We’d figured out the why...but once you and your spouse decide you are going to travel around the world for the next year and half, you immediately start thinking about how.
How will we pay for this? How will we plan it? What will be the ultimate goal, if we are going to dedicate 18 months to this journey? To just have fun? Are we going on a really long vacation, and should treat it like that? Or will we approach this adventure differently, more eager to chase cultural experiences and knowledge rather than comfort and leisure.
And what on earth are we going to do with all of this stuff? We looked around our home and realized we’re surrounded by the consequences of a very poor material relationship with the world. We were just like other typical people, in that we feared loss and hoarded our possessions, even after they no longer served us. It’s human nature, after all, to pick up an item, anything really, that you currently own but have not used in quite some time, look at it, and think, “no, I can’t get rid of this. I’ll probably need it in the future.” Maybe this attitude served us in the past, when life was dangerous and possessions were hard to come by. But today?
One of the feelings that pervaded my daily thinking the summer before we decided to commit to this adventure was that of the things I owned. When I (or we) decided to buy something, we didn’t truly consider what the item required, other than the financial cost. Should we get a boat? Yes! It’ll be so much fun. How about a couple jet skis!? Awesome, let’s do it. What else -- hmmm, some nice cars, a house on the water, let’s live the life we’ve earned, right?
We only truly considered the joy, entertainment, and positivity that these material possessions would bring us. But one morning while having my coffee, I started to think about the amount of things we owned and how excessive it seemed to be getting. Then I pondered the requirements they all had: requirements of me and my time. The boat needed to be cleaned regularly (by this, I mean I had to don a snorkel and mask and dive under it to scrub the bottom, something I loathed, especially the one time my leg slid across a barnacle and sliced open about 4 inches. A few stitches later and I decided to outsource this task). The jet skis required oil changes regularly, and needed to be ran frequently, even in the winter. Our house suffered more corrosion than most, due to being on the water and dealing with the salt air; metal did not fare so well and rusted away rather quickly, something I was made aware of when our deck nearly collapsed one night. If you have a nice car, you feel guilty if you do not keep it clean. A large house requires more cleaning as well.
Eventually I wondered if I owned my possessions or they owned me. Or were we mixed in this symbiotic relationship in which 2 hours of cleaning, maintaining, and upkeep would gain 1 hour of entertainment and fun?
Don’t read into this too much - we had some of the most amazing times with friends on all of our toys, our plethora of material possessions, but the things we owned were just that, tools to have fun with our friends. The real joy we received from the things we owned were the memories we made with the people we shared them with.
That’s what it’s all about, in my mind. I can think back to many times we were sailing across the bay, with perfect weather, sunny skies, wind on our beam and the boat gliding through the water effortlessly. Music played and drinks were served to the 6-12 people we may have had aboard. I wouldn’t trade these times for anything. But if you were to put me in that exact situation, yet remove the friends from the boat, I’d likely be miserable. In fact, without friends to take sailing, I’d probably of never considered getting a sailboat.
Joy is to be shared with others. Experiences are to be shared. That’s the realization we’ve come to. Our possessions, the things we own, are only there to serve the purpose of enhancing the fun, entertainment, and joy, so long as it is shared with others.
So, then, what are we to do with all of these goddamn things in our house?
Sell them. Sell all of them. We’ll use the money earned to fund our adventure, and in the future, when we are re-buying anything, we’ll ask ourselves if what we’re about to purchase will bring joy to us, as a couple, or with the friends around us. If the answer is no, we’ll ask if we can avoid buying it - can it be rented instead? Or can we buy it, use it for its purpose, and then immediately sell it or donate it? We no longer plan to just collect items that are used once every few years - we will no longer hoard and we will no longer have a scarcity mindset.
All we truly need is each other, our family, and our friends.
I’m writing this now after having listed hundreds of items on Facebook, Craigslist, and the LetGo app. Most would think we were crazy for the amount of items we’ve donated. We’ve sold plenty to our friends in the neighborhood, at prices that are an extremely good deal for them (and credit good karma to us), and we’ve had very successful yard sales.
Now we have a couch and a T.V., both of which will be moved next week. Our goal is to fit our possessions of this world into our truck, and no more.
Believe me, it’s been painful. I’m a bit detached from material things, to be honest, and can throw away pretty much anything. This is probably an antisocial trait of mine. Maggie, on the other hand, has shed some serious tears. We’re both exploring this new way of thinking, doing our best to understand why we feel the way we do about certain physical objects. It’s always tied to a memory of some moment in which the object was a part of - whether it was directly used, or was a gift, or simply commemorated something. But the object, usually, has served its purpose, and it will not bring that joy again. Sure, by holding the object, you are reminded of the event and how you felt, but if the object were to leave your life, you’d still have that memory.
So why do we keep these things? I’ve asked these questions dozens of times throughout this process, “So that thing has been in a box, in the attic, for about eight years now. And this is the first time you’ve pulled it out, but you don’t want to get rid of it because it’s important to you? And after our trip, what are you going to do with it? Put it back in a box, back in another attic, in a house somewhere else? And we’ll keep doing that with the hundreds of things we call important, for the rest of our lives, and eventually we’ll die, and someone will have to go through all of our important things and sell them?”
Yikes - these are pointed and tough questions, but the truth is usually brutal. We’re working on it, but it’s been tough, to say the least.
Still, I’m feeling more and more liberated as we get rid of stuff. When all you own are the clothes on your back, a few cameras, and a backpack, you aren’t concerned about much, other than living life.
If the only resource that is truly limited it time, then it’s time we start considering how we spend it. None of us know when we’re going to leave this world, so there’s no sense in putting things off until tomorrow. There’s no sense in collecting things rather than collecting memories and experiences.
I’ll end this passage with a scenario:
Imagine I gave you a ‘Life’ debit card. It’s tied to an account with money in it, but you cannot know how much is in the account. Now, the money is yours, free and clear, with only one string attached: once you deplete the account, you die.
Oh and this is the only money you are allowed to spend in life, period. You can’t earn more, and your friends can’t give you any of theirs.
You’d be very careful about what kinds of things you purchased, right? Because you never know when you’re getting low on funds, every dollar becomes precious. What kinds of things would you stop buying? Probably useless/trivial material possessions. What *would* you spend the money on? Probably life experiences with friends and families.
If you say you’d be willing to spend the money on a plane ticket, you’d probably fit right in with us, and I hope we get to hang out someday.