Travelling light

 What having nothing taught me about having everything.

ZIMG_0134 (6)I’d just turned 30, in the prime of my life and I had everything; I lived in a house overlooking the beach, I had a top corporate job with a flash car, I was living the dream as some of my friends suggested but I was increasingly unfulfilled, I felt weighed down and trapped by the stuff I had and the rat race I was part of. So when I turned 31 I decided to try a different tact and opted for the simple life. I quit my job, my house and gave most of my possessions away. I wanted a taste of the simple life, made up of what really matters, making room for real things, the things that are necessary for happiness.I took the advice I’d read about that seemed to work so well for others and got rid of everything in my life that didn’t make me happy and made room for the things that would. It was like unpacking the suitcase of my life that I’d been dragging around for the last 30 years getting heavier and heavier and I was determined to only put back what I needed and what was good for me.I set off on a journey across the world doing the things that made my heart sing. I lived in Ashrams, volunteered in Northern Thailand and visited all the countries I’d longed to see. Before I left I’d laid out all the things on the bed I thought I’d need and then realised half of it was not going to fit in the bag and after much culling I had a backpack ready to go which I couldn’t lift off the floor. It’s surprising what you really need when you can only pack the bare essentials and nothing encourages you to pack light than having to carry it around on your back for 12 months!I found that by clearing out the things I didn’t enjoy I had time and space to do more of the things I did. I realised I could make do with one pair of shoes, I didn’t need a wardrobe overflowing with clothes I’d only wore once, I could live without wifi if I had to as checking facebook daily was not as important as my useage suggested. If there was something I needed that I didn’t have I made do with what I had, found an alternative or went without. What really brought this home was seeing how others lived, the hill tribes villages of northern Thailand where the kitchen consisted of a fire to cook on and a floor to sit on, there was no oven, dishwasher, dinning table or dinner service. However the room was filled with what mattered; family, love, laughter and more than enough food to go around.Spending time living the simple life you realise how little we actually do need and by not having it how much more room you have for things in your life that really matter. We have put too much emphasis on having many things and it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you want you’ll be happier with more. We struggle in the modern world with debt, obesity and addiction as a result of this mantra. But as Seneca put it “that man is poor, not who has little but who hankers after more”At some point in our lives we are forced to reduce the amount we have, whether it’s financial reasons, divorce, sickness, natural disaster or eventually death. Guess what we won’t take with us when the inevitable happens, everything.   Having less stuff does not mean less quality of life and this is clear to me now. It opens more space in your life for the fun stuff, the things that really matter, there’s less to clean, insure and pack each time you move!Going on this journey taught me how to appreciate the things we take for granted each day. Cold fresh water, a comfy bed with a nice warm duvet, a spare seat on the bus, having your own room. Living simply has also taught me to be grateful for what I have. When you don’t have something and miss it you realise how grateful you are that it’s there, whether this is your bed or your family, it’s the simple things that matter.