living without stuff, pt. III

this is the third in a series of posts titled living without stuff recording the personal progression of a girl in her mid-to-late twenties to living with very few belongings over a period of over two and a half years (and counting).


if you’re just tuning in, i’m cynthia, a girl who i packed up only the most practical clothes i owned that could comfortably not so comfortably fit in a backpack when i work-stayed across scotland, eventually hopping over to the mainland to decide what i was going to do next (which unbeknownst to me at the time, was take the TEFL and settle in central europe). 

as i mentioned in the last edition of living without stuff, i am no longer confining the amount of belongings to what can fit in my trusty gregory backpack. i wasn’t sure if we were going to be on the road again, so initially i kept my belongings down. now that we’ve been settled in one place for over two years, i’ve been adding a few well-chosen pieces to my wardrobe here and there, including a new(old) pair of brogues to give my boots a break, knowing i will be visiting the U.S. soon and can swap some things out. however, i do know that we will be back on the road again before this particular chapter of our life comes to its finish, whenever that might be.


lately, i’ve been thinking about how our stuff helps mark our identities. we buy stuff not only because we like it aesthetically but because it serves a purpose in showing what kind of person we are to both ourselves and people around us. but what if most of your belongings are sitting in boxes halfway around the world? would your identity remain intact without these things to help show and reaffirm who you are? sometimes it’s almost like you’re leading two different lives: the one you are currently living, and the one you put on hold. my new dining set, our computers. things that were so much a part of our lives now in a permanent waiting pattern.

for example, take alex. before he moved abroad, he often sported classic vans, his steeler’s cap, and various goofy t-shirts and plaid blazers. now living in europe, he has adapted to a style he as honed over the past few years that i would term, “rugged scotland casual”… the type of style that looks pretty good on the street, but at a second’s notice, he could head out on the trail and be completely ready to go and sensibly dressed. this makes a lot of sense, considering our main hobbies are traveling, trekking, and going on small hikes and walks during the weekend.
but does this mean he’s turned into REI guy? does your style and the clothing items you choose to wear transform you or do you remain true to the person inside of them?

i would like to say that clothing does not always designate what the person wearing them is like. how can they, when you’ve brought so few possessions for a long-term traveling adventure?
i feel that our possessions help us outwardly portray the person we would either like to be, or feel that we already are, but that this does not change even if we decide to wear an entirely different style, by default or by choice.

i’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this– do you agree or disagree?
(below, my favorite advertisement)


on the “having stuff” front, in a few months time i am really looking forward to switching out some of my things, repairing some well-worn items, and replacing some that really could use it. and after i broke a bowl in my early saturday morning haze, we treated ourselves to some beautiful, inexpensive new bowls from tiger. i could keep eating cereal out of a glorified mug for another two years probably, but even if you’re living for cheap “on the road”, some things are well worth the cost. like eating from a real bowl again.

previous incarnations of living without stuff:
part two: getting comfortable without stuff
part one: getting creative with minimalism