Changing gears: Greg Foyster and Sophie Chishkovsky rode around Australia to explore alternative ways of living.
The old saying money doesn't buy happiness is one that rings true for Greg Foyster and Sophie Chishkovsky, who cycled from Hobart to Cairns in 2012 in a quest to live more simply. Their journey is documented in Foyster's new book, Changing Gears.
“My day job in advertising was a complete contradiction to my values, and one day the realisation hit me that I couldn't live this double life any more,” says Foyster.
Changing Gears is a wake-up call to step back from the daily grind, figure out what is important to you, then re-structure accordingly, based on your personal values. Through their own experiences and discussions with some of the country's leading figures in sustainability and downshifting, they have learned that it is possible to be happier with less.
Greg Foyster and Sophie Chishkovsky rode around Australia to explore alternative ways of living. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
Here they share five key lessons in living a simpler life.
Discover your values
Once you're in tune with your values you can begin the described "growth by subtraction", in which you give up aspects of your lifestyle to allow room to focus on what's really important to you.
Changing gears: Greg Foyster shares his happiness tips. Photo: Michael Fink
“Simple living starts with becoming conscious of your values and trying to live by them. I now have a much lower income but I'm living my values and am much happier,” Foyster says.
“Prioritise some time to step back from the busy-ness of life briefly so you can think big picture, reflect on your priorities and set goals,” suggests Foyster.
Money is time and time is life
Viewing your currency as time makes it easier to prioritise the important aspects of your life.
“When you pay for something, you're not giving up money, you're giving up the time that you'll have to spend working to earn money,” he says.
Foyster suggests calculating your true hourly wage. “Take into account all monetary and time expenses associated with your job and keep that in mind when making purchases. If your real hourly wage is $10, then that $30,000 car you desire is worth 3000 hours of life energy,” he says.
Scale back at work
Although sometimes tempting, quitting your job isn't always the most practical way to live a simpler life. On their adventure, Foyster and Chishkovsky encountered cautionary tales of people who downshifted dramatically only to find they had given up one rat race for another.
Foyster suggests a more moderate approach to downshifting. “If you want to live simply, sometimes it makes sense to work with the existing circumstances of your life, rather than packing up and starting afresh somewhere new."
Dropping back to a nine-day fortnight or even committing to finishing work on time are achievable ways to restore the balance.
Stuff breeds stuff
“The more stuff you have, the more stuff you think you need. It's the modern culture of consumption,” explains Foyster.
On the road, Foyster and Chishkovsky were forced to jettison many of their possessions and ultimately sacrificed their camping stove and even most of their cutlery, using twigs as impromptu chopsticks. “The less we had the less we realised we actually needed,” he says.
“The more things you own, the more things you require to service them. Over that, each additional item usually takes you further away from the human need you want to fulfil, and can in fact have a negative effect.”
It's not where you live, it's how
Like your job, leaving the city in which you live for the purpose of living a simpler life isn't always an option. After their trip, Greg and Sophie returned to Melbourne and initially felt conflicted about this decision.
“We just stick to our principles. We don't own a car and still cycle everywhere and we live in a small place that doesn't use a lot of energy. Our focus is on non-material things, like community and connection, not on money or work. Anyone can still do that in a city.”
Greg Foyster's book Changing Gears is published by Affirm Press and available at all Dymocks stores or online at booktopia.com.au.