More Valuable than Stuff

How interesting that Natalie’s video for Day 11 of the Freedom Blog Challenge is shot in Wellington harbor. The last time I was there, I really could carry everything I owned on my bicycle.

Where did this come from?

Now I have all these piles of paper and toys and books. I’ve been home for three years, taking classes, sponsoring fun Kickstarter projects and selling books through Amazon. My little piles grow bigger every day. I love writing on paper; I love drawing. I collect art supplies and cute stickers and cool toys and pretty books. What happened to my portable life? What’s an artistic environmentalist scholastic nomadic packrat to do?

My plan to re-minimize is to go on a cycling trip. To get to Hawaii, and avoid paying $200 each way in airline excess baggage fees, I have to fit my bicycle and camping gear into two boxes, each weighing under 50 lbs, and measuring less than 60 inches L+W+H. Building the boxes, and breaking down my bike to fit inside, will be a challenge. But I like mathy things, and I strangely enjoy making good boxes. And I can once again minimize my life down to the bare necessities. Nothing encourages me to minimize like a great trip. It reminds me that experiences are so much more valuable than stuff.

I have a friend who carries around bags of clothes in the trunk of her car. She wants to donate them to charity, but she’s not sure which donation bin to put them in. “I’ve heard that some of them sell the clothes for profit instead of donating them to people in need,” she tells me. “So I just leave the bags in the trunk.” I used to do stuff like that too, back when I still had a car. That’s a lot of handy storage space. Now that I rely solely on my bicycle to get around, I am ultra aware of how much extra baggage I carry around. I am constantly repacking my panniers to minimize my load. Tossing something in a donation bin feels like a satisfying accomplishment.

And yet, I can always get excessive about my favorite things. When we were cycling through Bangladesh, my partner was horrified to discover that I had at least ten books secreted away in my panniers. “Do you know how much weight you’d save by switching to e-books?” And while I know in my head that this is true, my heart still clings to the real thing. For one thing, gadgets attract the attention of thieves. Tattered paperbacks, not so much. Also, the hunt for reading material in faraway places has led me on some interesting adventures. It’s an excuse to talk to other travelers and comb through book exchange shelves and certainly I end up reading books I’d have never heard of. (I’m thinking of you, Auntie Mame.) Bangladesh is a relatively flat country with very few opportunities to find books in English. In Hawaii, I’m sure I won’t be tugging ten books up the volcanoes.

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