Voluntary Simplicity

Despite the obvious stereotyping, this unattributed story of the “Mexican Fisherman and the American Tourist” speaks to us.  Sometimes we make things overly complicated.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

Naxos Greece from the unfinished Temple of Apollo

Naxos Greece from the unfinished Temple of Apollo

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The American then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to an intermediary, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise.”

Catch of the day in the harbour at Naxos in the Greek Cyclades

Catch of the day in the harbour at Naxos in the Greek Cyclades

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?”

“I’d estimate 15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions?…Then what?”

“Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Slow travel, slow food, slow down

Slow travel, slow food, slow down

Now if running a multinational fish processing company is your thing, more power to you.

However, if what you really want to do is fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas, and play guitar with your amigos, then perhaps you don’t need so much to be “set for life.” Maybe you don’t even need to move to Mexico.

4 thoughts on “Voluntary Simplicity

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  4. "No Pension, Will Travel!" with Cheryl + Paul Post author

    These thoughts from a palliative care nurse “Top Regrets of the Dying” seem to agree with the Mexican fisherman: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying
    1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
    2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
    3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
    4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
    5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


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