A few weeks ago, a reader of the site wrote an email asking me an interesting question. He asked me whether or not I owned anything besides what I carry around with me in my backpack. Am I a true minimalist attempting to live life with fewer than 100 possessions at all times or do I actually have an apartment or huge storage space somewhere that is overflowing with stuff?
First, let me describe what I do carry inside of my backpack. It’s basically a collection of some clothes (shorts, pants, shirts, underwear, socks), toiletries, sandals and shoes, laptop, Kindle, Panasonic Lumix ZS20 (the perfect travel camera in my opinion), small bag of necessary chargers/wires for my devices, a travel towel, water bottle and a flashlight. Usually, the weight of my backpack hovers around 8-9 kgs (17.6 – 19.8 lbs), although, when I flew from Europe to the US last week, it only weighed 7 kgs (15.4 lbs) when I checked it in at the airport in Bucharest.
Now back to the question…does the above list consist of absolutely everything I own in life?
The answer is, “no”. I do own more than what I carry in my backpack.
While I did start traveling quite soon after graduating from university, before I had time to live in a house or apartment and collect such things as furniture and other normal household items, I have still acquired some stuff from my travels and have also held onto to certain things from my younger years. And the result is three boxes, all of which I keep securely stored in a closet at my mother’s house in the US.
Box #1 contains photographs from my baby years up through my childhood and all the way into my early, pre-digital camera travel days, making this one box that I’ll never get rid of.
Box #2, which is actually a suitcase, not a box, is full of a random collection of clothes, old journals, a few books and items I’ve picked up during my adventures. These include a silver Tibetan thangka mandala painting, a Pakistani mountain blanket, several wall hangings, a Mexican hammock and an Indonesian sarong. This is the box that, if I do end up with an apartment or house of my own one day, I’ll quickly empty out in order to create my own ‘travel room’ where I can spend some time each day recalling some of the life-changing experiences I’ve had around the world!
Box #3 is the box that, every time I come back to the US for a visit, I debate whether or not to toss out. Inside of this box is folder upon folder full of old school papers, from elementary and high school report cards to kindergarten projects to university exam results, as well as old letters, several pairs of my baby shoes and a couple of basketball trophies from high school. Do I need this stuff? Nope. Is it somewhat fun to browse through my school projects every now and then, such as the very cool paper kite I made when I was in second grade? (Which I posted on my Facebook Fan Page a few days ago, a page that I highly recommend you ‘like’ if you haven’t done so already!) Absolutely, and that’s why I’ve yet to throw it all away and probably won’t throw any of it away for a while.
And that sums up every possession I have in life. There is no furniture, there is no car, no book collections, no plates and bowls, no television, no beach chairs, blankets or brooms, there’s no closet full of clothes, no toaster oven and not a single coaster or candle holder.
Everything I own fits into one backpack and three boxes, and I can’t imagine owning anything more at this point.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different and if you’re about to embark on some extensive travel yourself, you may want to store more than what I’ve put away in boxes, especially if you have to move out of a house or apartment before traveling. However, I will state that the less you do have in storage, the easier it is to wander around this world. Not only do you avoid having to pay monthly fees for a storage space (if you don’t have a family member or friend with a large empty corner of their basement), but you will enjoy a greater sense of freedom as well. It is mentally easier to entertain the idea of living or traveling overseas for a long period of time, and to then move around from place to place, if you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do with box after box after box of stuff.
If you only have three boxes, there is no way for your possessions to stand between you and your travel goals.
What do you think about possessions? Do you have a lot of stuff stored? If you’re about to travel, do you plan to reduce your possessions before you leave?