Less stuff, more adventure

Today’s guest post is from Sean Ogle a location independent writer and entrepreneur who is currently based out of Bangkok, Thailand. Welcome, Sean!

For years I’ve strived to live a simple lifestyle. And, up until four months ago, I had failed miserably at it. I’ve always been a pack rat, and the amount of meaningless stuff I’d acquired would make a pawn shop owner blush.

So how have I chosen to go about uncluttering my life? I quit my job, sold my car, and am working while traveling throughout southeast Asia. Oh, and I’m doing it all with nothing but a backpack the size of one an eighth grader might use.

Yes, it’s a drastic way to go about changing my life, but drastic times call for drastic measures. I wasn’t happy with my job as a financial analyst, and I knew that if I didn’t have my global adventure soon, my obligations would get the better of me. With the help of my trusty North Face Surge, I disposed of everything I owned, except that which I could fit inside my new pack.

I have no affiliation with North Face whatsoever, but I have to tell you, this is one of the most well designed and useful packs I’ve ever used. It’s much more flexible than a traditional laptop case, and has enough room for everything I’d hoped to bring on my six month trip. That’s saying something.

I’ve been on the move for about three months, and it’s incredible how simple my life has become. No longer do I worry about all of the details that seemed to be such a big deal. Does the car have enough gas to make it to work? Did I leave the coffee pot on? Am I going to get that big raise this year? Sure, I have my own set of concerns, as I’m now working for myself on a variety of web-based ventures, but those hold true for any entrepreneur; giving myself the freedom from overwhelming amounts of “stuff” has been well worth it.

I fully understand that this is an extreme way to reduce clutter in your life, and it is certainly not for everyone. However, for those looking to make a change, and perhaps experience a little adventure, living out of a backpack for a short (or long) period of time is the perfect way to figure out what is truly essential in your life.

30 Comments for “Less stuff, more adventure”

  1. posted by Aitor Calero García on

    Nice story, but what the transition. How did you move from a regular income to an unknown not reliable source of money? Did you have savings to start? How much? I guess moving to Thailand has something to do with the money requirements…

  2. posted by Mari on

    Quitting your job isn’t for everyone. It’s an option, not the ONLY option. Not all career fields can be location independent and that’s ok. Be happy where you’re at or change it. Life is too short for anything else :)

  3. posted by Jim on

    The theme is great, but this article is whisper-thin. I don’t think you need $50k+ job to do what he outlines, just some planning, thrift and determination. If you’re single and don’t own a home you should be able to do this without a problem.

  4. posted by Jarred on

    Sean, can you share details on what’s in your pack? Laptop? Camera? Clothes? Toiletries?

  5. posted by Anita on

    The last few days have made me fantasize about doing something similar, but as others pointed out, having a higher-paying job (or at least a lot of savings) is a bit of a prerequisite for this. Ironic, isn’t it? On top of which, as much as I’d love to think otherwise, I don’t think I could drop all my current obligations (family, boyfriend, cats, volunteer and social activities I’m involved in etc) to travel the world quite yet.

  6. posted by Sean on

    @Aitor Starting the blog was one of the most beneficial things I did. It helped me to build a network of contacts that I leverage to find some work that let me work from anywhere. Part of the reason I chose Thailand was for the adventure and the fact it was much more affordable than the states.

    @Mari Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the comment!

    @Jim I tried to keep the article concise, you can find a lot more of the details about me personally on my blog. You nailed it when you said planning, thrift and determination. All three of those things were very prevalent for me. I also had very few responsibilities in terms of relationships, kids, mortgage etc. So I was lucky in that sense.

  7. posted by Sean on

    Jarred Yeah, definitely. Check out this post for full details of what I brought. Its shifted some over the months, but its generally the same stuff:

    http://www.seanogle.com/travel.....cking-list

    Anita Thanks for the comment! It definitely is a decision you have to ready for, and the lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you decide it is something you want to do, there are plenty of ways to make it happen!

  8. posted by Courtney Carver on

    Sean – I love that you made a choice to determine what was important to you, and live with only the essentials. It is so inspiring to see that a good life experience doesn’t depend on lots of $$$ or lots of stuff!

    Good Luck!
    Courtney

  9. posted by Penny Pincher Personal Finance on

    I’d be interested to find out what Sean’s online ventures are, and how long it took him to get them to make money. I am starting down that path, with a frugality/survival/personal finance blog, and it’s probably too new to have many readers, but I put new content every couple days. I’m also uncluttering (I’m a huge paper pack rat) in order to squeeze another roommate in. But just a backpack, now that’s slim livin’!

  10. posted by Seth Hosko on

    For the past year, I’ve lived in four difference places around the world, 3 months each. I had no savings.. I had debt actually. I made it work by consulting and building a company that took on client work for me. When there’s a will, you can make it work.

    I’ll always be a traveler, but being an ultranomad and not working a employed job is not for everyone…. it just depends what you want. I stopped traveling for the time being, and I’m moving back to the city to work at an agency as much as I can – a dream I’ve always wanted to fulfill.

    How you live your life isn’t defined by working 40+ hrs a week or surfing in Bali. It’s defined by principle and how you find fulfillment. You can shape it however you want from there.

  11. posted by Sean on

    @Courtney It definitely doesn’t revolve around money. I mean sure you need enough to get by, but the last six months have taught me that so many things that I viewed as essentials really weren’t. You don’t need a ton of stuff to live a good life.

    @Penny I do a combination of things most of which is website management for a product development firm. I also do some affiliate marketing as well.

    @Seth Couldn’t agree more. Everyone is going to find fulfillment in a different way. Its just up to you to pursue whatever that ends up being.

  12. posted by Jeffrey Tang on

    @Sean – As someone who’s about to leave his own job, I say congratulations on what you’ve done and continue to do! On a constructive note, I’d love it if this article had a little more meat: details about your travels, a little more about how you earn money, etc.

  13. posted by Jes on

    @Sean – I think it’s absolutely awesome what you are doing! I actually just got back from spending the last 9 months traveling around Australia. I saved up about 10 grand, too, but didn’t actually do any work there besides taking photos and keeping a blog (neither of which made me money). I stayed longer than I originally planned and did have to put a bit on my credit cards. Now I’m back working for the summer to pay off the debt, save and figure out what I’m going to do next.

    I love hearing that other people are doing what makes them happy, and it bums me out to hear comments from people like Adam who clearly are very unhappy in their lives, and instead of doing something to change it they leave scathing comments to people who are doing their own thing. Good luck, I’ll definitely be checking out your blog!

    Also, I think the article you’ve written here is relevant to the topic of the blog – the point was about uncluttering your life. If people want to read all the details of your trip, they can check out your blog. Congrats on living life on your terms!

  14. posted by Debbie on

    Good on you Sean (I’m American, but that seemed like just the phrase for your adventure). I quit my job as a communications officer for an aid agency 6 weeks ago and moved into a furnished apartment of a friend in Biarritz to take time off to rest, reenergize and explore creative writing. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life even though my savings account is getting smaller by the day. I like knowing other people are also turning away from the traditional 40+-hour work week and looking for other lifestyles that may fulfill us more. Not for everyone and may not be for me forever, but for right now, aaaaahhhhh.

  15. posted by chacha1 on

    I will consider myself pretty much uncluttered, without drastically changing my life, if I can manage to reduce our Stuff by one room’s worth.

    Much as I love to travel, I know I’m a homebody at heart and so I will vicariously enjoy the life-changing adventures of others instead.

  16. Avatar of

    posted by GirlOverboard on

    This is so amazing. Over the last year, my husband and I have been getting more and more into hiking and generally spending time outdoors. Last year on a hike across the Pacific Crest Trail through the Goat Rocks wilderness, we ran across a couple hiking the ENTIRE duration of the trail – from Mexico to Canada. We were absolutely blown away and we still talk about how amazing it would be to be able to do that. We’ve always wondered how it is that people can travel for months at a time like that and sometimes I dream about selling off everything we can’t carry in our packs and taking off.

    Unfortunately, our life path has taken us in a direction that makes it pretty much impossible to accomplish such a thing. I won’t go into all of the details, but even if we could take off like that, we’re working on helping his parents’ unclutter their lives and get back on their feet. We couldn’t abandon them now.

    If we can keep up with uncluttering our bodies of bad food and stay on the path to eating better, we’ll hopefully still be fit for adventure when our future children are grown up and we’ve built a hefty retirement. Until then, I shall be living vicariously through people like you, sir!

  17. posted by Rae on

    I’m part of that ‘club’, too, although I have way more stuff than would fit in a backpack! I downsized into an RV and am now living the life of my dreams traveling around. Kudos to you, Sean, for getting out of the rat race.

  18. posted by Sean on

    @Jeffrey Good luck leaving your job! I was trying to keep the article down to around 500 words, so I didn’t go into a lot of the specifics. But if you check out my blog, there is a lot of detail about how I’ve made everything happen!

    @Jes Thanks! Glad to see that you were able to do something similar, even if it did cost you some money. One of my favorite quotes is “what would you rather have bankruptcy of the wallet or bankruptcy of the soul”. I think experiences are way more important than stuff, or at least thats been the case for me.

    @chacha Everyone has a different way of life, whats most important is that you are doing what makes you happy. Hopefully my adventure at least provided some kind of entertainment :)

    @GirlOverboard There is a time and a place for everything. If this kind of lifestyle is something you really want to pursue, eventually there will be an opportunity that will allow it to happen.

    I have huge amounts of respect for anyone that can hike even a portion of the PCT. My girlfriend’s brother did the whole thing…can’t imagine.

    Hope that the post provided some kind encouragement, and I appreciate the kind words!

    @Rae Hey an RV is better than a huge house full of stuff. I’ve always thought it would be awesome to road trip around the US in an RV…maybe that will be the next adventure…

  19. posted by Christine on

    @Sean – It’s refreshing to hear that you are living a wonderful life without almost any possessions at all. I know that I could never give up my home (I am not a big traveler and really like having “roots”) but the thought of being able to live as freely as you do is inspiring!

  20. posted by ragabond on

    I did the get rid of everything except what can fit in a backpack but I just walked to the new place I wanted to live. I’m glad I did. It’s amazing how society holds us hostage to so many conceptions of life and it’s very hard to break free.

  21. posted by Angela on

    Sean,

    Thanks for the story! I recently made a similar decision.

    Nearly 2 years ago, at age 37, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a house under contract at the time. I cancelled the contract, put nearly all my belongings in storage, and moved in with a friend while I went through chemo and radiation.

    Shortly after completing treatment, I decided I wanted to fulfill a life-long dream of traveling. After several months of planning, I quit my non-profit job in March (I had worked throughout cancer treatment). In April I headed to Europe for 3 months. I’m no entrepreneur, and pretty soon I’ll be headed back home to look for a new job in a tough job market, but I have no regrets. It has been wonderful.

    I packed very lightly for this trip, and in the months I’ve been here I’ve decided that not only do I not need most of what has been in storage for the past 2 years, I don’t want it. It was a very liberating realization. Downsizing will be on the top of my to-do list when I get home.

  22. posted by Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things on

    Sean, have you gotten rid of all your stuff (i.e. colin wright style) or just minimized everything for your trip to asia and have it somewhere back in Portland?

  23. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Wow, so hardcore. I’ll just admire from the midst of my stuff. I think it’s great you can live so simply.

  24. posted by Gloria on

    I hope you are thoroughly enjoying yourself Sean. My husband & I did this pre-kids and then 2 years ago with a 2nd & 5th grader. We home schooled and climbed around southeast Asia. When we returned, we realized that as a family of 4, we traveled lightly, lived in tight quarters, and loved it! We downsized & bought a smaller house. We are thinking of doing it again before the older child hits high school. It takes tight budgeting skills to do this type of trip but it’s completely worth it! I hope you realize that even as you get older, have more responsibilities, you can still do this, and bring your kids to share in the adventure!

  25. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    Okay, it’s not nearly as radical as Sean’s life-changing adventure, but I’ll share a much simpler, backpack-ultra-mini-adventure. I took a week-long trip some years ago to visit family in a small town in Colorado. A trip of that duration in the autumn (unpredictable weather) usually required a suitcase, but I was determined to take only a tote bag and a standard backpack (not a large one made for camping). A little judicious packing made it work and, to my surprise, the whole trip was made more enjoyable by my minimalist yet functional wardrobe and no hassles with checked luggage. If you’re not ready to chuck it all and head for Thailand, you might want to try just taking a vacation with far less stuff than you usually haul along with you. It’s a liberating experience and makes you reconsider what you truly “need.”

  26. posted by Tammy on

    as in the above post, I carried a small purse and a backpack (the size that kids take to school – very small) on an 8 day trip to Arizona last Christmas. In those 8 days I attended my sisters wedding, interviewed for a job, celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary, and did some vacation stuff. I had everything i needed, and it was so easy to fly this way. my family couldn’t believe I had everything I needed in that backpack.

  27. posted by Julia1060 on

    Sean, your story (and the accompanying posts) are so helpful. My story: Just left a long-term, tenured position at a private college to pursue other passions full time. The job was very fulfilling, yet the guidance said the timing was right for a big change. And, while I could hear my dad’s worried voice (“quit a secure job!?”), I thought it only fair to practice what I’ve preached to students for years about honoring your dreams. As I explore the next steps and thin-thin-thin possessions for our upcoming move, it’s instructive and inspiring to remember that big risk can reap big rewards. Blessings on our various journeys, all.

  28. posted by Martha on

    Sean, your article brought back some great memories for me. My Army Lieutenant and I could fit everything we owned in the back of our Chevy Vega. Then we left the car for our move to Okinawa. Visited Bangkok just before we left Asia and started a family. Did you go to Tiger Balm Garden yet? That is a beautiful, bizzare place.

    Now we are sans kids again. Downsized to a 2 bedroom condo, but your story makes me hunger to be even more footloose. Congrats on living your dream!

  29. posted by Patti on

    How does 1 person + 3 cats downsize to one backpack?

  30. posted by Allan on

    Would love to read Sean’s blog, but can’t get past the popup insisting I subscribe to his newsletter.

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