Monday, June 23, 2014

Changing Gears

Greg Foyster quits his job in advertising to explore alternatives to the 'normal' living of long hours in unfulfilling work to pay for a big house full of stuff.

Changing Gears is the diary of his journey from Melbourne to Cairns by bicycle with partner Sophie, searching for more sustainable and more enjoyable ways of living.

Changing Gears book cover

It's a fascinating read. A few people they met seemed quite extreme (I guess that makes for interesting reading). But the ideas can be translated into our own lives. As the author reflects on the experiences of the trip, the reader (or at least this reader) also starts to look at society in a new way - and wonder if there's a better way to live.

Greg meets a man who builds himself a 3m x 3m home for $4,000. I'm not going to do that, but perhaps our houses (and mortgages) are too big for what we really need. I'm amazed to read that nearly 45% of Australian homes have 2 spare bedrooms.

Nor will I copy the Buddhist monk, walking up and down Eastern Australia owning only what he carries. But I do think that perhaps we gather too many material possessions - and become way too attached to them.

So what did Greg learn from the trip?
1. Face hypocrisy. If our values and actions don't match, it's a chance to improve our actions.
2. Money is time, and time is life. Everything we buy represents time we spent at work. Life is short enough without wasting it to buy junk.
3. Stuff breeds stuff. As a former ad man, he knows that for every necessity, there's another bunch of things advertising tricks us into buying. It's not good for our wallet, and it's not good for the planet.

In summary, less junk means less waste, fewer greenhouse emissions, more money and more leisure time.

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