To Drift Like Clouds and Flow Like Water

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

My husband and I spent the last ten days traveling through Southeast Asia, spending a few nights each in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. As usual, we packed only our small carry-on bags, giving us the freedom to wander between and throughout these places without the burden of heavy luggage.

It was a wonderful trip. Our friends tend to view our vacations as something between exhausting and crazy (particularly as they are often planned less than two weeks in advance). To us, however, being “in motion” seems perfectly natural. We feel at peace, and at home, when we are on the road.

The best way I can describe it is with a line from an old Chinese poem: “To drift like clouds and flow like water.”

Except for flights, and a short list of “can’t miss” sights, my husband and I travel without schedules or planned activities. We enjoy plunking ourselves down in the middle of an unfamiliar city, and simply being absorbed by the life and activity on its streets. We ride the subways, browse the local markets, hang out in the parks, and wander through back streets and alleys. We try to get a feel for the culture, and imagine what it would be like to live in the places we visit.

It’s our own kind of minimalist travel, just going with the flow and letting the experiences happen as they may.

I want to live my “real life” the same way. Sometimes I think there’s much too emphasis on setting goals and planning futures and reaching milestones. Why not simply enjoy life, instead of creating additional stress? I’m not against having aspirations; but to be honest, I don’t want to schedule my life on my iPod, download productivity apps, or attend virtual workshops on how to be successful at x, y, or z. And I certainly don’t want to create a five-year plan and mark my progress each step along the way.

Instead, I’d like to approach life the same way I approach travel—simply taking each day as it comes. I want to be surprised and delighted by what transpires, rather than ticking off a series of planned events. Mostly, however, I want the freedom to “wander” without the burden of possessions and responsibilities. That’s primarily my motivation for living a minimalist lifestyle; by keeping my “baggage” and “itinerary” as light as possible, I hope “to drift like clouds and flow like water” each day of my life.

46 comments to To Drift Like Clouds and Flow Like Water

  • What an inspirational post! I LOVE the line “to drift like clouds and flow like water.” Sounds like a great mantra to keep it all in focus. Have a wonderful day!

  • Frances

    I am so glad you had a good time. Travelling in Asia is wonderful and I have very good memories of Malaysia. One thing I am curious about: with so many items you cannot now carry on hand baggage when flying, how is it that you can manage with carry on bags? I used to do it, I would love to do it again. For example I always used to carry my toilet bag in my carry on bag but now have to pack it in my checked bag. Such a nuisance and really puts me off air travel. How do you do it?!

  • I agree! Sometimes I think people are getting minimalism and productivity confused – not that they’re mutually exclusive, but I don’t see the point of clearing the distractions from my life just to fill it back up again with goalposts and milestones. Your way sounds so relaxing and tranquil.

  • Heather

    We are eternal gypsies…we love to take off for the weekend, even if it’s just to a favorite hotel room and out to our favorite restaurant. We did a 3 week trip to Texas and packed just what we needed and that was with a 5 month old baby and a 75lb. dog. It was awesome. We went with the flow and just enjoyed ourselves. I hope to someday to be able to just travel. We want to keep a smallish home for a landing spot and then travel from there. Such inspiration!!!

  • Fuji

    Drift like clouds, flow like water – love this phrase!
    It implies both serenity and strength.
    Hope you have a wonderful time; would love to hear more details of your travels. Where you stayed, what you ate, how you liked it….

  • […] Yet again, Miss Minimalist has created a post that really got me thinking. […]

  • janet

    What an inspirational post that I needed to hear this morning. Facing many difficult decisions regarding my worklife and this post has so much wisdom in it for me. Thank you for sharing such lovely thoughts.

  • nicole 86

    Great post ! unfortunately I am single and I would not feel secure trvelling on my own in asia.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi nicole 86! There’s always travel clubs and tour groups… I’d look for one that’s a little less structured, providing transport and accommodations but giving you plenty of flex time to explore on your own. :-)

  • I love it. I can’t stand turbo travel–where you seem to have some obligation to check off national monuments or something. I do love the stroll through the back alley or riding the bus to random places with the locals etc. That kind of thing makes my day . . .but I like to stay in a place for a while, I have to admit that I find constant motion to be highly exhausting. But I’ll go stay in one place for weeks and comb the area on foot until I know everything there is to know about the place.

    I have NEVER been to Asia–can you believe it? Who knows, maybe someday.

    • miss minimalist

      simple in france, I *wish* we could have stayed weeks in each city! So many places, so little (vacation) time… Hopefully someday we’ll be able to travel full-time!

  • Sounds like a wonderful trip! And I absolutely love that quote as well, I think I shall adopt that one into my favorites collection. :)

  • This gave me such relief that you just go with the flow – make your plans within the last 2 weeks and are happy to take in the normal parts of a place instead of rushing to hit the tourist spots. Many years ago in college I visited a friend near Boston. It was the first time I realized I was a people-watcher. We did some touristy stuff, but what I remember fondly was sitting near Faneuil Hall and just watching in silence. We were utterly content sitting in a historic area and just being in the rhythm of the place. It was one of the best trips I took. Your post re-inforced the idea that it’s fine to let a trip lead you. To go with your intuition. Thanks for sharing this insight.

  • I like to make the five year plan, but allow for those spontaneous ventures in my day to day life. It gives me overall direction, but often I will rebel against the rules I set and just do willy-nilly. It sounds counter-productive but it works for me and I enjoy it.

    Asia is some place I’ve not yet visited but read about a lot of people’s adventures. I too, am curious about what toiletries you were able to take, but I’d also like to mention that you can pretty much buy shampoo, soap and toothpaste anywhere in the world so you don’t necessarily need to pack it.

    – Charley

  • Glad you had a wonderful, free-flowing trip. Much wisdom here. I’m trying to create balance as well of having goals but letting them happen (or other things happen) as well, of not holding too tightly to the plan. The Not So Big Life is the book that got me started with that.

  • […] To Drift Like Clouds and Flow Like Water […]

  • miss minimalist

    Great article, Fuji; thanks so much for sharing it!

  • Nice story and very romantic.When people focus on milestones they miss the wonder of the moment.The best laid plans can change in a nano second.Life can take many twists and turns.Aspirations and setting goals can often make people think of the why and when rather than the beauty of now.I’m certain Newton made his greatest discoveries when he was totally engrossed in the moment and the activity.When you are giving your entire self to the moment you arrive at the top of the mountain as a natural consequence of your journey.The journey continues even at the top with no ending and no beginning.No past and no future, only the present.If you carry the past and the future with you it’s the same as carrying heavy baggage.It makes one less prepared and more devastated when any changes happen because one is holding on to what could be or what has been rather than what is.That is why people hold on to material things and old memories.They are looking for certainty in an uncertain,ever changing and shifting world or are not really expressing and giving their entire being to the moment.
    Most of people who are at the top of the mountain in anything loved the journey.
    Everyday is a Birthday-when the sun rises in the morning.Even when we were a strand of DNA in our parents bodies we were alive.In the modern world we try and put to many borders up by measuring and objectifying experience by setting up borders like military drill sargents rather than flowing with the river.Our notion of time is very different to what it was before the clock and electric light.

    • miss minimalist

      Thank you, Jason, that was very well said. I think fixating on future goals can cause a lot of undue stress, and find I’m much happier living fully in the present. :-)

  • Pauline

    This was a very inspirational and calming post!! A part of me wants to plan the next 5 years of my life because it calms my fears about the future but my heart is a free spirit. Thanks! It’s nice to know people who live like this exist!

    • miss minimalist

      I’m glad you found it inspirational, Pauline! I think we’d all be happier with a little less planning, and a little more freedom. :-)

  • […] you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not the productivity type. I take a fluid approach to life, rarely set goals, and would rather empty my schedule than jam more stuff into it. To me, it’s a […]

  • Dara

    Sounds alot like what Jesus said about not worrying about tomorow. I just love the idea of not constantly worrying and planning about the future.

  • […] To Drift Like Clouds and Flow Like Water: My husband and I spent the last ten days traveling through Southeast Asia, spending a few nights each in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. As usual, we packed only our small carry-on bags, giving us the freedom to wander between and throughout these places without the burden of heavy luggage. It was a wonderful trip. Our friends tend to view our vacations as something between exhausting and crazy (particularly as they are often planned less than two weeks in advance). To us, however, being “in motion” seems perfectly natural. We feel at peace, and at home, when we are on the road…{read more} […]

  • Vicki

    I work as an administrative assistant in the real estate sales industry and I am inundated with high pressure motivational “propaganda” on a daily basis. I know that many of the folks who work in sales need this kind of stimulation in order to face the tremendous rejection they encounter. However, the constant emphasis on goal setting, time-blocking and motivational “trickery” wears on me. After years of going along with it – this year I skipped the yearly goal setting session and the dream board making class and the end of 2011 letter congratulating myself on my year of accomplishments. This year I just want to focus on living more consciously and authentically. Thanks for this post – it spoke to me.

  • This is just what I needed to hear today. My husband and I are trying to conceive our first baby, and it’s waaaaaay too easy to get caught up in the minutia of that. It’s as if I’m trying to administer conception, instead of making room for it to happen; I’ve been really needing to relax into possibility instead of hovering over my calendar. Ray Bennett’s “The Underachiever’s Manifesto” helped to introduce me to non-goal-oriented living; this post was a wonderful reminder. Thank you!

  • […] my various minimalist readings, I came across a post by Miss Minimalist about drifting like clouds and flowing like water.  And I think I might have to disagree with her on her theme for the post.  Here’s an […]

  • Rebecca

    If you got the right ScotteVest I bet you could travel with just a jacket. They are clothing that incorporate tons of hidden pockets and amazingly can be very full without making you look bulky. I never travel without one. The trench is my fav!

  • Tina

    I’ve been reading your older posts and although we are in our 60’s we travel with 1 carry-on each and a tote-bag each. Here in the US we take car trips and stop where we find ourselves. It seems that some people are really into the “celebrity” lifestyle. We have been invited to 2 “destination” weddings. I think that is the height of consumerism to have your wedding as your honeymoon.

  • Tina

    Yesterday we went to the beach in the next county. Since it was cool, there were few people there. Lovely wildflowers, my husband did some bird watching. I collected 10 stones for an art project I read about.

  • Tina

    I am noticing fewer and fewer people buying lots and lots of new clothes. Just one or two things or an accessory or two. Except for the people in my building who buy loads of things from TV, it seems people are holding on to things longer. I complimented a woman who said her blazer was 4 years old. My husband was tired of a gray sweater, so I’ve been wearing it, if I keep wearing it I will change the buttons.

  • Tina

    When I travel for a week or longer, I bring 2 pairs of slacks and 3 or 4 tops. And pajamas and underwear for a week. Usually, I wear a zip up sweatshirt on the plane and bring a nice sweater or shawl with me. That leaves a lot of room for things like an umbrella, chargers for my cel phone and tablet, etc. I usually travel with a small carry on and a small tote bag. If it will be cold, I bring a hat, scarf, and gloves and wear a warmer jacket. I never take anything I can’t lift.

  • Even in winter, I’ve been taking a windbreaker and pullover sweatshirt. If I layer a shirt, and 2 sweat shirts or a shirt, sweatshirt and wind breaker, I am warm enough to be outside in Chicago unless it’s colder than 20F. I pack a warm hat and gloves always. I think the folks with the evening gowns and fancy shoes and the men with tuxedos are funny.

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