Lessons learned on the road #1: simplifying life

How could we take what we had learned from our years of travel and use that to shape and plan our new life?

Six and half years ago, we had taken a giant leap by giving away almost all of our possessions in anticipation of years of travel.  Our reasoning was mostly economic:  a storage unit would most certainly cost more than all of our stuff was worth.  Who knew the profound effect reducing our possessions would have on us?

We had begun our travel with an epic 9-month road trip in the U.S.  It didn’t take long before we realized we were hauling around way too much “stuff”.

We pulled off a road in Texas to take in the scenery.  One overpacking mistake:  carrying Joe’s bike along with us.

We took time to pare down and simplify even more.  The next phase of our travel was our first around the world trip which would last 14 months.  That length of time – living from one carryon suitcase and one small computer shoulder bag each – required serious thought to pack exactly the right things without overpacking.  About a week before the trip, panic and insecurity set in.  A few things were added, then a few more.  The night before our flight, we could barely zip closed our suitcases.  Clearly, we were taking too much.

All of our travel bags on a train platform in Japan.  (Can you tell we’re heading for China?)

A few months later we pulled out everything not deemed essential, boxed it, and sent it back to the US.   Our load and spirits lightened.

Imagine yourself preparing for a traveling life, paring your possessions down to what easily fits in a carryon suitcase and a computer shoulder bag.  What would you take?  We learned that every piece of clothing and possession we took with us needed to be a “workhorse” – the more hard working and flexible, the better.

One of the clothes most worn by Beth was her black cardigan sweater, pictured here on our visit to the Blue Mountains National Park, Australia.

Joe wore travel vests most days to carry all the little things he needed, pictured here with our guide, Chagamba, in Tanzania.

We both wore Keen Sandals for all 6+ years of our travels.  The little Stewart Island robin spent some time perched on Joe’s sandal on Ulva Island, New Zealand.

The larger the item, the more it had to justify the space it took up.  We continued through our travel years to evaluate each item, and we were paring back constantly.  By the time we packed for our 2nd around the world trip, our suitcases had extra room and the zippers easily slid closed.

Looking back, we were surprised that from the very beginning of our long trip, we took to a life of nonstop travel like ducks take to water.  It was a joy to take our everyday life in new directions.  One thing was clear:  life on the road had changed what we now viewed as essential.

Before we started our travels six years ago, we had a study with a desk for each of us.  When we traveled, we propped our laptops on our laps or a dining table.  It worked well. Now after years of travel, we each decided against having a desk – and a study – in our new home.  Before traveling, we had a well-stocked kitchen, filled with a pantry, accessories, and machines.   We agreed to simplify the kitchen this time around.  Did we need a blender AND a food processor?  No.  One might be nice.  Two weren’t necessary.  Travel taught us how to dress with fewer, well-chosen clothes.   We planned to continue that practice.

It had seemed almost effortless to simplify our lives as we traveled over the years.   As we settled down, we resolved: keep it that way.

A kitchen nook, with a view, in our new cottage at Kendal at Longwood, Pennsylvania.


October 2019

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
This entry was posted in Life after travel, US - Pennsylvania and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Lessons learned on the road #1: simplifying life

  1. We try to pare down but are never very successful. Heck, my medications weigh at least 3 pounds and Annie’s granola bars probably more! And what about the souvenirs and wearing new outfits every few days.
    Seriously, I really enjoyed this post and am so glad you’re loving your new home. Am looking forward to reading more in the future.

  2. I remember when we traveled full time how we waged a battle against accumulating more than we could carry. It seemed that every place we stayed in for any length of time, we’d pick up one or two things necessary for the place or climate we were in. When we packed up, inevitably, we always left behind a donation pile of things no longer practical or useful. Learning the difference between what I needed and mindful buying versus what I wanted has been one of the best lessons to carry into my more settled life here in Portugal. It’s incredibly freeing to let things go and to truly appreciated the things you choose to use and surround yourself with. Not to mention, much cheaper! 🙂 Anita

  3. Susan Whitehouse says:

    I like seeing the tiles on your nook that lived on our mantel during your years of travel. It’s like seeing a little bit of our house in your home.

  4. icelandpenny says:

    great lessons learned, perfect for your new more settled life as well – maybe I’m just saying, good for this stage of life … oh, and, I’m another Keens addict!

  5. leggypeggy says:

    We’re pretty good at travelling light, but I think you’d win the prize.

  6. Travelling light is easier said than done. We make sure all our clothing is mix and match and easy to launder. The view from your new home looks very nice.

  7. I get what you mean, but from a different angle. Several years ago our local Target store, which we frequented often, closed for nearly a year to turn it into a SuperTarget. This meant that if we wanted to go to a Target, we had to drive much further. Suddenly, going to Target didn’t seem so important anymore. A few things we just ended up picking up at the grocery store instead, but for the most part, we just went without. Once our Target reopened, the habit was broken and we rarely go. Great post!

    • We so agree, Travel Architect! Thanks for auditing your experience. We spent very little time “shopping” in our years on the road and not surprisingly, we spent much less than expected and generally replaced, but rarely added, to what we were carrying.

  8. plaidcamper says:

    Good post – great advice to keep it light and simple, but it’s hard to do. Even on a recent three night wilderness trip, I took too much (as in unused) gear, and that was limited to one dry bag. I could and should have gone lighter…
    Looks like the lessons and wisdom gained on the road are being carried into your new life. Simple is often best!

    • Someone wrote she took her trip packing list and marked off what she hadn’t used. Over time and future trips, it helped her focus in. We tried it for our 2nd round the world trip and it helped a lot. Of course, it’s a lot harder to pack for a wilderness trip! Thanks for your comment, PC.

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