Real Life Minimalists: Amber

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, I’m excited to share Amber’s story with you. She’s embracing a minimalist lifestyle to realize her dream: living out of a backpack and traveling around the world. Surf on over to her blog to follow her adventures.

Amber writes:


In 2007, fresh out of college I moved to Tokyo with a suitcase and carry-on. I didn’t have much accumulated and what I did have I sent back to Seattle for Storage. While in Tokyo I taught English as a second language and spent some time traveling South East Asia. It was an incredible experience which unfortunately ended abruptly when the company I worked for went bankrupt, leaving me homeless and broke in Japan. With, what felt like, no other choice at the time, back to Seattle I went.

Feeling defeated by my life’s dream of international travel and living in foreign lands I sucked it up and pursued the American Dream. I got a corporate job. Having moved my things from one place to another roughly 18 times in the span of 2 years I had had enough. Settled was what I yearned for.

So settled is what I got. My corporate job moved me from Seattle to Austin and then Austin to Orange County where I finally made myself a nest in a lovely two bedroom condo near the beach and began collecting my things. Let me be clear: I LOVE my home and my things. I’ve spent the past two years creating a beautifully decorated space that I genuinely enjoy. But it was not enough.

That burning desire for distant lands, exotic scenery and new adventures started calling once again. The mundane corporate job and politics became overbearingly mind numbing and suddenly settled wasn’t as glamorous and comforting as it once appeared.

That’s when I decided “I have to get out of here!” For the past year I have been planning a round the world adventure. It is not a trip, it is an ADVENTURE for I have no set itinerary or for that matter no set plan to return! I began selling my things last month and at times it has been hard. I found myself almost in tears over letting go of my favorite gold Saks bag. I realized that was just the cold feet talking and I shouldn’t be listening to my feet when my soul is telling me to let go and GO!

It’s definitely not easy though when everyone around you thinks you’re crazy for getting rid of all your possessions. Constantly questioning your reasoning for purging of things, as if it were your first born rather than your fancy toothbrush holder that you were selling to a stranger. Planting seeds of doubt in your mind. You start to wonder, maybe I should hold on to these things, place them in storage in case I need them if and when I come back, but really how logical is that?

Sure my things are lovely and have brought me joy over the years, but things are just that, things. Experiences are priceless. Priceless moments are what life should be made of. So as I sell my things and prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime I look forward to the priceless.

Things have a hold on you and often times that hold can keep you from chasing your dreams. I am certain there will be times that I feel homesick, but I am more confident that what I am going to gain from this journey will be worth more than what I left behind. So here I am selling my things, preparing to quit my career and move into a backpack.

I am preparing to quit the American Dream for a Life Untethered! I would be so pleased if you joined me along the way at My greatest achievement would be if this blog and my story brings inspiration to just one person to truly change their way of thinking, change their life and chase their dream. It doesn’t have to be travel, it just has to be yours.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

48 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Amber

  • Hi Amber, thanks for sharing your story. It is refreshing and heart warming to read about your story. Keep up the great work.Looking forward to checking your site :)))

  • Good on you, Amber, for following your dreams. You will be making so many amazing memories for yourself. Possessions can be collected anytime; an around the world adventure is much harder to come by and more precious than things. All the best!

  • What an exciting decision to make – have a wonderful trip with many memorable experiences along the way :)

  • Wow Amber… Your story is very inspiring. I am envious (in a good way) of the people who can leap. I don’t know I will ever be able to leave everything and pursue my dream but wishing you good luck in your adventurous journey.

  • Layla

    You’re a “check” in the second row of my probability matrix, in other words you’re making me want to say “screw it all, I love you but not more than I love my own life, I’m leaving”

  • You are such an inspiration! I would love to do something similar. However, my tethers are of the young human variety, so shedding them is not exactly socially acceptable. Counting down the years!

    Good luck in your journey! I look forward to checking out your blog :)

  • Grace

    Wow! That’s a lot of change in a four year span. Better to unburden yourself of 4 years of accumulation than 10+. Go for it while you have the energy. Sounds exciting. Best wishes! They’ll be time for being rooted if you should choose it later.

  • Grace

    I mean “there’ll”

  • ElizMcK

    I previously lived in Orange County and if ever there was a place that better represented materialism and mass consumption, I’m not sure where it is. Especailly under these circumstances, many kudos to you for shedding your possessions and following your dreams.

  • metscan

    Why not? If you really want to go, then do it. Things are only things, you are right about that one.
    But – what about relationships, you are leaving them too?

    • There has been heartache from relationships left behind, but the friendships still thrive through the distance and for that I am thankful. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this on my blog.

  • Hi Amber. I can relate to your story very well. I left the states a month ago, after selling and giving away most of my possessions, for Israel. I’m at the other end of life, at 53 and wondering when my life adventure would finally start. I knew I had to be the one to make ANY kind of change happen, so I spent the last two years preparing for something, but not knowing what until this year.

    I had a sense that I needed to clear “things” out of the way to make room for change. And it worked! I wish you all the best on your future dreams.

  • Hello from an English teacher in Brazil! My husband and I are saving up to do something similar after he graduates from college in a few years’ time. I like the distinction you made between “trip” and “adventure.”

    The process of letting go is hard, but I’d bet that once you’ve parted with all the stuff, you won’t feel much of a desire to re-acquire it :-)

    Best of luck to you in your journey!

  • Saoirse

    Hello Amber, this is all truly inspiring to me, I have a house full of accumulation, every room packed to the gunnel’s and don’t seem to be able to let go!

    I wanted to send you a message and didn’t know how else to contact you so I am messaging you here. I don’t know where you intend to go, however, if you think that you may find yourself in the UK next July there would be the possibility of teaching TEFL at a language school by the sea to Spanish students on the lovely and historic South Coast of England.

  • Inga

    Hi Amber ….I did just that. Went around the world for 18 months with only a tiny backpack, not the American monsters which get stolen to often. Had a military backpack from army surplus. Worked great. Also, had a corporate career, and sold all my stuff, and remember tears coming to my eyes when I gave my red purse which I loved to one of my employees.
    The experience was well worth it. Had no schedule either. Learnt more than I ever did in college. This adventure marked me for life to become a minimalist. I am now 58 years old, a grandma and one daughter just starting on her travels. My girls who grew up with tv find my minimalistic ways strange. I hope they eventually catch on.
    Goodbye sweet Amber, may you love the journey! Inga

  • Amber your story sounds incredible :) I am incredibly jealous about everyone’s travelling to the far east. I suppose there’s nothing really stopping me going… well maybe money… but I don’t know if that’s just an excuse.

    I think I need to be a bit stronger on this. Creativity is needed on my part. Has anyone moved from Western Europe to China/Japan for a year or so? How much did it cost initially?

    • It is an EXCUSE! Set a goal, MAKE it happen. I was living pay check to pay check just one year ago, I made some drastic decisions and picked up extra jobs on top of my 40+ hour work week. Anyone can do this if it becomes their priority. There are a lot of English teaching opportunities in the east, really good ones in China. Google is your friend. Good luck! :)

    • ailsa

      Hi SustainableMinimalist- In February I’m moving my family to China from the UK (me, DH& 2 boys are 1 and 3). The start up costs have been pretty small really, flights the only biggie and for teaching you get some flight money back after a year’s contract. I don’t have our blog set up yet but will do soon. All very exciting!

  • April

    What an exciting adventure! Thanks for sharing your story.

  • That is soo wonderful, Amber… Have you ever tried going to the Philippines? I live here :)

  • What an incredible story, Amber! Your adventure didn’t work out the first time and you survived – you give me hope. I dream of escaping the web of constant connection and test scores with nothing but a backpack and a one-way ticket to Ireland as soon as I graduate college. You inspire me :).

  • Excellent post Amber. Things are just things and you will be fine without them. You will collect them once again, if you come back. I realized that material possessions are nothing at the end of the day when I read Lisa Lubin’s blog of how she left a very lucrative career in tvland and followed her heart. What was supposed to be a year adventure spanned into a bit over two. It is a great blog and I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already. I have already added your blog to my fav’s as I am also a traveler and plan on taking off in 2013 for a few months in Germany. Good luck and I am so ready to take this adventure with you.

  • Henny

    Fabulous story, Amber! Somehow your story reminds me of the movie ‘Fight Club’ – well, not all the crazy stuff, but just the parts where he dissects his “perfect” home and corporate job and all the rest…There is this part where all the items in his perfect apartment get labels and it is like something out of a showroom…anyway, unless you have seen it you will not get what I am on about.

    Don’t mourn that gold Saks bag – stuff is just…STUFF. You are so right to be listening to your soul and planning to GO! More people should do the same. You are an inspiration! I’m checking out your blog – looks great!

  • JP

    Congratulations, Amber! What a great decision. Minimalists will rule the world!

  • AugustoCBAARG

    If some day you come to Córdoba, Argentina, you will have a free couch.


  • […] Minimalist regularly posts reader profiles. I really enjoyed this one about Amber. I got rid of most of my possessions when we were going to move to the U.K. (It […]

  • LatinoSoul

    Hey Amber,

    Just caught your post on the minimalist theme, now here’s a thing. I remember having a glass of wine with one of my old bosses in London’s square mile. Busy, busy, busy! I was complaining about my stuff being in various places as I was always on the move.

    In one sentence she summed it up: There only possessions, you bought them once, so you can buy them again. Your travels and memories will last forever. Succinct and yet so powerful.

    Sorry I missed you in London but I’m hoping I’ll share a glass with you on one of my travels.

  • Tina

    Possessions will come back. Take chances and go when you can. There will always be things you will like. I am 65 and still finding neat jewelry at thrift shops. Jewelry is what I collect because it is so portable. Have earrings from over 40 years ago, bracelets from when I was a teen ager.

  • Tina

    Sometimes I stay with my sister-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. This reinforces my desire to get rid of as much extra stuff as I can. No one knows what the future will bring so why fill your house with all sorts of things you won’t remember.

  • Tina

    I was given a big stack of craft magazines. I tore out 3 pages and kept 1 magazine and took the rest to the library. I found a book here I’d never read, read it and now I can pass it on. I am still trying to give away at least 1big bag of stuff every week. Still hoping to pass on a bookcase or two.

  • Tina

    I still haven’t personally met any minimalists. Everyone I know has a huge house and lots of stuff. I never wanted to be a nomad, just to live in a small space with very little stuff. I don’t like to clean so with less stuff, there is less mess. Every time I visit my daughter, a hoarder, I start cleaning up, so I try not to go over there any more.

  • Tina

    We were talking with some friends we’ve known for years. Filling their lives with TV and soap operas. If you crave freedom, take the chance.

  • If I ever downsize from 1600 sq ft, I will try a studio, or a one bedroom.

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