Travel Lessons: Less is More

In America, we’re taught to be consumers. We need new toys, more clothes, extra electronic devices, flashier cars, and bigger TVs.

Bigger. Faster. More.

We collect and build up this mountain of stuff that consumes our lives. This stuff that we worked so hard to attain eventually becomes burdens in our lives because of the debt and bills that it creates and more significantly, because of the mental space that it occupies. Possessions eventually possess us.

Does your closet look something like this?

Does your closet look something like this?!

Traveling forces you to downsize. First, you downsize your belongings to whatever you can fit in your carry-on and check-in bags. Then, you downsize where you live by moving into a hotel room, guesthouse or an apartment. While you’re traveling, you’re forced to live with less baggage and less space. Less of these things can be a discomfort at first, but if you embrace how downsizing is good for you, you’ll reap the real benefits of travel.

With less stuff, you liberate yourself from the burden that possessions bring. With this new-found freedom, you’re able to appreciate the people, places, and things around you that really make life meaningful.

All of our stuff for 4 months of travel

All of our stuff for 4 months of travel

When we moved into our Taipei studio for a month, our bags occupied the entire closet area. The room was just long and wide enough to fit one queen bed, one twin bed, and a small love seat sofa. If we washed clothes and put them to dry on the clothes’ rack, we would have almost no walking space in the apartment. That was how small it was. Add-in two energetic little girls and empty space was at a premium.

Tiny studio for 4 people

Tiny studio for 4 people

When our new life of living in a studio with less stuff eventually became our normal life, we realized a few things:

  1. Less clothes meant less stress for choices in what to wear each day.
  2. Less toys meant less time spent by the kids picking up their stuff.
  3. Less living space meant less work in keeping it clean and tidy.
  4. No kitchen meant no grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.

By stripping ourselves of these things, we created more time and energy to spend on things we enjoyed such as sightseeing, walking around our neighborhood, exercising, eating out, reading, writing, and talking to and playing with our kids. Without the stress of chores that would take up the majority of our time in America (ie. cleaning the house, washing our car, cooking, dishwashing, yard work, etc.), we were able to focus on enjoying the moments we had together as a family, whether it was eating meals together, watching our girls’ impromptu dancing performances, or just watching our girls wake up in the morning.

Enjoying our close proximity to the girls

Enjoying our close proximity to the girls

By traveling slowly, we are lighter and freer without the burden of all the stuff we left at home. And by knowing that we can only buy what we can carry (or roll around in our carry-on luggage), we collect less things and invest more in the quality of our experiences.

Take your first step to living a fuller and more meaningful life by living with less. Do something. Donate some clothes, give away some toys, sell the extra car. Simplify your life. Get rid of stuff that takes up valuable space in your life and make room for the good stuff to come rolling in.

At the end of our lives, we won’t remember how many fancy toys we had or all the cars we drove, but what will last in our memories are the people who we spent our time with and the places where we were together.

On top of the world

On top of the world

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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  • Less is more is correct! It’s the simple things. Man, I do miss living out of a backpack sometimes.

    • Gerard, thanks for commenting. Enjoy your time as newlyweds without kids. Once the kids come, then your life really gets buried in stuff.