I recently I read a thought-provoking article: ‘The Freedom of Travel vs. The Paralysis of Stuff – Valuing Options Over Possessions’. I instantly felt a kinship with the author, Jennifer Miller, who had recently completed a major downsizing. I too once owned a three level home with exposed brick, large expanses of white drywall, pot lights, and gleaming hardwood and honed limestone floors. My rain shower was so big that tile contractors wondered if I planned to bring a racehorse home with me. And like Jennifer, I had the kitchen of my dreams, a cedar deck, a stone terrace, and almost as much outdoor furniture as indoor furniture. My life was comfortable. Until the day I decided to ditch it all and become a homeless vagabond, that is.
Since selling the house I’ve been on a two-year mission to get rid of “stuff”. This process is still ongoing but I’m confident that by June 30th I will have met my goal of storing only what will fit in a 4-1/2’ by 5’ locker. This is a priority for me but experienced RTW travellers all say that learning to live with less is only half the issue. One must be prepared to “rough it” if you’re going to spend two years on the road with only the odd night in a Hilton or Marriott.
With this in mind, I concocted a plan to sell my house, invest the equity for two years, and move back to the rough-and-tumble rental loft building that I called home in the 90s. I reasoned that making a hard right at the intersection of Upper Middle Class Road and Skid Row would be tough but a gradual, two-year transition from the lap of luxury to fleabag motel was a reasonable approach.
As a tenant in a hard loft, you’re allowed to do pretty much anything you want as long as you don’t alter the roughed in plumbing or the sprinkler system. I opted to remove the kitchen and bathroom sinks. As Mike Holmes would say, “Rip it out. It’s all gotta go.” And yes, in case you were wondering, for the last two years I have been brushing my teeth in the shower, doing dishes in a Rubbermaid bin, and sitting on the edge of the tub to fill the teakettle. I even went so far as jamming a screwdriver into the shower’s temperature regulator so that my morning showers have been lukewarm at best – something akin to summer rain in Thailand.
After a while I realized that no matter how chilly the morning shower, I can get in and out in a minute if I have to. Sleeping, on the other hand, is something that I very much enjoy and 7-9 hours a night is ideal. Once I’m on the road, most of it will be on rock hard mattresses, or in the case of my time at Burning Man or on the Inca Trail, a sleeping bag and thin foam pad on the floor of a tent. With this in mind I recently propped my Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress and foundation against the wall and began sleeping on an 3’ x 6’ ottoman. Make that a very hard ottoman, which I imagine will be similar to the mattresses one might encounter in Peruvian hostels and Mongolian yurts.
I’m sure there will be many shocks to my system as I travel through South America and eventually China and India, but at this point I think I’m reasonably well prepared for whatever hardships I’m likely to encounter. If not, it’ll be a case of live and learn – or perhaps “toss and turn”.
Late on Sunday afternoon I logged onto Kijiji and posted an ad for a set of six aluminum chairs that nobody in my building seemed to appreciate. Fifteen minutes later I had a nibble and by noon today I was loading the chairs into a woman’s car. I also loaded several light fixtures, a pair of acrylic chairs and a giant “H” (from a decommissioned Body Shop sign) into my car and I followed the buyer across town to her home in Parkdale. With cash in hand, I then high-tailed it back to my place to finish the work that I must submit to my producer before a 3:30 deadline. I had precisely two hours to complete what normally takes me three or four hours. I raced up to my loft, turned on the laptop, and suddenly realized that I had a major dilemma: I no longer own a chair.
Thank God for Starbucks. My local Green Goddess will be getting a little more business than usual over the next 2-1/2 weeks.