took a day off.  I enjoyed what I was doing, running my own PC repair business and met lots of cool people doing that as well.  But the traffic, driving and fast-food were taking their toll on me each and every day.

Here, even a ‘troublesome’ day is not all that bad.  Yesterday, for instance.. I awoke to find not only was there no water (which happens about once a week here.. water pump fails to fill the water-tower at night sometimes).. but I had forgotten to fill my own basins the night before for just such an occurrence.  Usually I have two basins on reserve so I can at least take a shower.  So there I was yesterday.. not only no water to bathe but I was supposed to catch a cab to Cebu in a while to meet with a reader from my blog who had come in from Bangladesh on business.   I waited but.. still no water and I had to leave within 2 hours.  So.. I improvised.  I grabbed a towel and walked about two blocks away to a hotel.  For 40 pesos (about $1.25 USD) I now had access to both a shower and the swimming pool.  Problem solved.  And I had a full hour to spare.  After showering off I took a relaxed swim in the warm sunshine.. having the pool all to myself.  Cool, clean refreshing water.. a perfect day for a swim and the day was only getting started.

Like most of us, I’ve reached for more complicated scenarios in search of ‘fun’ or contentment.  Vacations to Las Vegas, for instance.  Four hours of driving, check into the hotel, get out to the casinos.. lose a bunch of money, get a quick bite to eat, hit up a dance club, get hammered and take a long walk down the strip 13 hours later before finally crashing into my hotel room.   OK, so it was ‘fun’.  But in the end I was tired, a bit hung-over and my wallet was a bit lighter.  Plus, I still had that four hour drive to get back home.  In the blazing heat.

But days like today.. as I lay there in that hammock, I just said to myself; “This is nice.  Simple, but so satisfying.”  And no hang-over.

I’m not against big productions.  I’ll probably be making a trip to Bohol in the next two weeks to take a look around.  I already know there’s no way I’ll pack everything Bohol has to offer in just a few days.  My game-plan is to just arrive with a bit of Net pre-prep in my head and do whatever seems interesting.  I’m not going to go on a mad-tour.  Just gonna take it as it comes.  Sort of like a recon mission, to look around and get data for my future trips to Bohol because I have a feeling I’m going to want to return there several more times.

Life has many variables.  We can easily make things as complicated as we want them to be.  But, give me the simple life.  Good friends, good food, work I enjoy and an interesting environment.  Some people find that in New York, California, Canada, Australia, Italy or wherever their bliss leads them .  Me.. I’m content here in the Philippines.  There is still so much more for me to explore and I hope to see most if not all of it.  But not in one week or even one year.  Eventually, when I have the funds, I hope to spend a month or more in Florence, Italy as a short getaway to appreciate the art and food there.  But right now, I’m going to have another glass of fresh pineapple juice, my evening walk, a refreshing shower and a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new adventures and opportunities.

Contentment with life’s simple pleasures has done nothing to diminish my ambitions or goals.  It just simplifies and paces each day’s joy to a rate I can appreciate it more fully.

Post Author: Henry Velez (10 Posts)

Henry Velez is a recent (2012) addition to the Philippines and brings with him a fresh set of eyes as well as a talent for bringing his first-hand observations clearly to the reader. Motivated by both a life-long passion for writing, as well as for a Filipina he met in the US, Henry dove right in and made the move to the Philippines 'sight unseen'. He currently maintains three blogs, one which is devoted to his adventures here, and is currently working on a fictional novel set in the Philippines. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!


Comments

  1. Roxas Ron says

    Henry

    Thanks so much for the inspiration and assurance that my dream of living the Simple Life is very possible in the Philippines. We now have only 139 days until our target date to fly over the International Date line and start enjoying life instead of striving after the wind.

    Have a great walk.

    • says

      You’re welcome. I had a nice walk that night, ate some skewers and chatted a while with my maid who runs the bbq place there. Right now it’s a bright, sunny morning.. a bit hot outside so I’ll wait til later to do any errands. Meanwhile I’ll make up some breakfast and do some work online. :)

      • Roxas Ron says

        Well all this talk of the simple Life just found a rocket engine! We assumed her interview for citizenship was going to be after the first of the year…but the appointment letter came today with a November 8 date :). Fast track move to 99 days short!!! Gotta get suoer busy.

        • says

          Yeehaw!! And Congratulations! I’ve had many interactions with immigration in the US before and I know it’s scary to get a letter.. wondering if it’s good news or another delay. So glad you’re on a fast-track now! Best wishes to you both. :)

  2. bobby harmon says

    I think you may grow tired of the simple life after awhile. As you already can see, a simple life here is already different than the simple life you had back in the U.S.A. At my age I want to spoil myself as I worked my entire life to get to a point of financial comfort. I don’t want to worry about sharing my computer with my dinner plate or who gets plugged into the electrical outlet but to each their own. Lets see where things stand in one year. I hope it works out good for you. I just arrived for my 3rd trip of the year. I have many dates set up in various cities around the country. About the only simple thing will be the girls which I say only in a very complimentary way and mean nothing negative by it. There is an innocence about the Country that is wonderful and what makes the Philippines so enjoyable away from all the hostility of the States especially this time of year with the whole election thing going on. Have fun but also be careful.

    • says

      I hear ya. I like my life simple, but not boring. There’s been plenty of drama since I got here that having a safe haven to return to at the end of the day is a welcome luxury. But now that I know how to avoid that drama, life has calmed down a bit. I’m not a home-body by any means, but I do enjoy my time at home when I’m here. I agree about the Province girls.. I was in Bogo a few weeks ago and it’s just a whole other dynamic (for the better) than the psychological labyrinths I had to deal with when dating in the US. I anticipate moving into a large place next year, but not by much since I live alone. In the States I moved about every 9 months.. I’m kind of a wandering-gypsy in that respect.

  3. Scott Fortune says

    Henry,

    It’s like this article was written by me, and posted by you! I feel the same way about living a simple life, and being happy. I don’t want a lot of complications or issues, I just want a simple life to njoy each day, and be happy with what comes my way.

    Enjoy your stay there!! I’ll be joining you with my wife in about a year. It seems so far away, and then, it seems so close. So much to do to get ready! A lot of “stuff” to sell and unclutter myself. :)

    Be safe! Scott

    • says

      Just a bit over a year ago is when I made my decision to move here, on July 4th (2011). I was at an Indian PowWow event and decided it was time to mix things up a bit. That year went really fast! Before I knew it I was putting my stuff on Craigslist, shoving boxes into storage and had a long list of details to work out like where to forward my mail, setting up an online Google #.. it really does go fast.

      Just remind yourself that you want to come here without some major item needing your attention ‘back home’ and take care of it now while it’s convenient. That way you can just get on the plane and let your old life slip behind you as you lift off the runway. Safe travels! :)

  4. Mark from Vancouver says

    Henry nice to read another one of your well written articles. Your thoughts not only confirm what I want to experience on a daily basis but what is drawing me back to my girlfriend and the country I have come to love these past 5 years. You seem to have embraced their simplistic life style in a short time. I hope I can be half as successful as you when I make the move next year . Thanks again for inspiration and keep up the great stories and pictures.
    Mark

    • says

      As far as the ‘simple life’.. that’s been my mentality for decades now, so that part of the transition was not hard at all. More like a continuance of my mentality, just different location. As long as you have sufficient money coming in for your basic needs (and a little in reserve for emergencies).. it’s easy to whittle life down here to just the things that interest you. Whether that be scuba diving, island hopping or.. swinging on a hammock. I’m not much of a ‘big city person’ since I grew up on two acres in the country. But I like a big city nearby for my tech-stuff and movie theater.
      Personally, I think the ‘simple-life’ is much more obtainable on the smaller island than the metropolis places like Manila, downtown Cebu or Angeles. Just my opinion. Some people want the hustle-bustle life so for them.. that’s their bliss. :)

  5. says

    Hi Henry- I agree with your simplistic, minimalist lifestyle and would just love to emulate you but, I got myself a wife. Now all the little things in life have changed and I’ve kind of lost control of the simple lifestyle I craved for.
    I’m afraid the same will happen to you one day if you also marry your girlfriend and just maybe there will be a pitter patter of tiny feet and your current abode becomes too small.
    The only way I see for you to maintain your current status is to stay very single and avoid any type of advertising in order to reduce the temptation to change and maybe enter a monastery.
    I wish you luck in your quest to remain as you are but I would not be tempted to bet on your longer term success whilst you remain in the Philippines. The old saying ‘No condition is permanent’ comes to mind.
    Best of luck.
    Jim.

    • says

      Yah, I’ve given that a lot of thought in regards to my girlfriend. I did make it clear to her in the beginning that I surgically took care of cranking out any more babies way back when I was in my mid-20′s. “No More Babies” has been my mantra ever since and it’s saved me a world of trouble.. best decision I ever made for myself. Meanwhile my girlfriend has a somewhat luxurious lifestyle not typical of most Filipinas. She grew up in the province and actually would not mind moving back since she said she was happier there. I don’t want to get quite as simple as living in a one-room Nipa-hut.. but a custom home near the beach in a province area sounds good to me as a compromise. :)

      If (when) we get around to getting married in a few years she knows I want to downsize from the upper-crust subdivision life she currently has. That’s just not my scene. I convinced her to sell off her Mercedes and go forward with her dream of owning a farm in the province and she’s been very happy with that. But, like you said.. women do love their ‘stuff’ and I already know she’s got several closets of clothes, enough shoes for several dozen women, lots of furniture.. I’ll deal with all that down the road. One other compromise I’ve told her I would like is from the life of Hemingway, who had a separate studio on his property.. away from the house to do his writing. I’d like the same thing so I can re-live my current situation.. a little studio, a hammock and a workdesk to do my writing. :)

      • says

        Hi Henry – If you want a little studio detached from the house speak to Paul as he has built such a place and calls it, his ‘man cave’.
        Whatever happens Henry just enjoy life you only get one chance.
        Regards.
        Jim.

  6. says

    The simple life is what the wife and I are eager for. Currently we are living in the UK until we get her dual citizenship sorted, so we have the freedom of travel, then we are moving back to the Philippines in late 2013, and purchasing a small home to call our own. My wife tells me all the time that she is happy as long as she is with me, I love that, but I also know as she has told me herself, she misses the simple life, her friends and family.

    Since she has moved here to the UK, she hates the cold wet and rainy weather, she hates the rude and un-friendly people, she hates the rude and fowl mouthed children, she hates the cost of living, she hates soooooo much about it here, yet she is still happy because she is with me. As I said before she has seen first hand that it is not greener on the other side of the fence.

    When I lived in the Philippines a couple years back before coming here to the UK (BIG MISTAKE) My simple day consisted of waking up at 7am, to the smell of fresh coffee as my wife prepared a yummy traditional filipino breakfast for me. Once I stuffed my face and my tummy was satisfied, I took a nice cold shower, getting ready for the day ahead of me. I then would take it upon myself to do some work, before hopping on the motorcycle and driving to the beach for my daily swim. However most days I did that family would turn up, with some BBQ, Hanging rice and of course beer. It would be a happy bonding gathering, with laughs, jokes and of course lots of photos and posing going on hahaha. I would then head back home, have another cold shower and get ready for the evening. Hopping back on the motorcycle, we would head down to visit the family, greeted with good company and good food, and with the option of more beer, we would talk away into the night or watch some tv to just un-wind. Then head home to do it all over again the next day!

    Bilko

    • says

      Yep.. that’s what I’m talking about. I’m hoping she gets her visa issues worked out soon so you two can come back and enjoy the life you had here again. It’s all waiting for you! :)

      • says

        11 months and counting until the wife can apply and obtain nationalism, before we can pack our bags and head back to the Philippines to live! The day is approaching and will be here quicker than you would think. For now I am just working and saving and saving and working :D All for a good cause in the end. At least my type of job is one I can do anywhere in the world ;) I thank the lord for that everyday!

  7. Minhaz says

    Simple things extraordinarily told! Yes, ‘life has many variations’, and that too sometimes makes it a little difficult to choose the road ahead.

  8. Chris S says

    Full Agreement… I love it, simple but so much enjoyment due to little to no stress. I was even surprised when I was daydreaming about being back in the Phil the other day, that I even miss hearing the rooster in the morning (something I never thought I would miss) I found that in the states I seem to be in a constant state of irritability, but when I am “home” (Northern Mindanao province) even things that would normally irritate most people in the states is a welcome event. 3.5yrs and counting til I can call it my own permanently :-)

  9. Boss says

    Ah the simple life in the Philippines.
    I remember it very well, not so long ago……..that was before I got married and inherited a bigger extended family and had kids and a bigger house, to house them and the nannies and a bigger car and bigger wardrobe for my wifes shoes and handbags and a bigger safe for her jewelry and……what was I talking about again?….oh the simple life that’s right! At least I’m not bored.

    • says

      And Filipinas here are always so amazed when I tell them I’m not married. ha! I know what comes after that.. and I kinda like it the way it is for now. :)

    • says

      I think I really did luck out.. shade and a hammock right outside my door. :) I’m planning to extend my lease here to a full year. I like this place. Close to the mall, but quiet where I’m at. Nearby pool and quiet neighborhood.

  10. says

    Henry, another superb column. You are a great writer, coming from the guy who wrote Philippines Handbook from Moon Publications. I may join you in a few years in PI when my social kicks in.

    • says

      Thanks! I had to motives coming here.. my g/f and to devote more time to writing. I got too antsy to wait for my SS so I came out here at 49 since I have a little rental income from the US. Always meeting interesting people, both Filipinos and Foreigners.. every day an adventure. :)

  11. PapaDuck says

    Henry,
    Great job with your article. I’ll be flying out the 19th for my vacation there and setting myself up my permanent move there in 2014. My g/f has no family so life should be simple. Just helping her run her business. Take care.

  12. says

    Hey Henry, looks like you’re enjoying yourself here. I’ve recently moved to Cebu and I’ve heard good things about Bohol, which I plan on visiting soon. Apparently Borocay is meant to be great if you fancy a party, but there’s so many islands to explore – I really see living in this country as an adventure that can’t be matched in the West. I’m going through a similar journey, so you might find my blog of interest – http://thephilippinesexpat.wordpress.com.

    • says

      I completely agree. My only limitation right now is finances, which I’m currently addressing with some new online projects. In the US, California, we had within driving distance the beach, city, country, mountains and desert. But here.. it’s a variety of cultures and countries to explore. I’d eventually like to explore Thailand, a monkey-temple in Malaysia or K.Lampur. I’d go to Singapore but.. I’d probably end up getting caned for some strange thing I did in public.

      I read your ‘Sleepless in Cebu’ article.. sounds like one of my nights here on Mactan. There’s a great club here called “Chicago Joe’s Bump ‘n Grind Disco Dance Club” (long name).. it’s lots of fun and they party til about 7am. No pool or strip club, mostly a drink and dance kind of place, but it’s a huge compound with food and karaoke as well. Anyway, bookmarked your site.. you just need to add the Comments Widget for your articles. ha! I’ll stop in on your site more later, perhaps next time I’m in Cebu we can meet up for some lunch/beers at SM or the pool hall you mentioned. Beaten in billiards by women.. ha!

  13. says

    The simple life is fantastic & it is something the wife and I can not wait to get back to. Next year can not come quick enough!

    Below is a generalization of how the “Simple Life” is not for everyone. Having such a life comes with it’s own sacrifices. The question is are you willing to give up those?

    There is a slew of issues with ANY country you live in, but when you move to the Philippines to have the “Simple Life” you have to sacrifice most of your western ways and creature comforts, period…… it just does not, and will NEVER be like it is in your own country, heck is that not why you move there in the first place, to get away from what you know and to experience a whole new way of living? A lot of people go there expecting it to be like their own country and to be ran in the same manner, and when it is not they show their distaste or anger by being rude, loud and obnoxious, in turn this gives us expats a bad name, that want to enjoy our life among the people of the Philippines, and go about our daily lives. When living there, you have to have an open mind, go with the flow and accept, because one person can not change a country. Now I am not saying take everything laying down, but handle yourself different here and not, loud, rude and obnoxious.

    Remember your a guest in their country, being there is a privilege not a right! You can read an article about “Respect Costs Nothing” on my website. As I go more in depth about this.

    This is why I like this article, because Henry has the right outlook and the right approach. At having and ENJOYING “The Simple Life” and I am looking forward to reading more of your entries!

    Take care & god bless.

    • says

      Thanks. And I agree about your perspective we ex-pats should have when living as a foreigner in their homeland. If someone wants the life of their own homeland, then they should stay there and save the flight money. My theory is that, as we get older we end up taking one of two paths.. either we learn to look at the ‘big picture’ and realize it’s not worth sweating the small stuff.. or… we become selfish and think the world is here to make us happy. One mindset leads to being flexible and content, the other leads to constant frustration. I too wrote about this in more detail here.. http://lifebeyondthesea.com/?p=142 .

      Thanks again for the compliments, Bob is covering the Philippines from a lot of angles with the many writers here.. it’s good to sample from what sticks out to each individual in their experience here.

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