Today I had lunch with a backpacker from Costa Rica. He’s an engineer and when he lost his job a couple months ago, he needed a change of pace. Now he’s biking his way through Europe… from Barcelona to Moscow.
He sleeps in tents and hostels and he doesn’t have any rigid plans, just ideas and an amorphous framework of where he’s headed next. Most days, his only plans are to “wake up and bike.”
When I asked what he’d learned from his journey so far, he told me he feels relaxed and free. He doesn’t listen to music or anything to pass the time as he bikes… he spends that time thinking, whistling tunes and focusing on where he’s going. He talked about how he’s been leaving behind stuff in each city he visits. I’ve been doing the same thing. I’m realizing I need so much less than I think I do.
One of my favorite classes in college was Consumer Behavior. And one of my most memorable takeaways from that class was marketing to psychological needs. For example, luxury brands tend to market to the need to be unique, the need to feel rare and special.
On the other hand, trendy, fast fashion clothing companies (think “it” items) tend to market to our need to belong. This strategy is used a lot with the teenage demographic.
I have an example of this type of marketing from early in my own life. When I was in kindergarden, I came home from school one day begging my mom for a pair of jeans. Apparently, leggings weren’t popular with the trendy 5-year-old crowd and I needed jeans to hang with the cool kids. Even at such a young age, I wanted to belong, and I wanted to find that belonging by buying something.
We’re all born with the need to belong, and the need to feel unique, along with all kinds of other psychological needs. We all want to feel worthy. And know we’re enough. And feel successful. But buying more stuff only gives us those feelings for a fleeting moment.
In another one of my marketing classes, we did a case study on a fast fashion brand whose design-to-market turnaround time was ten days. They literally have people sketching on iPads at fashion shows so their designers can see the latest trends in real-time. The clothes immediately go into production and are on the shelves the next week. The company’s goal is to have such a high turnover of clothing that consumers feel out-of-trend a month after making a purchase and are back in the store for more. Real-time sketching is such a cool concept but it’s being misused. Not only is the company’s goal for customers to always feel uncool and untrendy, but it’s so terribly unsustainable for the supply chain, for the people making our clothes (and for the earth.)
I know that’s not a happy thing to realize, but my goal isn’t to be depressing. The concept of minimalism is freeing, not constricting. We don’t need to feel guilty about owning stuff we use, or about enjoying nice stuff. I love buying nice things. But I shouldn’t be finding our worth or identity in what I have. That’s not freedom.
I’ve started asking myself the question, “Is this thing giving me value, or would it be better if I give it to someone else?” I want to be a good steward of my wealth, and if I’m hanging onto stuff I’m not using, stuff that someone else could be getting value and joy from, it’s time to reevaluate.
I’m still new to the whole concept of minimalism but I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be drastic I’m-giving-away-everything deal. It can mean giving away things that aren’t my favorite to someone who could get more use out of them. Being a responsible consumer and buying fewer, nicer things that are made in an ethical way. Taking time to realize that my worth is inherent, and owning more or better stuff doesn’t make me more worthy or successful. Taking my time to enjoy shopping. Shopping for things I love that express who I am. And making space to enjoy life, to experience more adventure and connection and joy.
Hi! Welcome to my blog. Whether you stumbled upon this page through your friend’s friend’s Instagram or you’ve been following for a while, I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my life with you.
I write mostly about the places I visit and the people I meet. I love to write for the same reason I love to travel: because it teaches me a new way of seeing the world.
Other things I love: thrift shopping, sustainable fashion, big sunglasses, deep conversation, a good book, digital marketing, messy hair, planes, poetry, hot tea + long distance running.
This blog is about saying yes to the things that make you feel alive. It’s about rolling with the punches and embracing uncertainty because not everything will be smooth sailing. A life of adventure is full of challenges but I think it's worth it. Here's to saying yes to adventure, whatever that looks like for you.
Thank you so much for reading and experiencing this journey with me! :)
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