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Here’s what other countries have taught me about minimalism

“So Julie… I see you quit your job, but what makes you a minimalist?”

Sarah, my hostess in Munich, saw my nomadic lifestyle blog where I discuss travel, minimalism, budgeting and love. Last August we sat on her balcony eating fresh bread and cheese and drinking beer, that are staples of the German weight loss plan.

“Well, I haven’t got much,” I said. “Almost all the things I own will slot in my automobile. Two years ago I sold my house and removed 98% of my possessions and furniture. I do not look after material things or collect them, and I’d relatively my money be spent on experiences relatively than things.”

She giggled and pointed to the straightforward two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment she shared together with her girlfriend, Lena.

“I mean, it isn’t that unusual. Maybe that is the way it is in America, however it’s pretty normal for us.”

I wasn’t sure if she meant us Germans, us frequent travelers, or me and Lena, but she could easily have meant all three. Because if there was one thing I noticed while spending most of 2022 abroad… it’s that NO ONE was as attached to their stuff as Americans, yet had the attitude that all the things is disposable.

Outside America, “substitute” will not be the primary impulse

I spent the primary six months of 2022 in Mexico and one among the things I noticed about Mexicans was that the exchange was a final resort.

Part of this view could also be because of widespread poverty in Mexico, but I feel it is also a cultural pondering that all the things has a use. Broken, torn, damaged, exhausted? Fix it, glue it, sew it, polish it, fill it – Mexicans are handy, and while whatever it’s is probably not perfect, it’s usable.

The United States is a rustic where anything might be ordered and delivered in minutes or hours, and plenty of people are inclined to overlook the premium they pay for convenience, ease, and glossy newness. While Americans are lucky to have such infrastructure and business ingenuity, there are such a lot of of them waste.

I remember all of the Amazon purchases I so carelessly and thoughtlessly ordered, every one by itself truck, by itself journey, in its own box… resold for pennies on the dollar at a garage sale I organized after I became a nomad in 2020. Like all the things we buy, it is available in layers of plastic, which we then put in one other plastic bag and walk out the door. (In Mexico and far of Europe, retailers don’t offer plastic bags. Bring your personal or buy a reusable bag.)

In the past, if something I liked was broken, torn, slow, outdated, or damaged, I’d throw it within the trash (or in a kitchen drawer to take care of later) and get to work replacing or upgrading it. Now I glue, sew, fix, remake, tinker and replace as much as I can, and breathe recent life into old things.

I used to be in Greece for many of September. In Athens, I had my hair cut and left my jacket within the salon. Later that day I flew to the Greek island of Corfu. Frustrated by my forgetfulness, I told some American friends how I had lost the one jacket I had in Europe.

“Just buy one other jacket!” they exclaimed, in disbelief that it was even an issue. And indeed, there may be all the time H&M. But I didn’t need a recent jacket – my jacket, bought five years earlier at Target for $27, wasn’t unique in any way, however it worked well. In fact, I discovered a way for my Greek friend Vasilis to retrieve it, who was on one other island but later visited me in Croatia. American response? just buy one other; there isn’t a limit to what money can purchase. I’ve come to withstand it as much as I can.

The pursuit of larger, higher and greater is an American invention

When I used to be 22 and got my first skilled job, earning $33,000 a 12 months in Minneapolis, the very first thing I did was go to a Toyota dealership and buy a brand recent automobile for $22,000, a debt that principally matched my yearly salary to take home and charged me with a loan for five years.

So ingrained in our culture is the concept of marking personal success by external indicators that I had to seek out a second part-time job and work 55 hours every week simply to pay all my bills and eat, with my rent of $750 a month and my mortgage $450 per thirty days plus insurance.

Advertisers and Hollywood have been telling Americans this lie all our lives: more is best, more is best, and higher is best—that we voluntarily lock ourselves into an limitless work-spend-gather cycle throughout our lives.

College debt to get degree, job and salary. Car debt to get the liberty of the open road while being stylish and protected. Mortgage debt to have an enormous house, garage, yard, rooms and closets to carry all of the stuff we’re about to purchase to fill all of it up.

In many other countries, even the wealthy underestimate their wealth. They work to live, not live to work. When persons are less obsessive about making a living and collecting material things, they prioritize rest, free time, family time, take vacations, and retire with “enough” as an alternative of working until they die.

Non-Americans are less attached to their living space and possessions

As I galloped around Europe posting in regards to the sights, sounds and flavors from Slovenia to Hungary, Turkey and Montenegro, an Instagram follower commented: “What’s your budget for this trip? You should spend $300 a day on hotels, taxis and restaurants!!!”

I used to be not. in 2022 I spent a mean of $74 a dayfor all the things – including accommodation, food, medical health insurance, personal care and transportation.

And within the 16 weeks I spent traveling around Europe last fall and late summer, I spent almost half of the time with friends, friends of acquaintances, or complete strangers. The level of hospitality and welcome I experienced was absolutely unparalleled.

I didn’t know Sarah before I stayed together with her. She was a friend of a friend I used to be staying with in Salzburg, Austria, and on the request of that friend, Sarah graciously agreed to host me in Munich. Sarah and Lena were also leaving town a couple of days later, and he or she suggested that I stay and water their plants while they were away.

“We traveled lots,” she remarked. “We understand what it’s like.”

“What’s It Like” is an try to keep every dollar so the traveler can practice the mantra of “experience over possession” as so long as possible. Summer backpacking, gap years and sabbaticals are a long-standing tradition for Europeans of their 20s, 30s and older – so every host has probably been a traveling guest sooner or later. Understanding that accommodation might be one of the vital expensive facets of traveling – I’ve met many Europeans who’ve opened their home to a recalcitrant traveler like me with no second thought.

In the 15 months I actually have spent traveling across the United States in 2020 and 2021, I actually have experienced much less hospitality. Friends and acquaintances across the states have asked to dine and atone for my trip, but far fewer have invited me to remain. I assumed back to a couple of years ago after I I rented my house on Airbnband my American friends’ opinion of strangers sleeping in my bed and cooking in my kitchen.

“Who cares?” I laughed. “Same bed, different sheets. And it isn’t like after I die, I’m taking my cooking utensils with me.” Many years later, most of my cookware I’d sell or give away.

I can not pinpoint exactly why fewer Americans would let a friend stay – however it might need to do with the undeniable fact that fewer Americans travel abroad (in order that they weren’t on the opposite side of the coin) – or that we’re so used to conveniencethat the traveler in our space and amongst our things is inconvenience.


Is this text an indictment of the American way and our popular Western decisions? I don’t desire that to be the case. But we can be blind if we didn’t see that we’re a society that consumes an excessive amount of: commercialism and materialism, food and addiction to alcohol, vanity and pretense, and a number of other deadly sins. I could also be a nomad living on $74 a day with only the stuff that matches in my SUV…but I actually have enough stuff—enough stuff to be comfortable and enough stuff to survive and thrive.

A giant house invites more things, and if something is not “perfect” it is simple to simply buy one other… but we trade hours of life for the things we buy. Therefore, we can even list the hours we work and the things we do not buy for ourselves time back: time with family, time away from the rat race, and time for private endeavors.

I hope that as a nation we are going to learn to be more aware of our purchasing decisions and reduce our tendency to waste and disrespect. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for us.

How about as an alternative of measuring Net Worth, Dollars, Square footage, and Marks, we’ll count the years… and measure “wealth” in freedom: freedom from debt, freedom from the indulgence of fabric things, freedom from time and mentality, energy-intensive work, and the liberty to spend time on this earth doing what we would like and with whom we would like.


Julie B. Rose is a full-time nomad and minimalist who travels the world together with her dog Penny. He shares his experiences with juliedevivre.com, where its goal is to encourage and strengthen a positive lifestyle change. You can even find it on Instagram or pick up her eBook, Money and mindset: How to take a sabbatical.

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