UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

My Year of Buying Nothing

That time of being on the road again

By Lee Simpson

Good weather brings on a case of the traveling bug in our house. We had decided to keep trips within the guidelines of my Year of Buying Nothing (YBN). For the sake of loved ones, however, it’s an area that demands more thought.

Ethical decisions are always a matter of balance: what is absolutely right in one situation may be diametrically opposed to correctness in another. For example, my British Columbia-based father, who has lived 91 robustly healthy years, had a heart attack recently. My sister, a geriatric nurse who lives close to him, took time off to help Dad make some lifestyle adjustments, so that he and my amazing stepmum could continue in their home. Both duty and my heart called the shots on this one, as I felt the need to be there, too. I tried to make it as YBN-friendly as possible, though. Using points to get there means that you pay a price in scheduling: an eight-hour trip takes 17. Then I planned the treat of asparagus from my garden. But I ended up ditching my spears and purchasing organic market replacements for an unearthly price (Note to self: three day-old, limp, wilted greens do not say “Happy Fathers’ Day!”). Finally, my sister, who is also a voracious reader, saved me from terminal boredom during the four-airport, 20-hour marathon home by presenting me with an early birthday gift.

The bottom line ethically? I spent that special Sunday holding my Dad’s hand, sharing his favourite fruit cocktail and ice cream while watching soccer. We both silently acknowledged the future, and that day, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Another vacation decision was also a compromise. Great pals and traveling companions enticed us to join them for two weeks in France: they had booked roomy accommodation in Paris and the Dordogne as a celebration of retirement and an anniversary. All we needed to contribute was ourselves, transportation and sous chef skills. It was hard to say “no,” but my supportive husband agreed that this was not the year. We joined them at home for a send-off party instead. It was a wonderful meal with contributions from others of our circle. The music was provided by both guests and hosts — the chords of piano, guitar, accordion and auto-harp consolidating the friendship.

As I approach the halfway mark in YBN, I’m learning something vital about setting priorities for the future. I can live on library books, alone. I never need buy another knickknack. And my wardrobe, currently “archived,” will be sufficient for years to come — with judicious replacements, of course (That blue parka is shedding feathers and I fear banishment from public transport!). Cosmetics are optional extras, and you can dilute, brush and extend just about everything, toiletry-wise, to five-times its labelled life. But I share with my father a restless spirit that is satisfied only by visiting “faraway places with strange-sounding names.” And I’m going to get to them, Dad, and just as I promised, I’ll tell you about it in the excruciating detail that only we love — when we meet again.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image