Posted by: S.G. Miller | November 23, 2012

A Minimalist is Born

“He who would travel happily must travel light”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Minimalism – A way of life where one chooses to reject the material excess in favor of material necessities and (in my case) the very sparse sentimental items.

Standing in the doorway of my modest one bed room apartment, on the evening of August 21st 2009 about 9pm, I could tell something was off. With uncertain trepidation I began exploring my apartment trying to solve this paranoid puzzle. Living room ok, kitchen moderately cluttered, bathroom spotless, bedroom clear. Back in the living room realization comes with a sharp intake of breath: I’ve been robbed. At that precise moment I felt my sense of security and control being violently ripped out of my hands. This is the event that sent me hurtling on the path from which I write to you now. A minimalist is born.

After recovering from the blinding rage towards the thief, whom I knew personally, I began to seriously look at the relationship I have with my possessions. This sort of pain shouldn’t come from loosing inanimate objects, being robbed shouldn’t feel like loosing your best friend or your dog or your parents and yet it still hurt like I had incurred a greater loss and that fact disturbed me deeply.

Around this time I decided that I needed to do some downsizing and that I’d use this traumatic event as a jumping off point. I went through and took an inventory of everything I owned, clothing, CDs, food, sentimental items, furniture, even silverware and began asking my self: do I need this? Is this particular item worth having? When was the last time I used this? How often do I use this? If that bastard had taken this item, would I have noticed? These questions would lead me to compose a check list which would take me three years, three months to complete with the end goal of preparing me mentally, physically and emotionally to begin my life as a permanent traveler. The check list goes something like this:

Sam Miller’s Guide to becoming a Minimalist

  1. Let all standing contracts expire (move out of apartment complex into a contract free place, let cell phone plan expire and renew on a pre-paid plan ect)
  2. Sell/donate/throw away everything useless (I basically let my friends/neighbors loot my apartment shortly before I moved out and then donated the rest)
  3. Research research research. I’ve crunched a lot of information over the last few years about gear, travel blogs, travel jobs, backpacking, ect.
  4. Shopping. Good god this is my favourite part of this list. In one foul swoop I purchased $600+ of gear which I had researched and decided was the most suitable for utilitarian living on the move. Dropping this much money on seriously useful toys made me crazy high. Not only are these toys I can/do use regularly, they’re toys that enable me to start a new life.
  5. Test trips. Before taking the big plunge, I felt the need to run a few test trips. I went backpacking a couple of times and I went to Oregon to live on a ranch through HelpX. These brief trips helped me become more familiar with my tools and gave me a solid sense of what I really did and didn’t need. Truly evaluating what strictly what you need and don’t need and what works and doesn’t work in the field is pretty hard with out some personal hands on experience.
  6. The real deal. And this step marks about where I’m at now in my life. I’ve spent the last several months planning, downsizing, training for my first big trip which I have aims to launch my career as a professional hobo/travel writer. The trip I’ve planned takes me from my hometown of St. Louis MO to San Francisco on a bicycle. I plan to ride south to Baton Rouge LA, from Baton Rouge I’ll ride west to San Diego, then finally north to San Francisco. I leave in January as soon as the weather permits.

    In my next post I’ll cover in more detail the trails I’m going to take and my pack list. Until then, good night and god speed.




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