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Monthly Archives: December 2013

As those who follow NoXS Minimal on Facebook will know, two weekends ago I lived minimal. Very minimal. How minimal? My family and I lived for three days in a refugee village on the Thai/Burma border. That’s how minimal!

Noh Bo is predominately populated by the Karen – an ethnic people group mostly from a Burma – who have fled their homeland (Karen State in Eastern Burma) from the longest running civil war in the world’s history. Along the Thai/Burma border there are nine UN sanctioned refugee camps. Noh Bo is not one of them, although it is tolerated by the Thai government.
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The people here live in simple, wooden or bamboo huts raised on stilts to open with the rising waters of the Moei river in the wet season. These homes are very simple. Usually they are one room with a toilet/bathing room underneath or outside if you are lucky. Otherwise, you go dig a hole or you bathe in the river.

The house we stayed in was about 48m2. We were the guests of two a Westerners from NZ who run a teacher training course in Noh Bo. Graeme and Kendal are amazing people who I have come to know over a few years now. And their place is a great example in how one can live very comfortable yet very minimal.
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The house is completely open plan and they have divided it up with mosquito nets. They have a bedroom in one corner and next to that have joined three mosquito nets to form a lounge/kitchen/living room. The rest of the place is open, although for our stay, Graeme had put up an extra net for our kids’ “room”.
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Living here for three days made me aware of a few things:
1. There is so much wasted space in our modern Western homes. In the Noh Bo house, space is used wisely and areas double up. We rarely do that any more. We want a media room and a formal lounge and a recreation room in our homes. Not Smart.

2. We have forgotten about the “outdoor” rooms around us. I’m not necessarily talking about an elaborate pergola or a second outdoor kitchen. But how can we use our outdoor space better? If our climate allows it, why not have only an outdoor kitchen and not have a kitchen inside? Or how about forgoing a second living area and making better use of our outdoor spaces (private and corporate/public)?
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3. Living like this needs a change of mindset, but is not impossible. How can six people possibly live in such close quarters long term and not kill each other? Granted, we were only in Noh Bo for three days. But could we have stayed on and made it work? I reckon so, but my Western space/living mindset was going to have to have an overhaul to make it work. I was going to also need to become more tolerant and more thoughtful. It would require a recollection of some old-fashioned values about family and working things out and how we have fun and how we communicate. But there is probably more right with that than wrong with that.

The Karen and many other tribal and ethnic groups have lived like this for aeons. The way they live is sustainable, affordable and, to be honest, comfortable. Yes, it may be all they have ever known, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or clocked up as abnormal.

Many Westerners are becoming more open about the idea of living like this. The Tiny House movement is exploring ways to live well in less space. Many Westerners are seeing the error of their affluent ways and seeking smaller, more affordable housing that does the job; and in the process are discovering how good living like that can be.

A recent Facebook post on the NoXS Minimal page talked about how we often (wrongly) see tribal groups as getting it wrong. When it comes to housing and living I believe that there are many lessons for me to learn about how, if I follow their example, I might just get it right!

Live Simply, Simply Live.

Mark G

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Had a great day on Sunday – went out for a race. I don’t do it very often. Races are getting more expensive. But there is a series of races that are more than reasonably priced and run by a great guy called Ian Cornelius on the Gold Coast in Australia. Today’s race was the Kurrawa 2 Duranbah 50k. I did the 50k last year but this year due to some training issues, I only did the 15k.

It was a great race, as usual – Ian really does put on great events. And I PB’d which was a bonus. But something struck me in the wait between picking up my number and the start of the race…

Hear me right before I go on – each to their own. But, I couldn’t help but look around me and think of how complex and complicated we humans have made such a simple and natural thing like running!

Ian organises his events beautifully with aid stations every 2.5km. Yet, people are turning up with camelback bladders, bottle holsters and hydration packs. People were into an amazing array of weird and wonderful stretching techniques and warm-up programs. The clothing and gadgetry on display was blinding (boy there are some bright coloured running clothes out there)!! Special foods, drinks and other concoctions were being mixed, stirred and shaken prior to the race. People programmed playlists in their iProducts in preparation for their performance (just had to go with the alliteration there – sorry)! All this for a 15km plod along the beachfront with not only the aid stations, but beach showers and park drinking fountains the whole way!

Now again, each to their own. And I must say that I just don’t take myself – or events like this – too seriously. So if you do, I sincerely extend my apologies if you are upset by my description. But having said that, even those people would have to admit there is something to be said for getting back to the NoXS, raw and primal thing we call running.
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Me, I turned up in my shorts a T-shirt and my Luna huarache sandals. I forgot there would be a timing chip so I had to carry it in my pocket but bring it out and hold it low travelling over the timing mat. (The picture here is me finishing having just got the chip out of my pocket and holding it as low as I could so it would register without me falling over). But that was it. Nothing else.

I love ultra runners like Anton Krupricka and their approach to minimalist running. Anton usually gets around in nothing but shorts, sometimes a singlet. I’ve seen him running in a race with a short sleeve button shirt on! He likes his shoes minimal and until he was sponsored and had some custom shoes made, he would cut the excessive foam off his shoes. He trains barefoot often. He eats simply, trains basically and hates to carry excessive gear on the trails during training preferring to carry just a bottle of water and a few gels on 30mile training runs.

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But he does this because he knows he doesn’t have to make it complicated. He knows that running is a simple process and pleasure that requires, really, no more than putting one foot in front of the other over and over on a road or a trail for a period of time, short or long. Nothing more really needed.

As I ran my 15k with my hands free, my feet open and a smile on my face, I thought about how many activities in life I make so complicated that we miss the simple joy of what it is we are actually doing.

What things/activities in your life would be so much more enjoyable if they were so much simpler. How can you change things so they are simpler and more enjoyable?

Have a think about that one. Let me know what you come up with…

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G

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As I write this, people all over the world are about to commence the observance of Advent for 2013 as we approach Christmas (Advent this year starts December 1). In reflecting on this, the word Observe stands out. It is an interesting word. In looking at various definitions of the word, one said, “To Observe is to mark or to be attentive to something; to consider carefully.” Read More