Nomadic Minimalism: Feeling More Fulfilled With Less

Nomadic Minimalism

Nomadic minimalism is different from simply being a minimalist.  As a nomadic minimalist, you’re ridding yourself of the literal and figurative baggage so you can move around the world as you please.

Imagine yourself with less.  Less things, less stress, less feeling like you need to acquire what you don’t really need and less competing to keep up with the Joneses.  Now, imagine yourself with more.  More time, more happiness, more blah blah blah…. Smart right?  Well, I didn’t make it up.  Ha!  You thought I was so profound for a second there didn’t you?

Actually, I watched one of the most amazing “movies” that I’ve watched in a long time just yesterday. Two things.  It wasn’t a movie, but a documentary.  Also, I am mad at anyone reading this who knew about this documentary and didn’t bother to tell me about it before.  I don’t want anyone angry with me, so, I’m sharing.

Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn are the two brilliant filmmakers behind Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things.  They were tired of the rat race and experienced burnout.  I won’t tell you the story, because we don’t have that kind of time and you must go check out this documentary for yourself.  They just tell their stories so succinctly and in such a way that really makes you ponder “what is it all for?”  They’re not screen hogs either!  In this documentary, you hear many people’s stories about how they determined that minimalism was the change they needed and their journey towards feeling freer.  The documentary is about nomadic minimalism but…  Just watch for yourself.


Nomadic Minimalism Museo de Chocolate, Villa de Leyva
Museo de Chocolate, Villa de Leyva

My Journey to Nomadic Minimalism

My minimalism story didn’t start with that documentary.  I began this journey over a year ago now.  In early 2016, I was depressed.  I was going to one of my favorite jobs to date every day, working for one of my favorite bosses to date and feeling more valued at work than I had ever felt before.  Dollar for dollar, I was making more money than ever if you added up the actual number of hours I spent working, the benefits and low stress level.  So, why was I so down?  Simply put, I was not fulfilled.

I had a nice apartment on the top floor that I shared with my niece.  The apartment was decorated just the way I wanted.  I took to Pinterest and reupholstered a beautiful bench that I never sat on for my patio that I never used.  As with any apartment I’d ever had, I never used the living room unless I had guests over.  Same with the dining room furniture.

tired of the rat race and experienced burnout

I had stuff still in boxes a year after moving into the apartment that I hadn’t even unpacked, nor had I missed the contents of the box in my daily life.  In my bathroom there were so many half empty bottles of perfume and expensive lotions that I never finished before buying more.  I thought I was superior to those who purchased things for “show” because I’d often muse about the fact that I don’t buy show pieces and that there is no such thing as “fine china” in my house; I use everything here.  That simply wasn’t true.  The truth was, I used about 25% of everything I owned.  Think about that for a minute.  Only used a quarter of everything I owned!

I am not happy… 

Thinking about the day when I found that forgotten box in my closet from the prior year.  There are two major things wrong with that.  I hadn’t opened a box of “essential” items in the year I had been in that apartment.  I had forgotten about a box that was under my nose for a whole year, which indicated that I hadn’t really used the clothes that were draped over it for a whole year either.  This got me to thinking.  What am I doing with my life?  I am not happy.  Not sad…   But not fulfilled.  There were just so many “nots”, and it was time to change to some I ‘ams’.

I am not sad…  

The YouTube video search began to find out about people who sold everything.  I started revisiting some of those ‘crazy’ ideas I’d had over the years.  ‘Crazy’ with a wink and a nudge because when you share your ideas and they are labeled ‘crazy, then they must be.  Now, when people label an idea ‘crazy’ I think to myself, ‘hey this must be something I need to look into.

I am not fulfilled…

My YouTube searches on minimalism went from ‘minimalist selling everything’ to ‘selling everything to travel’.  There is a big difference between minimalism and nomadic minimalism.  Downsize.  Not just downsizing for downsizing’s sake.  The path to minimalism is a thoughtful reduction of the overstock in your life.  In the documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, Ryan explained that it’s not about getting rid of all that you love.  He talked about a conference attendee who lamented over the idea of giving up their huge book collection.  “Keep the books,” he said.  Makes sense, right?  You love it and use it, then keep it.   The question is, at least for me, what possessions are you not using and that are not adding value to your life (true value)?  Those are the things you begin with and move on to other things.


Realization of Waste

I had tons of clothes in my closet that I hadn’t touched in years, half of which I couldn’t have worn even if I wanted to.  I am no fashionista, so why do I have so many clothes that I don’t wear?  Ever.  I had shoes in my closet that I hated, that hurt my feet, some that were so worn down that I’d be embarrassed to wear them out and some that I simply didn’t have a reason to not be wearing.  I’d only ever wear three of my favorite pairs of shoes, so why did I have about 20 pairs in my closet?  I didn’t rush to remove these things from my closet, but I did start seriously thinking about what I wanted my life to look like and, I can tell you, it was way less cluttered.

the path to minimalism is a thoughtful reduction 

One of the ‘crazy’ ideas I had in previous years was to move to a Spanish-speaking country to immerse myself in the culture while learning the language.  How could I do this?  I had a good job, nice apartment and a nice car.  Not only how, but why?  When you ask so many questions about your ‘crazy’ idea, then the mountain of reasons to not go through with it pile up.  Dissect that animal and you will see parts flying all over the place.  I have a good job.  Good by whose standards?  Do I love what I am doing?  Do I enjoy the hours I put in at work?  Is the work truly enriching my life?  Am I positively impacting the lives of others?   After answering those questions, I found that I was not satisfied with my job.  Nomadic minimalism seemed to be a reasonable solution.  But…

Is the work truly enriching my life? 

Next, my apartment.  I liked my neighborhood and loved my roommate, but other than that, what value was it truly adding?  I didn’t sit in my living room to enjoy all of the furniture I’d borrowed money to purchase.  There I paid rent for something that would never be mine.  Moving into my own apartment meant having freedom, but lived by many apartment management rules.  But… my apartment complex has a nice laundry room, really nice gym and a great pool area.

Nomadic Minimalism - Monasterio Ecce Homo, Villa de Leyva
Monasterio Ecce Homo, Villa de Leyva

Oh and did I mention that I never used the laundry room even once?  I never used the really nice gym either, even once, because I was too busy having a membership to the popular gym three minutes from my home that I also never once used in the two years that I paid for it.  Well, the pool area, now that’s a different story.  I went to the pool twice in the two years that I lived there.  Oh never mind the fact that I didn’t even put a toe into the water either time.  I needed these amenities, because, well, #Lifestyle #IPayForAmenities #PoolsideToday #DontYouWishYouHadMyLife #SoHappyOnTheOutside #NevermindTheInside.

What am I doing with my life? 

But, I still have a cute little car.  It’s like one of the only yellow cars in the neighborhood.  This is something I thought several times inwardly.  Why didn’t I ever verbalize that?  It was important to me that I was one of the few people in my area with a bright, yellow car.  Perhaps I didn’t say it out loud for the same reason I cringe while admitting it in writing; it’s the dumbest sentiment ever.  Who cares?  No one cared that I had this cute little, yellow car that made me stand out in my neighborhood, except me, of course.  But I have payments (that I can’t really afford, because #ILikeToDineOut #HorriblePriorities), so I couldn’t just up and leave my job and certainly there was no way to pursue my dreams right now.  Again… nomadic minimalism crept into my mind and heart.

Am I positively impacting the lives of others?

Still, let’s figure this out for a moment.  Remember #HorriblePriorities?  Well, my choices in life had lead me down a path of bad credit.  I had bad credit.  There, I said it.  I had/have horrible credit.  I had only gotten this car because there will always be a company willing to offer an over-extended-seeker-of-more-debt-with-bad-decision-making-skills a loan.  Tell me again why I couldn’t ‘get myself outta this one’?

I don’t suggest that anyone else does this (children please seek adult supervision), but a light bulb came on.  You already have bad credit.  This car is brand new, still smells brand new, has crazy low mileage and not a scratch on it, so you can just give it back.  Again, I am not saying this is the solution for everyone, but that car made me need that job, which paralyzed me and I couldn’t move forward with my ‘crazy’ ideas.

I called the car loan company and told them that I would like to give the car back.  They paused on the phone and said, nope, since my car payment wasn’t late or even due for that month, I wasn’t in any danger of having it taken.  Confused (the both of us, clearly), I told the guy on the line that I wanted to give the car back and that I knew it wasn’t about to be taken.  He tried to talk me out of it and told me all of the obvious things his script told him to say.  He transferred me to his supervisor who repeated the script again.  They had no idea what to do with me because they were probably accustomed to dealing with people who were on the opposite end of the repo spectrum.

person who regularly performs illegal or immoral acts

I got nothing done on that day in August 2016 because the 20th hadn’t come yet and my payment wasn’t delinquent.  You see that?  I needed to be delinquent before they would consider my idea of retrieving the car.  I had to be, according to Merriam-Webster, a person who regularly performs illegal or immoral acts before they would listen to me.  August 20th came and went, and so did the 20th of September, October, November and it was nearing December 20th.

I answered each time they called me and told them the same thing each time, “the car is here, I cannot afford it and you are welcome to come and pick it up.”  Each rep did their scripted diligence to change my mind.  By this time, my mind was made up to give the car back and to move to Colombia, South America.  There was no turning back.  Nomadic minimalism was my goal.

sold everything I owned to move abroad

I spoke with a very cheerful rep at the car loan company who told me that my car payments were too far behind (in my mind… “finally, they’re picking it up”).  His solution was to forgive the last four months of none payment, put those payments to the end of my loan and start over fresh with a payment due on January 20th in 2017.  All I had to do was agree on the recorded line and that would be that.  After explaining how much I appreciated his help and declining the offer, the manager came on the line and finally said she would start the process of repossession.

It took another month for them to pick up the car and what a sigh of relief that was in January, especially since I was moving out of my apartment only a couple days later and to Colombia the following month.

Nomadic Minimalism - Amazing Race Contestants, Villa de Leyva
Amazing Race Contestants, Villa de Leyva

The Purge

Once I decided to finally be brave, I sold everything I owned to move abroad.  I wasn’t sure of what to let go of and what added true value.  Through that journey I learned that there is a difference between sentiment and value.  Many things were sentimental items that added no value.  It was easy to sell my furniture and get rid of much of my stuff.  I thought that the process was going well.  I didn’t realize that I was still holding on very tightly to things that held sentiment, but no value.

Why do I need a VHS box-set of Karate Kid I, II and III?  Sure, it’s still my favorite movie of all-time, but I also had the DVD box-set and owned all three on iTunes.  So, were those VHS’s adding value to my life? Probably not.  So why are those movies sitting in a suitcase in my mother’s closet right now?  Short answer, I’ve got some more purging to do when I return to the States.

I started out with 5 suitcases and bags full of items to bring with me to Colombia.  Not only was I hoarding unneeded items in the USA, but I was about to lug all of that stuff to Colombia with me, because #ItsMyStuff.  I had to call in the big guns, my sister, Denice.  Sharp-tongued and dripping with much needed truth, my sister helped me narrow my items down to two large suitcases and a carryon.  After that I watched more YouTubers and felt confident that I could further reduce the load and did just that.  I came to Colombia with one medium-large suitcase, a carry-on and a personal item (my laptop bag).

nomadic minimalism is an ever-evolving journey

I’ve been here for four months and would you believe that I still haven’t used every piece of clothing I brought?  I still only use a quarter of the jewelry I brought with me.  Can you believe that?  I had easily a hundred pieces of jewelry in the USA before downsizing, but used about 25 pieces.  Now that I have about 25 pieces of jewelry and wear about 5 or 6 pieces.  No more useless items.

Nomadic Minimalism in Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva

I never even knew I was so sentimental until I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of an overdue library book of poems by Shel Silverstein from over 20 years ago that I never read.  Shel Silverstein’s books were a huge part of my childhood, but my childhood won’t change if I get rid of a book I never read.  Will it?

Nomadic minimalism is an ever-evolving journey.  I’m not sure I will ever be finished purging.  I don’t ever think I will say, ‘that’s it, I will never buy anything I don’t need again,’.  I do, however, feel that the idea is answer truthfully when you ask yourself ‘do I need another dish?  Piece of art?  More clothes?  Another pair of shoes?  A fourteenth throw pillow or dish towel?  If the answer is yes, then get it.  Heck, I just treated myself to a third bath towel here recently.  If the answer is no or not right now, then your minimal duty is to thine own self be true.

4 thoughts on “Nomadic Minimalism: Feeling More Fulfilled With Less

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this. Unless, I missed it , I was hoping that you would share the process of how you sold everything. Your situation is a little different from mine as I do not have a roommate but I do have a very large apartment that is packed to the ceiling with Vintage Clothing, my clothing over 200 pairs of shoes etc. It is definitely time for me to start making a change as I need to begin preparing for my retirement abroad which will happen in approximately 10 years. If you have time I and I am sure others would be really interested in reading about how you got rid of everything.

    Thanks Sondra

    1. Hi Sondra,

      I started off with the big items that I felt ready to let go of like my kitchen table and sofa. I rarely used them because I only used them when I had company. As the time to move approached, I took pictures of everything and posted them on Facebook to sell. Smaller things that had value, but easy enough to put in the mail, I sold on eBay. I sold some boxset DVDs, knives my daddy had given me and electronics on eBay. Friends who had been good to me, I gave them items. I called a guy up that I went to high school with who I had seen maybe twice since high school and told him to meet me so I could give him my good kitchen items because I saw on Facebook that he really loved to cook. My last week in my apartment I gave the rest to charity because it was time finally be rid of everything. I have a duffel bag at my mother’s house full of things I couldn’t let go of before I left, but will be sold or given away when I return. Now that I have lived without that bag full of stuff, I feel that I am able to live without those things forever. Hope this helps. Sorry it took a while to answer, I just saw the comment.

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