Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Living lighter and the no baggage challenge

Earlier while catching up on my reading I caught a "Reader challenge" put forth by Rolf Potts.  Before explaining the challenge I should first frame it.  Potts is an author who, to the best of my knowledge, I have never previously read.  That is to say I was aware of his book yet didn't read it, and have never knowingly read any of his travel articles.  He is best known for the concept of vagabonding, partly characterized by packing extremely light.  Currently he is on a No Baggage Challenge, a six week, round the world trip where he carries everything he needs in the pockets of his vest and pants.  While this might sound very extreme, he's mentioned a couple times in blog posts that it is more meant as a stunt and an experiment to determine if it is truly feasible.  I found out about this through his current cameraman, Justin Glow, who I met almost three years ago in Europe.  Admittedly I only talked to him briefly, and I do not even recall where in Europe I met him (I think it was Salzburg, Austria).  Yet he seemed like an interesting guy with an ongoing story so I found him on Facebook and have discovered a few interesting projects through him, much like this.

Anyhow, the challenge put forth by Potts is to write an essay regarding ways in which you can not only find ways of packing lighter, but also "living lighter", or living your life with less necessary material items.  This really got me thinking, and the more I thought about it, the more I needed to write about it.  In this sense I'm a bit of a paradox.  When I travel, I travel quite light.  Yet I like my material items.  That is not to say I hoard stuff or like to be flashy.  I like to collect things that have meaning to me, and it is incredible how quickly you can collect such things.  Regardless, it's still a bit paradoxical that I can be obsessive about packing light yet as I type I am currently surrounded by crap, and it has led me to think about how I can live a bit lighter in my day to day life.

When I travel I really like to travel light, to the point where I am almost obsessive about it.  When I say I travel light, I don't me to the extent of someone like Potts.  When I was in Europe I stressed about carrying too much stuff and was constantly in search of ways to shed unnecessary gear.  I just recently went camping with my girlfriend, and during planning and packing I argued with her and subsequently apologized as I was being obsessive about not bringing things I deemed to be unnecessary and excessive.  Of course, as with any trip embarked on by those who only travel occasionally, we still left some things we wanted at home and carried around a handful of things we never touched.

On the flip side, I do like "stuff".  My love of things is two fold.  First, I like things that have sentimental value to me.  My display shelf contains the most oddball collection.  There is a stick from the beach we spread my dogs ashes on, a glass insulator from the KVR, the shell of my favorite childhood toy car, some postcards, and so on and so forth.  Three years after my Europe trip I still wear the same hoody and belt, despite their ragtag condition.  Secondly, I like new things.  I recently finished a sociology class in which we studied personality types (as they relate to business).  It turns out that I'm the type of person who gets very excited by new ideas and new things.  This certainly fits with my personality, as I have many various bits of technology, books, and other collectible items that I really probably don't need, but that the concept of excited me enough to acquire them.  I am not however the type of person who hoards things (a pack-rat), or buys things to impress others.  Of course I care what others think of me, everyone does and they're a liar if they say they don't to some extent, but I don't have a need to impress others with material items.  Yet I still have collected a fair bit of stuff in my short years.

So Potts has made me think ahead to how I could live lighter.  I constantly think ahead to how I would pack lighter on my next trip, what other things I would take, what I would leave at home, and what I'd modify.  Yet I have never really thought this way in terms of day to day life and the possessions I keep in my house.  I suppose the easiest area to remove redundant possessions would be to thin out my wardrobe.  I'm not really a trendy, stylish person, but I do have a lot of clothes I don't wear yet hang on to for the one day I might need  a particular item.  I also have boxes of old camping gear, computer parts, office supplies, and cheap collectibles with little value to me that I've kept around for no apparent reason.  I don't have that much stuff which would fall in to that category, but when you stack it all up it does begin to take up a fair bit of room.

As far as what I use on a day to day basis, I can't think of much I would want to give up.  I don't tend to pack heavy.  I don't carry around things I don't use.  I keep only a few keys and a relatively basic phone.  I don't carry unnecessary office supplies to school.  One way that I intend on living lighter is to shed my largest possession of all, my truck.  I don't intend on giving it up entirely, but my goal for the next two semesters is to take public transit to school as opposed to driving.  I've grown accustomed to taking my truck everywhere over the last few years despite the cost benefits of taking transit.

All in all, the challenge from Potts is quite an interesting one, and has caused me to think about my lifestyle on a material level, something I don't often do.  I've quite enjoyed following his no baggage trip thus far, and am excited to not only see how the rest of the trip will go, but also what he intends on doing with all the footage they're shooting.

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