A trip to the third world – a challenge to simplify our lives

My husband recently travelled to the Philippines to a poor remote village community. He spent two weeks without TV, newspapers, his iphone and internet connection (mostly). He came back a changed man, convinced that our lives are unnecessarily busy, stressful and we are losing our sense of community.  It would appear that nothing inspires a change in lifestyle more than a trip to a third world country!

I didn’t get to go on this trip (insert sad face) but I agreed wholeheartedly with his desire to re-assess our priorities and lifestyle. In fact, I had been thinking the very same things.

So here’s what we came up with.

We are too busy

It’s not that we have a a lot consuming our time, it’s more that we constantly feel pressure to be ‘doing’ something. We don’t rest enough.

I also think we use busyness as an excuse for doing things halfheartedly or as a way of avoiding the fact we’ve let someone down (e.g forgetting their birthday!).  I try to never tell people that I’m busy. I think it de-values relationships and says “You are not my priority. I don’t have time for you”.  I always want others to know I have time for them. Relationships are more important.  We can control (to some extent) how busy we are.

We try to do too much

I don’t like to say no. I don’t like to disappoint people.  I need to learn how to carefully evaluate my commitments in order to protect my sanity as well as my family and this means learning to say no!

Just this week, I felt out of control and made the decision to resign from one of my jobs.  It was placing too much stress on everyone including me. It was  a hard decision but it had to be done.

We have very misguided priorities and values

It is very difficult to maintain a value system in a culture that is morally bankrupt. Popular culture teaches us that being selfish, greedy, materialistic and superficial are ‘normal’ and to some extent, admirable. We envy those who have more than us and strive to ‘have it all’. We justify the way we live because everyone else is just like us.

The reality is that we are building our lives and therefore our priorities around ‘stuff’. We value what we have almost as much as we value our relationships.

My husband had tears in his eyes as he described how one family found a 2 year old boy on the streets and took him in and was raising him along with their other child. This act of love and community was giving this little boy a second chance away from the perils of sex trafficking, crime and violence.  As he was telling me this story, I realised that earlier I had complained about having to look after my nephew for 2 hours.

We constantly need to re-assess our priorities and values.

Less is more

The book “simplicity parenting” discusses what happens when we go against our culture and choose to live with ‘less’. It discuss how having less makes calmer, happier and more secure kids. It was eye-opening and challenging.

My husband described sitting around late at night with people from the village laughing and chatting. These families had very little in the way of ‘stuff’ but had such a sense of joy and peace. They didn’t place their value in what they had but in their relationships. To his western eye, their lives appeared far richer than our own. In many ways, less IS more.

The changes in our house have been positive. We’re watching less TV and talking more. We’re spending less time thinking and talking about ‘stuff’ and more time thinking about relationships and the importance of community. We have also felt challenged to give more of our money away and to live a more generous life.

A trip to the third world has challenged us about the importance of simplifying our lives and making sure that we give both our time and ourselves to things that are truly important.

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