I was twenty four years old. I ended a long-term relationship with a woman who I thought I was going to marry one day. I had a business partner that abruptly died of a heart attack one morning. I come from a small rural town in the prairies of Alberta and I had never traveled a day in my life. I wasn’t quite at rock bottom, but my thoughts were very much in line with someone who did not see the point of living. My confidence and self-esteem was so low that I wouldn’t dare walk by a mirror or any reflective surface that would reveal my face or body. I felt like a talentless shell of a human.
One night, I had a weird feeling in my stomach when I was out with some friends. It was a fleeting sensation of anxiousness. It was something I had never felt before in my life. I remember walking out of the lounge that night feeling like something had changed inside of me. Looking back now, something definitely changed, because three days later, I was walking out of an airport in New Zealand by myself with just a backpack.
I am not sitting here writing to you to tell you a novel about all the details of my life; we can save that for another time. What I can tell you right now is that before I stepped onto Kiwi soil, I was a person who put my energy and time into all the wrong things. Things like expensive clothes, luxury cars, and money. I didn’t know the difference between a drinking buddy and a friend. I threw myself into my social and romantic relationships hoping to find worth, and I always came up short. I didn’t know what was north or south, and my mind was cluttered with useless junk.
New Zealand was a chance at a fresh slate. Every step was filled with unknowns, and it was up to me to figure out answers to life’s biggest questions. I don’t need to tell you how scared I was. If you can imagine stepping out into the world for the first time in your life, then you can probably piece together a long list of fears and doubts.
Over the next couple months I found out I was not so weak after all. I made friends, I did all the terrifying adrenaline-boosting activities a human body could subject itself to. Not only did I find some clarity out there on the road, the universe gave me a bonus; it showed me what my passions and gifts were. I learned that I could make a decent film and tell a story that wasn’t awful. These gifts put me in positions to take opportunities beyond my wildest dreams.
I eventually became a filmmaker and photographer, traveling to different destinations and creating digital assets for big brands. Sometimes it would be for a magazine like GQ, sometimes it would be for a person like Hafthor Bjornsson, who starred in Game of Thrones, and sometimes it would be for brands like Aston Martin.
You know what was the most amazing part? When I was living out this chapter of my life, chasing down any and all opportunities, I had nothing but a few outfits in my pack and some newly invested camera equipment. Just enough to create what I needed in order to continue living on the road. Having less allowed me to worry less and focus more on what was important. Before I realized it, I was two or three years into a minimalist lifestyle, and as I started to unpack this, I realized that removing material goods, toxic people, and mental distractions gave me eyes that could see life more clearly. When you hear the word minimalism, you immediately think about objects and items. My truth is that minimalism is more than just getting rid of all the junk in your house; it is removing people who don’t accept you, beliefs that block you from growing. When life is approached this way, it just makes sense to remove material things along the way.
I think a lot of us, when we encounter problems in life, think to add to our lives. We want to purchase things to make us feel good, we want to make more friends or see more places. My peace came from realizing that subtraction was the answer, not addition. Remove what isn’t needed. Declutter your mind and heart, and you will be surprised at the answers you find.