Friday, December 21, 2012
The Cruisin’ Minimalist
When I view minimalist art, I do not appraise it and declare, “That’s not minimalism. It’s not doing without.” In fact, the idea that minimalism is about focusing on that which we relinquish or don’t have is an entirely distorted perspective on simplicity. Minimalist art does without nothing. It is akin to the old wood carver, who was asked how he decided what to carve out of his length of raw wood. His reply was simple. “I merely look at the wood, and see what is in there. Then I just get rid of the stuff that doesn’t belong.”
I have heard this analogy before, in various settings. Minimalism focuses on finding what should be there, and nothing more, whether it involves interior design, business operations or lifestyles. I regularly read blogs and articles by those who espouse minimalism, simple living, voluntary simplicity and frugal living. Many of those writers espouse getting rid of stuff, and living with less. This seems intuitive, since minimal implies living with the minimum of something. I, too, consider myself to be a minimalist. I have relatively few household possessions, keep my wardrobe to the most basic, have forfeited our second vehicle, shop for bargains, employ those assets that can do double duty, and so on. These all are tenets of voluntary simplicity, as it is commonly accepted. Yet, I also indulge myself.
Minimal art does the same. Minimalist art decries the clutter of unnecessary elements, and, in turn, highlights the focus, and the most significant facets of the work. In my book, The Last Drop Of Living: A Minimalist’s Guide To Living The High Life On A Low Budget, I draw the comparison between minimal living and displays in an art gallery or museum. The focal piece on the gallery is not hidden by an assortment of frivolous support pieces. Instead, it likely will be found on a pedestal apart from other pieces, or on a naked wall, featuring only that artwork. It is the most critical component, the only element that matters. It is not diminished by being alone. Rather, it is enhanced. Minimalism should allow us to find the most important things in our life, and focus upon them.
With that in mind, I built my personal strategy for “going minimal.” It involved a very basic process: decide what is important to me, and what is unimportant. Next, I opted to relinquish those things and ideas that may have value, but that were less vital than others. Both my wife and I chose to focus on our leisure as vital to our enjoyment. Essential to those recreational priorities was the idea of cruising.
Today, I write this blog on board the @Norwegian Pearl, as we leave the Grand Stirrup Cay for our next Caribbean destination. How is such a lavish holiday “minimalist?” Simple. In exchange for giving up frequent dinner-out evenings, a second vehicle, extra home furnishings, a big house, etc., we are able to apply some of our surplus resources to a great holiday. It is the second of four cruises we will have taken within the year.
But sacrificing in one area of living and then splurging in another is like saying, “Well, I stuck to my ‘no smoking’ pledge for six months, so now I’m going to celebrate by having a huge cigar, or overeating for the next six months.”
As a dedicated minimalist, I need to show restraint in the area of my holidays, as well, if I wish to avoid my own internal dissonance. So, I cruise minimally, as well. Websites like @www.vacationstogo.com (+firstname.lastname@example.org), @www.cruisedirect.com, individual cruise line websites (like +www.ncl.com (@NorwegianCruiseLine@email.ncl.com)) and several other discount providers offer discounts that may be as much as 80% off the brochure price. By screening carefully, one can boast of significant savings, and demonstrations of frugality. By purchasing in a 90 day window prior to sailing, prices may drop further. By booking inside staterooms, you are able to obtain rock-bottom prices (inside staterooms, after all, are only used for eight hours each night, while the rest of our time is spent on shore or on deck.).
When I factor in the cost of food, entertainment and supplies, plus the cost of accommodations, I discover that each day on a cruise costs less than the cost of a budget motel room each night!
Ask the more rigid advocates of minimalism whether we truly can be considered to be living a life of voluntary simplicity and you will receive a resounding “No.” That’s fair enough. They see the world differently than I do. But tell me, would you rather live in a cardboard box, eat scraps and proclaim yourself a minimalist, or would you prefer to get the most out of each moment at the best price while being ostracized by the self-professed puritans? Live minimally. Cruise to your heart’s content!