in Personal Reflections

Possessions: The Closing of a Chapter

A chapter of my life is coming to a close. It’s been a chapter of personal discovery and new awareness, of material possessions and excessiveness; it’s been a chapter of alternate paths and of decision making, of introspection and stepping out of comfort zones.

In the past decade, I’ve gone through living in over a dozen different places, including tiny attics, basements, offices, studios, and entire floors of houses. I’ve spent outrageous money for rent ($950/mo for a 450sqft studio), utilities ($500 heat bills), and other bills (cable, broadband, etc), all in the name of independence.

I’ve owned lots of stuff. For the first seven years of having a drivers license, I had a different car each year. For six years I was a landlord with three multi-family houses. I took care of all the property maintenance myself which meant owning lots of different tools. I had several TVs, various computers, gym equipment, a kayak, mountain bike, and the list goes on. To make things worse, the plentiful storage space provided by the properties easily masked the volume of “stuff” I owned. I feel as though I’ve had nearly everything material that I could have wanted. Oh, and I slaved away to afford the stuff, sometimes working 60 – 80 hours a week, sometimes working three jobs.

But why? The lifestyle I’ve always wanted to live can best be described as that of a nomad; someone who travels from place to place with no permanent residence (or at least can travel). Such a person wouldn’t own very much. They wouldn’t own a house, a car, a desktop computer, or a TV. They would only own what they can carry with them. Living such a lifestyle would allow me to freely move around and spend more time exploring and learning things of interest. Less time would be spent trying to pay expenses and care for material possessions (storage, maintenance, etc.).

I’ve always wondered what the purpose of life was and the reason for my existence. If you asked my dad, he would tell you that I was asking those questions when I was five years old. While my dad always seemed to have answers to my questions, they never satisfied me (which my dad agrees is a good thing). I believe we each need to find our own purpose and blaze our own trail through life. No one can give us a map or an instruction manual (and if they try, beware!).

Earlier this year I came to the conclusion that finding my purpose would be much easier if I had less material stuff cluttering and clouding my world. At the very least, having less stuff would give me more freedom and less to worry about (a feeling I got a taste of when my three houses were foreclosed on and I no longer had to worry about maintaining them).

So I’ve decided to change my lifestyle and transition to a more nomadic one. I’ve begun selling or giving away all my remaining possessions, a process that will continue for the next few months. I’ve found a cheap room to rent that’s close to work and I’m living with roommates for the first time in my life, something my highly individualistic personality has always been opposed to. My end-of-the-year goal is to be living with only the stuff I can carry on my back. Even my pickup truck will eventually go (that will be the last page in this closing chapter).

The direction I’m headed in the next chapter is almost exactly where I envisioned myself being in ten years nearly a decade ago (perhaps even longer). But none of it was planned. Everything just sort of fell into place, the same way the tires on your car propel you forward without you fully understanding exactly how pressure from your foot translates into moving several tons of metal. It’s a strange feeling; to know you always had an idea of where you wanted to be and somehow, through all the possible things that could have happened, you’re ending up there.

There were so many decisions I made that ended up not working out for one reason or another (investments, relationships, business plans, etc.), and those unexpectedly resulted in my life being pushed closer and closer to the path I’m now on. Even though I never knew how it would happen, I also never lost sight of the direction I wanted my life to go. Now I can clearly see myself headed there. :)

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  1. YAY!!! This is fantastic! I am so happy for you Raam. You know what you want and are chipping through the process. Though I never had cars and homes I know how it feels to start selling everything. And how fun is living with roommates? It’s takes patience, but hell it’s fun! I was the same…living my own independent life. What you’ll soon feel and see is that it’s the people around you that give you new experiences…different perspectives and then once you travel it will be triple fold. Cheers to your success…be sure to keep me updated!

    • Thanks Amber! Living with roommates is definitely a new experience for me. This is only my second week and I’m definitely still adjusting to it. It doesn’t help that I’m not much of a social creature but since I’m trying to change that, living with roommates definitely helps.

      Hearing your story about leaving SF and taking off to Australia with nothing but the stuff on your back has been hugely inspirational for me. I can’t thank you enough (and Sid for re-tweeting the post and making me aware of it)! :)

  2. Wow that’s weird, I just emailed Amber and mentioned how I was getting inspired to work harder at my online ventures after reading your blog, and now this.

    Nice work man. The hardest part for me is figuring out how to get the money to do it =)

    I travel to the west coast a lot, I don’t know how nomadic you are yet but you can shoot me an email if you want to meet up in LA or SF. I live in Hawaii, which isn’t a bad place for nomads to stop by at either =P

    • It’s amazing how connected everything, and everyone, is. I would probably never have heard of Amber’s story if it wasn’t for you re-tweeting it, and I wouldn’t have even been following you on Twitter if it wasn’t for your posting a reply to a comment I made on HackerNews (which I randomly found searching for something on Google one day)!

      With regards to money: I realized last year that I’m less concerned with having money and more concerned with gaining experience. I decided that living as cheaply as possible would allow me a ton of freedom to explore and experience. Granted, I couldn’t fly everywhere on an airplane or stay in hotels, but that’s the whole point. Most of what I see myself wanting to do for the next decade doesn’t involve very much money. Gaining physical skills (fitness and related activities like surfing, hiking, climbing, swimming, diving, etc), mental skills (improving math and handwriting, learning new programming languages, etc), social skills, and exploring various places (traveling by foot, bike, or public transportation and couch surfing or living with roommates).

      Thanks for the offer to meet up some time. I’ll definitely take you up on that when I’m in LA, SF, or Hawaii! :)