Shouldn’t the “Simple Life” be well… simple? It seems like the harder we try to achieve a simple way of life, things get more complicated, we get more distracted and far busier. What is it that keeps people from trading in possessions for experiences? Does our culture teach us to work work work so we can play for a small fraction of our lives? The average American home has 300,000 things in it, most of which we never use or notice. I know my perspective changed drastically on my first backpacking trip when I was younger. That moment when I realized that everything I truly needed in this world was hanging on my shoulders. I have heard that once you free yourself from all of this “stuff”, it feels like weight being taken off your shoulders. I can see how this would be true. Some of the happiest people I know are those who have mastered the simple life. Everything they own is in or on their van or truck. They float from place to place in pursuit of adventure, knowledge, growth and experiences. What can we learn from these vagabonds and “dirtbags”? Perhaps those who have the least actually have the most.
What do these people have in common?
A lack of “stuff”
I find that these folks often live in their car, van or truck. Sure, the vehicle is packed tight, but what you won’t see is random “stuff”. Everything they own, they use. Every trinket has a purpose. Typically they own clothes and gear that allows them to be outside year-round. Maybe a kayak on top, maybe a bike. Climbing gear, backpacks, muddy running shoes, a worn out sleeping bag, and of course a coffee press. In my travels I have seen many different cultures. 70 year old women sleeping on tile floors because they do not own couches or beds. Children kicking cans and small rocks because they do not own a soccer ball. I expected to feel bad for these people because they do not have the luxuries we have in America. What I found is that I envied them. They were full of happiness and contentment. They live simply and are full of gratitude for everything they DO have.
A passion for life
Which came first the chicken or the egg? Did they have a passion for life that led them to a life on the road, or did they develop this passion as they began to simplify and focus on what matters? Regardless, these folks are truly alive. They are electric. They give off good vibes that attract other passionate people. Everyday they wake up and decide what they are going to do that day, and there is a good chance it will be something that sparks their interest. Reading on rest days, exploring the wilderness on sunny days and riding their bikes through the mud. How can’t you be high on life?
Money doesn’t matter
This is a big one and possibly the hardest transition to make. Of course we all need money to buy groceries, gear, gas, and more. If you are able to minimize your material stuff, your bills drop significantly. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and you had no mortgage (or a very small one), no cable bill, no oil bill (or a very small one), no student loans, and no phone bill (or a very small one). If you can learn to minimize spending, theory has it that you won’t need to make as much money, and low and behold, you won’t have to work so much. Easily said than done. This is something to work towards, not change in an instant.
Friends that share common interests
Finding a core group of friends who also live simply will keep you on track. What is the purpose of living well if you cannot share it with anyone? Unless of course, you are a lonely hermit, then maybe you have taken this post a bit too far? Relationships are the key to life. Possibly the purpose of life. Nothing creates bonds like hardships endured together, adventure, quality time outdoors and activities that rely on trust. Finding these people can take time, but if you find someone who seems just as crazy as you are, keep them around for a long time!
A “yesman” (or woman!!) Attitude
Just like the Jim Carey movie, these people say “yes” to life. They turn struggle into opportunity. They treat every experience as a chance to learn. They say yes more than they say no. They adapt to everything life has to throw at them and they do this with a smile. Start saying “Yes” and I can promise amazing things will start to happen.
An insatiable appetite for travel
Everyone has this in them, its just a matter of whether or not they have tapped into yet. When we travel, we learn without any effort on or part. Everyone likes to learn, especially when it doesn’t involve a textbook. Get out there, see knew things, expand your horizons and opportunities you can’t imagine will certainly appear.
Some of the more daring folks have quit their job, sold their house in trade for a van and life on the road. Some others have eased into it by starting with a yard sale and a down-size on the house. Maybe even start by heading out for a hike instead of shopping online. YOU CAN SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE. You can choose to what degree. Next time you see someone living in their $3000 van with a $5000 bike on the roof, you’ll know you just found someone who has figured out the secret to life and is likely very excited to share that secret with you!