I never thought of myself as materialistic until I realized how much I was, and now I realize how grateful I am for how travel made me less materialistic. Those special occasion dresses hung in my closet for that “some day” that I would need them. But little did I realize that this was just me wanting things. The fact that I couldn’t go through my closet and purge should have been my first warning sign that I needed to be less materialistic. But in a culture where everyone always has more, wants more, but doesn’t necessarily need more I was just like everyone else, and not everyone could have the same problem. Could they?
When you travel you open yourself up to new experiences, people, cultures, and places. You’re in a constant state of learning as you explore city streets and sip cocktails surrounded by a language that you don’t understand. You’re on an extreme high or wanting to rip your hair out because the map you’re reading doesn’t make sense. The combination of emotions you feel exhausts you, yet you still have the energy to keep going for the night. Travel allows you to grow as an individual, you realize things that you could never grasp before, and suddenly the most foreign things in the world are those you hold most dear to you.
Something I was extremely happy to learn while traveling was that things do not make you happier. Yes, I was always told this, but I didn’t understand it. Things for me were clothes, jewelry, and gadgets. I wanted options, and I wanted them to be displayed in front of me. How many plain black dresses did I need with black and gold necklaces? Why did I need the option of using my iPhone or iPad when they were basically the same? I began to realize how ridiculous the North American culture was that I lived in. And who said that I had to follow it?
What forced me to come to this new view of my possessions was indeed travel and how I carried my belongings. Before I left for my trip I went and bought myself a nice pack, no more suitcase for me! My large suitcase only had one handle left on it from continuously packing too much in it and making it too heavy, and these were mostly for one week vacations. That right there tells me that I definitely had too much stuff.
I sat crossed legged in front of my exploding wardrobe with my pack zipped open beside me, the new smell filling the air. Where was I to start? There was no way I could manage to fit all the things I wanted to bring into this one 50L pack. After doing some research on what other’s packed for their Europe trips on travel blogs I managed to cut down my excessive load of supplies.
While on my trip I wore outfits less often than I thought I would have to, I bought minimal clothing while I was overseas, and instead spent my money on things I could have with me for a long time. In other words, I was investing into things that made me happy. To me, that was buying pieces for my travel wall or jewelry that is timeless. I now wear most of the jewelry I bought everyday. I ended up giving my sandals away to a friend when I left Greece because she needed some and I wouldn’t need mine until the next summer. Before I would have held onto those sandals until I decided I didn’t like them anymore (probably another two years).
What shocked me the most was when I got back home. I hung up my clothes that disappeared into the tangle of barely worn pieces. When I went to get dressed every morning I would catch myself reaching for those exact pieces I traveled with. Suddenly I realized what exactly I needed I already had and the idea of buying more seemed like a waste of money. Why spend that money on things when I could spend it on a plane ticket or a delicious meal in a new country?
Realizing the excess amount of stuff I had shocked me. My eyes were seeing my lifestyle in a new light. Since I got back from my Europe trip (October 2014) I have purged my closet and jewelry basket three times and have donated all of it. I have bought a minimal amount of clothing (really only to replace what I’d worn out) and no jewelry. It was a very refreshing experience to know that my things were going to a good cause instead of being a thing for me to debate wearing or not.
Today I have about 10 core pieces that I work around, I wear the same jewelry almost everyday, and I have very little to no desire to go shopping for more. I still have things I can purge, and I’m working on it. I am now less wasteful, less materialistic, and if anything, I’m happier than I was with all those unnecessary things.
How has travel helped you? Comment below!
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