I once read in an article that the average European person owns 10,000 things. If you start a long journey with just a backpack, however, not all of those bits and pieces can fit in it. Plus, you need to be able to carry all the things you bring around all the time. When I started to travel, it was also time to say goodbye to some of those things.
There’s a strong and enduring lesson I learned from my backpack when I hit the road: Life is alright when you have less than 10,000 things. Much less.
Before my first big trip to Canada in the summer of 2013, I made a list of things, especially clothes, I wanted to take with me, including a choice of 10 T-shirts, 6 sweaters and 4 pants. After my first try to fit everything into the backpack it turned out that my list was a bit too optimistic: There was no way I could’ve taken all those clothes with me. So I took 5 shirts, 3 sweaters and 2 pants, and I was alright. Of course my outfits weren’t really that diverse, but I was traveling – not participating a fashion show.
I realized that everything I needed could fit into my backpack. It was a very liberating feeling.
Traveling and packing my backpack helped me figure out how being forced to live a less materialistic lifestyle can actually result in better happiness. Why do I need a huge flat screen TV when I can see how the sunset light lets the sky on the Canadian west coast and make it appear like it’s on fire? Why do I need a set of 10 incredibly sharp and expensive kitchen knives when I can have exciting street food in Namibia? Why do I need a stationary bicycle when my feet can carry me across the Alps?