Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.
In 1998, I backpacked the entire 2160-mile Appalachian Trail. It took me almost 6 months of carrying my whole life on my back. That was an eye-opening experience, that all my daily needs could be reduced to almost nothing. You had a very direct connection with your “stuff” because you had to physically carry it. It made you appreciate somethings worth, or non-worth. The two skills you learned quickly were:
- If you didn’t use it every day, maybe you really didn’t need it.
- Items that could do two or three or more jobs were preferable.
While hiking the trail, my whole apartment was put in storage above my parents garage. When I came home, I realized that so much of that “stuff” wasn’t really needed and was able to donate almost half to charity. But after each subsequent bit of long-distance travel (6 months biking across the US, 6 months walking across Spain and living in a Buddhist monastery, and more travels), the amount of “stuff” in storage became smaller and smaller.
I have just returned from 4 years as a volunteer English teacher at a Buddhist center in Mongolia. The amount I left in storage was now down to a very small box that only carries my souvenirs from all those previous trips, one-of-a-kind items. Anything else usually gets given to friends or to charity.
I guess what I have learned from all this is that instead of spending so much money (and time working to make that money) on things, I would much rather spend both the time and money on other things like travel and helping others. And because of this, I have seen with my own eyes that much of planet lives, and thrives, on a very frugal and simple lifestyle. Our great-grandparents probably knew that lifestyle but most Americans have long forgotten it.
And to be honest, I think I am a much happier person for all that has happened to me on my “simple” path. [smile]
If you’d like to read more about Jim’s travels like hiking the Appalachian Trail or his last 4 years in Mongolia, he has a blog called Wanderingtheworld.com.