Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When you travel abroad you realize that America is truly the land of plenty and that not everywhere is the same. I know that this is not the case for the entire population but in general people in America have access to much more variety and quantity of items than in many other countries.

A lot of Americans are making the effort to live with less, out of their own choice, to simply their lives, and many have to live with less due to economic constraints, especially in today’s economic climate.

Traveling to far away lands can teach you many things and one of them is the notion of living with less and being happy with it.

When you rent and live in an average house in Spain you quickly realize that the average Spanish household does live with less, and they are perfectly happy with that. I mean, it’s not as though they feel they’re missing something or even less suffering in any way, they’re happy! They live with less in terms of items, stuff, less variety of stuff, and smaller sizes of stuff.

Most houses do not have a dishwasher, no garbage disposal, no dryer for their clothes. They save not only on the cost of these appliances but also on the electricity to run them. Sinks in the kitchen are small, kitchens are small and bathrooms are small. Come to think of it, the entire house or flat is small. In general they live in less square feet and are happy.

Imported items are very expensive and hard to find. Many locals don’t buy imported items, they only buy local. They strengthen their economy by supporting their local producers. I brought my two dogs with me from the US. I used to spend about $120 per month on food for both of them, for a very high quality but expensive dog food. Here the dog food I’m buying is the US brand Royal Canin, and it is costing me close to double what I used to pay, or about $225 per month. As far as I can determine it is close to equivalent, but not as good as what I used to give them at home. I’m looking for an alternative. Of course the weakness of the dollar and the exchange rate with the Euro is not helping matters.

When you go to the stores, at least in this part of the island of Mallorca, you realize that instead of 10 brands of something there are only 2-3. Wall-Marts don’t’ exist here and much less Costco’s, Sam’s Clubs or Nordstroms. There is an Ikea in Palma and since they are virtually the only such type of store I imagine they do quite a good business. Supermarkets are limited in what they carry and most don’t have the variety of non-food items we have in almost every supermarket in America.

I have to admit I was a pretty healthy shopper when I was living in the US, frequenting all of the above stores and more, and researching and often buying the multiple brands of many items. However, being in Spain I’ve learned that not having so much to choose from saves you a lot of time, effort and money! You simply don’t buy certain things because they’re not available and guess what you can live without them in most cases and be perfectly happy. You save money by not buying, you save effort by not having to understand the use of so many products and compare so many brands, and you save time by not going to the various stores and doing all the shopping.

Another positive side of all of this is that you appreciate everything you have and everything you buy so much more! When I go shopping I hold the 2 tomatoes I’m buying in my hand with care and carefully place them in my fridge so that nothing happens to them before I have the pleasure of eating them. I’m careful not to overbuy, not because of the cost or because I have to carry them up 40 flights of stairs after I park the car but because too much will not fit in my tiny little fridge! Every item of food and every item in general that makes it up my 40 stairs is precious and appreciated so much more!!!

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