I…am not a simple person. Simple living affects everyone differently and is defined by everyone differently. I’m the type of person who hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst. I have a lot of stuff. Even my stuff has stuff. When I travel, make sure I have options and emergency everything. I live in a constant state of “just in case” this happens, “just in case” I need that. I say all of this, to say – simple living has been a challenge for me.
My experience as a YAV in the Philippines has made simple living physically, emotionally, and culturally challenging. Physically, I have to deal with transporting all my stuff. Perhaps I’ve been a bit spoiled by my dad and brothers, but I’m not used to having to carry my stuff. To make it easier on myself and everyone around me, I have to pack simply. I have to travel light. I have to avoid taking over the entire apartment with my stuff. And it’s difficult, it’s really hard to not have stuff when I’m so used to it. I don’t have random movies to watch, or snacks to eat, or games to play. I don’t have dozens of combinations of clothes to wear. It’s not feasible and it’s not reasonable.
Emotionally, I struggle with not having the comforts of home. There’s a sense of security when you’re at home, around friends and family, going to the places you are familiar with. Personally, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that, as much as I like the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been, they aren’t “home.” But home isn’t something I will have in the near future as I head to medical school. Simple living and forging new relationships aren’t going anywhere. This YAV year has been great preparation.
The cultural challenges are difficult, too. My example is not a “simple living” challenge, but related to living simply and immersing yourself in a culture different from your own. Just because the Filipino people know English, does not mean you’ll be able to blend in, culturally. Now, I didn’t come to the Philippines thinking that, but I really do thank God that I didn’t have that expectation. Between adjusting to “appropriate” conversations and topics, to understanding general body language and customs, I’ve been in a constant whirlwind of confusion and discomfort. Just when I think I’m starting to understand something about the culture, some new thing pops up and then I’m confused about something else. And there’s always a bit of discomfort when there are topics that aren’t talked about or may be considered rude at home that are discussed openly and freely, here. These topics mostly consist of extremely personal detail; including politics, religion, love lives, and bodily functions.
It’s hard for me to say that simple living is necessary in order to get in tune with your surrounding or understand the world, because I honestly find nothing wrong with enjoying material things or the comforts of home (obviously, not to the extent of “worshipping” them). But, I will say it’s necessary for other reasons. Simple living is necessary in order to understand yourself. It requires you to be creative and resourceful. You challenge yourself and learn about what you can and can’t work with. I think simple living is necessary because it’s one of the best ways to examine what’s important in your life and what’s excess.