Minimalism and consumerism through the eyes of a digital nomad.

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When I set off to be a “digital nomad” full-time I didn’t think one of the top lessons I’d learn was going to be minimalism.

Damn, was I wrong.

People tend to think that traveling full time is expensive.

My experience has been the contrary. I can’t even begin to tell you how much money I’ve saved now that I don’t go “therapy” shopping every other week.

In the past year, I’ve been living out of my carry on bags. I’ve gone without conditioner for over three weeks (I just use coconut oil instead), I’ve stopped wearing makeup unless I’m in a city, I’ve got beach outfits down to swimsuits and a sarong, and I’ve learned how to pack like a pro.

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Add in my ability to shop for food for the amount of days I’ll be in a place, coordinate outfits mostly with accessories, and tag in my necessary tech products for work. I’ve been feeling pretty good about it.

Now, let’s be clear. I didn’t start this journey hoping to be a minimalist. My home in Los Angeles was filled with decorations, art, products, and clothing that I bought (can’t even blame my ex for any of that). My mothers home was very similar; lot’s of plants, books, art supplies… We’re creatives at heart (and you’ve seen a creatives house right? It’s like the studios constantly exploding).

I imagine one day I’ll start another similar collection, I’ve already been missing the piles of books, the unnecessary number of denim jackets, and a pantry filled with options. But thankfully, I’ll have this experience to help guide me towards decisions that keep material needs at the bare minimum.

Our societies have programmed us to a culture of shopping addiction with ads and marketing visuals taking up our space.

 

We’re told we need x to do x.

Every time there’s a new event, you have to buy something new to wear or another pair of shoes. We go grocery shopping and always buy 10x what we need to be safe, safe from another run to the store... We end up wasting food ten fold (especially in the USA) just because we’re too lazy to have to go back out.

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Now, here’s the interesting part.

I’ve learned that minimalism isn’t just about material products.

It’s about the amount of information we ingest.
It’s about what we put in our bodies.
It’s about the people we surround ourselves with.
It’s about the work we do.

I think that people are ingrained with their need for object overload at a young age. You’re most likely one of the following:

  1. Didn’t have access to new clothing and toys, or eating out as a child:

When I was a child, our clothing was all passed down from friends and family members, our toys were given to us on our birthdays, and we only ate out a couple times a year as well.

Here’s the kicker, (and something I’ll be eternally grateful for), we did NOT grow up with new things, but we did travel a lot and gain experience to new cultures — my ability to leave and roam happily is ingrained in me.

How could this childhood affect you negatively when it comes to consumerism?

  • You never had new clothing, so once you have money, you constantly feel that you deserve it.
  • Eating out was considered a luxury, now it might not be, god damn that food tastes good.
  • Your parents most likely said no every time you asked for something, now you want to say yes to yourself.
  • If you’re like me, you started working when you were very young to start providing for yourself, it’s more likely you’ll get burnt out quickly and reward yourself with materialism.
  • We weren’t taught how to handle money — who’s getting the paypack? The H&Ms, TJ-Maxxs, and Zaras of the world..
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2: You were raised with a family that was financially comfortable:

I’m not necessarily saying this is better or easier, so don’t get your mind twisted. With both scenarios it depends on the way our minds have decided to ingest the experience. It is possible to have extremes from both levels.

Here’s some potential outcomes from this:

  • When you start making your own money, you don’t worry about spending it on more expensive products because you’re so used to having them around.
  • You spend your money faster because you’ve never been limited to cheaper things.
  • Living on your own is more difficult because you’ve been taught a standard quality of life.
  • Minimal living might have been ingrained in you if your parents taught you how to handle money, but this doesn’t mean that you can naturally implement it.
  • While for me, Zara is a huge step up, for you, it might be a step down.

 

If neither of these outcomes relate to you specifically, then think about how you were programmed to think about money, and how to spend it.

The point is, while these experiences won’t teach you how to take care of your money or live more simply (unless you had a different experience and had incredible parents that taught you about finances and consumerism, if that’s so, go parents)!

Otherwise, that’s something we need to learn on our own.

Most importantly, it’s something we need to be conscious of.

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Here’s some general questions we should all have about minimizing unnecessary needs and negative impacts in our lives:

  • Who taught you WHERE to spend money?
  • Where are you the most comfortable spending larger amounts?
  • Where are you least comfortable spending money?
  • When you’re upset, do you go shopping? What are you buying?
  • How do you feel when you spend money? Is it stressful? Alleviating? Neither?
  • Are you holding onto products because of emotional ties to them?
  • Do you overpack because you think you just can’t live without something?
  • Who do you surround yourself with? Are they a positive influence in your life?
  • Are you willing to support them, and do they support you?
  • Do you spend money or take action simply because you’re afraid of what someone else might think?
  • Do you take in so much information that you don’t log any of it?
  • Do you forget what you own?
There’s no one mold suits all for combatting minimalism and accepting our own consumerism.
What there is, is consciousness.

Are you conscious of the difference between need and want?

I wasn’t, and it’s taken me a year to have a breakthrough that has shown me that I’m so much happier when I’m living solely with what I NEED, and I’m no longer surrounded by things I thought I needed, but truly, only wanted for all the wrong reasons.

SOON: I’ve been asked about HOW I pack so minimally so I’ll be doing a tutorial on that soon. Especially for woman (digital nomads are still largely men) that see examples of men traveling with just a small backpack, there are other options for minimal packing!