At the beginning of this year I had become an accidental minimalist, renting my home, most of my possessions, to live in a 13 foot RV I named “Conchita la Casita” for about a month, then leaving the “capsule” to travel the world, starting in Chile.
Since then I have contemplated: is it possible to extend minimalism – the idea of only having what you need – to diet? What would that look like?
There are a lot of diets that would fit the bill, and most under the title of “Intermittent fasting.” Some common ones are 5/2, The Warrior Diet, and Lean Gains. The diets are basically versions of eating only during a certain “window” of time, such as only eating for 5 days, fasting for 2 days for 5/2, or only one big meal every day in the evening with The Warrior Diet.
The reason I find these to be “minimalists” is that unlike the other diets such as Paleo, or even to “philosophies” of eating, such as vegetarianism, only eating during a certain window makes the diet the simplest – no counting of calories or figuring out the ratio of macros to micro nutrients.
As with everything we humans do, we tend to complicate things. Everyone wants specifics, for example, on the 5/2 diet, which 2 days are the best? What time do you start and officially stop the fasting window?
I wanted something even simpler, something that could even be done while traveling, a diet that would not only help me lose unhealthy fat, but was simple, save me money, save me time, and live a more healthy life.
My answer was: OMAD, or One Meal A Day.
The basic idea is: Eat one meal a day. That’s it. Ideally, it should be a well-rounded meal – not all twinkies, for example, but outside of that that’s all it is.
I usually eat my meal around 2pm, and eat until I am full. Then I don’t eat until 2pm the next day.
I started this diet while I was renovating my house and living out of my Casita. It just made things simpler. And I am also the type of person who is encouraged by results, and the results for me were dramatic.
The results of doing OMAD:
Lost 25 lbs in 2 months.
Went from a size 34 in jeans to size 30.
My Blood Glucose used to be pre-diabetic, with my doctor saying “People with this BG reading typically are on drugs to lower it.”
Blood Pressure – too high. My doctor said the same thing in regards to my blood pressure – too high, and would have to be treated with drugs.
Money saved: I estimate that I saved over $200-400 per month by only eating out once per day (if that), or making my one big meal at home.
Since I have been traveling, I have altered things a bit, just eating 2 meals a day by skipping breakfast, but frankly I feel best when I only eat one meal. My body just seems to respond best – I have the most energy, I feel light and calm, with a clear mind and good focus. So, as I travel I slip from 2 meals a day to 1 meal a day, as my mind-body-emotions dictates.
I occasionally check my blood sugar while I travel, with mornings starting higher (like 100) but dropping to 80 when I approach my 2pm eating time.
There are studies that show that among the benefits of fasting are apophagy, or the body’s ability to get rid of scar tissue, repair tissue, and generally “clean house” occurs during periods where we don’t eat. Also, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is highest 16-23 hours into the fast, with one study participant increasing their HGH by 2,000 percent.
All I know is that once I started seeing my belly fat disappear, my blood sugar stabilize and blood pressure reduce I was hooked! I feel like I have grown “younger.” And an added bonus is the absolute gustatory pleasure I take in the act of eating. When 2pm rolls around I admit I have been fantasizing about food, planning in my head how I will break my fast. And, while I eat a fairly balanced meal, I have started adding dessert – something I would avoid in the past because I knew I’d either gain weight or feel terrible afterwards. Now, it becomes a welcome addition to my meal. And despite whatever I eat I seem to have stabilized at an ideal 150 lbs, with a flat belly, needing a belt to keep my size 30 pants on!
I am no longer overly concerned about food. I understand what real hunger is, rather than just eating on an artificial 3 meals a day schedule. I look better, and more importantly I feel better. I really recommend trying out this diet for awhile. You can always do one of the variations if you like, but OMAD has led me down a path with numerous positive benefits besides just weight loss that I feel like it’s the light, if you know what I mean.
When I discovered that I could rent my house and make a few hundred dollars profit, I was, as they say, ‘outta here!’ Mind reeling from the posilicious possibilities, I knew that it would take a lot of work, but that I had to simply start walking. After living in a home for fifteen years, one tends to accumulate stuff. And a few of those years were prime earning 6 figure years, where I would simply walk into an REI and just buy anything my heart desired.
And , oh, did my heart desire!
One year I believe I received a $300 dividend. That would mean I had spent at least $3,000 the previous year. That buys a lot of climbing equipment!
French freeing the 1st pitch of Super Nova
But those days are past. My path is now writing and video-documenting my life and interests – do what you love, the money will come, right?
But, calculating the cost, and the revenue weighed against the PITA factor, I realized I could do it
I could be free.
All it would take was dismantling everything that I am.
Because we define ourselves by what we own – our choices revealed through our cars, our houses, how landscaped our yards are, how prompt we are at shoveling our driveways, and do our neighbors sneer at our shrubbery?
Once, I let the grass grow. I thought, well the grass in the nearby Crown Hill Park looks fabulous long! After letting it grow over a foot, the city disabused me of that notion, ticketing me, saying the initial charge was $25, which would increase every week if the grass was not cut.
I calculated: if they increased it by $10/week, after a year I’d be charged $535. After ten? $5,215.
The mower hauled out, the prairie shorn.
I actually saw the guy from the city swing by in a truck, scowl on his face. He hauled ass when he saw me standing in the cropped grass, fists clenched, staring needles.
This gave me a view into how others see my property. That I needed to empty the house, and paint and fix and haul and trash and donate. When I was done, I had a clean slate: an empty home.
My earthly belongings now fit in one-half of a 2 car garage. I live out of my 13′ Casita parked in my driveway, a fiberglass RV manufactured in 2003, but she’s a beaut, doesn’t look a day old in my eyes.
Conchita la Casita
My clothes fit in a single plastic container bought at Walmart. I use a sleeping bag as a comforter, and my bed converts to a small table seating area I use during the day. More often I find myself at a local cafe that has strong coffee and fast wifi.
Soon, I will have less.
Everything I own will fit in a backpack and a day pack. With this shall I roam the earth. As far as clothes, I will be down to:
2 long-sleeved collared shirts
2 long pants (1 convertible to shorts)
5 pairs of underwear
2 hats: beanie and a waterproof hat with a brim
a lightweight waterproof jacket
1 light stuffable puffy jacket
I’ve read a bit about Minimalism, and it struck a chord in me: only have what you need. That this leads some people to a happier life. How some folks pay a bunch of money to hire a consultant to learn how to become a minimalist. I find the idea of hiring a consultant funny: my decisions are born out of whether or not I want to carry it on my back.
Living la vida Conchita!
I have things that have multiple purposes and features: an insulated bottle which can hold both hot or cold drinks. It has a loop that I can attach a ‘biner to, and a flip-top lid for sipping (so I don’t have to unscrew it). I can drink with one hand, while checking Facebook on my iPhone in the other. It’s sturdy and unbreakable, and yes, I thought this all through before I decided to buy it and bring with.
I have failed experiments. I was going to use my hydroflask bottle to hold my wifi extender by dismantling the wifi extender to pieces, and then stuffing the parts into the screwtop bottle. But I found that I never used the bottle because, well, where would I put the delicate wifi extender? In the end I decided to McGuiver a PVC pipe with end caps as a dedicated case, and now actually use the bottle for its intended beverage holding purpose.
I feel like a cosmonaut, being jettisoned into space. Except I armor myself with only the least amount of things, with technology being my only splurge.
I am deciding whether or not to bring my iPad Air – probably not. I can use my Macbook for that.
One less thing is one less thing to carry, keep track of, lose.
As you can see, I will leave behind that which I already have. Maybe not ideal, in a sense, but my back will thank me for it.
And what is it they say? Take what you have, divide it in two – then throw one-half away.
But, when one has so little, one from none is…?
Either tragic, or bliss, depending on your POV. To be free of these shackles. But my revenue depends upon these things, as I am to become a Digital Serf Nomad! Tra-la-la-tra-la-li!
While I will blog, I am also volunteering, a fabutastic way of traveling in my opinion. You are typically provided room and board in exchange for working 20 hours a week. You get to know locals, and have a friendly face to practice my Español phrases like:
¿dónde está el baño
¿dónde está la biblioteca
¿dónde está la lavandería
Donde puedo encontrar cerveza?
Por favor no me apuñales con ese cuchillo.
claro que te amo.
If I get fancy I can combine them as such: claro que te amo, por favor no me apuñales con ese cuchillo!
See, language learning can be minimalist too!
I am stripped bare, decisions pared down to: is it clean? No. Does it stink, No. Can I wear it? Yes!
I think I may like this.
Simplified and nearly sterile, I await the countdown: I am ready for launch!
The Aerolatte to go is an excellent milk frother, miniature mixer for coffee and workout drinks. Good for Travel, kitchen device. The size fits in your hand, and is only 3.5 ounces . It ships with 2 AA batteries – which I then switch out for rechargeables. It has a flat base for standing upright and has a plastic case that keeps it clean when tucked away.
it’s not as powerful as countertop mixers and espresso machine frothers, but also very much smaller than other countertop appliances.
As far as likability – can you like an inanimate object? Yes, because it fulfills its purpose very well. Powerful enough, simple to use, small enough, and useful enough to even bring traveling.
Or: How I lost 20 lbs in 2 months, went from a size 34 waist to a 30 waist, and feel great.
I wish I took a before picture, but frankly, most of the before/after pics are staged in a way that makes the person look skinnier, or bigger, often without the person losing or gaining much weight at all.
Take Tim Ferris in his Geek to Freak post. Just look at how the feet are positioned – feet pointed out in the “after” pic, but then the “after” is resized so the height is the same for both. But pointing the feet to the side necessitates making the photo larger if you want the appearance of being the same height.
Again: this way they can enlarge the “after” picture and make it seem as if both pics are the same height (when measured laterally). But this is false, since placing the feet outwards makes the length shorter, which is then resized to be the same height.
I mean, look at how he enlarged the picture of himself on the right! And notice how much bigger his head is on the right! Whatever you do, you can’t really enlarge your head through weight lifting, unless you’re fish for compliments, I guess. 😉
Now, I’m gonna give Tim the benefit of the doubt and say he probably did gain 37 lbs of sheer muscle, but the photo manipulation isn’t even that subtle. You don’t really need to “click to enlarge,” Timmy already did that for you!
Compare that with this pic I am taking while sitting in my Conchita la Casita, typing away:
I lost 20 lbs in 2 months, going from around 180 lbs to 160, and went from a 34″ waist (in pants) to a 30″ waist.
The first place I notice weight loss is in my face. Second, I realized that without a belt, my pants would fall down.
I haven’t been a 30″ waist since High School!
Basically, I just ate one meal a day (OMAD).
I kept it simple, one meal a day, only eating after 2pm. And then I wouldn’t eat till 2pm the next day, fasting for 23 hrs.
The reason I did it was for health reasons. I was feeling lethargic, often needing a nap in the middle of the day. I also have issues with my thyroid, having Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis gives me an underfunctioning thyroid, which is part of my energy problem.I also just felt heavy, seeming like I gained weight, no matter how active I was (rock climbing, hiking, biking), or how little I ate.
I also knew how I function – In order for me to do this for the long-term, I needed to keep things as simple as possible.
And that’s why I did one meal a day.
The first that I heard of this idea was through a book I had read years ago, called The Warrior Diet, by Ori Hofmekler. It was sort of a proto-Paleo, pre-Intermittent Fasting book, explaining the diet as a way our ancestors ate – active during the day, and only eating meals after tasks were done, in the evening.
At the time I first read it, I kind of just thought it was interesting, but didn’t think that I would ever try it. But then I saw my brother Vence after a couple months of not seeing him, and he looked dramatically thinner, dramatically healthier than I had seen him before. Once he hit 50, he seemed to get heavier and heavier. But, seeing him recently, it almost looked like he got rejuvenated. He was not just skinnier, he looked healthier. He mentioned Intermittent Fasting, and eating just one meal a day, and so of course I looked it up on YouTube, and saw several videos about the subject, this one in particular:
I was reminded of The Warrior Diet book I had read years ago, and decided right then to give it a try.
The first couple of days I felt hungry the morning of the fast. I kept staring at the time on my iPhone, trying to will 2pm to come. All I had for “breakfast” was a cup of my version of Bulletproof coffee. I followed this with about 3-4 cups of tea, mostly no caffeine chai, or licorice-mint tea.
After I stopped focusing on the hunger pangs what I noticed was a renewed sense of energy, and the time that would be used for making breakfast, eating and digesting was now – free. Free for me to do – whatever!
As an experiment, at about a couple weeks in on my fasting, which I had gotten used to by now, with no more, or smaller, feelings of hunger – I decided to lower my medication by a quarter.
I felt the same amount of energy, so I stuck with that amount for awhile.
And then, as an experiment, I decided to only take half of my thyroid medication.
I felt the same as before.
Weight dropped by 20 lbs.
Waist size went from 34″ to 30″.
Energy went up – dramatically!
Thyroid medication use dropped to a half dose.
Brain fog disappeared.
Blood sugar normalized.
Blood pressure lowered
I was pre-diabetic (Type 2), and my doctor said unless I made some lifestyle changes that I would have to go on medication. She also said I had borderline high blood pressure as well.
But after doing the one meal a day diet, while before I was averaging something like 135-145 morning glucose reading, I was now getting sub 100 readings.
What do I eat
Having not eaten for 23 hours, you kind of want a substantial meal. A typical meal for me was a burrito bowl at Chipotle. I would get the following:
Sauteed green peppers and onions, half steak/half chicken, tomato and corn sals, avocado and lettuce.
I avoided rice and beans since I also wanted to keep things low glycmic as well, but would add them back in if I was going to rock climb or workout that day.
Another mainstay was a large Wild Oats salad, that weighed in at $15. A LARGE salad!
A rough calculation of the meals were somewhere around 1,000 calories each. A typical US calorie count for someone in the US is around 2,000 to 2,500 calories. I was eating less than half that.
When I tell folks about my diet, they tend to ask the typical questions and make the typical comments:
“Aren’t you starving?”
“Your metabolism is going to slow down – then you’ll gain weight!”
“It’s not a sustainable diet!”
” That doesn’t sound healthy.”
But, if they haven’t seen me in awhile, I can see how their eyes track me, looking at my face, my now non-existent belly, my healthy skin color and clear eyes – and it dawns on them that whatever I am doing – it must be working. I had the same reaction once I saw the effect it had on my brother. It’s what convinced me to start.
I just know this: I feel better, more energized than ever. I climb harder for longer at higher grades than I was previously. My blood sugar normalized, and I take less thyroid medication. My skin and eyes, and just general appearance, look better.
The fears that people have about such a different diet is just that – fears. Mostly unfounded. I know, at least for me, that the slowing of metabolism on a restricted diet is just not that big a factor as it is advertised. And that rather than being unhealthy, I look and feel better than before.
I can just express what has worked for me, and one meal a day was what did it for me – quickly, and (mostly) painlessly. While I did and do feel the occasional hunger pangs, it’s a small price to pay for the results that I am receiving. Nowadays, I barely notice that I haven’t ate, often not eating till 3 or 4. And whileI’ve read that there are variations of the diet, like having up to 3 meals in the 2-8 pm window – a single large meal per day just simplified things for me. And even on the days I would feel the need to “cheat” with a dessert, or something with high carbs like pasta or dessert – not eating for another 23 hours seemed to make such digressions a moot point.
There’s something called “Autophagy” which I think must be responsible for the results that are beyond just weight loss – the energy, the blood sugar, the skin and eye quality. Autophagy means “eating oneself” and it’s what happens when one fasts. Your body, during a fast, can use the energy it would previously use for eating and digesting, and instead use it for cleaning house – eating dead cells, cancerous cells, and healing injured areas.
When people are asked what they would do with a million dollars, a common response is: “I would take a trip around the world!” What they don’t take into account is: everything that needs to be taken cared of prior to departure. And, while a million bucks would certainly soften the blow, there are still many details to be taken cared of.
Like: what to do with your house (if you own one). How about pets? What do you do about your utilities? Your mail? Magazine…and what about Netflix?!
Having quite a bit less than a million dollars, I simply can’t outsource these details to an assistant, I have to figure all of these things out on my own.
I found out I could probably rent out my small 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath home for $1,600 dollars. My mortgage is about $1,100 – so a profit of about $500/month. In order to do this I would hire a Property Management company for around $160. Profit drops to $340.
The only thing I have to do is empty my house.
After talking with the Property Manager, it was decided that because of how my 2 car garage is constructed, I could completely block off 1/2 of my garage, which I could use for storage. The renters would still have a large parking area outside, as well as a 1 car garage (their half of the 2 car garage).
My small 13′ RV I could store on the side of my garage. With the house contents stored in the garage, and the RV parked on the side of my house I don’t have to shell out for storage, which can get pricey. The cheapest 10’x10′ storage in Wheat Ridge is $138/month. That’s $1,656/year, and that’s without a drive-up location. It’s an indoor location, which means hauling stuff through hallways, and possibly stairs – no thanks!
And with rooms in Thailand going for $10/day, that’s a potential 165 days of Thai housing the storage would cost me!
So, I have a somewhat unique situation, but many folks with a house they’ve paid for for 10 years would probably be in a similar situation. The decision point of whether to sell or rent my home became moot after I found out I could have an income stream if I rented.
Because it’s possible I would want to move back, and with housing in Colorado rising like it is it’s debatable whether I could even buy back into the market!
Packing a house
Packing a house, even a small home like mine, is a huge chore. What I’ve done is to go room by room, and even just a section of a room at a time. This seems to work for me. I also gave myself a good amount of time to move out – at least 2 months. This allows me to take a more leisurely pace in packing and moving items from the main house to my half of the garage.
What I’m finding is that, like many things, it’s the mental blocks that make packing hard. As I pack, I am also ridding myself of things that I no longer need. Certain items with sentimental value, such as photos I will understandably keep. But then there are other items, like yearbooks, or comic collections, and (the hard one for me) books!
Everyone has a sticking point on certain things – it may be baseball cards, or tools, or photos and books. And while I’ve been fairly ruthless about dumping stuff, I know what slows me down too.
Going through a house that has been lived in for 12 years, I forget how much that remains unlooked at, and in some ways uncared for. Old photos I haven’t looked at in years, books I would never read again, but were gifted to me at some point.
Getting rid of stuff in order to travel becomes an exercise in Minimalism.
Some questions I use to decide to keep or discard are:
The 90/90 rule: Have I used it in the past 90 days? If not, will I use it in the next 90 days? If the answer is “no” for both questions, it’s likely I can discard it.
20/20 rule (from the Minimalists) If I need it, can I In 20 minutes buy the same thing for $20? If so, discard.
How much of a pain in the ass would it be to move it (and to move it back in)? This question got me to give away my couches, coffee table and end tables.
Having rules in place helps move things along as well, such as:
Getting rid of things means you don’t have to store it. This is the first rule of organizing – fewer things makes organizing easier.
Move at least a few things every day. This rule has helped me make progress when every fibre of my being says to check my Facebook, or anything besides moving stuff.
“A little at a time is a lot over time.” This little quote has helped me through the process of moving or discarding stuff.
Know where you can donate. Simply knowing where the nearest Goodwill, or clothes dropoff, or even the phone number for big trash pickup removes another barrier to accomplishing your move. No excuses.
Move out of a room completely, even if it means some items are (temporarily) moved into a different room.
This last bit has been really helpful. Clearing out an entire room, even if it means leaving some things in a separate room (for now), is mentally rewarding. Just seeing the open cleared off space makes you want to do the next room!
It’s actually a freeing exercise – and the result is figuring out what you don’t really need – which is most things! I think I’ll miss my bed with it’s down comforter the most. It’s a thick memory foam mattress that gives me amazing sleep.
It’s hard leaving the Shire!
Making money while traveling
Like hundreds of other people I am planning on making a boatload of $$$ from my blogging. That being said, between here and boatloads of $$$ may be a long dry period. Luckily, I already have had a modicum of success with my blogging, making a small recurring revenue that I plan on increasing as my blogging activities continue.
But, it’s always good to have a backup.
I am also taking a “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” (TEFL) course through teflonline.com. I’m starting with the Basic certification course, which currently costs $196. They also have more advanced courses, but apparently this is the minimum needed in order to teach in certain countries. Most prefer 100 hours, but this is a self-directed 40 hour course, which is right for my situation, and something I can do in the evenings when I am not moving my house. They have a TEFL branch in Costa Rica too, if I decide I wanted to go for a more advanced certification. Once I have the certificate in hand, I can use it as a backup revenue source. But, ultimately, it may turn out to be super interesting, and a way to get to interact and get to know people from the area.
Foreign Transaction Fees
One of the realities of traveling is: how do I access my money while abroad? Most of the time it comes down to either using credit cards, or using ATMs for cash withdrawals. But banks often charge “Foreign Transaction Fees,” which could be tacked on when using your credit card, or withdrawing money. A way around this, at least for people from the US, is to open a Charles Schwab account. Their ATMs are free, and their debit card charges no foreign transaction fees.
It does require that you open a brokerage account, but there is no obligation to actually use it. I simply connect my credit union account to my Schwab account, allowing me to transfer money into the Schwab account as needed.
My healthcare is through Kaiser Permanente, and they have a “Trips” division that understands the intricacies of vaccinations prior to traveling. I plan on taking advantage of this before I leave.
I am also getting some appointments taken care of – such as a colonoscopy! Yes, I’ve reached that age now. Also – dental work. Just chipped a molar and had to get a crown. Not sure what the dental work quality will be in other countries.
I also take a medication on a regular basis. What I’ve found is that I can buy a year’s supply from Kaiser if I pay cash. This is something I plan on doing as I don’t know if I will be able to fulfill my meds while overseas. At least a 6 month supply, while I figure out what I can get in other countries.
Kaiser also covers emergency medical care. I would have to pay up to my deductible, thereafter only 30%. This I may keep, but then again I may look into traveler’s insurance. Hopefully, nothing major will occur!
Well, what happens if something happens that requires you to be back home? Like, for signing legal documents? Granting someone the Power of Attorney will allow that person to act on your behalf – as if you were there in person. Since that person will likely have access to bank accounts and property they will of course have to be someone you trust implicitly. This is also something I plan on doing, granting one of my brothers that live in the area in case something happens.
I happen to have 70k points on a Chase Mileage Plus card. These were accumulated through my previous career as an SEO Analyst. But, I knew I’d need more. I managed to qualify for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which had a recent promotion of 100k points as long as I made $4,000 in purchases within the next 3 months. Since I had a roofing scheduled, that took care of the entry purchases right there!
There is a yearly fee of $450, but earning 3x on points means you can make that back, and more. As long as you pay your balance off each month you should be good. And, 10 months down the line, if you decide you don’t want to pay the yearly fee – then just cancel the card!
Think of it this way: you pay $450 to get about $1,200 in benefit (100,00 Chase points). That’s like getting $750 free money!
It’s the equivalent of getting an international flight, and maybe a few days at a decent hotel (depending on where you go). Cancel in the 10th month or so, and you’ll never pay the yearly fee!
Deciding where to go
This is, as they say, a high quality problem. Meaning, if you have this choice, it’s not a problem at all.
Well, at little bit. I mean, in a world of possibilities, where does one start? I decided to have a few rules in place to help limit the decision making process, at least for the first country:
Don’t pick a place you’ve been to before.
Pick a place where you can learn more Spanish.
Has to be fairly cheap.
Has to have rock climbing (if possible)
The last point is one I will concede – but not without a fight. After thinking about Central vs South America, as well as Mexico, I decided to go to Costa Rica. Never been there before (check!) Spanish speaking (Check!) Fairly cheap (Check!)
Hopefully, this has been helpful for you. Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation. I think many of the things I wrote about apply to everyone: traveling for “free” on credit card points, packing, and other items like health and legalities. Having these things thought out prior to travel can smooth out the rest of your travel plans.