Sunday, March 18, 2012

Essentials - Yes, Less is More

Written by Karen

Full boil reduction
There is more than a slight bit of irony that we are now working so hard to winnow down the amount of things that we have worked so hard to acquire.  In cooking, this winnowing process is similar to the process of simmering something down to its essence, or creating a reduction as a chef would call it.  As you boil liquids down to a more concentrated and flavorful taste, less liquid and more concentrated flavor is the more in this case. 

This is what we are currently doing: distilling the extra things that used to fill a 1,422 sq. foot house (with a full garage) and ending up with a reduction of our essentials. We have made decisions about almost everything that we own and have boxed up those items that will become the foundation for another life starting sometime in the future. We have planned ahead as best as we can for another home when we settle back down from this travel adventure. The rest we have given away or will sell in the upcoming weeks.  
We have also started preparing once again for what our new essentials will be as long-term travelers.  What to bring? What not to bring? Again, less is more. 
Paris, France
Meet our backpacks.  We have had these since our trip in 2010, and briefly considered purchasing bigger packs for this longer trip, but ultimately decided to go ahead and keep these.  We like them.  They are small, measuring 21.6” x 13.78” x 8.67”.  They can hold 43 liters.  This is such an odd way to describe how much a day pack can hold.  I know that this is a volume, but who puts liquids in a pack, or even thinks about it that way?  I can’t even visualize how many liters of Coca Cola are equivalent to a pair of jeans.
But, the biggest benefits of keeping them?  They are comfortable to wear and fit easily into the airline overhead carry-on compartments.  We can just grab them and go, without waiting for our luggage to meander its way to the pick-up carousel.  They hug our backs and allow us to easily slip through turnstiles.  And because they are so small, we look like anybody else on the streets.  Just another couple with day packs walking through town.  We’re not obvious tourists.  I've seen larger packs on  kids trudging to school in the morning! 
Our packs worked out great during our European rail trip in 2010, and again when we visited South Korea in 2011.  They weigh about 3 pounds when empty.  We loved being light travelers, not weighed down or having to fuss with luggage as we jumped off trains and hit the cobble stoned and pitted asphalt streets. Both of our packs weighed about 30 pounds each and included everything that we needed for our trips.   
Our goal is to keep our packs around the 30 pound weight mark for our year-long travel adventure.  This will also take a bit of an adjustment and another reduction of sorts.  But this one is more of a mind reduction - at least for me.  Can I wear the same pair of jeans and the same five T-shirts for an entire year?  The same pair of shoes everyday?  Our packs are described as weekend get-away packs; room for an extra pair of clothes and a laptop.  Just the basics.
It’s a real adjustment to go from having an entire closet full of ready-to-go options to wearing clothes and shoes just for their daily utility. Will I miss the ability to have wardrobe choices and get dressed up every once in awhile?  This shift has more to do with changing my focus from status and self-worth to enhancing the experiences that we will have while looking somewhat presentable. This travel adventure isn’t about the “dress for success” mantra anymore.  It’s not about work or career anymore; it’s about travel and adventure and experiencing life in the moment and to the very essence of who I am.  I think that I can make that adjustment.  If I can have a daily shower and fairly clean clothes...
We are by no means becoming completely frugal, minimalist, or want to live a meager or limited lifestyle in the future.  This is, however, an interesting journey because of our natural attachment to things and to the memories, attitudes, judgments and perceptions - the emotional baggage - that they represent. However, just like cooking a reduction, we are slowly boiling off those things that don’t matter to us as much.  Hopefully letting go of the past will allow us to be more open and flexible as we look forward to our future.  

As we continue to reduce, I am watching the pot closely; stirring often; lowering the heat if necessary; and tasting often.  The 30 pounds of reduction essentials that I will bring on our year-long travel adventure have yet to be determined.  And in this case as well, less is always more - and since I will carry it upon my back much more preferable.  
“The final mystery is oneself.”    Oscar Wilde

No comments: