We have little reason to complain about living in an amazing, fairly priced rental apartment in central Gothenburg while pursuing meaningful careers. We like our jobs, friends and everyday habits. We’re also privileged enough to be embedded in a well functioning society offering public transport, libraries, parks and recreational areas, social service, health care, central heating, excellent tap water and much more.
Growing up poor, on the outskirts of mainstream society, neither one of us take the kind of material and emotional safety we now enjoy for granted. It still feels like science fiction that we both went to university – which is free of charge in Sweden – got well-paid jobs and can now pay all of our bills every month. We also struggle to grasp the fact that we can actually afford to fix a broken tooth (oddly enough, dental care is not included in the publicly funded Swedish health care system), buy new winter shoes whenever we need them and generally not having to go batshit crazy if unforeseen costs appear. This is very far from our respective childhood reference points.
So why can’t we just settle for a safe and sensible life? Why the obsession with uprooting ourselves for the umphteenth time to start all over again in a new country, in a new language, in a rural setting with decidedly fewer perks and comforts? With no safety net? Why can’t we just keep working, earning good money and go to Spain for the occasional vacation and be happy with that?
There are many answers to these questions. Most of them relate to a number of fundamental values, preferences and life priorities that we’ve been discussing over the last years. Here are some of them:
- We don’t like setting the alarm in the morning.
- We don’t like going to work in the dark and returning home in the dark.
- We want to spend more time in nature than in the office.
- Everyday life has to be more than waking, working, eating and sleeping.
- The meaning of life is not earning and spending money.
- Material possessions never make up for the time you spend working.
- Time is a finite and invaluable resource that must be carefully spent.
- Time is also infinite and abundant.
- There are all kinds of ways to live a meaningful life.
- Mountains are more beautiful than fluorescent lights and roundabouts.
So, as you know by now, this blog is about exploring the possibilities of making a life in the breathtaking village of Gaucín. Pursuing a minimalist lifestyle is a central part of these explorations. We strive towards greater economic independence not in the sense of having a lot of money, but in the sense of needing very little to lead a meaningful life. Therefore, we own almost nothing and spend less than most well-off people would deem sane or think possible. If one of us forgets to pack lunch, we simply have to go without food that day (which is possible if you stay keto). If something in the household breaks, we don’t habitually replace it until we’ve evaluated whether we really need it. Our mixer broke down a year ago, and so far, we’ve managed to be mixer-free without life feeling empty and grey. We’re barely keeping ourselves clean. No kidding, read this.
There are no unforeseen, spontaneous purchases to soothe cravings, pass time or encourage ourselves through consumption. There are, however, a small number of purchases carefully planned and greatly appreciated: some nice dinners out, expensive lipstick, handmade leather boots, a couple of very cute kettlebells, and the occasional cup of hipster coffee. The sum of these few and far between luxuries is way smaller than the sum of mindlessly buying lunch, chewing gum, bottled water, a new t-shirt here and there, and other things that we used to buy without much thought or pleasure. Spending less has turned out to enhance pleasure.
Now, to the point. Recently, we did have a somewhat spontaneous splurge. A house, actually. So that’s minimalism for you: refrain from buying chewing gum, and you can pick up a house instead. Kidding aside, it’s actually more or less an accurate description of our process. We’ve been skimping on EVERYTHING for a year or so, eliminating or minimising every single expense, subsequently saved a shitload of money and used it to pay for half a tiny, townhouse in Gaucín. We really meant to save for another year and buy a house cash, but when the opportunity to buy our favourite house in the village arose, we decided to get a loan for the remaining sum.
The plan now is to repay the loan in a couple of years and then go on to save up for doing some work on the house, thus creating the perfect, minimalist home. Waiting to start renovating will definitely be a huge challenge, since we’re both fervent interior design geeks. Let’s see how it goes. So far, we’ve been updating small things like tableware and lighting (mainly since we’re renting it out). Next on the list is buying a new bed and working some magic with dimmable lights and textile.
We’re still undecided as to whether we should commute between Gothenburg and Gaucín, head for the mountains of Spain full time or find yet another solution, but nevertheless, this is a giant leap towards living in Spain.