A few days ago, we stayed at a small local village a few kilometres from Luang Prabang, Laos.
We hiked up to the middle of the mountain to meet our “families” for the night.
We were nervous and anxious about the homestay experience but we left all of our expectations behind and went all in with an open mind.
Everyone was so friendly, they all had the biggest smile on their faces as they greeted us, the children waved and were so curious about us.
This wasn’t our first homestay but this was certainly the most authentic experience we’ve had.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve observed the simple life in the countryside, after six weeks of travelling by boat, bus and train – we’ve been able to catch glimpses of rural living. Amongst all the countries we’ve been to so far, they’ve all been very similar: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
As an outsider, their lives seem to be quite challenging. It seems automatic to compare our lives with theirs but upon reflecting on the differences, I believe that they probably won’t describe their lives as either easy or difficult. Their lives is just how life is. There is a clear acceptance and contentment. What would they compare it to if life is as they know it? I do wonder though that surely, some of them do wonder about the what if’s? What else is out there? What life is like in the city? Is there something better than this? I think it’s human nature to seek and question. What amazed us is their kindness and positive outlook in life.
We stayed in a village with no electricity. They had solar panels installed for the village only to be used for lighting. I only saw one television in the entire village. Out of the 300 people that lived there, 80 we’re school-aged kids who all went to the local village school with the most basic of resources. Most people are farmers as were their parents and grandparents. They all help each other and work together.
The water pump to access fresh water was only installed in 2014 and they would have to boil it first to be able to drink it. They now also have toilets (squat toilets) as opposed to digging a hole in the ground.
Most westerners will find it surreal and confronting that a lot of people, in this day and age, still live in such conditions with the most basic of resources.
We’ve been fortunate to experience it firsthand. We stayed with a local family overnight and it was a real eye opener. It was such a great opportunity to use our experience to reflect about our lives back home. We have the best of everything but yet, we are all stressed out, quick to anger, nothing is ever enough and constantly overcomplicating our lives.
The kids at the village haven’t even seen a mobile phone/smart phone let alone an iPad. They were playing outside, running around and were perpetually happy. The adults seemed content and focused on providing and caring for their families and neighbours. Everyone helped each other, without any expectation of anything in return.
I had pictured in my mind what a simple life would be like and I saw it in their eyes and in their actions. They all lived a simple life that I once only dreamed of.
From what I have seen and experienced, it reinforced my commitment to strive for a minimalist life. A life of consciously choosing to keep things that is of value to our lives and removing everything else that is a distraction. A life focusing more on what I have rather than what I do not. A life choice of pure bliss and happiness.
Smile more. Complain less.