For a long time I could stuff everything that I owned into three boxes. It was fantastic. I moved ten times during my early 20s, and each move was a breeze because it would take me about 30 minutes to completely pack up and get out of dodge. Not owning anything provided me remarkable freedom to travel and live anywhere I wanted.
But by the time I was in my late 20s, I started to buy stuff. I was newly married and wanted to set down some roots. Somehow my spending rose proportionally with my income growth. I soon became trapped by the junk I was collecting.
I started to buy nice stuff too. But instead of the nice stuff making me happier, it actually made me more anxious – like how I would internally shriek whenever someone would rest a glass of water directly onto my beautiful wooden coffee table (use a coaster, asshole!).
Owning nice stuff just freaked me out because I was always concerned about what would happen if something bad happened to it.
A few months before my startup was acquired, I created a list of things that I would buy with my newfound wealth. My list included some awesome stuff like: a Tesla Model S; upgraded bedroom set from Room&Board; 60-inch Samsung TV; and other crap – all things that I wanted at one point but couldn’t afford with my meager startup salary.
Then the acquisition went through and something funny happened: the moment I was able to afford all these fancy new items, I no longer wanted any of it. If a ding on my 2005 Honda Accord drives me nuts today, can you imagine what a paranoid freak I would be as a Tesla owner?
I didn’t want to buy new fear into my life.
Rejecting stuff and welcoming experiences
Instead of buying new stuff, my wife and I have decided to invest in experiences.
For the next 6 months, we will be traveling the world in our own version of a walkabout. We have committed to living minimally and will only bring items that can fit into our respective 40-liter backpacks.
When we told our friends and family about our plan, we saw a lot of skeptical looks. How the hell are we going to live out of such small bags?
Packing has been really fun. We’ve had to think hard about what we want and need. It’s refreshing to see that living comfortably requires so little. Here’s what’s going into my backpack:
- T-Shirts (5)
- Long-Sleeve Shirts (2)
- Dress Shirt
- Underwear (5)
- Socks (4)
- Rain Jacket
- Hiking Shoes
- Pants (2)
- Ear Plugs / Eye Mask
- Locks (2)
- Power Converter
- Macbook Pro 13in
- Travel Medicine
- Fast-Drying Towel
- Compression Bags
I could probably pack the stuff I truly need into a 30-liter backpack, but I want to bring along a few nice-to-haves (like a laptop so I can keep writing!).
Experience > Stuff
One of the great joys of life is sharing new experiences with someone you love. I’m going to do exactly that by traveling with my wife.
We’re kicking things off in the Yukon Territories, then will move on to Asia, then Europe, and finally we’ll round things out with an RV trip across America. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and share stories here in subsequent posts so you can join me for the journey. Also, check out my wife’s travel blog to see her side of the story.
During our travels we are going to put a moratorium on buying things (our backpacks have no room) and instead focus on living in the present, soaking up whatever environment we find ourselves in.
I’m viewing this walkabout as a de-tox from Silicon Valley materialism. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of what everyone else has ($19 billion for Whatsapp, WTF??) and forget about what you already do have, which is probably substantial.
It turns out that a happy life can fit comfortably into a backpack.