The Price of Luxury and the Thrill of the Hut

What does it mean to have a home? In the US a home is often defined by a state of ownership. Yet, ownership is simply not enough. There is a constant and mauling competition among home owners to dress it up, make it bigger, add the latest technology, and to strive to have the biggest, nicest, most up to date home possible. It’s a way of life and standard for which we tend to measure success, even if that success means financing everything we own and working the rest of our lives to pay it off.

Traveling into other lands you tend to find that the definition of home changes. It is not so competitive all over the world. There are places where all the homes look pretty much the same. There are places where housing is so limited that most people are thrilled just to have a one room shack to call their own. Pride in one’s belongings is a matter of perception, and there are numerous cultures where the excess of US standards can’t even be fathomed.

While many cultures have modern conveniences and are representative of the type of housing that most of us are used to, they are not quite as large or adorned. Simple apartments can be found all over the world. Tile floors, plain white walls, and rooms just large enough to fit a bed and a dresser into are the usual standard. Throughout much of the Middle East the apartments and homes are built together in buildings that look identical or nearly identical from the outside. Most of the interiors will also look nearly identical. Homes throughout the Middle East are required to have “safe rooms,” which are essentially bomb proof rooms with bolting doors.

Travel south into Africa and you will find a myriad of different types of housing. Some cities resemble the dusty and dry cities most of us have seen on TV. The houses and apartments within these cities are cramped, and often families end up doubling or tripling the number of people intended for one room. Once you leave the cities, however, you are likely to find some rather creative methods of building homes.

For instance, in Omo Valley, Ethiopia tribes are still fashioning homes from natural products found in the wild. Reed thatched roofs and wood structures serve as a single room home for a family. The entire family sleeps on the floor and there can be as many as twenty people in a single hut. The village works together to maintain the integrity of the housing, to provide food for everyone, and to keep everyone safe.

In Yemen, homes are made from bricks and are often fashioned against natural walls of rock or clay. The brick is crafted from a blend of straw, clay, and soil and is strong enough to resist the weather and natural events for at least 500 years. Homes are often limited in size but are a place of honor and love on the inside.

In Peru, you can still find the reed houses that are home to the Uros Tribe. Along the artificial islands that are made of reeds on Titicaca Lake, the homes are crafted using the same reeds. All of their boats are as well. The reeds eventually begin to decay and the family must continue to maintain their housing through the harvesting of fresh reeds.

Malaysia offers one of the most interesting ways of obtaining housing. You build it to float, put it on the water, and live your life as a fisherman. These houses are crafted from wood taken from the Mangroves and are built to be rectangles floating along the water’s edge. Each house that is erected and placed in the water is recognized by the government and can obtain the standard address as well as the needed permits for family housing.

Regardless of where you travel in the world there is a great need for the basics of shelter. Many cultures find that the basics are truly all you need and focus on other aspects of life which make their culture as rich and vibrant as it is. Many in the US have often wondered what it would be like just to throw away the financial obligations that keep us tied to our way of life and look toward something similar. Yet over and over again, something stops the majority from actually doing it. This could mean that deep down we are satisfied with our lifestyle and our competitive housing.

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