Coming home: overwhelmed by consumerism

What struck me the most on returning home from my round-the-world trip was how much stuff I’d left behind. I’d lived happily for over a year out of a carry-on sized suitcase and I’d grown really attached to the idea of all my worldly possessions fitting into something so small and portable. With new perspective, I didn’t understand why I would possibly need so many clothes.

Before departing for a year and a half on the road, I’d gone through my closet to eliminate all the clothes I didn’t wear and packed what remained up in large suitcases stored at my parents house.  It had felt good to cut down on the amount of stuff I was storing – why keep things I wouldn’t want on my return? But looking at this pile of suitcases now I was dismayed. Does this duffle bag really contain only dresses? And is this carry-on sized bag full of only socks, tights and layering tanks? How had I accumulated so much stuff? And did I still need it?

My well used, carry-on, backpack

Traveling with only carry-on luggage had been amazing. I had enough clothes to last at least a week without doing laundry and layers for different climates. I had medecines for emergency, a headlamp for hiking, a full kit of toiletries and makeup and three different kinds of shoes. I had spent considerable time planning the most versatile clothing and accessories to bring for any purpose. Over the length of the trip, I felt as though I’d still packed more than I needed. The contents of my luggage shifted as I got rid of expired medecines that I’d never needed, discarded clothes that had become too worn and gathered a few new clothing items from working an office job in New Zealand.

Now coming home to see this pile of suitcases filled with clothes was exciting but also overwhelming. I had an outfit for any occasion! Clothes I hadn’t seen in years that felt like new! But also, too much choice and with fresh eyes and an altered viewpoint I could see how many of these things I didn’t need. Like dresses that I kept cause they would look nice in that one specific situation with just the right accessories. By the time I was ready to unpack in a new apartment, I was also ready to donate a third of those clothes that had seemed so precious to save when I left. 

A sampling of what I donated in the past year

Since my initial unpack, I’ve gone even more extreme and have eliminated probably 60% of what I had on my return. The appeal of minimalism is now so strong to me. Why do I need so many different clothing options every morning? Smart purchasing, neutral colours and accessorising can bring about a small wardrobe that meets the needs of any occasion. Life is simpler when you have less options, less stuff to store and less stuff to dig through to find your favourite sweater- cause isn’t that the one you always want to wear anyway? 

I still have a lot of clothes!

My family and friends are now having to deal with my enthusiasm for getting rid of stuff. Donate it! Pass it on! Throw it away! The freedom of having less stuff is amazing. In our current society we are inundated with messages of consumerism and material ideals and I feel we’ve forgotten that the best things in life aren’t material things. We’re constantly looking for the high of a new purchase but all that stuff can water down life. When we free ourselves of the superfluous stuff that we own- and I mean really cut down, then I think we will all remember to put more value on the really important things. Fast fashion is what we’ve been taught to want but it’s not what we need. Buying cheap clothing also has a higher cost – check out this documentary to learn more about where our clothing comes from and where it goes when we throw it away. It’s easy to forget about when everything is so cheap and accessible. 

What I’m left with is the challenge of finding the perfect basics to maintain a minimalist wardrobe. I love this challenge when shopping online but have to admit that entering a shopping mall with intent to purchase one item is daunting. My current goal is to find the perfect white t-shirt that I can dress up when needed. Wish me luck! And feel free to post suggestions of where to find quality basics in Canada.

Confessions of a nomad: memories worth keeping (part II)

My list of good and bad experiences for the books will only get longer with time and that’s a really exciting thought. I’m only sad that one day I’ll probably have trouble remembering all this. For now, here is part two of my confessions (read part one here):

The most overrated: the pyramids in Egypt. I still think a visit to these is worth the bucket list check but I didn’t find them nearly as impressive or mysterious as I’d expected. Maybe if I’d read up on the construction theories/history before going, it would have been more exciting to be in their presence.


They still make for a great picture!

The most underrated: Ghana, as a country, is beautiful, and safe, and largely English speaking (there are so many local languages that English is used to bring communities together). Its a great place to visit if you want a real taste of Africa and are looking for a cultural experience. This was my first time in a third world country and I had a great time! Also, the culture shock experience prepared me for every second/third world country that I’ve been to since.


The majority of my time in Ghana was spent with these adorable kids.

The worst accident: falling off my bicycle into a ditch in Myanmar. I tried to stop to let a large truck pass and missed the curb with my foot falling straight down into a deep ditch. Luckily a tree caught my fall, the bicycle was fine and other than being shaken up, my biggest problem was looking like I’d rolled in the dirt. I’ve seen worse things happen to others on the road so I’m thankful this is my worst story.

The best sunrise: cycling out before dawn to climb a pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar for the most magical sunrise. You can see pagodas glistening in the morning sun as far as the eye can see as hot air balloons drift by on the horizon. I woke up early again and again to see this for good reason.


So peaceful.

The best sunset: Otres beach in Cambodia treated me to the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen and I sadly didn’t get a picture. Since I don’t have a picture to compare, it will probably always remain the best in my memories. Read more about my experience here.


Not bad, but definitely not Cambodia's best showing.

The most breathtaking: the views while driving along New Zealand’s coastline on the South Island. When New Zealand offers you a scenic route, they are not kidding! It took a lot of restraint on my part to not stop every five minutes for a picture. I’m so glad I decided to drive instead of taking a tour bus.


Only $5 for a campsite with a view!

The stupidest: buying a bucket (bucket of alcohol) from the wrong stand at the full moon party on Koh Phangan island in Thailand. The warnings about spiked buckets are no joke and even though I knew to buy a bucket in a real store instead of on the street, I was just tipsy enough to forget and make that mistake. I’m lucky I was with friends and no harm came from it.

The silliest: partying all night on a club on Hvar island (where i was staying with friends) in Croatia and barely making our ferry to the mainland the next morning. It was an amazing night and I totally forgot that parties in Europe can go all night. It was only after the music stopped and the sun started to lighten the sky that we realized how little time we had to make the ferry.

The smartest: being brave enough to travel alone. The thing about traveling alone is that you quickly realize you are never truly alone. It’s beautiful and amazing and I think everyone should try it once.


You're never alone in a hostel!