Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Mininimalist's Vacation

Vacations are an area of concern for those who practice a minimal lifestyle. Minimalism implies that one does without; therefore, vacations, being a “luxury” should be eschewed. That is a convoluted approach and a misperception of the minimalist’s way of living. Living simply is, in essence, living in such a manner that the individual, less obtrusive items and actions become more central to the lifestyle. Simple living requires that one looks at life as an ongoing series of snapshots and vignettes, instead of as a continual accumulation and hoarding of material goods. That means that living in a simple, uncluttered manner enables the advocate of that style of life to savor impressions, feelings, memories and interactions, in the place of things. In turn, that makes vacations and leisure time significantly more critical than for those who are on the acquisition train.
There are numerous options for the individual looking for a great vacation at minimal cost and minimized impact or consumption.
The first, and that requiring the least energy, is to rent travelogue DVDs. Most libraries also offer these videos through their lending programs, ,making the enjoyment of the videos truly cost effective. The internet offers exceptional avenues by which you can explore the world, at no cost. By combining Internet surfing for exotic and unique adventures and locales with outreach efforts, you will be able to connect with people from around the world, who can share your experiences.
There are many intriguing opportunities that tie in with Internet connections. The Woofer program matches people who are willing to Work on organic farms with those agricultural undertakings. In exchange for your free labour, the farmer provides you with room and board, as well as a peek into that way of living. This adventure opens another door for the true environmentalist and minimalist, by creating a source for fresh-from-the-farm organic produce.
Another travel opportunity for minimalism advocates is the “couch surfing” program. By linking with people around the world who are willing to provide one or two nights of free accommodation and meals, you are able to travel on a budget. In exchange, you, too, agree to provide a couch on which another such traveler can sleep for a couple of nights. Many people in this program have met others from remote corners of the earth, and learned a little more about how people live in other regions.
Volunteer vacationing is a third option for the minimalist on holidays. There are a variety of projects requiring volunteers, from Habitat projects around North America, to relief work in Haiti, to longer-term trips to underdeveloped countries, where one can work while holidaying.
A fourth minimal vacation concept is the “buddy program,” where people in a given area, community or city plan, months in advance, a travel holiday together. This allows each participant to become familiar and comfortable with their travel partner. Shared RVs, vans and cabins or resort accommodations, as well as jointly prepared meals and discounts available for groups make such a vacation more affordable than if travelling alone.
Piggybacking vacation trips onto conferences scheduled in distant cities offers a cost-effective way to plan a holiday. Bartering a timeshare in exchange for something of value that you have makes an easy way to maximize use of resources at minimum cost.
Vacations are about memories and experiences. By exploring ways to holiday inexpensively and efficiently, you can turn an indulgence into a true minimalist concept.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vacation Timeshares from the Minimalist’s Perspective

At first blush, it would seem that the purchase of a timeshare is an example of self-indulgence and not one of minimalism. Indeed, it may well be self-indulgent, but that does not preclude the purchase from being frugal and an example of living life minimally.
Minimalism focuses upon eliminating the excesses in life in order to more thoroughly savour the richness of that life. Consider how an art gallery displays its valuable works of art. Rather than crowd items together like a garage sale table, each piece is featured individually, with an abundance of white space between the displays. The gallery does not hide the pieces, or conceal them in clutter. Minimalism, too, seeks to get rid of the material and emotional clutter, and enable us to focus on the valuable parts of our life.
For some of us, that valuable part may be our vacation time.
But is a timeshare an example of frivolous spending? In some cases, again, yes. But, with recent improvements to the time share industry, a wealth of economical (is that an oxymoron) vacations are available to enjoy.
We have purchased a couple of time shares, yet live, in every other aspect, minimally. We view our timeshare purchase as an act of frugal living, as well.
For under $8,000, we are able to gain access to several thousand resorts and hotels, worldwide. For under $200 per year, we can stay for a week or more at high-quality locations. This is less than we would pay for an apartment in our home city, or a motel in any en route town. So, purely on the benefit-per-dollar basis, we are acting in an economically responsible manner.
Similarly, our resorts all include full kitchen facilities, so I am able to cook in the suites, prepare healthy meals, and forego the cost of expensive restaurant fare. This, too, is budgeting responsibly.
It is easy to be narcissistic in regard to purchasing time shares, however. We know people who have invested many tens of thousands of dollars on expensive resorts, and fail to use the benefits frugally.
On the other hand, we regularly use last call vacations, which afford us even better savings. Our extra vacations and off-season travel plans mean further benefit for the cost. But this requires careful strategizing in order to yield the maximum benefits.
In years when we do not use our actual timeshare weeks, we are not required to pay the maintenance fees (which we carefully calculated into the ongoing costs of our time share purchase). Although it is emotionally tough to give up that “free” week, we recognize that it is only free if we do not pay the annual fee associated with it.
It is vital, though, in deciding on a time share purchase, that you shop around, and not be caught up in the “this time only” sales hype. Look to less popular resorts that are highly rated. They often have lower buy-in costs. Look to low maintenance fees. For example, Las Vegas resorts generally are cheaper to maintain than Florida ones. Look for others’ reviews, too, to see if you are missing a key bit of information.
Regardless, though, it is easy to disregard time shares as a viable minimalist’s vacation option. While time shares do not form the bulk of our vacation experience, they are significant, and economical. Avoid the dieter’s dilemma: it’s not what you eat, but how much. In the case of a minimalistic approach to time shares, it’s not how much you own, but how you digest it.