in Personal, Travel

Living Richly Without Riches

How much stuff do you own? A lot I’m sure, but does your collection of furniture, clothes, books, and all the rest of it bring you the most happiness? Could you pick just 10 things and give everything else away and still be happy? I think you could.

Sometimes without even knowing it, we use things or objects to determine the value of our lives and use this as a showcase for others to prove worth. Its not really our fault as indivuduals. We’ve been trained to do this ever since the end of the industrial revolution here in the United States. The more you buy, the healthier the economy. The healthier the economy, the more you’re able to buy. Its a vicious cycle that ends in us collecting a lot of stuff. Most of it we don’t need and half of it ends up in the attic or garage in our houses that themselves are far bigger than we even need, just so that we can collect more stuff.

Don’t get me wrong here and think that owning things is necessarily bad, but I want to question whether or not the things you own have some level of control of your life. Have you ever made a decision to not go somewhere or do something because you are handcuffed to the very things you bought satisfy you? Does that new designer couch come with an incredible story to share or does is simply sit there, looking expensive and pretty, but is hardly comfortable to sit on? Could that money have been better spent on experiences you’ve been dreaming about for years?

What would your reaction be if I said that while you’ve spent your life building up a collection of things, I’ve been actively shedding everything I own since I left college. I’ve even instituted a system in which I have to get rid of something I’m not using to replace it with something more useful to me. Its okay to think I’m a little crazy, or somewhat misguided. Its even okay to think its a little brave and adventurous. I’ve had a gamut of responses when people realize that I can fit everything I need into a couple bags that I can throw in my car, and no one is wrong or right in their interpretations of just what they think might be like live my life.

I have a couple nice pairs of clothes, camera equipment, computer, my car and other small items I actually need to get work done. I do not own a bed, a couch, or anything that does not directly get used on a regular basis. It makes my life very simple, and for the most part stress-free. In a matter of an hour I can be packed and on an adventure. Its quite the liberated experience.

If anything, this has many people wondering if I have some hidden stash of money somewhere so that I can just pick up and leave when I please. I am not rich by any means, but I do well enough to keep me moving. My goals structured purely on experiences, not consumption, keeps me centered and helps me keep a perspective on what is important in my life. Experiencing as much as I possibly can in the uncertain amount of time we have on this Earth.

My relationships with other people, including family and friends, acquaintances, and brief interactions with strangers help shape each of our lives in some tiny way even if we don’t notice it immediately. These interactions are incredibly important to me and make me rich in ways other than financial. They make me rich of knowledge. Rich of joy. Rich of support. Rich of emotional well being. Rich in life.

One of the greatest things I have learned over the last several years is to be present in the moment, rather than looking for what you might be missing out on. Fear of missing out and sacrificing the experience directly in front of you is the greatest mistake and detrimental emotional influencer I can imagine. For each moment you let pass by without fully experiencing is a moment and an experience you can never recreate or get back once you realize you missed it. Thinking about what you might be missing out on across town isn’t going to be able to replace the experience you could create if you would simply be present in your current moment.

Don’t live to be rich. Live richly. It’s far more fulfilling.

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