This year, we’ve been working toward a life that more closely resembles sailing: advance planning, flexible expectations, extraordinary reward.
Successful travel has to be like that, too, especially with kids. They are as unpredictable as the ocean itself, and just as awesome.
Every piece of gear we pack for sailing has to be like a multi-tool: You’re going to use whatever it is more than once, for more than one purpose. It makes everything you put in your sailing bag valuable—and it has to be, because those packs are small. Every square inch is prime real estate. I never want anything with me that I bring home unworn. That’s the most disappointing feeling.
Whenever that happens, I try to figure out why I didn’t end up wanting to wear it, and remember why I wanted to bring it in the first place. What did I think I needed it for? Were my perceptions off? If the answer was simply, “I didn’t feel like it,” into the donation bag it goes.
My purging process is part of a larger view on life called minimalism, and its principles make frequent travel way less stressful, with less to drag around, less fatigue and fewer low-reward decisions to make. It also means LESS LAUNDRY, and sweetheart, that’s freedom by my definition.
Minimalism has become a global movement. I’ve been subscribing to these values for nearly my whole adult life without realizing it existed. My house is uncluttered. I’m organized with my schedule. I care more about freedom and time than money or what I can own with it. There are many varying definitions, but here, see if you’re part of the team:
ARE YOU A MINIMALIST?
- You feel an interest in keeping things simple.
- You assign more value to experiences than possessions.
- You feel more comfortable when your environment is uncluttered.
- You assess what brings value to your life and make adjustments, in your possessions, relationships, time and money, to make room for peace, growth and new practices.
If you agreed with most of those statements, chances are you’re living some degree of minimalism. Some lifestyle choices lend themselves more to the profile, like vegans, environmentalists, tiny house-dwellers and more. But ultimately, there is no “right way” to be a minimalist.
Can you be minimalist and own a car, a house, more than two pairs of shoes? Yes. Can you pack the big suitcase rather than the carry-on? Yup. Can you have pets and children, with their inherent chaos, unpredictability and mess? Yes, you can. You can even teach your kids the path to a simple life. (The pets probably won’t learn as quickly, but feel free to let me know if you succeed. My yellow Lab is stubborn about her old, ratty toys. Every attempted purge session is just a tug-of-war…)
Minimalism is more an internal process than external proof. It’s a state of decision-making that makes a different experience possible—which is why this topic came up at all.
We really needed a different experience.
Children learn from what they are surrounded by, something we found out the hard way as tech entrepreneurs. We hardwired our daughter’s childhood with technology for almost a decade, then were shocked to realize she showed signs of tech addiction and the emotional disconnect that goes hand-in-hand with social networking now. The ramifications are dangerous and terrifying—and most parents are totally unaware of the risks.
We knew better. We justified our time on our phones as the untethered freedom of entrepreneurship. We reasoned that our time online was different than hers, because we were “working.” We needed to be online constantly, answering customer emails and engaging our social communities to spark growth. But truth is, only a fraction of what we were doing was work-related.
The thing we always did as a couple, then as a family, that connected us and made us happy was traveling. MyLifeList, our first business together, was always about finding fulfillment by setting and reaching goals (of the living, not the bucket-dying, kind). That was the work that got us up and excited in the morning, so why not LIVE THAT LIFE ourselves? What a novel idea: Actually do what we inspired others to do. Genius!
It’s a nontraditional path, we know. It involves an element of home schooling, and a whole lot of logistics. And this is where minimalism comes in. When you’re trying to change your life, you learn quickly how to assign value to everything.
Keep my family intact and fight depression and anxiety? Valuable.
The 10 status purses in my closet? Decidedly not valuable.
Plane tickets to Bermuda to dive the wrecks, inches from breathtaking aquatic life? Valuable.
Garage bays full of nice cars? Definitely not for me.
Some value props are not as easy to quantify. I had made private school massively valuable and non-negotiable for a decade, but ultimately, I realized, that was just one experience—not the only way to build a great education or a fulfilling, successful future. That future isn’t even mine to plan.
On my hardest days, wasting time wading through piles of laundry and an overflow of disorganized stuff not only made me feel helpless, it made me MAD. I was angry that we had all of these possessions, all the signs of commercial success that people dream about—yet little connection to each other. I didn’t realize we had traded one for the other. That was not intentional.
What brings you joy is what makes your life. Exploring together brings our family more joy than anything else could. So we simplify everything else to make that the top priority. It’s not as though travel solves all problems, not at all. But our mission is to make sure our life list drives us, so we stay tethered to each other through these shared experiences. Our purpose is to create that legacy for our children, so as adults they live intentionally, by heart, for themselves.
As digital natives. they face a different world than we can understand, no matter how tech-literate we are. Their real-life identities are shaped by virtual communication and social filters. Their whole experience is staged, inauthentic, and rife with bullies and trolls, and they can never escape it, unless they go somewhere without wi-fi.
So here’s where our minimalism and travel intersect. We approached this new plan like we were provisioning for a sailing trip. There’s more to it than just packing light (which, true story, I promised in my wedding vows). Traveling minimalist to us means being in nature, talking with locals, planning one or two activities per day, without overwhelming ourselves. It especially means not experiencing everything through a screen or valuing it by social media KPIs.
Lying on deck under a red sky at night on the ocean is 100 times better than double-tapping a photo of one. (But feel free to follow us and do both.)
When your kids stop posing and posting, and start living in the moment, you’ll know you made it. So far, it’s worth everything. Hopefully it’s all fair winds from here.
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