Ascetics Make Better Travelers

I’ve always had an ascetic streak that strives to overcome my love of clothes and home furnishings and food. When Todd and I went on our Twelve Cities, 1 Year tour in 2011, it was ascendant, as you can see from the photo below, taken in Missoula. After selling our house and downsizing quite a bit, we lived with those possessions for six months. We stored furniture and books in a storage unit, but we didn’t actually break out our dining room table until February 2013, when we rented an apartment in Boulder.

And since then, my desire to minimize has been winning, at least in the area of clothes and books and furniture. Eating out, not so much.

Every time I go into our tiny closet in our bedroom, I compare the number of shirts Todd has hanging there with those I have, and I think, “I really need more shirts. And not just T-shirts.” But I put off shopping. If I do shop, I often go to Ross or the Goodwill on South Broadway. I haven’t paid full price for a pair of jeans since 2011, partly because my weight keeps changing, and partly because Todd and I have this question we ask each other, “Can you take that to Mongolia?” More on that later.

The process of reducing our possessions so that they could fit into a Prius changed something in me. I don’t see myself having a house bigger than 1,500 square feet, or spending tens of thousands on a kitchen remodel, or buying a houseful of expensive furniture. Don’t get me wrong—I can lust after the displays in Crate and Barrel or an antique store with the best of them. When it comes to laying down the cash, though, I’m not as interested, and that has more to do with my avoidance of waste than anything else.

If I can find what I like second-hand, I will. Usually, it takes more time because multiples of what I want don’t exist, and so I have to visit more stores. It’s also more difficult to fill a room with matching furniture. But it can be done, over time and with persistence. And I feel better about decorating my home that way than I do when buying a bunch of new things. There is so much stuff in America, so much of which is thrown away—I don’t want to add to the pile.

When Todd and I go shopping together, we try to avoid buying more items we’ll have to store during our trip to Asia in 2015–2016. Sometimes we’ll tease each other: “Will that fit in a backpack?” “Can you use it in Mongolia?” Our current itinerary has us going to Mongolia in the summer of 2016, so who knows if we’ll even get there. But that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.