Jason and I have a new blog about minimalist living at morefunwithless.com. I wrote this as my debut post. I hope you check it out and sign up to follow us!
In 2015, after surviving a series of personal traumas, I found myself in a place where I could look at my life from a new vantage point. I had accomplished a lot in my 33 years. I had completed my doctorate, built my own house, and landed my dream job. Yet before I even celebrated a milestone, I was off to the next task. I realized I was caught in the achievement trap, a trap I had spent my whole life ensnared in. I felt like I was never good enough. Naturally, I tried harder and achieved more to get the love and respect I wanted more than anything. My self-worth was tied to what others thought of me.
It took something big to snap me out of this trance; in about six months I had lost the majority of my family due to death or divorce, and I walked away from my house and the life and dreams it once held. It was the darkest time of my life, but through this experience, I found something big. Something life changing. I found myself.
For the next two years I asked myself, “what do I need to be happy?” I realized right away that it wasn’t a big house, a new car, lots of stuff. It wasn’t a big salary or professional prestige. It wasn’t to be held in high esteem by family or colleagues. Rather, I want a simple life. One that allows me to fully express all my interests. By working 50+ hour work weeks, I didn’t have the time or space to foster my creative side. I had given up writing, music, and art in the pursuit of a high-powered career. I gained a lot of knowledge, experience, and confidence from my career, and I felt like I was making a difference for people and the planet. But I had to bury parts of myself to keep up in the rat race. I knew that I could live for me, rather than live to make a living, yet pulling the plug and doing it was going to take a lot of courage.
I was so ingrained in my old patterns and stories that I found the best thing was to step away from all of it. My little American Falcon teardrop trailer was just the answer. With the help of my partner, Jason, I sold most of my stuff, gave up my apartment, and we hit the road with our 16-year-old dog, Kiji. Most people were supportive, even envious. They confided that they wished they too had the courage to break loose and follow their hearts. Some people were critical, however, and told me I was throwing away an opportunity to pursue my career or to save for retirement, or that I was naïve and was going to fall flat on my face. Even in this case, I could see how powerful a motivator fear is in our lives. Fear of not having enough, fear of not being good enough. I choose to live my life from a place of abundance rather than a place of fear.
Here is why I decided to quit my job and travel:
>> To Slow Down. While working an all-consuming job, the days, weeks, and months were flying by. I choose to be present in my life, to feel and acknowledge each day and experience. While working, I practiced mindfulness about 10 minutes per day. Why can’t most of my day be spent in the present moment?
>> To Reduce Stress. If I was living the life of my dreams, then why wasn’t I happy? All waking hours were spent doing something, and mostly that was work related. There was always more work to be done; I couldn’t get ahead.
>> To Foster my Creativity. I wanted the time and space to exercise all parts of me. I have the plot for a mystery novel I’ve been wanting to write for years but the last thing I wanted to do when I got home from work was to sit in front of a computer. I also want to play and write music, something I gave up entirely in my previous life.
>> To Live a Simple Life. To live the life I want, I needed to downsize, declutter, and escape the consumer lifestyle. I would rather fill my life with experiences than stuff. There’s no better motivation than moving into a five-foot by eight-foot teardrop trailer to fast track downsizing.
>> To Follow my Heart. I started with a list of pros and cons, some structured decision making, and even a consequences table to help with my decision. But as much as I love to use my head, I ended up going with my heart. When I asked my heart what it really wants, it answered with a color. Blue. Not just any blue, but the turquoise blue of Caribbean waters. Our final Yucatan destination on this trip isn’t a place, rather a color.
>> To Once and For All, Escape the Achievement Trap. I will stop living for the expectations of others. In my teardrop, I have the freedom to ask what I want. This is my opportunity to heal…and maybe help a few others along the way.
After three months of traveling in our teardrop, I know this was the right choice. I can go back to my career – or I can design a new one, one that that allows me to live the life I want. A minimalist lifestyle, some creativity, and a little courage can go a long way to redefining what’s possible.
“Men are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving.” – D.H. Lawrence