*This is a Guest Post by fellow minimalist and friend Samantha Fields.
Sometimes being thrown into an unknown or uncomfortable situation is the best way to discover what you really love. A little over five years ago I began working on cruise ships. If you’ve been on a ship as a guest, imagine shrinking your room by about 60% and you’re there. For those of you who haven’t been graced by such seafaring delights, imagine the size of your bathroom with bunk beds.
When I left Toronto, I packed everything I would need for my six month expedition in two suitcases and a backpack and headed off to the Carnival Destiny (now the Carnival Sunshine) in Miami.
I was taken to my shared room that consisted of bunk beds, a shared wardrobe, small desk, and a bathroom in which you could use the toilet, shower, and brush your teeth all at the same time.
This was my beginning to minimalist living.
When you are forced to live in such a small place you quickly learn what items you truly need to survive and enjoy yourself comfortably. You begin to let go of ‘things’ because you really don’t have anywhere to put them and change your focus to experiences, friendships, and thinking about quality purchases rather than quantity of purchases.
Although I had picked this specific line of work, there were a few realities I hadn’t envisioned before heading off to sea for six months on a cruise ship.
- I could get switched to a different ship any day. This means I would get anywhere from one to three days (if I was lucky) to pack up my entire life into those two suitcases and leave for a new ship.
- Your room assignment could be changed at any moment. So in a moment’s notice you had to be able to pack up your belongings and move them across the ship to a new room with a new roommate.
- At the end of your contract you had to be able to carry everything you own, including souvenirs for family and friends, off the ship AND (by some miracle) keep them under the weight allowance specified by the airlines so you don’t pay a small fortune to get your things home.
After the first contract on-board, you begin to pack much lighter. You bring the essentials, including a mix-and-match wardrobe with shoe options, and the feeling of “but I might need this X, Y, Z [things]” begins to disappear. In fact, I got so comfortable with this vagabond lifestyle that when I would arrive home on vacation I would rarely use anything other than what I had brought home with me.
Because I knew I’d be leaving again, I had no desire to begin adding to a collection of stuff. After a few years at sea I took a hiatus from ships and returned to Canada. It only took a few days for me to decide to clean house and start getting rid of the things I hadn’t used in years. I was able to pack all my valuable possessions into just 5 Rubbermaid containers.
I love the feeling that with all my valuables packed in so few boxes I have the ability to travel anywhere with ease. It was a thrill to know that the world was at my fingertips and I wasn’t constrained or worried about what to do with all my “stuff” if I wanted to go explore.
I then returned to work at sea, met my significant other, and after a few more years on the open ocean, we decided to make the big leap to full-time land life. We found a lovely apartment just north of Miami and I will never forget the day we moved in.
Before finding our apartment we packed everything he owned, a few of my boxes and our 4 suitcases into our 2016 Malibu and started driving. It was a squeeze and we ended up having to make one more trip to get everything but considering no U-Haul’s or moving vans were necessary, it was a pretty easy relocation.
Once we got our apartment keys we walked in the front door, put our suitcases and clothes away in the bedroom, walked into the living room, and sat on the floor.
We made it! Real life, hooray!
With an empty fridge and some unpacking to do, we did the only logical thing to do when moving to a new city….order Chinese food. By the time our food arrived we had managed to put all our clothes away and unpack everything we owned out of their bins.
The Chinese food arrived, and with no dishes or utensils we had to use our fingers to eat this sloppy mess and for the very first time realized that we were going to need some STUFF.
Continuing the minimalist living on land was the next natural venture. We have no reason to buy tons of things just because we can. Instead we simply buy the essentials and what we know we can pack and want to keep. Although we’re a bit more “locked” into our current scenario, there is still part of my mind that loves that we could pack up and go at any moment.
We could move across the country, travel to Asia, or spend time exploring Europe and not have to buy a storage unit or a moving van. When you become less attached to ‘things’ and more attached to experiences, it allows the transformation to minimalism to begin.
Our latest goal involves buying an RV to drive across the United States & Canada. We would love to see the natural wonders these two countries have to offer and the most satisfying part is that “crazy” plans like this aren’t so far-fetched for us.
While we now have a few pieces of furniture we’d like to keep (my bed is pretty great), we know that we can pack away the big stuff and move our lives back into those suitcases and Rubbermaid bins at any time. We wouldn’t have to give up much and most RV’s have more room than we had in our crew cabins anyway!
Originally, the minimalist lifestyle was thrust upon us through our career at sea and as travelers. However, this change has led us to immense freedom and mobility. We spend our money on experiences, not stuff. We treasure the time we have together and our memories more than souvenirs. We spend time enjoying moments with all of our hearts instead of taking photos of every waking moment.
I can pack my whole life into those two suitcases and live happier than most, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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***Life’s Secret Sauce, founded by Brandon Slater & Samantha Field, has been designed to teach young urban professionals how to have engaging and meaningful conversations as well as increase their networking skills. As public speakers in the Cruise industry they have learned what it takes to build relationships, connections and engage in great conversation without distraction. Currently they live in Miami with their Shiba Inu puppy, Azumi, and enjoy hiking in Alaska throughout the summer months.