One thing I’ve never been a big believer in is that “things” equal success. I think it’s kinda sad that most people see it that way though. Ads bombard us constantly telling us how much our lives suck without their products. To get these products we must have a better job. To have a better job we have to sacrifice our free time. When we sacrifice our free time we eventually miss it and look for ways to get more of it. Sadly, we’ve been trained to think that technological gizmos and more stuff will make our lives easier and give us more free time. In reality, we have to work harder to afford those gizmos, thus taking away from that free time. It’s a stupid cycle and one I played for a short while right after attending university. Fortunately I saw the viciousness of the vortex pulling me down before it was too late and I swam to shore — and have been there since.
If you saw the cell phone I carry, you’d probably be appalled. Hell, most six year olds would be appalled! Most everything I have is well used. Why? I am a firm believer that when I buy something it needs to have a purpose and I’m willing to use it until it’s no longer useful, even if it’s not the “latest”. To use my phone as an example, I bought it to make calls and to have when people want to call me. Crazy huh? As old and low-tech as it is, it still allows me to make calls and every once in a blue moon, it will buzz and voila!, there is someone is on the other end who wants to talk to me. I love this science fictiony type stuff!
Now I’m not very tech savvy, but I’d be willing to bet my words wouldn’t travel through cyber space any faster, nor would the words of my friends get to me any faster if I had the latest, and most expensive iPhone. And if those words did get to me 1,000,000 nanoseconds faster, would it really be worth spending hundreds of dollars for the privilege of simply being able to tell me friends about it? Apple wants you to think so but it’s just not all that important to me.
Anyhow, in this process of thinking about the path ahead, I naturally thought about what necessities I should take with me. Since I love to travel as much as I do, my very first thought was that I needed to significantly lighten the load. If you’ve ever schlepped a backpack around while traveling, you know the value of packing light! You learn quickly to take the minimum. However, I’ve seen people get out of taxis and watched a dumbstruck cabbie unload a mountain of suitcases onto the curb. Traveling that way is certainly not efficient and truth be told, is sort of stupid. If you “need” that much stuff to travel, then maybe you don’t need to travel. Obviously the ads I mentioned above work on some people.
Donna and I aren’t the types to accumulate a lot of stuff, but in the course of living things seem to pile up. Like magic, one day you walk into your basement and are puzzled how it got so cluttered. There is no way I could’ve accumulated all that stuff, but yet, it happens. Okay, a lot of mine is super important gear, but still…
I procrastinated for a couple of weeks, thinking I should start the process of sifting through some of it and downsizing the fleet, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start. So, instead of forcing it, I let the idea simmer, thinking about my reasoning and trying to understand exactly how that accumulation occurred in the first place. More importantly, I wanted to understand why now was the right time to cast away some of the weight! Then, early one evening I went to the basement with a strong sense of detachment and got started.
The hardest part is starting. The next hardest part is stopping! Once I got rolling everything was being considered for elimination. If I hadn’t used it in a year, it got strong consideration. Two years meant immediately it was out the door. Although I use most of my gear a lot, I was still a tad surprised how much I had accumulated over the years. But I was committed so everything was given unbiased review.
When I got to my collection of backpacks, I soldiered on with my cause despite becoming a little more emotional about the items. One backpack in particular, a Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15, made me stop, sit in the floor and think about the process in a different way.
You see, a backpack has always been my symbol of freedom and simplicity. When traveling internationally, it’s all I’ll take with me. It’s simple and easy to carry through airports, on busses, tuk-tuks or simply walking from one place to another.
When Jason and I were bumming around South Asia for a couple of months, we had everything we “needed” in our backpacks (mine being the aforementioned Lowe Alpine one). And for two months we lacked for nothing. Other than a new book or a trinket here or there, we lived with what we had. We’d sometimes trade a couple of books at local bookstores for a new one because we either didn’t have room in the packs or simply didn’t want to carry the weight. We seriously kept it about as simple as you can imagine. By keeping it simple we were able to move around freely and efficiently and always according to the compass of our imagination. Living the simplistic lifestyle of a backpacker is ultimate freedom. Being free allowed us to see things we might not otherwise have seen. Seeing those things facilitated emotional and spiritual growth like I’d never imagined. Another viscious cycle…but a beautiful cycle in this instance.
So, as I contemplated that Lowe Alpine backpack for downsizing, I wondered whether I should just keep it. After all, it had well over 100,000 miles of sentimental value wrapped up in it. But then I looked on the floor around me and saw that I had about six other backpacks of all different shapes, colours and sizes and I was immediately refocused on reducing the weight of having more than I need. I thought it ironic that my symbol of freedom was also something that could be construed as an anchor. In the end the backpack was put in the pile to be listed on eBay.
I’m still in the midst of this downsizing process. Clothes, shoes, tools, cameras, lenses and everything else inside the walls of my house is getting scrutinized and the listings on eBay and Craigslist are growing accordingly. I thought this process might sometimes make me sad or I’d feel pangs of regret, but in actuality it’s making me feel better and more ready to set course for the adventures ahead. I always claim to be a simple guy with simple tastes and simple needs and perhaps my absence of regret in this downsizing process is a good confirmation that my claim is true.
My style of being a traveler is incredibly simplistic and keeping my day to day life in tune with that style keeps me smiling everyday and keeps me nimble and ready for any adventure that comes along.
Less is more.
Climb high, ski hard, pedal far, paddle long, live big.