Right here’s What Different Nations Taught Me About Minimalism

Editor’s Word: This can be a visitor submit from Julie B. Rose of Juliedevivre.

“So Julie—I see you stop your job, however what makes you a minimalist?” 

Sarah, my host in Munich, had seen my nomadic life-style weblog wherein I speak about journey, minimalism, budgeting, and love. Final August, we sat on her balcony consuming contemporary bread and cheese and consuming beer, staples of the German weight loss program. 

“Properly, I don’t personal loads,” I stated. “Just about the whole lot I personal can slot in my automobile. I offered my home and removed 98% of my belongings and furnishings two years in the past. I don’t care about or gather materials issues, and I’d reasonably my cash go in the direction of experiences versus possessions.”

She chuckled, and gestured across the easy two bed room, one toilet flat she shared along with her girlfriend, Lena. 

“I imply, that’s not so uncommon. Perhaps it’s in America, however that’s fairly regular for us.”

Whether or not she meant “us Germans,” “us frequent vacationers,” or “myself and Lena,” I wasn’t constructive, however she might’ve simply meant all three. As a result of if there was one factor I had come to note spending most of 2022 overseas… it was that NOBODY had as a lot attachment to their belongings as Individuals, whereas concurrently having the mindset that the whole lot is disposable. 

Outdoors of America, “exchange” shouldn’t be the primary impulse

I spent the primary six months of 2022 in Mexico and one of many issues I got here to note about Mexicans was that substitute was a final resort. 

A part of that outlook might be as a result of prevalence of poverty in Mexico, however I believe it’s additionally the cultural pondering that the whole lot has a use. Damaged, torn, broken, depleted? Repair it, glue it, sew it, buff it, fill it—Mexicans are helpful, and whereas no matter it’s won’t be made good, it’s usable

The U.S. is a rustic the place something could be ordered up and delivered in mere minutes or hours, and many individuals don’t usually bat an eye fixed on the premium they pay for comfort, ease, and glossy newness. Whereas Individuals are lucky to have such infrastructure and enterprise ingenuity, there’s a lot waste.

I keep in mind all of the Amazon purchases I so carelessly and thoughtlessly ordered, each approaching a truck, by itself journey, in its personal field… resold for pennies on the greenback on the storage sale I held after I turned a nomad in 2020. How the whole lot we purchase is available in layers of plastic, which we then put in one other plastic bag and stroll out the door. (In Mexico and far of Europe, retailers don’t provide plastic luggage. You carry your individual, or purchase a reusable tote.)

Previously, if one thing I loved was damaged, torn, gradual, outdated, or broken, I might’ve tossed it within the trash (or in a kitchen drawer to cope with later) and gone about changing or upgrading it. Now, I glue, sew, repair, resole, DIY, and trade-in, as a lot as I’m able to, and breathe new life into old things

I used to be in Greece over a lot of September. In Athens, I obtained a haircut and left my jacket within the salon. Later that day, I flew to the Greek island of Corfu. Upset at my forgetfulness, I instructed some American mates how I misplaced the one jacket I had in Europe. 

“Simply purchase one other jacket!” they exclaimed, incredulous that it was even a difficulty. And certainly, there’s at all times an H&M. However I didn’t desire a new jacket—my jacket, bought 5 years earlier at Goal for $27, was not particular in any manner, nevertheless it labored simply wonderful. In truth, I discovered a manner for my Greek good friend Vasilis to retrieve it, who was on one other island however would later come to go to me in Croatia. The American response? Simply purchase one other; there isn’t any restrict to what cash can purchase. I’ve come to withstand that as typically as I can. 

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

After I was 22 and I obtained my first skilled job making $33,000 a 12 months in Minneapolis, the very first thing I did was go to the Toyota dealership and purchase a model new $22,000 automobile, debt that basically matched my take-home pay for the 12 months and saddled me with a 5-year mortgage. 

So ingrained in our tradition is the idea to mark private success with exterior indicators, that I needed to get a second part-time job and work 55 hours per week simply to pay all my payments and eat, with my $750/month lease and my $450/month auto mortgage fee, plus insurance coverage. 

Advertisers and Hollywood have instructed this deceive Individuals our whole lives: larger is best, extra is best, and higher is best—that we willingly entice ourselves in an infinite work-spend-collect cycle for our whole lives. 

The school debt to get the nice diploma, the nice job, and the nice wage. The auto debt to get the liberty of the open highway and to be trendy and secure on the similar time. The mortgage debt to have the large home and the storage and the yard and the rooms and closets to carry all of the issues we’ll quickly purchase to fill all of it up. 

In lots of different nations, even the rich understate their wealth. They work to stay, not stay to work. When persons are much less obsessive about creating wealth and amassing materials issues, they prioritize relaxation, leisure, time with household, take their holidays, and retire with “sufficient” as a substitute of working till they’re lifeless.

Non-Individuals are much less connected to their dwelling house and their belongings

As I gallivanted throughout Europe, posting concerning the sights, sounds, and tastes from Slovenia to Hungary to Turkey to Montenegro, a follower on Instagram commented: “What’s your finances for this journey?? You should be spending $300 a day on motels, taxis, and eating places!!!”

I wasn’t. In 2022, I spent an average of $74 a day, on the whole lot—that features lodging, meals, medical health insurance, private care, and transportation. 

And within the 16 weeks I spent touring Europe final fall and late summer season, I stayed with mates, mates of mates, or full strangers practically half of the time. The extent of hospitality and welcome I used to be met with was completely unparalleled.

I didn’t know Sarah earlier than I stayed along with her. She was a good friend of a good friend I had stayed with in Salzburg, Austria, and at that good friend’s request, Sarah had graciously agreed to host me in Munich. Sarah and Lena had been additionally going out of city a number of days later, and he or she supplied that I keep and water their vegetation whereas they had been gone. 

“We’ve accomplished a number of touring,” she famous. “We perceive how it’s.”

“How it’s,” is making an attempt to make every greenback final so a traveler can follow the “experiences over possessions” mantra as lengthy as doable. Summer season backpacking journeys, hole years, and sabbaticals are a long-time custom of Europeans of their 20s, 30s, and past—so each host has doubtless been a touring visitor sooner or later in time. Understanding that lodging could be one of the crucial costly elements of touring—I met many Europeans who opened their dwelling to a wayward traveler equivalent to me with no second thought. 

Within the 15 months I spent touring america in 2020 and 2021, I used to be met with far much less hospitality. Buddies and acquaintances throughout the states requested to seize dinner and catch up whereas I used to be touring, however far fewer invited me to remain. I assumed again on the occasions some years in the past after I rented out my house on Airbnb, and the judgment my American mates shared about strangers sleeping in my mattress and cooking in my kitchen.

“Who cares?” I laughed it off. “Similar mattress, totally different sheets. And it’s not like I take my cookware with me after I die.” Years later, most of my cookware would be offered or given away.

I can’t pinpoint precisely why fewer Individuals had been more likely to let an acquaintance keep—nevertheless it might must do with the truth that fewer Individuals are worldwide vacationers (thus not having been on the opposite aspect of the coin)—or that we’re so accustomed to comfort, {that a} traveler in our house and amongst our issues is an inconvenience.


Is this text an indictment of the American manner and our common Western decisions? I don’t imply it to be. However we might be blind to not see we’re a society that over-consumes: commercialism and materialism, food and alcohol addictions, vainness and appearances, and a bunch of different lethal sins. I could also be a nomad dwelling on $74 a day, with solely the issues that slot in my SUV… however I’ve sufficient—sufficient belongings to be snug, and sufficient to outlive and thrive.

A giant home invitations extra stuff, and if one thing isn’t “good,” it’s simple to only purchase one other… however we commerce hours of life for the issues that we purchase. Subsequently, we will additionally commerce the hours we work and the issues we don’t purchase for our time again: time with household, time away from the rat race, and time for private endeavors. 

I hope that as a nation we study to be extra aware of our buy selections, and cut back our tendency to waste and disrespect. It’s good for the setting, and it’s good for ourselves.  

And as a substitute of measuring internet value, {dollars}, sq. footage, and model names, how about we rely the years… and measure “wealth” in freedom: freedom from debt, freedom from an indulgence of fabric issues, freedom from a time- and psychological energy-sucking job, and the liberty to spend our time on this earth doing what we would like, with whom we would like. 


Julie B. Rose is a full-time nomad and minimalist who travels the world along with her canine Penny. She shares her experiences at juliedevivre.com, the place she goals to encourage and empower constructive life-style change. You may as well discover her on Instagram or choose up her eBook, Money and Mindset: How to Take a Sabbatical.