#DoYouIndie November Challenge: Experiences are Priceless

Welcome to day two of my Bootsnall November writing challenge!  It’s not too late to jump in and join the fun!  If you are a traveler or aspire to be one, writing answers to these questions may just inspire you to take that (next) journey!

Question 2: How is having experiences better than having possessions?

Funny, this was such a powerful realization when I returned home from the trip – my stuff was completely suffocating me. Being at home, I am struck every day with how much time, energy, and money I spend maintaining our stuff, whether it is cleaning it, repairing it, storing it, using it or trying to give it away!  Your stuff truly tethers you in place, and letting it go definitely frees up time and money.  And, as Jen Miller eloquently writes in her post on Bootsnall, aren’t those the very same two things that people yearn for as a means to travel?

Traveling with few worldly possessions is so liberating.  I love that our kids learned to live one year with only what they could carry, and though they missed some things, it was pretty much a non-issue. Whatever I missed (e.g. my boots) was quickly forgotten as we headed out on a new adventure, to see a new place, or as we met people that seemed to own even less than the few items we were carrying with us.  Having less stuff made us mobile and more spontaneous.  Although there are many examples, I remember one day in Croatia, where we made an 11th hour decision to take an overnight boat to Italy, rather than staying in Split.  We stashed our bags in a locker at the port, and headed out to tour around the city on foot for the day.

Taking only photos, leaving only footprints...

Taking only photos, leaving only footprints…

Part of this lack of need for things is directly tied to how simple life is when we travel. For the most part, we are transient observers as we travel. We aren’t enrolled in sports, or working in a job where we require a professional wardrobe. If we were more entrenched in the locales where we traveled to, we might need more things – a bike or car, a more permanent bed, dishes to cook with (or an array of spices), clothes to weather us through multiple seasons.  But for the most part, when we travel, we are passing through, carrying only a few items, willing to pay a little more for the travel size, or to buy shampoo more frequently as we run out. Who cares if we have only one swimsuit or one pair of pants if we spend only a day or two in a locale and then move on, making it all new again to those around us? And when we seemed to really be missing something, we could usually find it locally, make it, improvise, or fill our time with experiencing the world and people around us, rather than with worrying about our stuff!

Paintball in Naples for David's 14th birthday. Thicker clothing would have been great, but the bruises eventually faded!

Paintball in Naples for David’s 14th birthday. Thicker clothing would have been great, but the bruises eventually faded!

Daily, the six of us will have a moment where a word such as “tour” or “bulging” will bring a flood of laughter and outpouring of recollection.  Sometimes it is just a knowing glance by one of the kids if they see something that reminds them of one of the many places we visited.  The best part is that it doesn’t take traveling together to create these shared memories – it just requires being with someone; giving time instead of material items as gifts.   Easier said than done when we are at home with the many distractions and temptations to buy gifts and the ever-present lack of time.  However, part of what I loved about traveling is that when it came to giving gifts to one another that year, we had no other choice but to get creative and give something that wasn’t going to weigh down our backpacks.  Birthdays found us paintballing in Naples, Italy; or taking a cooking class in Luang Prabang, Laos; or hitting a museum and catching the latest blockbuster movie in Wellington, New Zealand.  On Vivian’s birthday, Jon and I got up at sunrise, and collected shells, flowers, and vines from the beach with which to wrap her modest “gifts”.  While we were searching, we found a little sea sponge that we also gave her as a gift.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that morning as long as I live, and I’d be willing to bet that Vivian will remember her gifts that year possibly better than any other,

Viv's beach wrapped treasures for her 7th birthday in French Polynesia

Viv’s beach wrapped treasures for her 7th birthday in French Polynesia

In summary, my short answer to today’s #DoYouIndie question is that possessions and experiences are in a constant tug of war.  “Stuff” generally detracts from your life, taking your time (that might otherwise have been spent on people you love), money, and energy; while experiences enrich your life, giving you a spiffy return on your time investment, filling up your soul and creating stronger bonds with your people.  If it weren’t for all those darn airplane flights and bottled water, you might even be able to say that experiences gained through travel help reduce your footprint on the earth!  Still paying off that debt one reusable shopping bag at at time….

Bootsnall challenged us to give away three things today.  For me, it was a bunch of stuff that has been sitting in our garage, neatly stored on shelves for 12 years (!) and now hopefully finding new purpose in someone else’s life, and bags of gloves, hats, and winter clothes of mine that are going to a women’s and children’s shelter called Mary’s Place.




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  1. Dani

    “Funny, this was such a powerful realization when I returned home from the trip – my stuff was completely suffocating me. ” – YES! It’s surprising how hard it can be to let go of stuff until after you’ve traveled long-term. The first time i returned from a long-term trip, i ended up getting rid of a bunch of items instead of cherishing them (although i did burn those same 4 shirts I had been wearing for 10 months. That also felt REALLY good.)

    The more I travel, the less stuff I accumulate in between travels, and the more I enjoy purging. When I do buy stuff I usually think “Do I really need this? Can I donate it later?”

    We love this article and featured it on the first Indie Travel Challenge roundup. :)

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