Reflections on Communication

Communicating efficiently with other people is one of the hardest things to learn how to do. Language has so many nuances that are hard to interpret and convey. A simple conversation can be hard to have if two people come from different backgrounds or have different interpretations of life. Communicating can be difficult even when both parties are speaking the same language.

Communicating in a non-native language can be hard, full of misunderstandings, and fairly stressful. During our time in Uruguay, we knew that communication was hard, but we were learning, and it definitely got easier the more comfortable we became with the language. It wasn’t until we got home that we realized how stressed out we had become about communicating with people.

For months we had prepared for every conversation we needed to have with anyone. We prepared for new vocabulary. We prepared for “what ifs”. We prepared to sound as natural as possible. We did this for everyone, from the check-out lady at the grocery store to our land lady to people in retail stores. We combed the internet for phrases that might make sense in the situation we would be in. We reviewed what we would say, how we could explain things, how to ask questions. And we did this constantly.

When we got back to the states, Asa and I both found ourselves still mentally reviewing possible conversations with people in Spanish. One morning, Asa even decided not to get a haircut because it would be too difficult to explain the type of cut he wanted in Spanish… only realizing later that he wouldn’t be speaking Spanish with the lady at the barber shop. Doh! I even spoke to a waitress at the Miami airport in Spanish because I heard Spanish around me.

Once we finally convinced ourselves that speaking to people in English was easy, it was a pleasure to talk to people. More of a pleasure than we had ever realized it could be. Being able to communicate to someone exactly what we wanted, and do it easily was so gratifying. It was fun being able to talk to people. It was nice to not be stressed out about communicating with people. We no longer had to prepare for conversations, we could make last minute decisions.

Our time in Uruguay has made both of us appreciate communication in a whole new light. We commonly take communication for granted, forgetting that at some point when we were young we actually had to learn to communicate with others. The ability to communicate should not be taken for granted. It is our window to the world and without it, I imagine, we would be very lonely.

So the next time you’re at a restaurant or the check-out counter think about your ability to communicate, and do it with ease!


Preparing to Live in Uruguay

Getting rid of your stuff is hard.

It takes a lot more time to go pretty close to minimalist than you might think. Once I made the decision to move and started to learn more about mnimalism, I had four main realizations:

  1. I had a lot of stuff (just look at about half of the books I own above)
  2. I had to get rid of 90% of it
  3. I didn’t want to get rid of it
  4.  I had to fit it all in 2 suitcases and 1 backpack

Having way more stuff than needed

At a quick glance, I had: three closets worth of clothes, sports equipment, multiple computers, monitors, a ton of books, random trinkets, and more “stuff” that just took up space. A few girls were even jealous that I had three closets of clothes. What can I say? I liked them.

There was no way I was going to bring even half of it with me. I had to sell, donate, or trash a bunch of stuff so I decided to learn minimalism.

It was quite easy to make the decision to go minimalist, but it was a lot harder to figure out what to get rid of and what to keep. My biggest struggles were figuring out what clothes I was going to bring.

I had to bring enough clothes for:

  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • The beach (ultimate clothes)
  • Learning to dance (business casual)
  • Networking (business casual?)

Minimalism doesn’t mean bringing it all.

As much as I wanted to bring a shipping container down with me, I needed to maximize the use of every item in my wardrobe. Asa wrote a post about his preparation and how he tries to maximize his wardrobe here.

I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I liked the stuff that I had. I wanted to keep everything!

Just in Case

Luckily, as I was trying to figure out what to bring, a good friend told me that Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists were touring around and having a meetup in Atlanta. I checked out their site and really liked the essays that I read so I decided to check it out with him and some friends.

Over drinks and dinner, the group talked about different ways to pair down items, what they have learned, and various questions asked by people there.

I asked them about what to do about bringing just in case items. Just in case items are things like bringing a suit just in case I can network and possibly do some work for companies down here. They basically said that whatever just in case items I might need, I could find withing 20 minutes for $20. You can read their excellent post about it here.

Make it a Game

I decided I needed to start making decisions and deciding what to bring and what not to bring. I turned it into a game to try and only own 50 items including laptop, video and point-and-shoot camera, and Ultimate Frisbee stuff. I knew I wouldn’t make it that low, but I aimed for it.

I love playing games, so it helped me get rid of stuff.

I wanted to fit everything I owned in only a backpack and 2 suitcases. In order to replace a few things at once, I started buying more things that would replace 2 or more items. For example, I bought a patagonia backpack to replace my Ultimate Frisbee bag and computer backpack. This saved a bunch of room. I bought a pair of Patagonia Maui Air loafers to replace a few different pairs of shoes that I wanted to bring. It also doesn’t hurt that they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve owned.

After all the time spent getting rid of the car, truck, sports gear, and clothes, I actually had a little extra room in my suitcase.

Giving Away More

I was able to bring a bunch of Spin Ultimate gear thanks to the amazing people at Spin for Asa, Randi, and myself to give away to people down here who might not have jerseys or to include in tournament prizes as long as we take pictures of the stuff and people wearing it. I weighed my bags, had to move a few things around to get both bags under 50 lbs, and was good to go.

A Helping Hand

I’m extremely thankful of my roommate, friends, and family for helping me get rid of stuff and deal with a few more items that I left behind and didn’t get rid of. As my usual self, I waited until pretty close to the last minute and had a lot more stuff than I initially thought.

Looking at what I have now, I would be comfortable in any scenario and feel like the shackles have been removed from me by getting rid of stuff.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling!

If you ever feel like you have too much or you keep acquiring stuff, I recommend spending an hour or two and cleaning out your closet or a room in your house. Aim to donate or sell one giant trash bag worth of clothes or items that are sitting around. It’s a freeing experience!