Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things You Can Do Without

The number and range of things that people think they NEED in their lives can be astronomical. It also puts them in debt, ties them to jobs they hate, ties them to spouses they hate, and generally makes them miserable. They spend their entire lives yearning and striving for the "things" that they think they should have, just because "everyone" has them, while at the end, they look back and wonder if they shouldn't have spent their precious time doing something else. Something more meaningful, something radically different, or something that would have made them happier (like better relationships or an interesting purpose) instead of purchasing "things" that the media said would make them happier. But didn't. So here's a list of things you really can do without because other people are actually doing it...
  • A home. The recession forced many people from their homes. Some people turned to the media to tell the world how losing their home was the end of the world, while others took their lives because they couldn't deal with the loss of their 'status' home. Here's some people who voluntarily do without homes and are all the more interesting (and apparently happier) for it: Family on Bikes, Female Nomad, Legal Nomads.
  • A car. For most Americans, getting a car is a rite of passage. People could think of a lot of things to do without if they were really strapped for cash, but once a person has a car, they are loathe to ever part with it (even if it is drowning them in debt). There are, however, people who make a conscious choice to be car free: Car Free Family, Car Free Tribe, Car Free Bike Forum.
  • Credit Cards. Un American! Blasphemy! You would think that people were issued credit cards at birth by the way most people are permanently attached to their cards, emotionally moved by their credit score, and traumatized by a cut in their credit limit or a jump in their interest rates. Again, there are plenty of people who live just fine, thank you, without credit: Dave Ramsey, Enemy of Debt, No Credit Needed.

Those are the biggies. Those are the things that keep people in perpetual debt. There are, however, many other things you can do without that will save you smaller, yet significant amounts of money over the long haul:

The bottom line is that the less you need, in regards to material goods, the better off you will be, especially in a disaster situation. If you need an eye-opener about the minimum that people actually need to survive, go on a week long backpacking trip, taking everything you need to survive in a small bag on your back. Go to a third world country, in the slums or the very poor parts of the country, and see how little people can live on for entire lifetimes. Visit an Amish community and note how few modern conveniences people use yet still manage to live full, interesting lives.


  1. Great post! I totally agree with the idea that most Americans are way too wrapped in their "stuff". We have 3 sets of clothing each and are perfectly happy with that!

    As a family traveling on bicycles, we experience so much more than we ever would have had we stayed in our home in Idaho. We are intimately involved with one another and are so much closer for the experiences! I would highly recommend others to give up their homes and hit the road!


  2. Thanks for the link. I remember standing outside of my apartment just before I took off, waiting for a cab. My neighbour came up to the building and asked where I was headed, and I explained my indefinite-length RTW trip. The first question: 'yeah, but where's all your STUFF?'. I have a 60L pack and a smaller 20L daypack, and really that is all I need. It's a very interesting way to exist, and though it is natural for other travellers, it seems irrational to those on smaller trips or people from home.

    Giving it up and travelling isn't just a fundamentally liberating thing to do (both figuratively and literally) but also extremely empowering as a (midget-sized)solo female traveller. If I can rock up to a new country, with a whole subset of mores and languages and foods and have a great time and learn a ton of new things, I can do pretty much anything :)

    Thanks again!