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When I first got into hiking, I bought this heavy-duty, waterproof pair of boots. I thought it would be an excellent choice to trudge the dirty, muddy terrains. And yes, price was a factor too. I was not sure if I wanted to spend $100+ on a pair of hiking shoes.
The first long hike I signed up for was a 10-mile hike in the middle of summer. I had my new backpack filled with three 1L bottled waters, rain gear, snacks, first aid kits, change of clothes and other stuffs that I thought I would need for the hike. By the time I am done, the backpack must weigh at least 10 lb.
On the day of the hike, I was so excited for the adventure. However, developing blisters within the first mile of the hike messed things up a bit. I did not know that you were not supposed to wear a brand new pair of shoes on a hike. The uphill climbs, the blisters and the weight I was carrying both from my backpack and my boots made me struggling for the rest of the hike. We were a group of 20 hikers (and many of them were in their late 50s), and I was the second-to-last person on the back.
I didn’t finish the hike either. The rest of the group was already so far ahead. So, I stopped by the river, enjoyed my lunch and started my way back to the trailhead. They even caught up with me on the way back and beat me to the trailhead. It was still a fun day, but I did wish that I had traveled light.
After that hike, I bought a proper pair of hiking shoes and I learned to pack what were really essential for the trip. It made such a big difference especially on an uphill climb. I enjoyed the hike better. I could hike faster and keep up with the group.
Similarly, as we go through life, we are often burdened with baggage both in material and emotional forms.
I am sure each of us has boxes and boxes of stuffs that we keep in the closets or garage. If we need to move to a different place, we might see stuffs from decades ago as we are packing.
As I was preparing to move across the continent, I got rid about 90% of my belongings. I did not find the need to ship the whole content of my apartment overseas. I left with just three suitcases of clothes, books and some pastry tools I couldn’t part with. My book collection, unused clothes, bulky winter jackets, and small household items went to either the collection bins or Goodwill. A dear friend became a recipient of the liquors that I used for baking and my collection of pastry tools (we pastry peeps love our baking and decorating tools). And the rest went to trash. Bags and bags of them…
It was gut-wrenching as I was getting rid of all these stuffs. All I could think about was how much money had been spent on these stuffs (and the hard work that went into earning all that money). It made me questions the fundamentals of the life we are living.
Why are working ourselves so hard to purchase all these stuffs if they’re just gonna end up in the trash eventually? Do we really need all the stuffs that are hanging around the house? Do we need to have 10 pairs of shoes and a closet full of clothes?
I am not a shoeaholic, but I was guilty of this too. I found myself with at least 6 pairs of shoes – for work, for everyday use, for hiking, for causal night out, for fancy night out, and a pair of knee-high boots for going out on a winter night.
Similarly, do we really need the piano (the hover board, the roller blade, or insert any other current fad item) that the kids want to buy that they’re just gonna play for 6 months before they lose interest and move on to something else? And the lists continue on and on…
Some of the stuffs that I got rid of were my mom’s. She passed away several years back and some of her stuffs were still hanging around the apartment. This brought up another issue in my mind. We all are going to die one day and when we do, no matter how rich we become in life, we cannot bring any of the stuffs we have accumulated in this life. So, why are we working ourselves so hard (sometimes to the brink of exhaustion) in pursuit of the next fancy car, the bigger house, or the next trendy gadgets?
I am not talking about working hard to make ends meet to provide for your family and children. That is a given. I am talking about spending money in pursuits of keeping up with the Joneses. Most of the time, we even spend money that we haven’t earned by charging it on credit cards and we accumulate tons of debts. We become so heavily burdened on our journey in this life with the stress and worry of living paycheck to paycheck. We take the second (or third job) trying to keep up with the bills, and we strain our relationship with our spouse and children.
All these will take a toll on our physical and emotional health. There have been many stories reported of people who committed suicides because they were so deeply entangled in debt and they could not see their way out of it.
There must be a better way of living.
In my year of solitude (this is what I am dubbing this past year of dealing with losing the life I have built for 16 years), I came across with the concept of minimalism. I will go in details about minimalism practices that I adopt on a later post. But, it is essentially a set of principles on how to live a simpler life, a life without clutter.
Eleanor Brown gives this perfect quote about clutter:
Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self. – Eleanor Brown
On the physical stuffs, I have gotten rid 90% of my material possessions. It was not by my choice, but it happened anyway and I had to accept that. It’s been about a year now since my move to the other side of the world. Come to think of it now, I don’t miss most of the stuffs that I had gotten rid of. They were just sitting around the house gathering dust.
If anything, I feel lighter now. When picking an outfit to wear, I can just pick whatever happens to be on the top of the pile. I don’t have to sift through a whole closet of hanging clothes. I have fewer things on my living space, but that means I don’t have to spend hours on tidying or dusting stuffs that are just lying around. This minimalism practice frees up time to do something else that really matter.
On the emotional stuffs, I am still learning to let go of the emotional baggage from this major life change (check out part 2 of this post!).
What I have learned is that it is so much better to travel lightly literally and figuratively.
As in our hiking analogy, you would enjoy your time climbing up the mountain more when you carry a lighter backpack and wear proper, lightweight hiking shoes. Your back and legs will thank you at the end of the hike.
Likewise, if you travel by plane, you will be able to navigate the airport better when you are only carrying one suitcase. When you get to your destination, you’ll be able to get around easily if you travel light.
Figuratively, we tend to accumulate material and emotional baggage as we go through life. If we learn how to lessen the burdens we’re carrying, we’d have a more pleasant journey in life.
As for me, I have decided to travel light from this point on. Adopting minimalism is as my practice to making Lemons Out of Lemonade (LOL) out of losing my possessions, friends and community. I strive to lead a simpler life without clutter.
I am more conscious on buying stuffs based on what I need instead of what I want, and I find that I don’t need a lot to lead a happy, productive life. This is my way of traveling light in life.
What about you? What’s your story of traveling light?