Learning to Live With a Little

No Costco or Vons nearby, but visual feasts of natural beauty!

After more than 5 months in the atolls, I came to understand a bit more what it’s like to live without all the choices and abundance to which we in the US are accustomed. Life on a circular strip of coral in the middle of the Pacific is not all swaying palms and rosy sunsets. The Puamotu people couldn’t get by without a wealth of courage, creativity, maybe most importantly, a sense of humor! One of my intentions for visiting this region was to experience living with less for an extended period of time….

While provisions ran low, spirits remained high! I found it refreshing not to have the option to buy a bunch of stuff I really don’t need. It’s fun to be resourceful with what’s available. I don’t deny missing certain foods–especially fresh fruit and veggies (more specifically arugula and blueberries!)—but in another sense, it was centering to have limited options at hand. I enjoyed the challenge of making tasty culinary concoctions mostly straight from the local environment. Hearts of palm salad with a homemade vinaigrette was a favorite, along with the local staple–‘poisson cru’– raw fish with lime and coconut milk. From time to time I found someone selling veggies out of their garden–always a welcome surprise. I became an efficient bread-maker, and I came to think of making bread as a noble activity that connects me to all of bread-making and bread-breaking history… I even learned how to make yogurt–it’s SO EASY!? My first batch left me feeling a mix between astonished and ashamed to have been buying those individual plastic yogurt servings all these years! I’ll post a yogurt ‘how-to’ soon…

All in all, I learned that ‘living with a little’ made me appreciate even little things a whole LOT. My life feels richer when I can appreciate the simple joys!

Simple joy: hot bread with butter! I had to cook my bread in a pan, while my oven was broken…first ingredient: love.

It became clear that atolls are prime candidates for using wind and solar energy. In 5 months, I used less than 1/2 gallon of gasoline in the generator for Swell’s daily energy requirements–including refrigeration, lights, computer, music, water pump, etc. The solar panels and wind generator were constantly pumping amps into the batteries. There is so much wind and sun! As for transportation, approximately 12 gallons of gasoline and 8 gallons of diesel were burned between my outboard and inboard motors, probably less than I’d burn in a week in California! Clothes washed by hand. No vacuums or electric kitchen appliances…just good ol fashion broom and whisk.

Without mountains to block the wind, nor attract clouds, the solar panels and wind generator provided more than enough power for my electrical needs!

My lettuce varieties, radishes, spinach, and bok choy grew surprisingly well…until the stormy 6 day passage to Marquesas.

The native noni fruit was highly utilized in traditional local medicine. A woman showed me how to ferment it, extract the juice, boil it lightly, and then drink a few ounces every few days to help detoxify the body.

And of course, plenty of fresh fish…you just have to know which NOT to eat! This tuna made for a week's worth of meals, even after giving half away.

Living simply can be a true pleasure and a daily adventure wherever you are!