Five years ago I was quietly living in a small 1100 square-foot home just outside my native hometown of Austin, Texas. I was doing my utmost to live simply amidst the rapidly increasing consumer culture of America. The mortgage on my simple Zen home was $1100 per month.
Two years later I purged approximately 70% of my possessions and downsized to a 450 square-foot apartment in the center of Austin for the same $1100 monthly. That was my first step toward a much simpler way of life.
At that point, all my utilities and internet were included in the $1100 rental and I no longer carried the added burden of a yard to maintain and all of the additional responsibilities of home ownership, not to mention the endless list of things that could go wrong on an 80-year old home out in rural Texas. I still owned a car, which ran me $425 per month before insurance and gas, equaling roughly half of my housing expense.
In 2019, I took a mindful leap into the greater unexplored world by moving to Kyoto, Japan for a year to fully immerse myself into Japanese culture. I further purged my possessions down to a handful of boxes which I stored at my parents’ home.
I serendipitously found a tiny Japanese house for rent on Craigslist for $650 per month, all utilities included, just a couple of narrow cobblestone blocks away from Kyoto’s lush Imperial Gardens, the original ancient capital and center of all Japan. There was no need for a car, as I could easily walk or bike everywhere in Kyoto.
If inspired, I could catch a train just around the corner from my small house and be in Tokyo for dinner if I left first thing in the morning.
That year, I walked over 600 miles, covering every back alley and side street of Kyoto. I had taken another step in further simplifying my life and had even further reduced my budget while living the most epic and transformational year of my life in the ancient spiritual city, where I studied tea ceremony, Zen Meditation, Japanese calligraphy and painting, and was on a quest to find the most delicious ramen in Kyoto.
When I returned to the U.S. in 2020, I was met head on with the pandemic and what would become the worst year in history for many of us in our lifetimes. I was no exception. For 15 long months I spent my days tirelessly trying to plug myself back into the “American way” of doing things.
Seeking meaningful work became my full-time job, as well as searching for a very small and simple place to live in a city that had seen a 43% rise in housing prices in one year. It became abundantly clear that this was a recipe for living that would no longer work for me and the simple way of life I had now grow deeply accustomed to.
In an unexpected stroke of serendipity and good fortune, I was offered an opportunity to spend three months in Costa Rica managing eight Airbnb rentals for friends along the beautiful Guanacaste coast during the quiet rainy season. It was a beautiful season of simplicity and recovery after such a disorienting year in America.
This is my reflective account of those three meditative months and my step into the world of becoming a nomad.
At the time of this writing, I have now been in Central America for over a year and have no plans to return to the American way of life. I have spent six of those months living on a mountaintop in Boquete, Panama among the coffee farms and indigenous Ngabe Bugle people.
I now write from a 300 square-foot casa on a mountaintop at the edge of a rainforest from the central valley town of Ciudad Colón. I am down to one bag, my most essential basics and a few books.
These are my total possessions as I now move through the world. There is something freeing and yet also knowing wherever I land the space will be mostly empty. So far, I don’t find myself missing anything amidst all of the experiences, stories and people I meet along the way.
These writings capture my slow, quiet, rainy months, on the majestic, tranquilo stretch of beach surrounded by the Blue Zone of Costa Rica. 80 days. Immersing myself in nature, I adapted to her rhythm.
About the Author
Kirk Lee is a Writer, Meditation teacher and nomad currently living in Costa Rica. Kirk has been an explorer on the journey for over 25 years having traveled to 14 countries culminating in a year living in Kyoto, Japan. Kirk writes about travel through the lens of simplicity and kindness to be found in people and places of every culture. Explore Kirk’s travel journals at https://zenandink.substack.com/