happiness

/Tag: happiness

Life Without Things

I am in Costa Rica, in the middle of a month-long stay, and I wanted to write a bit about my experience so far with the lack of “stuff” in my life.  I am renting a house on the beach at the very end of a long “road” that runs along the beach.  The house is great, but doesn’t have air conditioning (or heat), window shades, indoor showers, a dish washer, an oven, a disposal, a TV, a stereo, or any of the 10,000 items and appliances that I have at home. It’s a large open concrete and wood structure on top of a small hill, nestled in the jungle, overlooking the ocean.  It’s airy and takes advantage of the incredible ocean front views, and the near-constant breeze.

The kitchen has no measuring cups or teaspoons, and only a couple dull knives and basic pans.  Only three of the of the cook top burners work, and none of them allows much fine control of the heat.  Half of the lights don’t work.  If you close up the house, it becomes unbearably hot.  If you open it to allow the ocean breezes through, you also invite all the local wildlife in.

IMG_5106My workspace has my laptop sitting on top of an upside-down basket (so it’s at eye level), on a wooden table out on the porch, and a decidedly un-ergonomic dining chair to sit in.

I’m not complaining.  In fact just the opposite!  Instead of missing my Xbox and my motorcycles and my perfectly controlled temperature home, I’ve been finding some serious freedom and peace here.

I wake up around 5-5:30 AM, when the sun comes in the open sliding doors of my bedroom and the temperature starts to climb.  I walk down and swim in the ocean.  Then I shower outside on my deck overlooking the jungle.  I eat a small breakfast of soy milk and granola every day.  I’ll drink some watered down iced tea that I made hot the day before, and then put in the fridge overnight to chill.  I work best while it’s still reasonable cool (less than 90 degrees), from 6 AM until 2 or 3 PM.  The internet has been upgraded since I arrived and is now only 60 times slower than my connection at home, instead of the 1,000 times slower it was initially.  I’m still able to work, and even do some video calls with my team, but it means no downloading big installers or streaming Netflix or Hulu.  Everything I do online just has a little more care taken about how much bandwidth it will use.  In the heat of the afternoon I’ll usually take another dip in the ocean (although at that point the ocean feels about as hot as the air (90-95 degrees).  I’ll either work (slowly as my brain feels pretty cooked from the heat) or read in the shade.  Then I’ll usually try to go to a yoga class in town, cook dinner, and either work a little in the evening (usually on personal projects) or just read. I’m usually in bed by 8 or 9 PM and sleeping shortly after.

IMG_5154I do all my cooking with a cast iron frying pan, a pot, and a metal spatula.  At night all food stuffs have to be in the fridge or put in a cooking pot and locked in the cleaning closet.  Otherwise raccoons come and take them, usually leaving a mess.  It’s the jungle so insects are everywhere.  I’ve stopped caring about mosquitos, flies, bees, or ants.  Scorpions and LARGE spiders are the only roommates I try to evict.

I normally listen to music all the time.  I have Sonos at home, great headphones at the office, a killer sound system in my car, a nice turntable in my library, and usually there’s music around me any time that I’m awake.  Heck, my bathtub has speakers in it.  But here, while I have listened to music on my laptop a couple times, the vast majority of the time it’s just me, the ocean surf, and the howler monkeys.

Honestly I could have brought less stuff.  I have two pairs of sneakers, but I’m almost always barefoot or wearing flip flops.  I don’t need any long sleeves, or jeans.  If I could give up on shaving and beard management, like so many local ex-pats have, I could cut my toiletry kit in half (but I can’t seem to let it go).  I don’t need my GoPro, as I only went diving once and the visibility was quite poor.  There’s nothing to see snorkeling really so I could have left my mask and snorkel.  I think if I was re-packing for this trip I could probably be living out of my backpack and my camera bag.

With less stuff, and less options, life is simpler.  There are far fewer choices to make.  I’m spending a lot less time being entertained, and a lot more time thinking and soaking up my natural surroundings.  My sleep schedule is governed entirely by the sunrise and how tired I am.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get home I’m sure I will be THRILLED to make use of my fully stocked kitchen, drive my car (which I love), take a hot bath, turn on the air conditioning, watch a movie, and all that.  Those things are still nice and have value to me.

But it’s nice to know that I don’t need them, and that honestly life without all the luxuries and accessories can have its advantages.

 IMG_5119     IMG_5202

 

Valentine’s Day at the Liberty Hotel and dinner at Clink

We celebrated Valentine’s Day by escaping for a night. We stayed at the Liberty Hotel in Boston, and took advantage of their Valentine’s Day package (dinner, rose petals on the bed, late check-out, etc…). The Liberty Hotel is a renovated Boston jail built in 1851. They’ve kept some of the original interior architecture and have many jail themed details (the “Privacy” cards to hang on your room’s doorknob read “Solitary”).

The hotel was a little tricky to find. Google Maps steered us to the physical address, which unfortunately was the back side of the building, and situated on one way streets such that we had to do a large loop to get to the main entrance. The lobby is striking with 90 foot ceilings and sort of a luxury/modern decor/furnishing thing going on. Checking in was smooth and came with champagne or sparkling cider!

The first glitch was that our room keycards didn’t activate the elevator. Luckily someone else in the car used their keycard, and our keycards worked just fine in our door. The room was a beautiful corner room with floor to ceiling glass overlooking the Charles river in one direction and looking out over the MGH Red Line station to the Prudential Building in the other. The room was very nice, spacious, and well appointed.

The second glitch, that I didn’t realize until the next morning, was that neither of the two thermostats in the room was on, which meant that in late afternoon the room hit 79 degrees, and at night fell to 60. It simply hadn’t occurred to me that the thermostats would have been switched off.

Dinner was the standard prix fixe menu for the holiday. The restaurant, Clink, leveraged some of the original jail cells, with brick walls and barred windows for it’s theme. The food was fantastic. I found myself taking small bites and intentionally savoring each and every one, which is something I never do. Each course was delicious, and arrived in a timely fashion. The restaurant never made it over about 50% capacity, which I thought was odd for such a big day, but I can’t complain, the quieter atmosphere was perfect for a romantic dinner for two. Flagging down our waiter to secure after dinner drinks and the check was a little harder than expected, but all in all the dinner was great!

The next morning we headed down for the breakfast included with the holiday package. Once it came out that we didn’t have a reservation, we were told it would be a 30 minute wait to be seated in the restaurant itself, but that if we wanted to pick any seats in the lobby/bar/lounge area, they’d be happy to serve us there. We snagged two stools at a table right by the entrance to Clink, at 11 AM sharp. And waited. And waited. No server appeared to take our order, or provide menus, or to check on us. At 11:21 the hostess came over and told us that a table had opened up if wanted to move into the restaurant itself. We moved, on the assumption that if we’d stayed put we might have starved to death.

The breakfast was a fixed price that let you order anything you wanted from the menu and have full access to the buffet. I liked the approach since you could taste everything you wanted without penalty. The buffet looked good, but we each also wanted a single item from the menu. Our waiter took our menu and drink orders at 11:23 AM. Once he had left, we hit the buffet and got started on breakfast. Our waiter returned to let us know that actually they had no bartender, so the drinks on the menu weren’t actually available. We finished our buffet plates and waited for the food we’d ordered from the menu, which stubbornly refused to arrive. Emma’s crepe showed up at 12:01, and my omelet made an appearance at 12:14. Then another crepe tried to arrive at 12:25 (over an hour after we’d ordered it). The crepe was good, but the omelet was not worth a 50 minute wait. I’d highly recommend NOT going to Clink for breakfast.

Happiness

is sitting by the fire, looking outside at the snow, with your iguana, while the tantalizing smells of a delicious dinner waft in from the kitchen.

The rowing machine showed up, and since then I’ve been making to the home gym more days than not, which is good. And, other than the Superbowl spread, I’ve been eating healthily and in small portions, which is also good. I still feel like I could use an extra 20 hours or so in the day so I can do the things I want to get done, but am not feeling particularly stressed out. All in all I feel good, and I feel like I’m making good headway based on my New Years goals.