A year ago today, I embarked on my dream trip of traveling New Zealand for three weeks to wander around in a camper van. It was a gift to myself for my five year anniversary of not having a drink of alcohol. Today marks my sixth year.
Once I arrived in Auckland, I took a city bus to the camper van rental company to get a quick orientation of how to drive and camp (thank my lucky stars that someone finally told me how it's done). Once I got the nerve to drive out of the lot on the left side of the street and made my way through the city on the left side, singing "left, left, left, left, stay left, stay left" out loud to myself, I finally came to a stop to get some gas and a bite to eat.
When I returned to the van, a couple approached me to tell me that they saw two people break into my van. I stepped closer to look in the window to see that everything was gone. Since I just arrived, I haven't unpacked so grabbing my large duffel and backpack was a snap to the thieves. I stood there staring at the back seat thinking that it would magically appear again. In my mind, I started thinking about what I had... my expensive camera, kindle (you know...in case nature gets boring and I need to read a book), all my clothing gear for all types of weather situations, and everything else I packed that I thought I needed to live in a borrowed van for three weeks.
So, exactly a year ago I was sitting on a patch of grass waiting for the police to show up and not really knowing what I would be doing next. You never know exactly how it feels unless it happens to you, and for some strange reason, I wasn't upset. I mean, how could I be? I was in New Zealand! Even though my view consisted of cars coming in and out of the gas station, it didn't matter. I was on an adventure and people taking all of my gear wasn't going to stop me from having fun. I started appreciating things that perhaps I wouldn't have taken the time to notice. A worker at the coffee shop saw me sitting on the grass and came over with a coffee and a lemon custard bar. That was the best damn lemon bar and coffee I've ever had.
After I spent the entire day with the police officer going over what had happened, I spent the night in the parking lot at the police station and was finally on my way the next day... traveling LIGHT. I stopped for a few essentials but I was fortunate to have grabbed my passport at the last second to put in my purse before I left the van at the gas station.
Even though I wore the same clothes for the trip, it didn't matter. I was seeing an amazing country and experiencing moments that perhaps I wouldn't have noticed before the robbery. Stuff is just stuff and it can be replaced. When I reflect back to my most treasured moments in life, it's not the outfit, camera or fancy shoes I remember. It's the experience and the feeling.
Once I detach feelings and emotions from "stuff", it gets easier and easier to live on less. To me, it's a freeing feeling to donate things and getting them out of my life and into someones else's. I have boxes of things that I've kept over the years and every time I see the boxes, I immediately feel overwhelmed, trapped and stuck. Just by looking at stuff, I get that feeling. It's been a constant job of mine to go through every box I have and get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose. If I don't use it, it's easy to justify it by thinking it has meaning because, "my grandmother gave it to me." The fact is, it doesn't matter. Sure, good feelings are nice to have and of course memories are precious, but is it worth it to pack that item up and shove it in a corner to feel overwhelmed each time you look at the boxes? To me... no. My memory of my grandmother is always with me and I can spend time reflecting on her whenever I want to.
If you are young, now is the time to stop. Stop collecting things and putting them in boxes to carry to your next home. If you use it, great. If not, donate it. You'll thank me later, trust me.