Simple Living Inspiration: Traveling Light

by Landis Carey on June 2, 2011

I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m getting at here, so let me explain. I was recently assigned a new project for Apartment Therapy, and to prepare for the work ahead, I’ve been reading the book by the company’s founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan called The Eight Step Home Cure; I tremendously wish I’d read it years ago.

In 1991 Maxwell traveled for a year around Italy by bike. He had everything he needed to live sparsely: a tent, sleeping bag, insulated mat, stove, cooking pots, clothing, etc. Although he wanted to prepare for any situation, which he had successfully done, the gear’s weight slowed him down as he rode along his epic journey. Traveling during his first month, he met a fellow rider who was headed to Sicily from Switzerland. This fellow rider was carrying far fewer items and moving much quicker as a result. He was able to see more and experience more as he was less burdened. Maxwell inquired how his fellow rider was able to sustain himself while traveling so lightly:

His explanation was inspiring and simple. Rather than relying only on himself, he put his trust in others. Even though he didn’t need much, he looked forward to meeting people and asking for help when needed. By carrying so little, he not only moved more easily, he met more people and his experience was far richer. He was truly taking in all of Italy. Struggling to keep up with him on my heavily laden bike, I saw his point. We weren’t traveling through the Arctic Circle; this was Europe. Instead of being prepared, I had overpacked. In all the days I had traveled so far, I hadn’t met anyone and had been embarrassed to ask for help. He was traveling in Italy; I was traveling through it.

After Maxwell unloaded goods from his bike, sending them back home, he realized:

That “being prepared” can sometimes be a euphemism for being scared to let go. How much we carry—whether it is on our bicycle, in our bag, or in our home—is often directly related to how little we trust in life to guide us well, and in others to help us out in a pinch. To this day, I have found that traveling light yields a far richer experience.

Moral of this post: Sometimes when we think we’re traveling light, we really aren’t. As Maxwell realized, being prepared for any situation at anytime wasn’t necessary; after all, he could lean on the resources around him for support and solutions. With regards to our life, here in our tiny but tall house, I immediately recognize items we are “traveling” with that aren’t necessary: excess food (which sometimes spoils), clothing and shoes, toiletries, linens as well as décor. While I believe we are good at paring back and Living with Less, I also think we could learn to Travel Light for a richer, more purposeful experience by only packing those items that speak to and support our passions.

How about you? What did you “pack” for your journey that you can travel without?

(Image: Landis Carey)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

PJ June 8, 2011 at 2:39 am

Oh, thanks for this great reminder. I’ve been referring to my AT book a lot lately because I’m in the midst of a kitchen cure. As usual, I find myself being sentimental about some things because, though they may be useless, they represent a memory. I guess the trick is to let them go and, like that wise biker, simply trust myself to remember!!!

P.S. Congratulations on Mint Peach Home — it all looks lovely!


Landis Carey June 8, 2011 at 6:45 am

Welcome, PJ, and thank you for your kind words! I’m super interested in your Kitchen Cure! How is that coming along? Where are you in the process? I’ve been methodically paring back weekly and monthly since the beginning of the year in a project I call Living with Less. It’s been about 4 weeks since I last purged items…it may be about time again! Please keep me posted on your Cure Project for both my interest and some work we’re doing over at AT. My email is Thanks!


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