Americans epitomize the culture of consumption. Heck, we’re pros at it. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us that we need the latest gadgets, fashions, cars, and TVs. “Buy now, pay later” mentality feeds this addiction for “more” fueling an insatiable cycle.
So what happens when your possessions possess you?
You end up working long hours to feed the consumption monster. “Living to work” makes for a stressful, unfulfilling life… and for what? A huge pile of useless crap. You suddenly realize that those advertisements promising happiness were a lie. So where’s the truth? Where do you find happiness?
True happiness comes from freedom. Detoxing from a lifestyle of consumption can bring that freedom …and by necessity, this is one of the first lessons you learn as a digital nomad.
“Obviously you need to learn to detach. This is not easy. But it begins with baby steps. You just start with selling one thing, and when it’s gone you realize that it was such an insignificant thing in your life. So you start selling more and more things, and the simplification becomes addictive. Then the game changes from trying to hold onto as much as possible to trying to get rid of as much as possible. There’s a tipping point in there somewhere.” (Bren from BrenOnTheRoad)
When you reach those crossroads, the path of less is actually more adventure, more happiness, more socializing, and more freedom. So where do you start? Here are some tips from four digital nomads who have ditched their permanent homes and mastered the art of simple living.
For those ready to start the journey — How do they begin?
Take a breath…Then get organized! “After making my initial plans to start working and living outside of the United States I had a checklist that I had compiled of essential things that I might need and I just went through the list. After doing this for about four years, I have realized that a lot of the stuff that was on my first list, although it seemed minimalistic, could still be whittled down. I’ve never actually needed any water sanitation device, just buy a bottle.” (Hassan from ConsultHassanLLC) So it’s an ongoing process where you’re continually reflecting, discarding items and redefining what is important.
How do you prioritize what to toss?
Start slow. Ask yourself: “First of all, do I need it? Do you use it? Do I even like it? Most of us have stuff in our homes and our lives that we really have no need for. It’s important to not throw out the things you love and are attached to right away. Start with the small junk drawers and work your way up.” (Trish from GoSeeWrite)
Set goals. “A Xbox is just a distraction. So is a television. Once you have clear goals and you realize these things are only standing in the way of those, it’s very easy to get rid of them. For me, at this stage in my life, I really only need a cell phone and a laptop. Everything else is noise.” — (Bren from BrenOnTheRoad)
What if you REALLY need to keep something?
It depends. If you are planning on returning, put things in storage units and/or safe-deposit boxes. Evaluate the cost of storage in comparison to replacement cost (factoring in inflation and ability to repurchase items of similar quality). Storage units located outside major cities are cheaper; leave a key with someone local in case you want access during your travels. Storage units located outside major cities are cheaper; leave a key with someone local in case you need to access it during your travels. Or leave items with your friends. “In my case, I wasn’t going to be traveling indefinitely, so I did keep about half of the things I had owned in graduate school. I was able to move all my things back into my old room at my parents’ house, and they looked after my car while I was gone, too. I did get rid of all my large furniture because there was simply nowhere to store it at Mom and Dad’s house.” (Amanda from ADangerousBusiness) If you are not planning on returning, then get rid of as much stuff as possible and keep a drawer at your parent’s or friend’s a house with some essentials (in case you come back to visit).
How did you adjust to living with less?
“It just becomes so normal after a while. When you keep only the things you need, life is a lot clearer. In all honesty the adjustment period is very short — you notice the reduced clutter instantly and you know it’s a good change. It’s not hard to get used to.” (Bren from BrenOnTheRoad)
“I think it would be a hard adjustment if I went from a house with lots of possessions to an apartment with blow up furniture but that wasn’t the case. I was on an adventure! My entire life was one big road trip so the adaptation happened pretty quickly.” (Trish from GoSeeWrite)
So instead of accumulating things, you are accumulating friends, adventures and life experiences — sound like great incentives to us!
What would you do differently if you had to get rid of things again?
“ I think I would donate more to people truly in need. Every city in the world has people that need a little help and if I had time to go back I would walk around and find those people, say hello and give.” (Hassan from ConsultHassanLLC). Share the wealth and start your adventure with a light suitcase and heart. To make it easier, many local charities, churches and social organizations will come to your home and pick up your unwanted items for free. Also, craigslist.org has places to post “free stuff” (or sell things cheap if you need a little extra travel cash).
Packing for a never-ending trip seems overwhelming — Tips please?
“It’s surprisingly easy! I’ve traveled Europe for 3 months with just a medium-sized backpack — and I know plenty of people who travel with even less! Though, I will admit that since I’ve been home, I’ve definitely begun to accumulate things again.” (Amanda from ADangerousBusiness) So, try to limit yourself to one bag — a carry-on or backpack. Bring essentials that are hard to find/expensive to purchase in your destination city. Check in with Flying Yak ambassadors to help customize your packing list based on real-time local insights. You’re on an adventure, but you don’t need to be alone. Join our community and leverage your growth. Start your journey today!