Real Life Minimalists: Bryan

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.

This week, I’m pleased to feature Bryan. I love how his minimalist journey began in an airport—while whittling down his luggage to meet the baggage requirements! Read more of his thoughts on his blog.

Bryan writes:

On an unforgettable bike ride around Paris!

On an unforgettable bike ride around Paris!

Having MORE through LESS

I developed my passion for being a minimalist about two years ago when a close friend of mine and I decided to go on a three-week European sightseeing adventure. As a result, I decided to cash in my Los Angeles studio apartment (which I didn’t really like that much anyway) and all of my belongings as I knew this was going to be a costly trip. It was mostly because of my need to let go of what seemingly wasn’t working in my life and have a fresh start after my return from Europe.

To kick off my trip, I first stopped to say hello to my parents in Ohio and then took a train to New York City where I met up with my friend. We hopped a plane and headed for London, with a layover in Iceland. After a week in London, we took a train to Paris for a weekend then to Amsterdam, followed by a last-minute flight to Rome for another week to round out the trip. For having never been out of the country (other than to Canada or Mexico), it was the trip of a lifetime for this American boy.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, thinking back, it wasn’t until we boarded that plane out of Amsterdam that I truly became a minimalist. We both were carrying about 30lbs exceeding the weight limit in our luggage and were forced to throw it away as we had no one locally that could keep some of it for us. We had only 10 minutes to choose what 30lbs we were going to throw away before the bags had to be loaded onto the plane. Books, pillows, blankets, shoes, clothes…they were all getting thrown into the airport trashcans. At the time it was overwhelming and both of us were extremely upset. They wouldn’t even allow us to pay more for exceeding the limit. It had exceeded the passenger requirements for the small plane from Amsterdam to Rome.

Fast-forward two years later… I look back on that trip and, even though I gave up pretty much all but 50lbs of my material possessions before and during that trip, it was very much one of my all-time favorite experiences of my life. As I move into my thirties next year, I have a fresh perspective on what is important to me in my life. It is all about the experiences and the people I love in my life. Following my passion. I find you can actually have MORE personal joy and fulfillment in life by owning LESS material possessions. It really frees you up to be able to pick up and do the things your soul is calling you to do.

When I look back on my life when I’m old, the moments I will remember the most are moments like the unforgettable European trip with my best friend. For moments like these I will have no regret. Life is too short not to do the things that your soul is calling you to do. I’ve even started a blog last summer called “” that is inspired by my experience of having MORE personal joy and fulfillment in life. It’s about living “more than” mediocre or settling for a life “less than” the one you deserve. Life is about living and if material “stuff” is holding you back, you are missing out on opportunities beyond your wildest imagination.

{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.}

18 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Bryan

  • Em

    Wow, what a story! I think it’s crazy that the air traffic rules force people to throw away their belongings and don’t offer any other option. I know you should probably have known before and maybe could have avoided it, but still. It just feels really wrong, kinda like when you go to a festival and they take all of your food away, no matter how much you paid for it, but it’s much worse with your books, clothes and everything. Oh man, it must have been a real shock.

    But it’s good that you turned such a horrible experience into a good thing, a good philosophy of life. Travelling light is really much better in many ways, both literally and figuratively. When I fly with just the small hand luggage and I have no big suitcases, I feel really free and light :)

  • Heather

    It is in the time of desperation that we sometimes see our clearest.

    I had 1 week to move out of a house, due to circumstances beyond my control. We barely had time to get a moving truck and when we did, it was the smallest they had. We literally took 10 truckloads to good will in 2 days. I have never purged, organized and packed in such a short time. Since then, I have been extremely cautious has to what we bring in and how often we purge. We have moved 11x since then and we have it down to a science but I do discover each time, we move with less and less.

  • Awesome story Bryan! In a moment like that where you had to decide what stays and what goes, I’m sure it gave you a certain clarity about what is necessary and important in life. When stripped of our possessions, all we have left is our resourcefulness. And that is why I love minimalism and the challenges it brings! Cheers.

  • Sonja

    This was great! To get that clarity at a young age…and as people have commented, the more you strip down, the more you realize there’s even more to get rid of….Wonderful and inspiring.

  • It’s interesting how travel shows you how little stuff you need. And moving, too–it takes days or weeks to unpack your boxes, and meanwhile, you’re getting along just fine without the contents of those boxes.

    We’re currently starting a purge for a cross-country self-move. Special toddler eating utensils? Fake flowers my grandmother gave me for Mother’s Day? Books I know I won’t read again? All headed out.

  • Susan

    I’m glad that airport experience showed so clearly the burden of too much, even though it was in that one context and would not have been, for example, too much in a whole apartment. But I feel like once you see the cost of having too much stuff, and are paying attention, you can’t help but be changed by it.
    Good luck with continuing to live with living more!

  • Anna D.

    I can’t believe the only option was to throw away your belongings-
    shame on that airport! I was flying from Seattle to Sacramento once
    and had my Swiss Army knife packed, just in case. Well, TSA
    told memo couldn’t bring my S.A. knife even though they had just
    changed their restrictions at Seattle to allow small utility tools.
    The man insisted I could not bring it and suggested I “throw it away”.
    Umm, no. That was a surprise from my husband in Germany because
    I always wanted one, plus it had a corkscrew and you just never know;)
    Well, I s

  • Anna D.

    I can’t believe the only option was to throw away your belongings-
    shame on that airport! I was flying from Seattle to Sacramento once
    and had my Swiss Army knife packed, just in case. Well, TSA
    told me I couldn’t bring my S.A. knife even though they had just
    changed their restrictions at Seattle to allow small utility tools.
    The man insisted I could not bring it and suggested I “throw it away”.
    Umm, no. That was a surprise from my husband in Germany because
    I always wanted one, plus it had a corkscrew, and you just never know;)
    Well, I spent the $13 bucks to mail it home. To each their own.
    Happy that something positive came from your experience!

  • Anna D.

    Sorry for the double-reply.
    Dang iPod Touch.

  • great story, brian! i have also been in that frustrating, time-sensitive dilemma of what to nix from your luggage, and as bad as it feels at the time, it can really be a blessing in disguise…

  • Caterina Meyer

    Wow! What an experience. But one thing I don’t get…traveling on a 3 week trip with pillows and blankets and so many books, clothes and shoes?

    And folks it wasn’t the airport it was the airline, probably RyanAir or a similar airline, that has more weight restrictions than normal carriers.

    Anyway, you learned some valuable lessons from this experience and your positive attitude about it has turned it into good.

  • Thanks for sharing, Brian! Having just moved to a smaller temporary apartment in the same town, a few months before traveling for a year, I too am using the experience to really pare down what I own. It has already been such a liberating experience – can’t wait to see what else I can get rid of (hopefully not just as I’m boarding a plane, like you!) before I head overseas.
    Going to check out your blog for sure!

  • Anna D.

    Yes, RyanAir has some of the strictest weight and size restrictions,
    but this off sets their super-low fares. I have flown with them numerous times.
    On that same note, one must get through the airport’s security in order to board said airline.

    But, yes I agree with your observation of pillows, and blankets, and books.

  • Susan

    Environmentally speaking, it is awful to require people to actually trash their belongings. They should have a donation bin.

  • E

    Airlines are very clear on their websites how much baggage allowance you get. Generally if you can’t comfortably lift your suitcase or bag you have too much. It is just common sense to check how much you can take.

  • biff

    have you read Emilio Scottos book ‘the longest ride’? your airport expirience reminds me of it.. he set out to travel the world on his motorcycle, and at the begining of his journey had whittled down to only what he considered to be absolutely essential. his bike was stripped of every possesion on his first nite out, and he said it was the best thing that could have happened because it made him see how absolutely little one *actually* needs. awesome book.. loving the passion for TRULY living that pours from your writting!

  • Tina

    When we travel, I have a tiny knife they let me take. It’s great for emergencies, like opening a container of medicine. If I couldn’t take that, I would use the cutting edge on my dental floss. I have a lot of sharp knives I need to give away because we seldom eat meat and when we do we only use a little ground beef like a condiment. When I read the postings it makes me think of what else I could live without. I tend to keep things until they are completely worn out.

  • Tina

    I am giving a bag a week to Goodwill. I am slowly getting rid of things I don’t need. By forcing myself to find things it keeps me looking for the extras. I am still only collecting earrings of a few sorts. I love Native American jewelry, and arty pieces. I made a chart of which outfits I can make that I haven’t tried yet by combining clothes I already have. Because I bought 1 new sweater, I can make 5 new combinations.

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