I have had the privilege to live in and travel to many places beyond my home country of western Canada. In the past, I’ve always brought back “stuff” from these adventures. Old photographs from a Parisian riverside book stall, a piggy bank from Copenhagen, a bag of fancy coffee beans from a San Francisco roastery, a bierstein from Munich, an old pipe from an antique shop in the Dutch countryside… Not to mention the whole mess of things I accumulated during my year living in England. I ended up hauling all of this back with me to Alberta, adding more stuff to all the stuff I already had at home. Now that I’m abroad again, I’ve made the firm decision to do things differently. Why?
I’m a hoarder. Or rather, was a hoarder. You see, I’ve always had a penchant for accumulating things. Lots and lots of pretty, pleasing, but largely pointless things. My bookcase back home is crammed with DVDs and CDs and, of course, a plethora of books (I was an English major, after all). I have small collections of old pipes and antique tins, a stack of old photographs, a closet crammed with clothes! And that doesn’t even mention the travel mementos. The overwhelming effect of the sheer amount of possessions I have didn’t hit me until I briefly moved back into my old bedroom this past September. I felt suffocated by stuff.
I was more than thrilled to move to Germany shortly afterwards with only the contents of a single suitcase to my name. I now have a couple of books, a sparse closet, and little else. While some people couldn’t fathom living with so little for multiple months, I’ve found it refreshing and freeing, and very fitting to the stage of my life that I’m currently in. As a recent graduate with plans to hop continents during the next two years, I want to travel lightly. Belongings carry a lot of weight, both mentally and physically, and I don’t want them to weigh me down while I’m constantly moving around, trying to figure out the next steps I take through adulthood.
Which brings me back to the beginning of my post. As I plan my next batch of travels, and begin to budget accordingly, I think of all the money I spent on bits and bobs that I’d buy… for what? To have a physical object as proof of my being to that place? Why is that even necessary? In the past, I’ve always bought souvenirs, thinking that I had to. My mentality was: I may only be in this place once, so I might as well buy loads of novelty mugs and that antique oil painting to remember it by. As part of my plan to de-clutter my life and live more minimally (I’ll talk more about that later), I have decided to do things differently this time around. Instead of dropping money on things, I want to spend it on experiences. I cringe to think of all the fun things I could’ve physically done abroad, using the savings I’d squandered on clothes and knick-knacks. These items can be destroyed, fall apart, or go missing over the years, and you’ll be left with zilch. But a memory? That sticks with you forever.