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This is one of the many joys I found when cleaning out my room in preparation for our year-long trip around the world. This is an excerpt from my elementary school diary circa 1995.
December 1, 1995
I don’t really like Brian anymore but now I like Brock. Well you see this just happened about two weeks ago. My only problem is that my friend Mimi likes him too. So I got to figure out away to prevent Mimi from liking Brock but how? Maybe I could say to Brock that Mimi likes another guy and not him or maybe I could say to a bunch of people that Brock likes Mimi so Brock will say he doesn’t so he might begin to like me but I think he already likes me and Mimi. BYE.
– Sound logic from a manipulative little shit
I was a prolific journaler growing up. I cry laughing whenever I read them — the other entries are just as awful/hilarious. It was nice to be reminded while cleaning out my room in preparation for this trip. Who knows what joys you might find?!
I lived in DC for five years before deciding to call it quits and take this trip around the world. I decided not to resign my lease, so that meant five years of stuff to sort through before becoming intentionally homeless.
By the time my papers to take a leave of absence were approved, I had one month left in DC, not to mention 2 overseas work trips to do within that month. I had barely any time to pack up, move, AND still plan an entire trip around the world (Yeah…that’s right. This entire trip was a last-minute decision. We had not planned anything until maybe 2 weeks before we left. More on than later.) My last month there was one hectic, caffeine-fueled shitshow.
Since I would no longer have a place of my own, I needed to consolidate and figure out what to do with all of my stuff.
I categorized things by Sell, Donate, Pitch, and Keep.
Unless you were living under a rock, you probably have heard of Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I listened to it on audiobook as I went through everything I owned and asked myself “Does this old sweater spark joy in me?” If not, it went in the donate pile. “Does this paper ticket from that one concert bring me joy?” No? TO THE GARBAGE CAN! I went through everything I owned this way. I’ll admit that the book is a little extreme (I will not stop rolling up my socks into little balls and will never remove everything from my purse and place each item in its own space each night – I just don’t care that much), but I found the basic premise useful for figuring out what I really wanted to keep.
My roommates and I were hooked on this method. Actual quote from us: “Friday night in DC? Let’s go ‘Kondo’ the house!!!”
I sold a TON of stuff: my bed, box springs, couch, living room furniture, lamps, books, posters, decorating knick knacks. I put ads on Craigslist and was able to sell all of the big stuff — even my mattress and smelly used Lululemon yoga mat. Creepy, right? In total, I made roughly $1000 this way. In travel speak, that’s like 1000 servings of pad thai in Thailand, or 3 months of cheap accommodation in SE Asia, or 100 servings of sushi in Japan! Totally worth it.
I also had a large collection of books to sort through (thanks, book club!). Many I wanted to keep, but I decided to really give living a minimalist lifestyle a go, which meant letting go of the ones I could part with. I wrote out a list of all of the books, took pictures, and emailed the list to all of my friends in DC, selling them for $5 a piece. (This is way better than what you would get from a used book store.) Large hardcover books sold for $10. Several friends contributed to my travel fund this way. I think I made an extra $200 for the trip. The ones I kept made their way into boxes for my future library.
For stuff I couldn’t sell, I wrote a big sign that said FREE and placed everything on the steps outside my door. That was an effective way to get rid of things quickly!
I made a list of donation centers in DC and decided which one I wanted to donate to based on need, reputation, and proximity. I had a ton of business clothes, dresses, and shoes I hardly wore. The process of going through everything I owned made me realize I had too much stuff. Most things I didn’t actually need.
In the end, I took several bags of clothes to Martha’s Outfitters in Washington, DC. I also gave away a few items to friends and family. I hope someone gets greater use out of them than I ever did.
I also had bags full of unused hotel toiletries as a result of years of work travel. I coordinated with some friends to donate the travel-size toiletries to shelters in DC.
I took out several bags of trash and recycling — old partially-used toiletries, random makeup samples, ratty-looking clothes, shoes, and miscellaneous pictures, receipts, airplane tickets, Christmas cards. I pitched ALL of them.
One tip I learned from Marie Kondo is that you can take a picture of a picture/card/ticket and file it away digitally for your memories. Genius idea. I only kept items that were really special to me. It was LIBERATING.
By now, I had reduced my stuff to a manageable amount. I kept clothes that I knew I’d need in the future – work outfits, seasonal clothes, shoes, mementos (definitely kept all of my old diaries!). Everything sparked joy. I also kept useful kitchen and home items that I’d want when the time came to have my own place again (bedding, fancy coffee grinder, juicer, and cast iron skillet, etc). I rolled up my clothes and stored them in old suitcases and bought some plastic storage bins for everything else.
Once I figured out what to keep, I needed a place to actually put it.
Thankfully for me, my brother lived not too far away, so I moved my boxes into his basement. A few months later when the Navy moved him 3,000 miles away, he moved my stuff into a local self-storage unit. I decided on Cube Smart, which has hundreds of locations around the United States. My entire belongings now live in a 5×5 unit for $25 a month in the middle of nowhere Maryland.
Another option I considered was MakeSpace. They’ll pick up your items and bring them to your storage unit. They will also deliver whatever you want from your unit to wherever you are. It’s a cool concept. Check out this nerdy MakeSpace article about my boyfriend: How Tyler Tringas Uses MakeSpace to Live Like James Bond.
This process taught me that I really can live with less, especially after living out of backpack for an entire year! My hope is that I will keep this up if and when I actually integrate back into a normal routine lifestyle. Personally, I’d rather have a life full of experiences rather than a closet full of clothes.