Does Traveling Skew Your Perception of Possessions?

Do you need all this?

I went on my first extended travel trip in 2007.  I was 20 years old at the time, excited to leave Oregon and see the world.  I thought and thought and thought about where I wanted to go and finally decided on Nepal.  Nepal was a place I didn’t know much about and it seemed perfectly mysterious and foreign to me, which fit the bill for my destination.

It took me about a month to truly get ready for this first 10 month trip.  Especially since it was my first trip, I dedicated many hours to considering which gear would be best, what medications to bring and how many travelers checks I would carry.  And then came the major hurdle: my stuff.  Piles of it.  Mounds and boxes and bags of stuff.

“How did I accumulate all this?” I wondered, especially since most of it was totally useless and pointless.  Way too many clothes, shoes and bags.  So what did I do?  Gave it all away.

Before I left on my first trip I pared down my stuff by about 75%.  Boxes and boxes went to Goodwill and other charities.  It felt great to get rid of these possessions, most of them meaningless.  It was like a burden was lifted off my shoulders.  Packing a years worth of things into a small backpack is an enlightening process and leads to a deeper understanding about just how much stuff we really need.  In reality, we don’t need much.

Since I’ve been back from my first around Asia trip, my perceptions of possessions have changed drastically.  I rarely buy anything, whether it’s clothes, shoes or cooking utensils.  Traveling has taught me how much extraneous stuff I don’t need.  It feels good to not buy a lot of things, sort of like a disconnect from consumer culture.  Of course, whenever I think about my “Next Trip Fund,” that alleviates any desire to spend money as well.

Sometimes I feel like traveling has skewed my perceptions on possessions.  Especially in America, we’re surrounded by stores, malls, retail outlets and more.  There are ads, billboards, TV messages and beyond, everyone asking you to buy something.  So, it seems strange and disconnected to not buy much.  I look around my house and it is almost empty (it’s a big space, but nonetheless…).

Traveling has changed my perceptions on buying and possessions.  One of the most important lessons traveling has taught me is to be happy with fewer things.

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