Stuff. It is everywhere! In the recent process of getting ready for living in different places around the world with no single home address, this has become very obvious to me again. Be it your attachment to certain possessions and a constantly growing expectation level of luxury and comfort, be it the sheer amount of hours you have to put in to manage all of it, either way: The more stuff you own, the slower you become. Period.
A lot has been published around the shift from materialistic to experiential values, and the world will continue to be changed massively by this throughout the next decades. The rise and incredible success of companies like Uber and AirBnB are evidence of this new set of values: Experiences vs. possession, sharing vs. owning. Lifestyle ambassadors like Tim Ferriss have created a whole new approach to living a successful and rich life, moving the role of money to a means instead of an ends goal – which is essentially one of the reasons I have decided to live the digital nomad life this year.
I had considered myself “light” before this journey. Having moved continents and coasts twice in the last three years, I have become used to wrapping up apartments, selling unnecessary equipment and not holding on to anything that I couldn’t fit in two bags. German citizenship with a US green card had me figure out early the weird, fun yet annoying administrative traps that the international lifestyle constantly surprises you with. My job had me travel almost 100% of the time, so I was very much used to living out of a suitcase and jumping on planes as if they were busses. But even I had emotional moments when the dealer drove my car off the yard and when I turned the keys in the lock of my beautiful loft in Miami for the last time. The clothes and shoes I left behind. My beloved bike. My piano…
The more I felt these separation pains, the more I realized how even I would need to adjust. Before becoming a nomad, I had lived quite a different lifestyle. Having had a very successful career that certainly paid off financially, I was able to treat myself to a level of luxury that most people at my age would not be able to afford. I learned a lot about running successful businesses, but I also learned a lot about myself – sometimes the hard way. And I believe that at some point, everyone ends up at the trade-off intersection of materialistic wealth and mental freedom and has to make a first choice. I am not implying that you can’t have both, but in order to build a sustainable combination of the two, you will likely have to realize that your current life will not be fulfilling enough. And jump!
Now in the midst of things, I feel how the lack of possession creates so much space for new experiences, thoughts, creativity and a new me. And I realize even more how the materialistic baggage you accumulate and carry through your life is probably the biggest barrier to freedom and flexibility, and most likely the number one thing that slows down your personal development.
The only finite resource we have is time, and there’s only so much room in that big jar that’s called your life to be filled with all the experiences, epiphanies, growth and beauty that the world is presenting to you on its beautiful silver tablet. So let’s go out and claim it!