It's been 558 days since we left our tiny studio apartment in Portland, the last time I had a permanent home.
Being constantly on the move has made me very aware of all my possessions. I always thought I had few things, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
After getting rid of what felt like most of my stuff, I still had enough to fill two big suitcases, a few backpacks and two camera bags (see picture above).
I've been trying to reduce my possessions ever since, one thing at a time. Not because I wanted to become a minimalist but because I had to: for most of the year, I move to a new place every week, and having to carry your things from place to place makes you instantly regret all of those you don't really need.
It's been a lot of trial and error, but during my most recent road trip I was finally able to fit all I need in one carry-on size bag and one small camera bag:
- some clothes (not a lot of them!), shoes and very basic toiletries to stay clean and look decent,
- a phone and a computer to work from anywhere and communicate with anyone, and
- a camera to capture all of this
This new approach has changed the way I think in many ways.
Buying something new is much harder
Even if I have room for the new item in my bag, I must first ask myself whether I need it enough to carry it everywhere with me.
Replacing a broken or worn down item is just fine, of course.
Make room for the good stuff
Even though I use it a lot, I decided to leave the iPad behind on this trip. I did miss it a bit at first, but I'm so glad I didn't have it with me.
Not only is it one less device I have to carry / care for but most importantly, I had much more time to do other things without my TV for YouTube (this is what I use my iPad for).
Don't get me wrong: I still watch YouTube more than I should, but less now that it's slightly more inconvenient.
Fewer choices means less stress
I know, this is a cliche by now, but it's true: fewer clothes, fewer cameras / lenses, fewer anything is usually better because there's no dwelling on what to wear or bring with you. It's as simple as that.
I appreciate the things that really matter
Those few items I still have with me are the very basic stuff I need, and I appreciate some of them more than ever.
I almost didn't bring hiking boots on my trip across the SW and that would've been a big mistake. They take a lot of space, but I was able to go on amazing hikes where regular shoes wouldn't have cut it. Never underestimate a pair of good boots.
Another example is my water bottle. I left mine behind due to lack of space and had to get a new one. It won't happen again.
Still a lot to learn
After all this time, I still make silly mistakes.
I currently have a couple of items with me that I'm not using: a camera lens and an ebook reader. I've been carrying them around for the last few weeks for no reason.
My biggest mistake on this trip was forgetting the external battery / power tank. It's very useful when traveling and I have missed it.
The luggage that really matters
Being forced to own less stuff has been a positive change for me. It helped me understand that I don't need much and that I should appreciate more what I already have.
Seeing my possessions reduced to a couple of bags made feel almost like being naked at first. Exposed. Over time, I started to realize that not even those few items were so important. I can replace every single one of them.
I understood something I'd known all my life but couldn't fully comprehend until I did it:
the luggage that matters isn't the one that goes in the trunk or the overhead compartment;
the luggage that matters is the one where you can always squeeze one more thing in, the one you can't lose: the experiences you gain along the journey, and the people you share them with
After all, isn't this what we call life?