The Art of Trade in a Simple Lifestyle

Can trading versus purchasing simplify your lifestyle? Short Answer: Maybe. This is our latest transaction.

When I want something my mind first concentrates on the benefits of what having that thing will bring to me. I often let these benefits simmer around a bit in the old noggin and my want increases. That thing is starting to manifest itself in my life at that moment. Then I must have it. If I don’t get said thing there will be a hole in all of the newly created wonderful experiences to be.

My rational self then says “what steps do I need to take to get said thing?”. This is the part that flexes my problem solving skills, allows me to use my learned gift of black and red economics and ultimately leads to my success (of having said thing) or my endless loop of want.

This “How do I get what I want?” part used to be much easier for me in my previous life. For example, if I wanted to take a vacation I would use all available resources to research my upcoming vacation, find a place that sold this vacation and pay for it from my bi-weekly paycheck. I got what I wanted. In fact, my first trip to Costa Rica in 1995 happened that way.

Note: Above I sanitized the ‘using my paycheck to pay’ of all the dirty work and stress I went through to get that paycheck to get more quickly to this articles purpose.

Out with the Old in with the New

My new life appears to some to be a simpler lifestyle than my previous. There are times when I wholeheartedly agree with them and in times of want when I vehemently disagree. An example that proves that my life is more simplified is my typical morning. I no longer wake up to an annoying buzz with my mind already racing to the projects of the day. Check Blackberry, shower, put on face art (make-up), find several clothing items that match and haven’t been worn together in at least two weeks, find jewelry that also matches the clothes, answer call and respond to email, feed cat, remember to pick up present for so and so at office and …well you know what I am getting at.

My current mornings don’t ask so much of me. The annoying buzz of my alarm clock has been replaced by the chirping of birds. I really don’t even know what time it is until my dogs start to complain that it is time for a walk around 7. I take the time to check out the sunrise and admire its glow above the silhouette of the mountains and find my way downstairs to start the coffee. Nice right? Almost dreamlike?

The Rub

The one thing that adds friction to this lifestyle is want. If you can not grow it or produce it yourself want needs to be paid for. Wanting to go out for a nice meal becomes increasingly difficult if you don’t have an income. Replacing a corrupt computer is (almost) impossible without the money to pay for it. Adding handmade pieces of art to beautify your house, forget about it when you are cash strapped. Even things generally taken for granted like the electricity bill can be listed in the want category if your wallet is empty. A complete 180. Every person I know that lives here in Costa Rica, on a full time basis, is on some type of budget.

Trading as an Alternative

What do you do? used to be a conversation opener. It suddenly turns into an opportunity when your want overpowers your resources. For example, I received an e-mail from a person that was interested in staying at our farm and inquired about photography classes. Through various friendly e-mails back and forth the fact that he was an IT Director surfaced. Well my pc was becoming more and more a source of irritation and I spent more time fixing it rather than writing on it so I asked the likely guest if he knew anything about tablets. He said he knew quite a lot and droid was great and Would I be willing to trade a photography class in exchange for him bringing down a new tablet for me? Barry said sounds good and we both got what we wanted. Great Success!

We conducted a more sensitive trade recently. This is where the situation goes from simple to pimple, a trade of art. As the negotiator and not the creator this transaction was burdensome,  even after my 20 year sales background. Wikipedia states “The art trade contradicts typical international trade models since it is a culturally significant good and “Definition of perceived value: A customer’s opinion of a product’s value to him or her. It may have little or nothing to do with the product’s market price.” There is also beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some other vague definitions that will never have a proper equation nor an = sign at the end.

So here’s the story, I met Tamara’s husband Casey online through our mutual blog writing. He is responsible for the gem that is A Dull Roar . To escape the rainy season on the Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica he and his family came to stay with us last October. He found value in paying us to rent a cabin in exchange for sunshine and conversation, worked for me. I asked his wife Tamara “what do you do?”. “I am an artist. I’m currently doing mosaics in ceramic” in her abrupt yet strangely romantic Russian accent. She showed me some pictures of her work on her tablet and we perused her website. I loved every picture. “One day” I said “I want you to do a mosaic for me.” knowing full well that we couldn’t afford it until our business started to improve but my want was deep for these beautiful creations.

This year, one year after that conversation, upon finishing the downstairs bathroom I found a perfect place for a mosaic. I had used wood to cover up pipes from the upstairs bathroom where the sides came together and it struck me as a boat shape right away. I thought I could use mosaic to make this look like a boat cutting waves apart and then put crabs and fish and turtles around it to make a Caribbean beach scene. Then, it’s not a protruding sewer line hider it is art!

I sent Casey a message and said “next time you guys come and visit I have a project for Tamara”.  Truth be told I figured that they lived 6 odd hours away and maybe in a couple of years I would have to come up with the money to pay for it. What I didn’t realize is that rainy season had started on the Pacific coast and they were looking for some sunshine. Casey sends ” I think our next available time is in October”. So the plan was set in motion and I had to make a concrete decision that I mentally hadn’t prepared myself for. “Ok” I sent back and I went into my relatively frequent ‘what can I live without for a few months’ conversation with myself.

Then the universe smiled upon me and it turned out that C & T were putting a couple pieces of properties up for sale to gain some travel monies. So Casey writes back “The next time you guys are over this way I would like you to take some pictures of our place”. Do you see what’s happening here? So I send “maybe I could ride back with you and take the pictures then?”. A trade baby was being born. The nitty gritty (to use Casey’s words) was that the two services would just about cancel each other out currency wise.

So here is the picture of our new mosaic. The boat idea didn’t pan out this time as I seemed to be the only one that was gung ho about it but we have this beautiful mot mot mosaic on our kitchen wall. I admire it everyday. Pretty, huh?

bird mosaic

mot mot ceramic mosaic

and in turn here is an interior of Casey and Tamara’s house.

interior house

A lovely house in San Isidro, Zona Sur for sale

Both of these pieces of art had a certain value and we were required to accept this value and make a trade. So even though this was a more delicate process than two things with existing price tags. Two groups were able to come together, provide services to each other and get value out of the exchange. I doubt that ICE (our electricity provider) will accept key lime pies instead of our payment but you have to start somewhere.

A definite upside for us was that C and T came over to stay with me for five days. We talked, we laughed and we even found time for snorkeling and canoeing.

canoe trip

Post work canoe trip

What skills do you have or things that you produce in exchange for things that you want? If you want list them in the comment section and we’ll keep them in mind if the global economy takes a tumble. : )

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