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I’ve always wanted to back pack for a year to anywhere; thus back in 2013, I started selling and giving away most of my stuff. After a year, I was able to reach my goal of being light enough to go anywhere I wish and decide quickly on whatever opportunity that comes. It felt weird at first but it was liberating.
I too caught the digital nomad bug of living on a suitcase and escaping to anywhere proposed by many who are involved the self-help world especially by Tim Ferriss through his best-selling book, The 4-Hour Work Week.
I’m experimenting on this whole digital nomad thing on what it means to have a mobile lifestyle. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s worth a try. I’m still going through a lot of hurdles personally and professionally. One of which is I’m still working on my recovery, which I wrote about here.
I just returned to Southern California after trying out the Bay Area for several months. And the temptation to return to old habits of acquiring material things again is strong.
Currently, I just have luggage for my clothes and a small brief case for my gadgets. (And a rice cooker and a portable griller I can’t live without). That’s it. I still accumulate stuff every now and then but I would sort and dispose them right away. You can call it radical, but for me this has to be the case to push myself into the place where I really want to be and so far I’m seeing it’s easier where you’re not dragged down by owning many things. You know, stuff like unnecessary subscriptions, papers, things you don’t really use but are taking up space, and other bills that aren’t necessary. As the saying goes, it’s either you end up owning things or the things you own end up owning you.
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
This decision is a cumulative one or a long time in coming from growing up in Manila to my eventual move to the United States in 2007. Now, this is not to brag but to stress a point – I still remember vividly at one point in Manila where my family had a total of 7 cars where 3 cars could barely fit in the garage while the other 4 had to be parked outside over the curb “Asian style.” My Dad’s businesses were rolling. I recall as well where my dad had to handle several properties our family owned, while he was under severe stress. I can’t help but admit that was our lifestyle but in spite of it I can’t help but remember that it was very hectic and exhausting for us. Take note, this is despite the fact that we had 3 nannies and 2 drivers. Owning things takes effort. It was stressful not just physically but emotionally and mentally.
Now, considering the stress, it’s not something I prefer to go back to. We Filipinos are vain too. Being a former American colony, we caught the Keeping up with Jones’ mentality of having more which involves talking who has more or simply who’s cooler because one has more stuff (bigger house, more cars, etc). We end up thinking it’s what we want but it’s all just an illusion.
Sure it’s okay to own stuff or live the good life, Instagram everything like a Russian model looking so fly in the sky on a G6. But when it gets to a point you’re doing it for the sake of doing it and not asking why you’re doing it, it becomes a problem. The things you own no longer becomes manageable. They end up taking away time from many things which are of higher importance.
A year prior to leaving for the US, while having a snack at a 7 Eleven store, I bumped into a Filipino-American who started talking out of the blue. He was telling me that he lived in the US for most of his life and he got tired of owning a lot of things. He sold all of his stuff and eventually moved to Manila. Even in Manila, he’s not acquiring or accumulating material things.
His exact words were: “Material things are like unnecessary wastes.”
I thought he’s some crazy intellectual or some control freak who can’t handle owning things but looking back, he’s right too.
One of the many ironies in Minimalism: Because very few has a grasp of it, it’s become a luxury that only the rich can understand and appreciate while the poor is left with the perception of having more.
Minimalism doesn’t mean for you to automatically become some hermit, live without a lot of things you’re used to owning, being poor and find some temple in a mountain, saying goodbye to pizzas, donuts, cereals, and booze. It doesn’t mean you’re going to give up wanting a home and a nice Lambo. Eventually, for anybody who wants to align everything towards a certain goal, you’ll learn that you’re going to have to take away a lot of excesses to make room for what you really want. A lot of times you can count on them to be most of your stuff. 90% I guess should be a fair minimum estimate.
Aside from material things, you can even go a step higher – from toxic people to that annoying ex that only drag you down, let them go. In the famous words of Elsa, let it go. I had my fair share of letting go of friendships that are unhealthy or those that are simply toxic. You’ll see yourself end up as a much happier person as you do so.
In my own experimentation, as I slowly discarded most of the things I own, I realized that most of them are just distractions and comfort masquerading as happiness. I know, it sounds cheesy bro. But seriously, at some point in your life, you’re going to have to give up a lot of things to get what you want out of life or to get where you want to be.
It’s not about having less but leaving more room for what’s important to you.