In just over one week, nearly everything that I own will be in one carry-on sized backpack. Everything I will need for my day-to-day living for the next four months (and potentially beyond) will be in this bag.
And if I’m being honest — this terrifies the bejesus out of me.
This process of preparing for travel has taken my minimalism journey to new levels. At this point, it’s not exactly an active choice that I’m making – I just don’t have the space for anything else. But oddly, as terrifying as it is, it also feels equally as rewarding. I feel that my ability to be unattached is unlocking so many opportunities.
While I may feel free as a bird now, this is a stark contrast to one year ago. At this point, my husband Robert and I had recently upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment, a place where we had planned to remain for the next several years. We were intent on buying all the pretty little things to make it feel like home — we furnished our bedroom, office, the living room, and had grandeur plans to furnish the rest of the apartment.
When we made the decision to prioritize travel in our lives, we sold or gave away 95% of the things we owned, took a few things to my parents’ house, and packed up the rest in our backpacks. And while we have so much less things, when I compare the feeling now versus one year ago, we are no less happy. In fact, we both feel more free, and more empowered to go anywhere or do anything that is available to us, and we’re not alone in this feeling.
Nneka Okona, an African American food and travel writer, and fellow minimalist, shared similar sentiments. In preparation to make the move to Madrid in 2013, she was forced to downsize the amount of things she owned — she packed up everything she owned in two suitcases and a carry-on bag. In an interview with Pacific Standard Magazine, she explained, “I see minimalism as a journey into releasing past baggage and attachments in order to feel freer and lighter.”
For the most of us, our possessions help to define our class in the community. However, Nneka said that minimalism has helped her to reassess the worth of material possessions in her life. She commented: “I’d like for more of us to get to a place where we don’t allow the pursuit of capitalism to wholly define us and seek validation, worth, and value from other healthier sources: emotional well-being, reciprocal, nourishing relationships, a strong sense of self-love.”
Rosetta Thurman, the founder and CEO of Happy Black Woman, “a global empowerment company and high-vibe sisterhood for Black women entrepreneurs who want to make a big impact, earn a great income and live an abundant lifestyle,” is another black minimalist that prioritized the experience of travel. In 2010, she left her full-time 9 to 5 job to pursue her own business.
While she admitted that minimalism began as a way to conserve money, she soon realized the freedom that it brought. In an interview with Nneka Okona, she explained: “I wanted to have it all – have the money to invest in my business and be able to travel and enjoy the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur,” she said.
“The following year, I got rid of all my stuff, gave up my apartment and began traveling the world with just a suitcase and a laptop,” she revealed on her website.
“Black people as a whole are always looking for validation and I think if we let go of our attachment to what other people think of us, then we can really be free to live different, and perhaps more fulfilling, lives,” she said. Since 2011, she has traveled to several countries, including Hawaii, Thailand, Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Jamaica, Mexico, Argentina and Indonesia.
It is so validating and encouraging to see other black people who are thriving and living more fulfilling lives through the practice of minimalism. These ladies have demonstrated how minimalism has helped them to access opportunities that may not have been available to them had they kept all their possessions. I understand that every person has different goals and values, and that minimalism isn’t for everyone — but, the results of practicing minimalism and being more intentional have been so rewarding for me thus far, and I am excited to see where this journey will lead.