Living Better With Less
Before we left the States to begin our new life, one of my minor concerns was how I would handle living long-term in third-world countries. I’ve visited them before, even spent 3 months in Ecuador, but there’s a big difference between spending a couple of weeks or months somewhere and living there for possibly years. I wasn’t worried about Tigger as much because children seem to adapt well to their environment and don’t seem to notice a lack of luxuries as readily.
Our first apartment in Mexico was a bit spartan, but we had hot water in the shower. Something I’ve come to miss quite a bit since we’ve been in Honduras for the last four months. Running hot water is a rarity in the homes around here. During the summer you don’t really feel it because the water is warm enough to not shock your system. Actually, it’s a bit refreshing. During cooler rainy season. . . not so much.
So how has it been? Six-plus months later I can say I prefer it. Yes, you read that right. Well, maybe not the cold showers, but everything else. It’s been nice to confirm that one can indeed live better with less. We currently spend under $1000 USD a month. We could spend less by eating out less often, but that’s one luxury we enjoy and it works with our budget. Also electricity on Utila is quite expensive which adds to our costs. Of course we don’t use a ton of electricity. The only thing that is plugged in all the time is the refrigerator. We unplug everything else when not in use.
We pay $325 a month for our 2-bedroom “house,” which includes trash, water, and cable TV. It’s more like a stand-alone apartment on stilts. When we need more gas for the stove, it costs $15. We also pay $15/month for extremely fast WiFi access. Electricity tends to cost about $50/month. We eat out for about 1 meal a day, and that usually runs about $12 at a restaurant, much less if we do a tipico (kind of like the special of the day, usually beans & rice, a small serving of meat, and some cooked plantains) or baleada (a thick tortilla with beans and other items you may like). Haircuts cost about $5. The island is small enough to walk pretty much everywhere, but the occasional tuk-tuk (taxi) ride is $2 if we go to the other side of the island. Laundry costs about $3 about 3-4 times a month.
So where’s the living with less part? We don’t have a car. No central air. No Starbucks. No mall. We each have 3 shirts & 3 pairs of shorts if you don’t count the dive shop shirts I wear when I’m working. Tigger wears only shorts, and most of the time I’m in swim trunks so we don’t have a lot of laundry. We eat fairly simply. We can pack up our entire possessions in about 10 minutes. I only say that long because I’ll do several checks throughout the house to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. And you know what? It’s WONDERFUL. My life feels so much richer than it ever did back in the States with all the “things.”
Sure I occasionally miss things, like running hot water, good chocolate, my well-stocked kitchen, but those moments are fleeting. I absolutely love that we have so little. We enjoy our time together more. Memories aren’t formed by what we bought but by what we’ve done and seen together. Seeing my son laughing and playing as he swings off a rope into the ocean and comes up beaming with joy is priceless. Stopping in my tracks to admire an amazing Caribbean sunset and seeing others doing the same brings me joy. Almost every day I get to enjoy at least a solid 90 minutes in another world as I scuba dive. I get to be on a boat with the wind rushing by as I get to know people from all over the world. Tigger has the run of the island and rarely ever wears a shirt or shoes and has friends everywhere he goes.
A cold shower is a small price to pay for such a rich life.
Some other families have written about this same topic. Please check out what they have to say as well.