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 we hear from Vince, a writer and photographer who travels the world in minimalist fashion. Read more about his adventures (and see his wonderful photos!) on his blog, www.20LiterLife.com.
When I traveled to Australia in 2009 I brought so much stuff. I think I took five or six pairs of shoes with me – and I’m a guy. In my defense, I was moving there for almost a year, so I would need pretty much my life’s worth of stuff, right? Well, yes, but the real question, I think, is how much stuff do I really ever need?
Earlier this year I traveled for 10 weeks through India and Southeast Asia and took only a backpack the size a school kid would use. My friend Franklin and I tirelessly researched travel gear and scrutinized every item that would ultimately make it into our bags. It was a cool learning experience and the outcome absolutely proved to be worthwhile for our trip. This foray into minimalism was initially geared almost entirely towards the travel aspect; I didn’t want to be weighed down by excess junk while constantly moving through foreign countries. I soon realized, though, that the more cerebral effects of minimalism were, in fact, even more significant in the long run. The willingness to part ways with a lot of material accessories that I deemed necessary, as well as attachments that I’ve long held dear (I’m sentimental – I like to hang onto some important things), is extremely liberating. What started as a quest towards minimalist travel would lead me to put everything in my life on the chopping block; why only be a minimalist while on the move?
The process of minimization also forces you to confront cultural norms that might be influencing your living and purchasing decisions. Is being fashionable actually important to me? Honestly – a little bit. Should it be? Definitely not, but it’s a constant struggle to convince myself that dressing sharp shouldn’t be one of my priorities. It’s a process, not an overnight epiphany. Is a new car important? No. Is a car at all important? Maybe, maybe not. Should I be eating out/buying gadgets/furniture/etc. that aren’t really adding any actual value or utility to my life?
Becoming a minimalist helps you edit and improve all aspects of your life. As someone who takes productivity and personal development seriously, I don’t think I could help but eventually realize how little significance stuff typically has. Now, I try to look at my belongings through the lenses of utility (some clothes, toiletries, computer), necessity (passport, money), and maybe occasionally some sort of intrinsic importance (heirlooms, books). Streamlining my everyday life and the amount of distractions in it provides me with time, energy, and resources for things that are more important to me: reading, writing, eating, exploring, photographing, conversing, etc.