The Catalyst for a Minimalist

Gazing dreamily from the comfort of my seat on a luxury tour bus in Mexico I saw what I considered a the time to be real poverty.  Five year old girls running down dusty dirt roads to chase after the glamorous coach full of the “ultra rich” in hope to earn a peso selling trinkets filled my soul with guilt. I now call this feeling white guilt. With a startle, the elegant voice of the tour guide is everywhere in echo-less clarity explaining we are near the border of a country called Belize. They carried on with the typical soothing speech that nearly put my to sleep but, one thing that stood out to me was that Belize was an English speaking country formally owned by the UK.  Back in the sterility of my cubical, hidden in open window on my computer behind what I was supposed to be working on, I searched for a less inclusive vacation to Belize. My unproductive office hours were well spent deciding to rent a car in Belize and travel the country after I accumulated enough vacation hours to take the time off. Stepping out the airplane door I’m struck by hot dry air as I step down the stairs onto the scorching Tarmac. I had arrived to Belize. I walked up to the only building around and walked up to the only desk around and my passport was stamped. After waiting for the mountain of luggage to slide down to conveyor I pushed my cart out the door and in the direction the rental car sign sent me. 30 seconds later I arrive at the end of the sidewalk of the loading zone of the airport. I asked a security guard where the rental cars were and he pointed in the direction I was going and only said one thing to me “you can’t take that luggage cart”.  I proceeded complain about dragging luggage through gravel and I received a risen eyebrow, a shrug and then the blank blue canvas of the back of his uniform.  With my very dissatisfied now ex-wife in tow we arrived at the gravel parking lot with a rental car sign.  It had only been a ten minute walk but it felt like an hour.  We signed our papers for our 4×4 SUV and went to find our car. We walked up to a twenty year old dented Kia thing or the likes which I assumed to be a shuttle car and proceeded to put my luggage in the back and climb in the back door. The rental guy laughs at me and asked “Are you driving from the back seat?”  The ex was livid and started ranting about how it would be illegal to rent a car in this shape in the United States and she received a risen eyebrow, a shrug and then the blank white canvas of the back of his uniform. Later that evening I arrived at a nicely understated Bed and Breakfast just steps from the front porch to the crystal clear and calm waters of the Caribbean. The hosts were average middle class Canadians maybe 40 years of age. They had sold their business and home in Canada to live a semi-retired slow life in Belize. I spent many bewildered hours talking to them about how they did it. Their simple answer over and over was to just do it. It’s that easy. Make the decision and have courage. A lot of courage.  Back in the sterility of my cubical, hidden in open window on my computer behind what I was supposed to be working on, I searched for cheap property in Belize.  Far more mentally prepared this time, I vacationed again to Belize.  This time with a friend from work that was possibly interested in investing in foreign real estate. We drove to locations where the international real estate web pages guided me. My white guilt resurfaced after pulling in to the first lot I was going to look at. Sheepishly I stepped from my rental car and pulled out my overly flashy Nikon DSLR camera and started snapping photos like I was some professional. By the time I was finished I had a crowd of little barefooted children wanting to touch the car, camera and me oddly enough. I was overwhelmed with shame of having money to buy property and the things I was in position at that moment. I drove off in a daze of overwhelming emotions. Then it struck me at stop sign in some unknown small village.  A “house” the size of a garden shed slapped together loosely with random bits of used wood and a roof of old sheet metal held down with rocks sat an old man in a hammock smiling. He was watching his shoeless grandchildren play with great amusement. He was genuinely satisfied with life in a way I had never felt and would never achieve living the path I was following.  Back in the sterility of my cubical, hidden in open window on my computer behind what I was supposed to be working on, a cursor blinked endlessly on a blank Google search bar. I had grown resentful of my high profile semiconductor career that I was over committed to. 80 hours a week on a night shift paid me six figures but tarnished my spirit. I spent all those zeros on ridiculous things to try and fill an ever deepening void. My moment of awakening occurred with a highly unexpected text message from my now ex wife. She writes “I have packed everything I want from the house and you can have everything else. The divorce papers will be delivered soon.  I won’t be there by the time you get home.”  To the passive reader this may not so bad but she and I both knew the mortgage was only in my name and I couldn’t afford the mortgage payments without her contribution. I owed way more on my house then it was worth thanks to poor timing with a crashed housing market. I was crushed by the heartlessness of it all. I never wanted the big house in the suburbs. How was I ever going to sort this out working 80 hours a week. The answer was that I wasn’t. I went to my boss at the end of my next shift at work and told him I quit. His response, ” you can’t quit”.My response, “you can continue to pay my but I won’t be here”Boss “why don’t you just take a six month leave of absence.  We have invested a lot of money into your training and we need you”Me, “Sorry for your loss”  I said Fuck It to everything and everyone. I’m finally going to do what I want and quit living my life trying to impress the people around me. Next I called my mortgage lender and explained I wanted to foreclose on my house. They told me that foreclosure processing requires at least 2 months of no payment and I was current. I asked if the call was recorded and they ensured me it was. I explained I left my job and the house would be empty by the end of the week. I was leaving the house unlocked without power and they keys to the house would be on the kitchen counter. I also explained I was leaving the country with no plans to return. I had made up my mind I was going to Belize with everything I owned on my back which meant everything else had to go. Next I called the lender for my motorcycles and told him I wanted them to repossess my bikes. The person on the other end was shocked. They had never had someone call to have their own bikes repossessed. I explained the same thing to them I had told the mortgage lender. The garage door will open and the keys will be in the bike.  Lastly was the everything else to get rid of. I posted an add on Craigslist for an estate sales expressing everything must go because I was moving out of the country. The flood of people flocking to scavenge my life’s collection of stuff was staggering. The first few lowball items were difficult but after awhile it became exhilarating to see it go. The best were the things I didn’t realize I had to sell. Things like the pictures off the walls, curtains and rods, a newly installed toilet and vanity, the canned food in the pantry, everything in the junk drawer for $1, etc.  The last person of the day I told could have anything they could fit in their car for $20. They spent hours sifting through the leftovers and left with broken power tools, old magazines, used dog toys and who knows what but that poor little car was weighed down to the axles. It was all over. My life had be liquidated and it was the most satisfied I had ever felt until that day.  My family and friends were really worried about me.  They thought I had gone fully mad. I had bought a one way ticket to a country none of them had ever heard of before. My mom was worried I was going there to kill myself and my father thought I wouldn’t make it out of the airport before I climbed back on a plane and begged to come home. They were all wrong. I stepped out of the plane onto that hot Tarmac and felt truly liberated. I had no accommodations reserved and it felt great. For the first time in my life I lived only to please myself.  Shortly after I found myself but that is a blog all on its own. 

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