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I went to Hawaii, and it was hard to come back…

August 23, 2011

We went to Oahu’s North Shore for a vacation last week. Great time, gorgeous location, hard to return.

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Long vacations in beautiful locations always make me think of Thoreau:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

In particular, would it be possible, if I so chose, to retire with what I have now in a beautiful location (such as Hawaii) and live a simple but intellectually rich and fulfilling life? How much would I actually need?

I haven’t done the calculation too seriously (for one thing, it’s tougher to suddenly live the simpler life when you have a child), but I think it actually would be doable. I figure shelter, food, electricity, a good library, and a moderately fast Internet connection (naturally) are all I’d really need. Food and shelter to keep me alive. A library for intellectual engagement and entertainment. And electricity and an Internet connection to allowing programming just for fun.

While some folks argue that our quality of life is declining over our parents, I have to confess that I wonder whether that’s a reaction to more things and more choices being available to people (and thus the need to forgo more things and choices), rather than a reflection of an increase in the cost of our core goods. How many of the things in our lives do we really need vs. just desire? My impression, without actually calculating, is that our core needs are actually more affordable (adjusted for inflation) than they were for our parents (housing prices in Silicon Valley notwithstanding). Good fruits and vegetables are pretty inexpensive. And library cards are still free.

But I’m back. And I haven’t pulled out my calculator to really do the math, and I won’t be building my cabin in the woods quite yet. But I may go hunt down my copy of Walden and give it a re-read.

From → Musings

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