1. Daydream like a kid again
As adults we are trained to give up our dreams and fantasies for the sake of so-called practicality. Any wild dream is deemed silly and immediately dismissed, so often we are embarrassed to even voice what we really want in life. This step is completed in the safety and privacy of your own brain. Allow yourself to daydream. Picture yourself in your ideal lifestyle, and really soak in how amazing it feels to be there. At this point in my own journey, my mental script was saying “wow, wouldn't it be amazing if I could travel the world? I wish!” Wishing something into existence is the very first step- you have to see it in your minds eye to let it manifest.
2. Find inspiration
While I was sewing for my most recent runway show, I listened to a travel podcast almost every single day. I was super booked (as always) and was drafting patterns, cutting fabric, and sewing one garment every day (I don't recommend this, it's tiring!!) I'm a very social person, and like to be outside of the house for the majority of the day, so having to be stuck inside all those hours was very draining. What saved me was that podcast. I found it by accident on Spotify while looking for music. That inspired me to do more research. I read as many articles, blog posts, and books as I could written by people who did what I wanted to do. Just from listening to the podcast and reading material I was able to learn so much that it made my dream of world travel seem way more achievable. If you are the type of person to over-think things, or can't go into things blindly, I highly recommend reading real-life stories from world travelers to ease your worries.
3. Get un-stuck
After I graduated, I made a conscious choice not to find a full-time art teacher job, because I knew I could get comfortable and stay stuck. So for Fall-Spring 2016 I worked odd jobs that I couldn't get attached to as I worked up the courage to travel. I mostly worked as a substitute teacher, which is incredibly flexible (just accept jobs on the daily as needed). Because I could make my own schedule, I was able to dip my toes into solo travel with my trip to Arizona. Read about my unconventional trip here. I told myself I would take that year to figure things out, and the next Fall I would apply for jobs. Well, summer came and I decided that I hadn't yet satisfied my thirst for travel, so I decided not to apply for a teaching job in the Fall. With the big, empty year looming ahead of me with no job to fill it up, I forced myself to act. That's when I started researching different jobs one could find abroad. Through my research I read so many stories of people who built or enhanced their career through their travels- it wasn't just a vacation to them. This really spurred me on, and I decided to look into TEFL certifications. I am getting certified through the International TEFL Academy
4. Talk about it
It's time now to take the inner workings of your brain from step #1 and spill it out into the world! This may be the scariest step for some people. Personally what I feared most was the reaction from my parents- no one wants their kid to move away! I slowly introduced the idea to them, and I mean slowly, like for years. They didn't take me seriously at first, but it got to them eventually. As for everyone else, I told people a few at a time to gradually get the idea out there. This cuts out the drama of “HEY! I'M LEAVING!!” Speaking things out loud makes you more likely to follow through with action, because you feel held accountable by everyone you told. Don't worry, its a good kind of pressure. Since people started to know I was going to travel, I have been approached a few times by fellow travelers with their tips and stories. Being open about what you want will ensure that people with your interests see you and want to connect!
5. Make yourself as light as a feather
The first thought that ran through my head when I thought about travel was “Crap! How am I gonna bring all my stuff??” I remember traveling as a kid and packing up our stuff to get shipped internationally, its a lot of work and money. Do away with that concern by getting rid of everything but the necessities. I personally got rid of almost 2/3 of everything I own, see how I did it here. Most likely there will be awesome stuff during your travels that you will want to buy anyway! Might as well leave room in your suitcase for it, am I right? Anyway, the essence of travel is about experience- the food, the views, and the people- and less about material objects. Let this be a chance to reconnect to the things that really matter in life. Before I even left for my trip to Istanbul, I was starting to reap the benefits of living a less materialistic life. Read how my life changed.
6. Take bold, decisive actions
This is probably my favorite step, because its when things actually start falling into place. The biggest thing to figure out of course is finances, and you need to think about it at least a year before you plan to leave. This year I bought very little expensive items, sold a ton of my stuff, and was thoughtful with my spending. It's all about sacrifices. I was working odd minimum wage jobs in addition to my design work- not making six figures here people! I came to the realization that if I am a broke college grad, I'd rather be broke doing cool shit. Anyone can afford to travel, you just have to prioritize that over anything else. The next thing I figured out was a source of income. Most of us can't afford to just 'hang out' in a country without a job. For me, the TEFL certification seemed like the best fit, since I was already a certified art teacher. The last step was setting a departure date and buying a plane ticket. This is the final push to really get your butt out the door! Unless you are willing to throw away a ton of money, most people won't back down from their flight plans.
As I type this I'm sitting by the window watching the sun rise over the beautiful city of Istanbul, and I feel a sense of peace in my heart, because I made it here after all the hard work. It will pay off, if you just believe it is possible you can do anything!
What are your tips for travel? If I should drop all my plans for next year and travel somewhere, where would it be?
I'm heading to Istanbul in less than a month, and I knew I wanted to travel REALLY lightly. This journey to a simpler life has changed me in so many ways already. Read how here! I used to struggle to make a dent in attempting to tame the clutter in my bedroom/art studio. These were the steps I took that helped me dramatically change my outlook on getting rid of stuff. If you want to see a noticeable difference in your living space, take these steps to fast track to real changes!
1. Be RUTHLESS in your judgement
This is probably the most important factor to getting rid of your stuff quickly and efficiently. If you spend too much time mulling over one object, it will take you way too long to go through everything. Eventually you will get tired and frustrated, and give up before you reach your goal. I’ve noticed that the longer I hold something, the more memories my brain brings up relating to it. The longer you dwell, the harder the decision will be. Just do it. Like a Band-Aid. I like to have piles/boxes/bags set up and labeled nicely in front of me. Once an object makes it into a pile, there is no turning back! Remember, your initial reaction is probably the right one.
Ask yourself: Do I actually need or use this thing? Does it bring any value to my life? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no.
2. Determine your type of ATTACHMENT to objects
There are several reasons why a person can find it difficult to let something go. Often times it’s because of the memories attached to it, rather than the object itself. That would be called an emotional attachment. Other times we simply enjoy looking at something because it brings us visual/aesthetic pleasure. Lastly, we may find pleasure in the simple fact of owning that object. This happens often times with expensive items like cars, shoes, or watches. Ever have a pair of shoes so fancy and expensive that you never want to wear them? Yeah, those need to go. The first step to get over these illogical attachments is to take a picture. Looking at that image later can give you the same feelings as actually owning it. If there is a memory attached to it, write it down. Write down your memories, how it makes you feel, who gave it to you, etc. Get it out so you can move on.
3. BE REAL about what is readily available around you
This is especially relevant to people (like me) who are about to move or travel. It is very common to over-pack, and it’s often with stuff that is readily available at your destination. I for example, am not planning to bring any bulky sweaters, more than one pair of jeans, or a couple pairs of shoes. I know that at my destination I can buy all these items easily, and for cheaper than an overweight bag at the airport check-in. For people who are not traveling but still looking to downsize, this can be a reminder not to turn into a hoarder. No, you don’t need 20 half-empty shampoo bottles. Don’t hold onto shoes or clothes you don’t wear. If you find that you are in need after your minimalist-cleansing, you can always go buy it. You will find that you need a lot less than you actually think.
4. DEFINE your wardrobe
This is mentioned in almost every article about productivity and minimalist living, however it is so essential I have to address it. Over the past six or so years I have been shopping exclusively at thrift stores. Because of this I have been able to accumulate lots of clothing. I love to mix and match and put together endless funky looks. As fun as this is, my mornings suffered from chronic indecisiveness. There was just too many combinations to choose from! I paired down my wardrobe to the things I wore the most. Everyone has those garments that they only wear when they are in “the right mood”, or have stuff stashed away for when they lose weight or from a previous weight…the list goes on. The way I define it: I chose only clothing that I love to wear all the time, and love every time I wear. They must be easy to take care of, flattering, comfortable, and great for mixing and matching. For me that meant getting rid of a lot of fun print (which I love) and focusing more on neutrals.
5. Get rid of the MAYBE SOMEDAY mindset
Artists suffer from this mindset especially (guilty!) This is the thought that runs through your brain when you decide to put something back on the shelf instead of in the donation box. “Well, I might need it someday!” I’ll give you an example- during one of my nature filled trips I found these amazing sun bleached roots of a great tree. They were absolutely beautiful! I had lots of plans for them: casting pieces in metal for jewelry, wrapping them, painting them, etc. One year later, they were still sitting on my shelf un-touched. Don’t let those items drag you down. Get rid of them to make room for new inspiration and new memories. If you haven’t used or needed it yet, chances are you won’t in the foreseeable future. And if you do, you can find a way to replace it! (see #3)
So once you’ve determined what you need to get rid of, where does it all go? Here are some practical methods I used to unload my crap, fast.
People will buy almost anything! Take good pictures, write a description that looks like you passed High School English, be real about the quality, and give a deadline. I’ve found that people are more likely to buy if they can text you and get a fast response. Good communication is key.
2. Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups
Look up buy/sell/trade in your area on Facebook. Chances are there is one near you. This takes (some) of the creepiness of online selling away, since there are presumably only people from your hometown in the group. I was able to schedule quite a few front door pick-ups. I sold a ton of my scrap fabric to a lady a couple weeks ago, and we ended up trading info about our businesses. Sometimes meeting random people can lead to an unexpected connection!
3. Donate, donate, donate!
I donated stuff. A LOT of stuff. Just pack it up in bags or boxes and try to keep it in categories. Only donate stuff that you think is usable. While you do this, think about the new life your object will have, serving someone in need. Rejoice in the good vibes!!
4. Recycle a whole bunch
I cannot stress this enough. While getting rid of my stuff it hit me how much waste I as one single person have created. Frankly, it was shocking and it upset me. I don’t even use that many beauty products or single-use items, and yet there was just so much to toss! I recycled every scrap I could. For old bath/beauty products- wash them out and recycle. Take apart packaging. Shred and recycle old bills and school papers. When I sew I make lots of un-usable scraps- these I pack up to be used as stuffing. Look up what your local recycling center accepts. I used to have one large bin (kitchen sized) for trash and a small bin (office sized) for recycling. Now, the roles are switched and I recycled 80% of the waste I produce.
I hope all these tips will prove useful in your journey to a simpler, less materialistic life! Comment below on your favorite tip, and share your own!
I observe & write about society & culture.