Modern Times: The Issue of “Showing off”

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Woodpecker just came back from a great week of sailing the Croatian Coast with good old friends from School. Although our boat was a bit on the slow side (gosh, accidentally I booked a “comfort” version and not a “sportive” one. Its stern was as wide as the ass of a clerk one day before his retirement!), the trip was amazingly great.

The landscape and beautiful small coast towns of Istria (NW Croatia) are amazing, again Europe surprised me with another great strip of land that I did not dare to expect to be so beautiful.

But above all it is great to be on a boat with people who you know since 20+ years.

A repeating topic in the many good conversations on board was the issue of showing-off in the modern social world.

Very quickly we all agreed that we see this widespread tendency to show-off as a major energy drain today.

So what do I mean by that?

Evening at the anchor bay - time for beers!

Evening at the anchor bay – time for beers!

I mean that I (and seemingly a lot of others) have the impression that showing-off became more and more important in the western society over the recent years.

Probably driven by social media, the internet and massive information overflow, people seem to compare themselves more and more to others, no matter what they do. This seems to be more critical in business environments, large cities and generally among materialistic people. But it is not limited to those groups.

In fact I think that showing-off rather is a symptom of worshiping consumption, material accumulation and money, which in turn take the place of religion, or of political and social ideologies, who all left the scene in the 1990s. Leaving a great void of meaningless that is now filled with an endless struggle to have more and to show it to others.

The big problem is that most people do not realize how much energy and effort they spent to show-off. In fact, even you and me as downshifters are not immune to this effect, as we still are social beings, embedded in our time and in our society.

The more important it is to realize any showing-off within your own actions.
Because as a downshifter, you obviously want to avoid spending money on stupid things like invoking envy in others, or trying to underscore your social status by superfluous purchases.
On your way to happiness the same holds true: Getting lukewarm applause or envy from others is a short-living drug. They are not what will carry you through the great storms in life.

So how do you distinguish between showing-off and just having a good time or doing something that you really enjoy?

A first self-test for show-off is:

Do something or buy something, and do the following:

  • completely abstain from taking photos
  • abstain from posting anything about your deed or purchase on Facebook (=pose book), whatsapp and other social media
  • best, abstain from bringing (or turning on) your cell-phone at all during the trip/event.
  • do not tell anyone about the event/purchase unless asked
  • if telling others then do so in the most modest way possible, explicitly in a way that does not invoke envy, but on the contrary makes the other person say: “Well, nice, but nothing special“.
  • Or put in one word: Be humble.

If you still enjoy the thing, if you do not have the feeling that “something is missing” until you post your deed or your purchase  on Facebook, then likely the motivation to do this or to buy this was not clouded by showing off.

If you repeat train this, it will become natural to you to be humble.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

The “disadvantage” is, that short-term you will get much less applause and regard on your way. But remember: The applause you are foregoing is lukewarm and tepidly anyway. Better face it now: You cannot buy anything with that kind of false esteem on the long run. Sooner or later it will dwindle anyway, so why bother with it in the first place?

The huge advantage is: Over the long run, the superficial people will automatically sort themselves out from your circle of friends. They will walk away and look for more glamorous acquaintances somewhere else. On the other side, the really interesting people will stay and more of them will be attracted to you. This are the people who are not easily blinded by a dazzling surface, but who want to dig deeper and who want to connect on a personal and profound level. This are the people who lifelong friends are made of. Once you are connected, this people will stay, no matter what happens, no matter what car you drive, no matter how ill you get, or how long you lose contact. This people will be your bullet-proof social treasure and not the interchangeable guys that are attracted by money and show-off. Do not forget this!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A Downshifter’s Boat Trip around Rügen, Baltic Sea. Or: Adventure and Kids, Part 2.

Nautic map of Ruegen, Germany, Baltic Sea. (more pics below)

Nautic map of Ruegen, Germany, Baltic Sea. (more pics below)

“You can’t do that, your kids are too young”

“Take it much more slow, think about the kids and if they can stand this”

“What if something HAPPENS?”

“I don’t know if kids of age 3 and 1 belong on a boat”

“Why don’t you go to a nice kids-hotel at the beach?”

This was some of the comments Woodpeckers got to hear when we quite spontaneously decided to do a family sailing trip on the Baltic sea around the island of Rügen (Germany).

Actually, why exactly didn’t we want to go to one of these family friendly kids-hotels, that other families in our situation cherish so much?

Because these hotels are boring!

They are ugly, noisy and hectic in their strange plastic charms. They are no adventure at all. They are quite the opposite: They are perfectly arranged avoidance of any unexpected or challenging situation.

And yet these kind of synthetic environments are very very expensive!

More expensive as chartering out a last-minute offer 32 foot sailing yacht at the Baltic sea.

So we did the latter.
Because if you are into it, a sailing trip – while being far from frugal – offers an excellent relationship of price vs. experiences, fun, being together, seeing and feeling nature. The high price is typically more than compensated by a unique experience.

And this is what happiness is about, and where I clearly deviate from the other early retirement and frugal living bloggers:

I am very fond of living efficiently and buying as little stuff as possible. And it is important to never spend more than necessary for a given good or activity as well as thinking twice or better thrice if it’s worth it. And to buy only things you really need and not things you are told to need. Reducing overall consumption and becoming less dependent on money is very important on your way to independence.

BUT:

If you really love something, and if you thought about it long enough, there is nothing wrong with spending on expensive hobbies or activities occasionally and in a conscious way as long as the satisfaction you gain is really deep and long-lasting.

Actually, happiness research has proven that spending money on activities/experiences is a good way to improve happiness – a far better way than spending money on stuff, on status symbols or on everyday consumption.

So the Woodpecker clan did exactly this:

Encouraged by our experimental sailing tour on lake Chiemsee we took advantage of some last-minute offer and a family visit in Hamburg and continued to the close-by and beautiful island of Rügen close to Germany’s Northeastern coast in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

And I dare say it was a fantastic tour!

No, our boat was a bit smaller... (Photo: Stralsund, home of Mrs. Merkel)

No, our boat was a bit smaller… (Photo: Stralsund, home of Mrs. Merkel)

Despite circumstances were ok only, but not optimal: Weather was quite heavy the first days. Lovely for a boy’s tour on the boat. But with wind around 5-6 Bft first three days, for a first family trip a bit less wind would have been sufficient.

I admit I was quite nervous when we started out in the marina of Breege during strong winds, occasional heavy rain beating down on me at the wheel and an unknown area around as well as an unknown boat under my feet.

However, I was very impressed on the good moral and maritime capability of my small crew, with Mrs. Woodpecker being an excellent first officer, steersman and boat handler at my side plus our two young captains!

So after one or two days the tension and my initial nerviness dwindled away and gave way to this deeply satisfying feeling you get if you do something that you really love, something that challenges you, while being accompanied by people you love.

Weather gradually got better too and so we had a fantastic tour around the island within one week. As described in the other post, we tried to adjust our pace and activities to the demands of the kids – and the kids in return loved being on the boat, seeing new places, exploring small fishing harbours, little towns and beaches when we were moored.

And soon we noticed that kids and boats are perfectly fine – as did dozens of families around us. Actually the area is very famous for family sailing, partly because it offers a lot of protected bays with reduced exposure to waves and weather.

Only drawback was that this was much to short a trip and necessary mileage per day to circumvent the island was slighty too high – so the plan now is to do an even more relaxed two weeks tour next year in the Mediterranean Sea.

Costs: Around 1100 EUR for the boar charter plus 250 EUR spending on food and marina fees.

This is not cheap, but for a family of four and an unforgettable experience, it’s not over the top either. Especially when you think about what others spend on their holiday air fares already.

The boring kids hotel would have been more expensive 😉

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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Hover for caption, click to enlarge:

ps. Next post takes us to Poland – Germany’s eastern neighbour, where we continued our round trip – by car not by boat unfortunately…

You got kids, or thinking of having some, but love adventure? Just go for both!

Boat at Seebruck harbour.

Boat moored at Seebruck harbour.

Having two little boys around like Woodpecker’s definitely changes they way you live.

Kids are no machines and do not function like machines. However hard modern society seems to try to force them into the tact of modern economy, they very often happily resist these attempts. Kids show us in a refreshing way that the natural state of living is not about looking at the watch and reaping “profit” as efficiently and as quickly as possible, but about taking your time, concentrating on the here and now, enjoying your body, nature, the beauty of the world and let yourself not be hasted by calendars, clocks or duties.

In fact, there is no such thing as a “duty” to a small kid, except enjoying themselves. What a good life!

Needless to say that downshifting – however much recommended to anyone – is absolutely mandatory once you have kids.

It is a real and shameful waste of some of the potentially best years of your adult live when you just continue your race in the thread-mill once your kids arrived to this beautiful world. And it would be something you very likely will heavily regret on your deathbed – as millions have done already: “Spending much more time with family and friends” and “much less time working on a career”, is one of the most frequent statements of dying people throughout the world when asked what they would like to change in hindsight.
What a tragedy to recognise this only in your last hour!

However, for many people the thought of kids is very much connected to abdication of control and freedom.

Although some of that is true (some things will not be possible to you for some time – though for some limited time only), Woodpecker, as a outdoor and travel-maniac is very glad to have found out that one thing still is possible:

Doing adventures, thrilling traveling and varying endeavours are possible with kids as well as without!

There is absolutely no need to stay at home, to spend all your free time at grandparents only or in one of this awful and non-frugally overpriced family hotels with full-time care for the little ones (so that again you don’t have to spend time together).

Only ingredients you need to experience something special are:

Lunchbreak at Frauenchiemsee (an island).

Lunchbreak at Frauenchiemsee (an island).

  • Faith in your kids,
  • Understanding of their needs, and
  • Time, time, time!

Recent proof from the Woodpecker’s tribe was a two days overnight sailing trip on a small rental yacht on lake Chiemsee.

A fantastic lake next to the towering mountains, big enough to have some sailing fun, but small enough to offer a secure and save “testing-ground” before going something more sportive.

And what fun it was!

The kids were quite fascinated about the different way the world looks from a boat, they loved to sleep all together in its cave like cabin and the elder one found some fun in taking the ruder as well (which was way larger than he is) – although any cop would have taken us for drunkards when looking at our sailing path then ;).

I was not so sure if all would work out that well, because only two adults on board plus two kids means scarce resources to do all the stuff that has to be done on a boat. But again I was proven wrong, and chances are that Woodpecker can continue his beloved hobby also in the circle of his beloved family! Hurray to that!

You are not a sailor and don’t care a damn about Woodpecker’s little lake adventures?

Well, no problem, here is the good news:

The above holds true for about any other of your hobbies and fondness as well!

  • Small kids can climb mountains with you (you might have to carry them on your back though).
  • Small kids can be taken on a bicycle trip from Paris to Istanbul (although you might have to carry them in a trailer).
  • Small kids can join you on a trek trough Africa in a Unimog (and enjoy it!).
  • Kids can go uphill ski-tours with you (from maybe the age on 12 on).
  • You can to a “mens/women only” weekend city trip with your 3-year-old (see Woodpeckers father and son trip to Vienna).
  • You can take your kids to surfing, riding, kayaking, cooking, museums (or boy loves museums), theater (well not at age 3 though) and so on.
  • You can drive by car to the end of turkey or Sicily or you can take them to a backpacking trip through Mexico.

These all are real examples I have seen or done and all of them worked well!

The thing is:

You need TIME, you have to adjust the pace of all the above needs to the kids rhythm, and you have to build in kids specific features.
E.g. on a sailing trip you sail 4-5 hours per day instead of 8, you make a lot of stops for swimming, you construct funny things to tow behind the boat, you tell tales of pirates and discoverers, you do a water-fight on deck and frequent land excursions.
In other words you simply do what you loved your father/mother to do when you were a kid.

And then you can do everything. Kids are quite robust, they lived in caves and rode on horses with our ancestors, they seem to stand heat or humidity better than I do (because I am the guy who has to carry the rucksack…), they have no problem with a lack of luxury or strange foreign people.

It is never the kids who are the limiting factor. It is the parents.

It is parent’s stress, their lack of time and faith, their impatience that is limiting your family!
Downshift, overcome these factors and you will have a great time. And your kids will have a fantastic childhood!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Take Time for your Passion and Happiness will follow!

Lake Starnberg with thunderstorm. Woodpeckers sailing seasons opening weekend - two days weather like this, but FUN it was!

Lake Starnberg with thunderstorm approaching. The sailing season opening weekend – two days sh** weather like this, but great FUN it was!

Hurray!

I was not very ambitious on new year resolutions, but one of them:

Signing up for a sailing club

is accomplished.
Woodpecker had his first two days of Sailing at Lake Starnberg this weekend.

And what a great weekend we had!
It was quite bad weather, cold, stormy, rainy and with some pretty heavy wind gusts in-between. Of the 15 boats we went out with, three(!) overturned, leaving 7 people quite soaked to the showers. One mast broke and a shroud was ripped apart in a wind gust (a very rare event). And Woodpeckers boat was rammed twice(!) by the same beginner (…what did I do him that he was chasing us so hard?!?), leaving two quite unattractive dents in the wooden port side deck. We all were shivering and exhausted by the end of the days, but almost everybody with that frozen smile in the face, saying: “When do we go out again?”.

So, it was FUN!
(…and boy am I glad that I don’t own the poor boats)

But wait a second:

Sailing? Club? Starnberg?

Woodpecker, are you stupid? Did you leave the road of frugal living? Sailing is a posh and expensive sport, isn’t it? For the rich, the spenders and others who don’t know how to get rid of their money.
And Lake Starnberg! – the most expensive area around Munich, full of millionaires and other price-insensitive folk.
That doesn’t sound like a good treat to your budget, does it?

Well, interesting enough, as most times in life, there is a way to combine fun and cost saving:

In this case, I found out about the University sailing club, and an option to sign up as an Alumni with them!

Total cost per sailing day: 12 EUR!
That is for a day from 9-5. After theory, briefing, preparing the boats, lunch break, debriefing and securing the boats in the evening, this leaves about 5 hours of sailing, or 2,50 EUR per hour on the water.
This is incredibly cheap. For comparison: At lake Ammersee you pay about 30 EUR per hour for a rental small boat – and those are scrappy and old barges compared to the nice and well-kept wooden boats of the university.

Plus the University sailing club comes with a beautiful and centrally located own lake site, an own harbour, several different types of boats, most in a great condition, plus schooling rooms, a small dockyard, two motor boats for support and rescue, showers, changing rooms, food area and a variety of trainings and courses for free!

And the best of all:
It comes with a load of young, motivated and non-money focussed people sailing together with Woodpecker!  This really is important, as it was a major donwturner to me that many commercial sailing club around Munich seem to attract mostly elderly and money-soaked posh people (this does not at all hold for sailors in general, but unfortunately often for clubs around Munich).

Obviously the University club comes with different rules – all of them very much appreciated by a downshifter, but not so much maybe for a career-driven consume-optimizer:

  1. You have to sign up well in advance for courses and commit to dates. You can only do whole weekends, two times 9-5.
    No problem for a downshifter with enough of time available. Sure a problem for the career-optimizer where work always goes first and weekends are desperately needed to sleep or do household stuff.
  2. You can do spontaneous half-days as well, but only on Wednesdays starting from 16:00.
    See bullet above.
  3. You don’t own your own boat but share the club boats.
    Well, perfect. In most cases sharing is much more economic, plus see above what can happen to the poor things! You want to be on your own pulling overturned boats out, tossing them to land, repairing damage and so on? Me not.
  4. You have to prepare and store away everything by yourself, including sail drying, little repair works etc.
    Fantastic! Part of the fun is to really work with the material instead of being a simple consumer of services.
  5. You are encouraged to help out at frequent occasions. Be it helping the carpenter in the dockyard for a day, instructing beginners, later becoming an official trainer or preparing a party, whatever. In return you are allowed to rent out boats outside the courses later on.
    Man! That’s great! Excactly the model I appreciate. People volunteer on different things they are good at to the benefit of everybody. And you are in-between the action and the community. Much better than dedicating the woodwork to an employee and only sit dully on your deck having champagne, isn’t it?

So let’s see where this is going, but I am quite positive this was one of the best decisions so far this year.

I think in general that’s a good receipt:

Go out, think about your passion, find a way to do it the most cost-efficient way, take time away from work and devote it to your passion. And sooner or later, happiness will follow!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Deciding against Career

The last weeks I have been very busy and my so much appreciated life-work-balance got skewed quite a bit to the wrong side…

Reason was that a team head position became surprisingly vacant in my company and the job description actually happened to fit my professional profile very well. So well indeed that I could not other than starting to think if I want to apply, because my chances seemed quite fair.

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