How do you increase your personal capital? Our friends at Retire Early Lifestyle have some advice – read on!
Over the last three decades of financial independence, Billy and I have done some extensive world travel. While we have seen the large cities, the amazing architecture, eaten in some of the finest restaurants and enjoyed museums, plays, and concerts, generally, we are attracted to Village Life.
It might not be that different from the neighborhoods of our childhood days, where we went to the butcher shop and actually knew the owner. He had our meat order memorized, let us know when he had an item that was especially tasty or fresh, and would procure something perfect for the First Communion, graduation or wedding that was being planned.
Fresh vegetables were often grown in our own gardens, or neighbors would collect together and have what is called today – a “Farmer’s Market.”
Neither of my immigrant Grandmothers drove a car – which they called “the machine” – so my own Mother would drive them once a week to their respective favorite cheese and meat shops, vegetable stands and bakeries. I, of course, attended, holding on to the house dress my Grandmothers wore, soaking in all the sights and smells such a journey entailed.
Fast forward to today
Living in a small town like Chapala, Mexico or a village like Panajachel, Guatemala reminds me of those days decades and decades ago.
I know the butchers, the bakers, the cheese and dairy shop owners, the vegetable stand families, the chefs in the restaurants, the waitresses in the coffee houses, and – for the purpose of this story – the lady who owns the Laundromat just up the road.
Johanna, a young, radiant mother of two runs this little shop. She and her employees wash, dry, and fold our laundry, tying up bundles of tee shirts, shorts, handkerchiefs and kitchen towels in neat, ribboned packages. Her prices are double what the Laundromat upstairs charges, but she uses biodegradable soap, and she knows all her customers by name.
An added plus, all her employees know our names too.
Last Christmas, Johanna gave her most regular customers boxes of gourmet chocolates to show her appreciation. She just has that personal touch, and the Expats love her service.
A year or so ago, on one of my busy days, I walked out with my laundry and forgot to pay.
When I returned the following week with my daypack filled with soiled clothing, she gently brought it up that I had forgotten to reconcile my bill! Completely embarrassed, and in my best Spanish, I apologized and cleared my debt. Later that day when I picked my items up, I was so distracted by our animated conversation about how I forgot to pay, that I began walking out once more, without giving her cash.
Oh mi Dios! What is wrong with me?
Johanna was not angry or daunted, and merely said my name and pointed to my outstanding bill.
You can imagine how I felt. Where had I put my mind?
But we both laughed together and I thought to myself “I hope this ‘forgetting business’ doesn’t mean I’m getting old…”
A new challenge
It’s rainy season here in Panajachel, and it’s been pouring liquid sunshine from the sky for weeks. I had slipped into Johanna’s shop in between storms to drop off my bags of laundry and was told by Margarita to comeback at 5pm to collect my clothes.
As the time neared to return to the Laundromat, the rain had not abated and even with the help of a tuk tuk, I would have been drenched the moment I left my front door. I needed to retrieve my clothes, so I called the shop, told the employee who I was and asked if she could send the laundry over to my place and I’d pay her tomorrow.
This was not a problem!
WooHOO! I could stay dry and warm at home and have my package delivered right to my door.
Twenty minutes later, a drenched tuk tuk driver knocked and handed me a large bag of cleaned clothes. I tipped him and thanked him profusely. Later that evening, Johanna called me to be sure I had received my items and I confirmed that I’d pay the following morning.
Personal Capital – Threads of the Heart
My point to sharing this story with you is that one of the most important components of living in a small town is building relationships. This is having Personal Capital to spend when you most need it, like in the examples I gave above.
I can’t imagine walking out of a grocery store in a large city, forgetting to pay my bill and getting very far. Maybe I’d be prosecuted, not forgiven. And yes, when I’m visiting the States I know that Amazon ships directly to any location, and that there are dry cleaners that have home delivery of freshly pressed shirts and suits. But somehow it feels different to me.
Here in these towns where we have chosen to live our lives and build alliances and rapport, there are threads of the heart involved too. It’s a tapestry of experiences and exchanges that makes daily living comforting and less lonely, less cold.
Are you building Personal Capital in your lives too? Then you know it’s a richness that cannot be purchased with money.