Book Review & Q/A | The High Maintenance Minimalist by Kashlee Kucheran

24831448_10159766687550008_97228517933444901_o.jpgMinimalism. Have you seen the documentary on Netflix? Yes, no, maybe so? If you have, did it make you think any differently about all the stuff you own? If you haven’t, I’d recommend it – not in a “change your life” kind of way, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.

Movie recs aside, this next book is one of a kind. Serendipity introduced me to the author. One email led to another and we connected – me in California, the author in Bali. In her newest book, The High Maintenance Minimalist, Kashlee Kucheran explores the world of minimalism from the perspective of having it all and realizing that doesn’t bring about true happiness. She and her husband, Trevor, got rid of 90% of their worldly possessions in exchange for the freedom of being able to travel anywhere and everywhere in the world (seriously, how cool is that?).

I read this book in less than 24 hours. I know I’m a bit of a bookworm, but scout’s honor, if a book isn’t compelling, I take much longer than a day to read it. Kashlee’s tone is refreshing, honest, and feels like you’re talking to a girlfriend about how to improve your life in lots of little ways (especially if you’re like me and a little too attached to my makeup trove to give or toss it all away and travel the world with one suitcase like Kashlee).

She may not be a financial expert, psychologist, or have an MBA, but the advice in this book is spot-on to so many things young adults today might be looking for a little guidance, like:

-the mental and emotional effects of clutter, overspending, and consumerism

-buying versus renting and what actually might be a better fit for you depending on your lifestyle and long-term goals (you read that right, buying is NOT always the best option for everyone)

-identifying what makes you happy (personally and professionally) and how to set goals to accomplish those things

-being able to recognize “needing” something from “wanting” something

-the in’s and out’s of saving and investing

-how to go about starting your own business and hacks every entrepreneur should know about

-explaining what a mentor is and how that can help elevate your performance (personally and professionally)

-bucket lists and key (I mean KEY) travel tips

-what it’s like to be a digital nomad (like, no permanent home, a few personal belongings, and never in the same spot around the world for too long)

Throughout the book there’s also a lot of really helpful resources, like: handouts, workbooks, and charts you can fill in to personalize the book to make it yours; as well as a ton of insider’s knowledge about travel tips, money-saving advice, and everything in-between.

I’d go on about the book and how much I enjoyed it, but I figured readers might like a little bit of a different take on my ‘ol book reviews, so I did an interview with the author and asked her questions about The High Maintenance Minimalist! Even if you have zero plans to travel, this book offers so much practical life advice and opportunities for self-reflection, you’d be doing yourself a favor by picking up a copy (I think you’d be surprised by how much you might learn about yourself…I know I was).

Also, definitely thinking ahead, but this would make a rad graduation gift (as well as useful read for anyone doing one of those “backpacking post-grad” trips).

Without further adieu, the Q & A!

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 11.09.25 AM-Where did you get the idea for the workbooks? Do you teach classes that use them? Learned them from another mentor/someone else?

Most of the workbooks were made by creating a system around the very same things I did to go through those steps successfully! I took a look at all the different things I had to learn and take action on to get from point A to point B, and created a template that was easy for others to follow. Over the last decade I have always had some form of mentor in my life, so I am sure each of them has also influenced some part of the workbooks.

-You mention the TD Visa (p. 118) being a good one to travel with & earn points. Do you have any other favorites/things to look for in a good credit card when thinking about traveling/maximizing points?

My travel credit card needs to have the following features:
– A high limit! I know many preach against having high limits, but I am a firm believer in preparation and discipline. I don’t wrack up a balance on the card, but I need to know I could if it was an absolute emergency.
– Automatic travel insurance. My card gives me 22 full days of travel health insurance each time I leave Canadian soil, automatically without me having to set it up. Then when I am abroad, I can easily call and top it up if I want to stay away longer.
– Airline perks. Since I spend a lot of time in airports, I like my card to have features like fast track lanes and airport lounge passes. Nobody likes security lines!
– A companion card. I issued my husband Trevor a companion card on my same account so we are wracking up points twice as fast.

-You’ve traveled to so many places. How do you find the best places to eat, stay, and see? You mention enjoying eating like the locals-how do you figure out where those places are?

I am a bit of a review addict. I have the Trip Advisor app on my phone and it’s my go-to, especially with hotels. Reviews tell a LOT about a place, especially if all the bad ones are during a certain time or on a certain subject. If reviews are showing a lot of recent food poisoning warnings, I will steer clear, but if it’s just ONE food poisoning review out of hundreds, I figure that person was probably drunk and I don’t let it effect my decision.
I always make sure to leave my OWN review after I stay or eat somewhere because I know how crucial it’s been to my decision making process.

With restaurants, the best way to find out where the locals eat is just to LOOK! For example, we recently stayed in a beautiful 5 star hotel in Bali called ‘The Trans Resort’, and as amazing as it was, we wanted to experience some culture. We saw a bunch of employees leaving on their dinner break to a small local diner across the street and we just followed them! The food was amazing and it was 80% cheaper than any of the restaurants in the area. If they choose to spend their hard earned money to eat there every day, it must be good!

For attractions, I love to ask people on Facebook! People love to talk about the unique experiences they have while traveling and it’s a great way to connect with people who have ‘been there, done that’.

-How long did it take you to create a job that fits your travel? In the book you discuss the various hats you wear, from writing articles for travel sites, to coaching/mentoring. What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out and wants to carve out something like this?

My husband and I both worked at our businesses for about 2 years before they were at a point that we would pay the bills, budget for travel, and save for the future.
The beginning is always the hardest!

My advice for anyone starting a business is just to keep moving forward and taking daily action to grow your brand. Each time you stop or change directions is just another day you’re not moving any closer to your dream. Even when it seems hopeless or impossible, keep taking action.

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 11.08.23 AM-Okay, let’s talk about purging stuff. You mention Facebook groups as a great place to sell things. Anywhere else? How’d you find information on how to price things to sell? (stares at credit card statement with monthly storage unit fees).

LOL! Selling stuff is one of my favourite things to do! I completely became hooked once I realized how easy it was and how much more FREE I felt with less crap in my life! For many things I didn’t know how to price, I looked up similar items on eBay, Facebook buy/sell groups and other online selling sites. If I saw that most people list and successfully sell a pair of used stilettos at $20, then that is what I would aim for. I found by pricing items slightly under what other people were pricing at, I would make a much faster sale.

It was also a lot of trial and error! There have been times I posted something and it would get dozens of comments of “I’ll take it!” within seconds. That taught me I priced it a little low! On the flip side, if I posted something over and over again and it never sold, the price was obviously too high! I would cut it by at least 25% and re-post until it was gone.

-You mention an app that transfers cash to credits cards (p. 199). What app is that? Speaking of apps, any favorites while traveling?

It’s just my bank’s app (TD Bank). My checking account and my credit card account is with the same bank, so I just log into the app to drag and drop the money right after I make a purchase!

The other apps I use constantly while travelling are:
– DUFL. So I have access to my closet worldwide
– Seatguru. Because I don’t want to get stuck on a long flight in a crappy seat that doesn’t recline.
– TripAdvisor. I can look up reviews, addresses and prices of hotels, attractions and restaurants.
– ALL the hotel comparison apps. I like to check them all like a psychopath to try and get the best hotel price.
– Duolingo. Might as well learn how to say a few words in the country I am visiting!

-What’s your favorite warm climate that you’ve visited? Cold climate?

Favorite warm climate would have to be Ecuador and Bali! Both have high humidity and strong sunshine! I absolutely love humid air, it makes my skin and hair look on point!

Cold climate? Well I basically escape the cold for a living now, but if I had to pick, I would say British Columbia. The snow covered Rocky Mountains are breathtaking and it’s not a wet, bone chilling cold out there.

19693645_10158894343255623_5204325648018125494_o-What’s the craziest splurge you and your husband (individually or collectively) made prior to becoming minimalists?

Mine was my wardrobe! In the house I had built a few years ago I designed a closet to hold over 80 pairs of shoes along one wall. You could say it was major #shoegoals, but it was also major money wasted on trying to impress others. Sure, I still LOVE shoes, but no one builds a big shoe wall just for themselves. It was a status thing and once I realized what a waste of money and energy it was, I came back down to earth and got real with myself.

For Trevor, it was his truck. A few years ago when we first got together, he bought this brand new truck with every single bell and whistle possible. Again, it was more of an ego buy than a necessity. Yes, all of those luxurious options are comfortable, but in retrospect he wishes he hadn’t shelled out $60k for them.

-Being minimalists, do you still exchange gifts with your spouse/family/friends for holidays and birthdays? If so, how do you store them/find them? If not, why?

I LOVE this question! Trevor and I are so horrible at celebrating holidays because we do not do the typical gift exchange. So be honest, we really don’t NEED anything, so it’s difficult to spend money for no reason. Also, with always being on the road, we have no idea where to find certain items even if we did want to shop for each other. Instead, we will try and celebrate special occasions with taking time off work (and our PHONES which is rare) and we might stay in a 5 star for a few nights or treat one another to an excursion or experience. I find holidays so much more memorable when I can tie them an event instead of a ‘thing’.

We realize not everyone wants to live the same way we do, so we will still buy things for family once in a while, although we prefer to make their gifts experienced based as well. We do have a bit of a tradition with Trevor’s sister and brother in law. We bring them back a magnet from each city we visit, along with a story, and fill up their fridge anytime we are visiting home! It’s a really fun way of sharing our adventures with close family.

My goal in life is to one day be able to rent a huge house in tropical location and say to our entire family, “Here are your plane tickets, this is the address, come enjoy a week off ON US!”. Our entire family and especially our parents deserve something like that and we are saving up to be able to make it happen.

20157733_10159124178865008_9206246088728391189_o-Shoes. They’re pretty to look at but even more important to have a sturdy pair or two while traveling (p. 125). Favorite kind/brand/style?

I used to be ‘that’ girl who was always in high heels. (I swear they must have been super glued to my feet!) Those days are long gone and far behind me, because they’re just not practical enough for full time travel. I have a pair of moderately high black pumps in my bag at all times, but that is about it! The rest of the time I am in flip flops, flats, sneakers, or maybe the occasional wedge.

For heels, I always love the way Steve Madden fits my feet, plus they are super comfy and seem to last a long time without paying big bucks.

Flip flops, I did splurge on Sanuks, but I really can’t tell the difference between them and $10 flip flops.

Flats, I tend to go cheap and throw in my own gel insert. Flats seem to get ruined and scuffed up pretty quickly, so I don’t invest to much in them.

Boots- This is where the real ‘high maintenance’ comes out in me. 6 years ago I invested in a pair of brown leather Gucci riding boots and they still look and feel amazing! If I am anywhere that is slightly cold weather, those things are on my feet! I could walk all day in them and they are such a classic style that will live on for years to come.

-While traveling, it’s not all pretty instagrams and good times. Have you ever gotten sick abroad or had something not good happen? I know the book covers this a bit, but what would you say helped you cope the most/something new travelers should be aware of or have on hand to deal with the situation? I know for me, trying new foods is always a precarious adventure that even a bottle of immodium and sprite can’t fix.

You hit the nail right on the head with that! We have both gotten food poisoning TWICE in the last 3 years, and I’m not talking about the ‘oh my stomach hurts’ version. I’m talking about the lying on the floor, haven’t left the bathroom in 48 hours, ‘I’m pretty sure this is the end” kind of food poisoning. It can happen anywhere, but it’s definitely more common in developing countries.

We have bad or uncomfortable things happen to us constantly. We get sick and there are no pharmacies in sight. My Gropro was stolen right out of my hotel room in London. One morning in Mexico I woke up with face face swollen shut looking like Quasimodo, another time with strange brown spots all over my hands and back. Travellers diarrhea and jet lag are constant battles. Oh yeah, and then there was the time I was robbed at gunpoint in Nicaragua!

You would think we would be jaded, but it’s really the opposite! I would rather have the flu lying under a palm tree than having the flu stuck in a stuffy office ANY DAY.

-Let’s talk about failure (p. 139). Best piece of advice about it or biggest failure you’ve had that’s taught you the most/been the best learning experience?

Failure is such a blessing in disguise. In the moment it truly hurts, but in retrospect it always did more good than harm. Any time in my life where I have ‘failed’, its really just been a course correction or building block to a better future. No exceptions. Every single failure has made me a more capable and experienced person who is better off because of the experience.

Hitting rock bottom felt like the biggest failure of my life, but it was ultimately my saving grace and has allowed me to pursue my passions instead of working in a career that was killing me.

22538685_10159533468905008_282375376953510976_o-Mentors. You use them and you are one. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given as a mentor? What the best thing (or two) you’ve learned from your own mentors over the years?

It’s hard to say what the best piece of advice I have ever given is, but I can see what kind of direction can really help someone. I do well with lifting the curtain for people as they are building up a new business or trying a new way of life. At the beginning there is so much uncertainty, brain fog, and fear of taking the next step. I love being able to give a clear plan and actionable items for people to take them from where they are now, to where they ultimately want to be!

To put it more simply, I am a great life/business blueprint maker. Give me your goals and I can give you the map to get there.

Having mentors over the last decade has given me so many tools for running my own business and traveling the world. There are times when I think I wouldn’t be where I am without all the constant personal development.

Recently a great lesson I’ve learned from my mentor, Boss Babe CEO Natalie Ellis, is to think/plan LESS and take action MORE. I think we can all get stuck in the comfort of hiding behind our big ideas and dreams and forget to take immediate action on them. Natalie always reminds me to just DO the thing I am thinking about and fine tune the details later. Time moves too fast and the world changes too quickly to stand still on one spot and hope for the best!

-Bucket lists. We all have them and your list on p. 169 is so good. Have you checked anything off it yet? Added anything to it recently?

I am hoping to scratch at least 3 things off my bucket list in 2018 and I am currently in the process of adding more! Bucket lists are so much fun because they allow you to really dig deep inside yourself and come up with super creative events to strive towards.
If you are reading this and you currently don’t have a bucket list, stop everything and make one now!

26850743_10159961585375008_4457564326288658521_o-Creeping for good deals (p. 171). How do you do it and what tips do you have for noobs that haven’t mastered the creeping game yet?

The best way to start is just by getting your hands dirty! It takes a LOT of time and effort to find amazing deals, but I believe it’s worth every second.

Let’s say you are looking to get the best price on a certain hotel on your bucket list. First, find out when the ‘off’ season for that hotel is and see if your travel plans can still work with those dates. Next, open up every hotel booking site you can think of! Expedia, Trivago, Last Minute Travel, Booking, Hotels Combined, Agoda, Hotels Quickly, etc and check each the prices on each site. While your comparing booking sites, also search for coupon codes to see if you can make the price any lower!

This is literally what I do every time before booking a hotel reservation and it’s saved me tons of money!

-After all of this traveling, do you have an end game to settle? Thinking back to the chapter on home ownership…do you and your husband have an end date for being digital nomads?

Such a good question! As much as I love travelling and being a digital nomad, if there came a time when it no longer made me happy, I would stop. We have plans to travel for at least the next 10 years, but we aren’t going to hold ourselves to that, because we think it would be a stubborn and naive way to approach life. The whole reason for us to sell everything and live differently was to do more of what makes us happy and stop living by such strict rules, so we don’t want to start putting new ‘rules’ on ourselves.
If 10 years is up and we still have more exploring to do, then we will continue on our journey!

I have a feeling one day we might find a piece of paradise and buy a house (with cash of course!), but we are content playing that by ear.
Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 11.10.10 AM

If you want to connect with Kashlee and learn more about her and Trevor’s adventures around the world, you can find them here:




All photos used with permission from The High Maintenance Minimalist and Kashlee Kucheran.

Author: 2LWithIt

Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.

2 thoughts

  1. Loved reading this! I definitely need to work on becoming more of a minimalist myself… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. So glad you enjoyed reading it! I’m trying to do the same, but it’s definitely a gradual process. If it’s any consolation, the author didn’t do it overnight either (and only recently did she go from two suitcases while traveling to just one), so keep working on it! Thanks for reading!

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