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Minimalism as a Tool for Adventure and Self-Agency

On minimalism. In life there are few things more satisfying than freedom of self-agency. The decision to decide to up and move to somewhere you aren’t familiar with. The joy you feel when seeing a new landscape or meeting a new person for the first time. Knowing what you do is what you’re doing because you wanted it and not because someone else forced you to do it. It’s enough to reignite that wonder inside of us that many have simply stamped out with comfort zones and familiarity. 

There are so many things wrong with the idea that we should open our wallets or purses and spend to fill the gap with new things to find this sense of wonder again. Every day we are bombarded by advertisers and social norms pushing us closer to buying something that’s been well marketed in hopes for a glimpse of that yearning for freedom that exists deep inside of all of us. Even when we do get these items their importance begins to fade as the dopamine wears off. Companies instead sell us the next best fashion or product, dating out our devices and clothes that serve their purpose fine as they are. 

There’s a cycle present in many of our lives that works to push us away from our own agency. Mostly everyone is aware that spending their hard earned money on experiences instead of things is a more satisfying way of consumerism but few do just that. When we buy something like gas for a road trip or a round trip ticket to a strange and new place we never forget the experiences had. The memories change who we are and enrich our lives with good stories that we could be proud to tell and reflect upon.

Instead people live paycheck to paycheck buying cheap disposable products that are designed to break. Many items are just in style for a few months and phase out of existence as a product of planned obsolescence. People around us use the norms to force this cycle on others with simple shaming based when your phone came out or when the catalogue was released for your current clothing. In more egregious instances it may be about the size of your house or the date your car was manufactured. It’s this cycle that we must learn to be free of if we are to regain a sense of agency in life.

I practice this by asking myself what value or purpose an item brings into my life before buying. Does it accomplish something that has already been accomplished by another item? Many don’t live by their own agency and feel a hole in their lives for it, which they in turn attempt to fill with things that have no place or purpose. On occasion we fail to assess the root cause of our drive to obtain more. Perhaps it’s dissatisfaction with work, romance or any other facet of life. Asking the question why can be a powerful form of self inquiry. 

Most that manage a lifestyle of adventure through digital nomadism, van life or whatever means do so by their own self agency. That is they have regained control over how they spend a majority of their time or reclaimed enough financial stability to end employment related drudgery that they would otherwise have to participate in. For some they still have work for half of the year working a circuit, but retain freedom for the other six months of their life. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this serves as kind of a feedback loop into minimalism and maintaining it. 

Once we have shown ourselves that we can live in a certain way without as many things but yet, still manage to obtain contentment in it- we find that our desire to continue to purchase fades. The reclamation of self agency is often times enough to address our root desire to consume endlessly. I think this is why it’s much easier to maintain for many people that adventure, ignoring the obvious constraints introduced with indefinite mobility. I’ve found this true in my own experience.

There is a form of minimalism that could be akin to self-punishment where one simply deprives themselves of what they obviously need. They believe in reducing their belongings below the necessities to live a content life that they are somehow awarded, but their only award is that of their unending compulsion to be rid of things. I think it’s important that people be aware that this exists and not become addicted to throwing away items as much as they once were to gathering items.

Some will surely say that living out of a backpack as a digital nomad or even putting your life into a van is a form of self-punishment but I don’t agree. In fact I would say for a vast majority of people everything they can imagine needing to live a content and healthy life can be fit into an RV or van, even a backpack small enough to carry onto a plane almost anywhere in the world. What people should be looking for is a middle way. I don’t mean this in a religious sense, or the middle path but simply that people should find their happy medium.

I do think that among people out there that make it their business to live mobile or adventure, that there is some amount they are willing to accept before it becomes a bother to them. I’ve personally felt this and adjusted as needed. For some it may be that they simply want to live out of a large backpack and hike all of the great trails, but for others even in that community they will want to push the limit and try to work their way into an ultralight hiking setup.

For one person this might be misery, but the other this minimalist strategy will be good for them. Even then, there are those of us that could get by in just a van and outsource much of what we’ve been used to in a house, but others may prefer to avoid that kind of minimalism and instead go with a small RV or even a tiny house. All approaches are equally valid and based upon individual variances. Minimalism is therefor a process of self discovery in this way as well.

The concept of how far to go with minimalism therefor is ultimately relative to your own personal reflection of what is right for you. You can not apply this to others so easily in many circumstances except where you notice obvious suffering. I do not pretend that there are not a number of people doing this out of economic necessity and if you are among them I would remind you that this doesn’t have to be a form of displeasure or discomfort. It is those in this group that would be most advantaged by their reclamation of self agency in living an adventurous life, one that is not expensive and offers an increase in free time.

That reclamation of self agency can be used to push towards your own meaning in life. Perhaps you can start a business, create what’s important to your life or find another path to self-sustaining income that is acceptable and fulfilling. You don’t even need to leave your home city to do it. You may simply just work less hours because less money is required while living in this kind of way. With that said, time is the real currency in our economic system. Advertisers spend billions every year to get a second of your time. Companies are willing to pay you for every hour you surrender for them. It is truly the greatest value. 

In my experience I have found this mode of living offers an important path away from the cycle of drudgery that many people face in their lives, along with the vain attempts to fill the holes with things. If we can simply decrease our desire to amass things, we will increase our time and freedom of agency to begin our own paths forward. The greatest gift of all is additional time and being able to spend that time as we see fit. If you find yourself with an idea you’re passionate about but you just don’t have the time because you’ve already sold it all the the highest bidder, living as a minimalist is a way to reclaim self agency, increase adventure and more importantly, it’s a way out.

Written by

Brian Wilson

35 Posts

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