I have the terrible habit of re-reading old diary entries. I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, through happy times as well as the darkest times in my life, and I’m terrified that Giac will actually keep faith to his promise of publishing all my journals when I’m dead. (The fact that he’s so sure I’ll go first should probably scare me.)
A while ago I was tidying up the chest I keep all my journals in, and inevitably I ended up leafing through a few of them, including the one I was compiling just before moving to New Zealand. Since I had never been, I could only imagine what this place would look like, which was reflected in pages and pages of couldn’t-be-further-away-from-reality expectations. In my ignorant eyes, New Zealand was the place of never-ending summers, where I would live off coconuts and pineapples in my mansion on the beach.
One thing I got right, though, was that in New Zealand I would be away from temptations. That I knew: New Zealand was not going to be the same as London.
During my five years in the UK, I was constantly bombarded with ads and commercials wanting me to buy stuff; shops and malls were everywhere, promoting thoughtless consumerism. When I lived in Stratford I literally had to walk through Westfield, aka the largest shopping centre in freaking Europe, every single day on my way back home.
I’m contemplating this as I apply a nail polish that I probably grabbed without much thinking during an unplanned trip to Boots over lunch break. This would be a common occurrence in my previous London life: on any given day I would be highly likely to walk into Boots/Superdrug/Paperchase/Lush/H&M/you name it and buy things I didn’t need just because I could.
If I think about any of the possessions I acquired since I’m in New Zealand, none of them has been purchased on a whim.
First of all, I don’t have a stable income now, which is enough to prevent me from impulse-buying anything without mulling it over for weeks first.
Secondly, shopping in new Zealand is lame anyway. I simply don’t like any of the shops here (all three of them). All the chains like Glassons or Factorie, not to mention the infamous Warehouse, sell cheap, poorly made, unethical clothing I don’t want to have anything to do with. There is no such thing as Boots. Makeup is ridiculously expensive. Top Shop landed in Wellington and closed down in the space of less than a year. The first H&M in New Zealand is opening in EIGHTEEN DAYS OMG and although I will admit I am annoyingly excited about that I am also prepared for it to evaporate as swiftly as it appeared as soon as people realise how overpriced it’s going to be #livingonanisland
In my journal entries, I was well aware of my problem with consumerism, and expressed my trepidation of being about to move away from temptations. However, now that I’m here, I’ve experienced something strange. I remember, during my first months in New Zealand, being extremely annoyed by the lack of things. Even in Auckland, the biggest city in the country, I was disappointed with the absence of theatres and museums and shops. I mean, they were there, but they weren’t cool. They were nothing like London. And in spite of me thinking I was ready for this, once in New Zealand I found out that I really wasn’t.
I missed buying things. I missed cool shops like Whole Foods, Ikea, Waterstones and R.E.I. (I’ve been to the States a bunch of times). And those that did make it to New Zealand, like Lush or Lululemon, were so overpriced they brought tears to my eyes.
Fast-forward to now. I’ve been living in New Zealand for over a year. I’ve travelled for a few months, lived in a van, carried all my possessions in a backpack. I got very much into ethical living, Zero Waste, conscious consumerism. I gradually stopped being drawn towards what I would once consider temptations. When I walk down the main street in Welly and I pass shops and boutiques, all I see is useless stuff I don’t even want.
Back in London I would observe people’s outfits and wonder where I could get those clothes and wished I could look like that. Now I can’t help but notice that everybody’s wearing the same Katmandu raincoat and the same Adidas Stan Smiths and all I can think about is how I don’t want to conform to this sad homogeneity or to contribute to a fashion industry that promotes child labour and global warming.
As a result, I have become very frugal. I have bought things, but not without carefully considering if I actually wanted them and where they came from. I pretty much only shop second hand. I haven’t bought a single piece of makeup since I’m here.
And I freaking love it.
I’m pretty sure the initial phase of desperately wanting to buy and consume stuff was a reaction to finding myself in a completely different scenario that I wasn’t ready for, actually realising how freaking far away New Zealand is from everything else, and missing London a lot.
But I got over it, and now I really enjoy living simply. I don’t mind not having fancy kitchenware or house decorations. I’m happy that I can fit all my clothes in the wardrobe without the need for extra storage. Going out to eat has become a treat. I only pay to go to the cinema for films that I really want to see. I check out books from the library instead of buying them (although I have to admit I haven’t completely adjusted to this last one just yet). I still want a stable income but I want it because so I can put money in the saving to go travelling, not because I want to splurge on things I don’t really need.
I’m not saying I completely detached myself from the world of consumerism (a separate post on this is coming soon), but living away from temptations has definitely taught me that you don’t need a lot of stuff in your life, and that a lot of the things you want are probably not things you need. And if I personally surround myself with things I don’t need, I’ll probably end up getting rid of them anyway, so why purchasing them in the first place?
(Having said all this, I also have a list of things I want to buy when I’m in Europe over Christmas. But they are all things I really want and need. But this is a whole other story.)