On Minimalism and Being a Digital Nomad

So, how do we manage to travel and lead a location-independent lifestyle? One of the keys to this journey has been making sure that we are relatively minimalist. By owning few possessions, we don't have to lug around all that many things on our journeys. Additionally, we don't spend our valuable paychecks on acquiring things, and can instead either save that money (which gives us an additional safetynet, as well as F-you money).

Of course, both Jones and I have a lot of things that we want. In fact, we travel in what feels sometimes like extreme comfort -- how many travellers do you know that take along their dog, a (tiny!) espresso maker, and 2 yoga mats on the road? In the end, though, if we bought everything that we wanted, our lifestyle simply wouldn't be possible. So how have we learned to follow a minimalist lifestyle, while still living comfortably?

1. Once a year, I ask myself: "Have I used this in the last year?" If I haven't, I have to really come up with a good reason to not throw it out. If I haven't worn that sweatshirt that I was kinda into in the last year, I don't delude myself: it's not going to happen. I'd rather donate two sweatshirts that I am lukewarm about and go out and get a sweatshirt that I love and wear nearly every day.

2. We travel -- not too slow, not too fast. To really travel every day, we would prefer to live out of a backpack. However, we talked about the type of lifestyle that we enjoyed, and have tried different rates of travel. In the end, moving more frequently than every 2 or 3 months stressed us out, and meant that we weren't fully appreciating the cities in which we were living. We like owning yoga mats and a few things to pursue hobbies that would be made more difficult if we lived out of a backpack. We form deeper connections and make friends in the places that we travel to if we stick around for longer than a few days.

At the same time, we do move every so often. The process of packing up all of your stuff is a great time to figure out which stuff you actually want to have, and which stuff you are just keeping around as a 'just in case'. Maybe it's that present that you got and never really used but feel bad about donating. It might be some gear for a sport that you keep on telling yourself you're back into. Whatever the case, pass it on!

3. I have a mandatory multi-week 'thinking period' for most significant purchases. I like to go to a store, figure out whether or not I like something, and then give it at least a month to figure out whether or not I really want that thing. Do I really want it, or is it just a temporary desire? This makes it less likely that I'll start getting stuff that I don't want/need, or that I'll then experience buyer's remorse in the days after.

4. We get relatively high quality stuff. Once I buy something, I want to have that thing for multiple years. By treating things as less disposable, we create less waste, and have to devote less mental energy to the whole process of shopping for stuff to replace the stuff that wears out/breaks.

5. We try to repair stuff where we can. I'm particularly fond of brands that help you fix your stuff (like MEC or Patagonia), instead of making you buy something new whenever the old thing breaks. After a year+ on the road, a snap on my MEC bag broke. Fortunately, I was able to contact the MEC folks, and they paid for a snap replacement, which was then in my mailbox in a couple of days.

6. Buy one thing, get rid of one thing. This principle has been especially useful with clothes -- it's far too easy to accumulate more clothes than you need, yet also feel like you don't have much to wear. I try to keep a fixed number of articles of clothing, and rotate stuff out as it wears out or I am less into it, to allow room for new clothes in the rotation.

7. We have a small storage unit with things of sentimental value. There are some things (like the dulcimer that I built) that are important to me, but would not do well with a life on the road. These things live in a storage unit, though we made sure to get a small one, and regularly revisit the list of items that we have there, ensuring that we still want to keep everything that is there.

How do other nomad readers make sure that they don't end up traveling with too much stuff?

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