18 months ago, I didn’t know what minimalism was. Sure, I’d experienced minimal music, visual art, and fashion, or perhaps I’d used the term a few times in a work context. Regardless, I had no idea about a minimalist movement, what a minimalist was, or anything of the sort.
In early 2017, a window of opportunity opened up for my partner and I to take a break from work and go travel—something I had not done before because I was ‘too busy’ or ‘had something else going on’. After years of friends telling stories of the adventures they had while traveling, people they encountered, and memories they would keep forever—it was finally my turn to experience these things for myself.
In the lead up to our adventure, it was time to start saving money for the expenses. Cutting day-to-day savings from lifestyle choices didn’t seem like it was going to cut it, though it would help a bit. We needed something more substantial, long-term, and radical. We both had credit card debt and no real savings of note, so we contemplated getting another loan to make our travels happen. However, while sitting in a flat filled with things, we simply decided to sell what we owned instead of borrowing money.
While we minimized our belongings, we found that our belongings outnumbered any rational number we could have come up with. As we got more confident in our dream to travel, we sold everything we could. A guitar that I had bought to impress my partner when we first met, sleeping bags for festival season, Guitar Hero, extra cameras, vehicles, and eventually, our flat itself. This gave us the funds to clear our debt and plenty to go on our journey with. The remaining valuables stayed with my parents until our return.
I looked down at my keyring and there was nothing there. No car key, no house keys, no work fob, no pass, no bottle opener… nothing. This should be scary, but why did it feel so good?
A few nights before we left, we packed our bags and reflected on the effort that we put into getting rid of our stuff. If felt good—not just knowing that I could live quite happily with less, but also give that opportunity to others to gain value in the stuff. One of my guitars went to an 8-year-old for his birthday—his first guitar. One of our cameras is now being used by a photography student for their course. Our books are now being read by a friend rather than leaving them to gather dust, and of course, someone is having the time of their life on Guitar Hero. One of my suits was worn by a 16-year-old for his school prom, and the list goes on.
Only when we were in North Vietnam did it finally click—what we were doing was becoming minimalists. We had shed most of our belongings throughout the journey, and our experiences had nothing to do with the stuff we were carrying. Minimalism was the tool that helped remove the excess stuff (physical and mental) from our environment that allowed us complete freedom to enjoy what was truly important to us. Plus, we’d also helped others find fulfillment and added value along the way. We were simply living in the moment, taking ourselves out of our comfort zone, exploring the world, and learning more about ourselves and each other.
Now I have memories to keep forever.