Evita Ochel interviewed me for her Evolving Beings in Action series several months ago. Recently, she published an excellent ebook, Evolving Beings: This is Your Year, in which she curates bits of wisdom from 52 evolving beings. I'm including my contribution below.
I was sitting at my desk looking out the window at the Boston skyline when a bird flew past and soared off into the distance. I stopped what I was doing and let my eyes and my thoughts follow him. Was this it? Was the rest of my life going to be a repeat of yesterday? Was I going to spend the remainder of my time on Earth playing it safe and making choices based on what society thought was best?
The thought of that spark dying inside scared me to death. Not doing anything at all became more risky than risking it all. Later that evening I wrote an email to my boss and told him I was leaving in two months. I proceeded to sell everything I owned and, inspired by many who shared online their stories of nomadic travel, I formulated a rough plan to spend six months traveling through India, Vietnam, and Nepal with all my possessions on my back in a small 32L backpack.
I didn't have a lot of money to spend (I lost the three rental properties to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy the following year), so I budgeted $3,000 for the entire trip. I had no idea how much traveling on a budget would affect the way this journey changed me. The small budget forced me to stay outside of the big cities and living close to the locals opened my eyes to the inequality, the poverty, and the sheer contrast in reality. The misplaced priorities of many of those living in developed countries, including myself, became blindingly obvious.
While I was buying houses, surfing the Internet, and fixing computers, entire families were dying of hunger and living on sidewalks. Children were scrounging for water and sitting in piles of trash. And not just a few people either, but nearly a billion people!
Yet despite all this, most of the people seemed happy. They seemed grateful to just be alive. Their possessions represented necessity, not fluff for simple pleasures, or junk for impulsive wants. Stuff in their lives had meaning and purpose.
It became incredibly apparent to me that in terms of stuff, I needed very little to live a happy and fulfilled life. Things were simply a distraction from what was real and my ability to make a difference in the world was severely limited by how much physical, emotional, and spiritual baggage I held onto.
I have committed to living a frugal, minimalistic lifestyle in all realms: physical, emotional, and spiritual and the freedom this enables allows me to explore all areas of my life with an open mind, an open heart, and an open soul.
Wisdom I Share With You
- Recognize your completeness and the utter beauty that surrounds you and exists within you. Search for the lesson in each situation and donʼt allow fear or pressure from the status quo to enslave your life.
- Find peace and contentment within each moment and be grateful for everything and everyone: we are all connected and each person contributes to supporting the existence of everyone else.
- Free yourself of attachment to things and learn to recognize universal truths. The most valuable things in the world cannot be bought or sold and you already possess everything you need to obtain them. Ask how you can do more with less.
- Look forward, look far into your future, not to create plans or set goals but to anticipate how you will wish you had spent your time. When you die, how do you want the world to look different than today? Is there something that you want to change more than anything else? Go do that. Search for the first step that leads in that direction and then start walking. Ask how your choices affect others and accept responsibility for making the best choice.
- It's easy to get distracted and weighed down by time, but it can either be your friend or your enemy. Time can either be a vessel for change and exploration or a prison for a stagnant and lifeless existence. The choice is yours and the responsibility to do something meaningful with your life is also yours.