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Traveling Light (2017)

One of the more frequent requests I get from my readers is an update to a video I made back in 2009 detailing what products I used to maintain my goal to travel as light as possible.
I’ve resisted doing an updated version with specifics on clothing and gear for a number of reasons. For one thing, product offerings and availability changes too frequently. Many of the items I use I purchased several years ago and are no longer available. So telling you what I use is next to useless. Also, what I take often changes based on the conditions and environment I might find myself in. For instance, what I pack for a spring break vacation will be vastly different than what I pack for a speaking gig. Not to mention what works for me, as a middle aged male, does little service to my female readers.
Most of all, traveling light is less about products and more about methods, choices, and principles:

  • Get clothing that is lightweight, durable, easy to hand wash in a sink, and that dries quickly. Many of my faves are from Travelsmith, Patagonia, and REI,
  • If you’ve done the above, there’s only two sets of clothes you need for most short trips — Those you are wearing and those that you plan to wear tomorrow having washed what you’re wearing at the end of the day.
  • Pack clothes that are versatile — solid colors you can easily mix and match. 3 tops and three bottoms are nine potential outfits if the colors, style, etc. are complementary.

  • There are only two types of luggage, carry-on and lost. Most airlines charge for checked baggage anyway. Avoid both the potential loss and the near-certain cost.

  • Like I said, you’re going to be washing your clothes in the sink unless you are lucky enough to get an AirB&B with a washer dryer. Therefore, get some single serve travel detergent packs. The ones behind that link are Woolite — gentle on clothes — and come with a handy rubber sink drain stopper which is also recommended for times when the built in stopper fails. Or, if you really want to go full hippie ninja, get yourself a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s and use it for every-friggin-thing. Also, a travel clothesline for hanging up the wet stuff to dry. I like this one but there’s plenty of good options out there.

  • Invest in good shoes. Shoes that are as versatile as the outfits and are appropriate for most occasions. But, more importantly, ones that you can walk for miles in. Because, we do a lot more walking, in general, when we travel. In modern airports, distances can often be counted in miles between the curbside and your gate. My favorite travel shoes I’ve had for years (like I said, not worth mentioning the brand because they’re no longer available) and I could write a whole post of their own about where they’ve been. They’ve seen some miles and adventures and are not showing a single sign of stopping.

  • Finally, a good sturdy bag. One that can take a beating. I prefer the handsfree convenience of a Backpack but something with a good slip-free shoulder strap can work too. These days, I switch between a GORUCK GR1 and 32L Kit Bag depending on the circumstances. Love them both.

I hope this helps. If I can think of anything to add to the above I may do so at a later date. Further questions are always welcome but, if you really want specifics on products and I did not convince you with the above on their usefulness, you may want to search for past posts I’ve written on the subject.

Where I’m at…

Lately, I’ve been seeing and hearing from lots of new folks coming here thanks to my appearance in the Minimalism documentary which recently started running on Netflix. Very cool and humbling, to say the least. So, this is a post to help folks find what they may be looking for and where to dig in to find more.
Posts here generally run on a “when I have something to say that belongs here” schedule. I post far more frequently right now at Rhoneisms. That’s my place for shorter essays and thoughts.
Go here if you’d like to buy the book enough which was mentioned in the film.
All of my books are available for purchase here.
I have also posted many things here around the subject of enough. You may enjoy reading how I increasingly subscribe to an Amish approach to technology, a great way to make your Twitter timeline more sane, or how we are better off when we choose tools and methods that are proven. All of these and more are about the choices that lead to a more simple and meaningful life.
I also have a free newsletter that has been warmly received. The schedule, format, and topics are irregular but I’m confident that those that subscribe find something helpful show up in their email inboxes every once in a while. Take a look at the archive if you’d like to get a sense of what I write about there.
Finally, I love being a guest on podcasts, email interviews, and any other engagement where I can reach and help more people. My info page tells you everything you need about me and how to get in touch. Please do.


I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world a better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

An Amish Approach to Technology

I’ve found, as I get older and wiser, my approach when it comes to deciding whether or not to upgrade my devices is increasingly like that I’ve read of Amish communities.
You see, it is not that the Amish shun modern technology. It’s that they take a very long, mindful, and considered approach as to what technology to adopt, weigh the pros and cons of how it might affect them, their homes, their communities, their way of life and if any of those trade-offs are worth it. Phones, for instance, are fine — as long as they’re not in the home and used only when absolutely necessary. And, if it’s not in any one home, then why not just have one phone in a central location that the whole community can use? So, one can see from this example that really what is at stake with the Amish approach is a question of true value — beyond the material — that every technology must pass and only applied in specific ways in order to be adopted.
Another thing I’ve learned about the Amish is there is also always the question of how a thing can be done as well or better either with an alternative technology or one that is already on hand… Do we need a tractor when we have a horse and plow? The tractor may be easier but what host of troubles does it bring? Then we have to buy gas and parts when it breaks and you can’t hook a buggy up to it and take it into town to sell pies and quilts. Then it’s noisy and disrupts the peace in the community and our neighbors. So, “easier” and “faster” are not things that always trump other considerations for the Amish. These are weighed against other factors equally. Better in one or two ways may be bad in too many others.
This is what has been coming to mind for me as yet another iPhone has been released. I’m still using an iPhone 5 that I, quite reluctantly, “upgraded” to 2.5 years ago. I loved my iPhone 4 but its decreasing battery life and increasing inability to run apps I thought “mattered” to me forced my hand to move up. The iPhone 5 continues to serve me well. That said, battery life and camera performance are my main concerns. I’m aware that upgrading to the iPhone SE would solve both of those in the same, handsome, form factor. That said, there are some thoughts that keep coming up for me…
Upgrading to the SE would mean a change of phone plans and additional cost. You see, when the carriers dropped the subsidized payment model — where you got the phone for “free” with contract — it actually allowed them to raise the price. Now, you either buy the phone outright or make monthly no-interest payments but you still pay the same monthly price for most plans as you used to when you got the phone for free. I’ve priced this out and, basically, what it means for me and my family if we take the monthly no-interest payments route is we will me paying about $40 more per month if both my wife and I upgrade. Kind of a big hike.
If camera and battery life are my main sticking points — if the performance and ways I use it are just fine — then there are other ways I can approach those. I could get a battery case to extend my life or even install a new battery myself — both for less than $30.00. I have a nice, small, lovely camera that I could use for those times when I wish the quality were better. Are there ways I could make it easier to take with me most places? Maybe a nice leather strap to keep it around my neck or a nice pancake lens so it slips easily into a pocket.
My point being that I’m considering all of my options in my considerations. If I have alternative solutions to my two main concerns that are less expensive, in many ways simpler, and solve the problem then why should they not hold considerable weight? Like the Amish, upgrading to something “better” does not always mean it is the best choice and sometimes that means using something that is considered old and outdated to the majority.

Twitter Zen and The Art of Retweet Maintenance

I was feeling overwhelmed every time I opened Twitter but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. Nothing had changed, recently. I hadn’t added more follows — I try to keep that number around 350. The most frequent and active Tweeters I had already relegated to a list called "High Volume". All the companies, sites, and news, etc. were in a list called "Interesting". I have several mute filters in place for the things I don’t care about. I very carefully choose who I follow and regularly evaluate and curate that list. In other words, I thought I had done all of the "right" things but, still, my main timeline felt — well — like it was not mine.
It felt like I threw a party, invited specific people to it, but then all these other people I didn’t know showed up with them. They came and hogged the conversation, ate too much food, and kept me from being able to really hear and talk to the people I invited. Bad uninvited guests.
I was describing the problem to my friend Jason and he reminded me that he wrote up a post a little while back about how he keeps his Twitter sanity. He suggested a few things from it that he thought would help me. His is a very reasoned and well thought out strategy and you should do yourself a favor and take the time to read what he has to say. That said, I wanted to highlight one item in particular that made a HUGE difference for me:

Turn off retweets for everyone you follow the moment you begin following them.

Now, since I had not been doing so before and planned to not add any more followers, I had to turn off retweets from everyone I already followed. This seemed daunting and tedious at first until I realized the better strategy was this; every time someone retweeted something and I saw it in my timeline my next action would be to turn off retweets for the person retweeting. This made the process far more doable and immediately caught the most frequent retweeters. I should mention the interesting part of this choice is that turning off retweets does not turn off "quote" tweets — where the person sharing has something to add. It only eliminates straight no-value-added retweets.
Now, after working on doing this for the past couple of weeks, my main timeline feels like mine again. It’s a party of my invited guests and I’m truly interested in what they have to say.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the general point of a retweet. Sometimes, people just want to share something with no additional comment. The problem is that, if I wanted to hear from those people, what they think, or what they had to say I would follow them. I don’t. I follow who I want to follow and I want to hear what the people I follow have to say and, if they want to share something and have something to add when they share, that’s cool. Because then I’m hearing what they think about what they are sharing.
So, I’m now back to feeling a little less overwhelmed by Twitter largely thanks to this. Hopefully, it will help for a while.
As an aside, I feel like Twitter — much like Facebook — is increasingly a service that requires a bit too much fiddling with to make it useable. It now suffers from the same "go into settings and tweak this and do that and turn these off and download this app and it’ll be OK not great but OK" that Facebook long has. If I didn’t care what my friends were up to and thinking so much it’s hardly be worth the trouble. And, though I have not reached it yet, it is on the verge of becoming such a needy puppy that it won’t be worth it. I have such a complicated and conflicted relationship with it these days.

Re-releasing enough

enough book
My most popular book, enough is being re-released today after a few weeks of being unavailable for sale. Enough is a series of essays that explore the idea of living a life with just enough of what you need and proposing some strategies to get there.
I wont bore you with the details of why it was out of stock, I’ll suffice to say it was some behind the scenes business changes. I’m excited this is back out there as the ideas that I put into the book will be featured in the upcoming documentary, Minimalism which I was interviewed for and will be touring the country soon.
As part of the change the title is now available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers for free. If you are a member of that, then I’d be honored if you added it and took the time to read.
If you have yet to get a copy, consider getting it for yourself or someone you love in Paperback or Amazon Kindle
In addition, I also am now offering personally signed copies of some of my titles. This is a paperback — each one signed personally by me to you (or, if you prefer, anyone you wish). To buy a one, click one of the links below:
enough
This Could Help
Minimal Mac

Proven

When it comes to the things I use, especially those I rely on every day, I want to use only things that have been proven as much as possible. Proven to work. Proven to last. Proven over time and use.

This is fairly easy and straight forward to find in the offline world. For instance, I gravitate towards and enjoy using pen and paper because it is proven. As a tool it works, lasts, requires nothing else, has been around for hundreds of years, and is used almost everywhere so is easy to find. Other tools are proven too. Hammers are proven, for example. Nail guns may be a quicker way to drive a nail but require power and have a hundred ways they can fail or break. A hammer always works.

In the online world, it’s a bit more difficult to find things that are proven. Things change quickly. Formats and applications come and go. What’s hot today is gone and unsupported tomorrow in too many cases. Experience has taught me not to rely on many of these things or to be too quick to jump on board new things that come along. They aren’t proven.

Yet, there are some things in the online world that are proven — at least as far as such things can be in the world of technology. Here are two examples: Plaintext and Email. Plaintext (.txt) as a format is proven. It has been around in some form or another since the dawn of modem computing. Email, the basic plaintext form of it, has been around long enough to be considered such. These are things I trust. Things I have used for a long time, work today much the same as they always have, and the chance of continuing to work far into the future is high. Plus, they’re practically universal. Practically everyone who is online has an email address. Practically every computer can open a plaintext file.

This doesn’t mean I won’t use things that aren’t proven. I will and sometimes do. But I don’t place my faith or trust in them until they are proven. I don’t pretend they will be around forever and I always have an escape plan for when they inevitably go away. I don’t go all in on a new thing, especially if it means abandoning something proven.

So, when people ask me why I love and prefer email over [Insert latest email killer here] it’s because email is proven. It’s why I don’t use the latest note taking app or word processor. It’s why you won’t find me hoping on the latest new social thingamajig or chatting whatnot or blogging whozit. And while I watch those things come and go and their users jump on and off them, I’ll still be here using the same proven tools I have for-what-might-as-well-be-ever and getting the things I want to do done.

Some Thoughts On Solitude

I have long wanted to take a private/personal retreat of some kind. Last Christmas, my best friend Dawn gave me the gift of one — telling me to simply choose what I wanted and she would take care of any needed details. I searched for through the many option in the area, but kept coming back to a Franciscan based hermitage retreat called Pacem in Terris (Latin for “Peace on Earth”). My Birthday fell at the end of last week and I felt it would be perfect timing to spend it there in solitude and reflection.
Like Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin, each hermitage is a small, single room cabin with an attached screen porch. Each one is sparely appointed with just the essentials — a bed, a rocking chair, a small table, a couple of stations for washing and cooking, and a small altar for those who wish to pray. A delicious basket of food is supplied and refreshed daily — a couple of loaves of (oh-my-goodness-so-delicious!) homemade bread, some fruit, some local cheese, and some jugs of water. They have been doing this for years so every amenity is well thought out and centered around reducing any stress or desire.
A retreat into solitude like this is impossible to convey in mere words. One has to really experience it and come away with their own impressions. For me, it was lovely and peaceful and restful and I highly encourage everyone to seek out such a place near them and allow themselves such a gift. But I felt, at the least, I could share some of the thoughts I wrote down about it. What follows are all direct passages I wrote in my journal during and after, offered in no particular order other than flow…
In many ways a solitary journey into the wilderness is, in equal measure, a journey into the wilderness of self. Just as the path into the woods draws us further away from civilization until all one can see in any direction is nature, so too is the truth of our own nature revealed. We can finally see our thoughts without noise or hinderance of distractions and obligations.
One of the interesting things about being out in nature with nothing to do but listen, notice, and ponder, is that one’s attention becomes more acute. When the leaves are blown by the wind, after time one stops hearing a whoosh and rustle and begins to hear each leaf knocking against another. Instead of one great sound one hears a collection of individual ones. Acorns falling to the ground sound like heavy raindrops in rapid succession and not a short storm. So too it becomes with our own thoughts — no longer are they a fleeting cacophony bombarded by many outside inputs — here, in the stillness, we can see and examine each one for what it is without the fear of loosing it.
Thoreau knew the secret. His journals make so much more sense to me now! I can understand how focused and excited he gets over the smallest things. How the way the snow caps or the lake shimmers can be worth a thousand word ode. Because, it is the way one sees them when in wilderness (external/internal). One would notice both each sparkle of snowflake and whole of a storm all at once. Just as I, sitting in the middle of this field, am alive to each swaying blade of grass and the whole of the prairie at once. I could surely write a thousand word ode to this!
The reality of how much this is missed in our daily lives was when I began to realize how much of an incredible luxury this seemed. Almost as if to be able to have such time and to experience such a thing were to enjoy something far beyond the means of most. For a short time I dealt with almost feeling ashamed at enjoying such fortune. To have the time, however short or long, to ponder both that which is all around us and that which is deep inside. To not have to rush through it all. To watch grasses sway and dragonflies dance on a crisp Autumn breeze while I examine each thought before sending it along without care for a next action. To have such things be the only thing I do.
Ask yourself, when was the last time your were alone. Not just alone in the sense of not having another person around but alone in the completest sense of having no distractions, obligations, tasks, next steps, “should be doings”, or “have to be doings”? Like me before this, I bet the answer was “never”. I feel like I’m now a member of some small, secret, select club. One who not only holds a secret but knows what it means. The impact it could have if more in our modern society knew it. It may sound absurdly grandiose yet I feel it does not begin to touch the surface. This experience changed me. I went into the wilderness one way and returned from it another — better equipped and seeing clearer.
I implore to all who might read this one day — go out there, into the wilderness, into solitude. Find the world there. Find what matters there. Find yourself there.

Right Effort

Here is what my current favorite online Buddhist resource has to say about the precept of Right Effort:

Right Effort means cultivating an enthusiasm, a positive attitude in a balanced way. Like the strings of a musical instrument, the amount of effort should not be too tense or too impatient, as well as not too slack or too laid back. Right Effort should produce an attitude of steady and cheerful determination.
In order to produce Right Effort, clear and honest thoughts should be welcomed, and feelings of jealousy and anger left behind. Right Effort equates to positive thinking, followed by focused action.

Drop a stone into still water, and the water will respond with exactly the right amount of ripples for the size of the stone. A smaller stone will produce less ripples. A larger stone will produce more. But, it will always be in proportion and never more or less. In a similar way, Right Effort encourages us to apply the appropriate amount of action dictated by the intention.

In the last few months, I have worked hard to apply this idea to my social media approach as well. I’m certainly not perfect at it. There have been many times that I have failed. But, in general, if you were to look at my feed you’d find that I try not to post too often or too infrequently. I do my best to find balance between the two. I participate when directly engaged. I try to make sure that what I’m posting is of a positive nature. I try to only post things that I believe are worth the time of those who might be reading it. I rarely engage in debate or argument— and when I do my intention is to try to learn from an opposing view, not to rebuke it. And, more than anything else, I try to be helpful in any way I see that I can be.

Applying Light Packing to Light Living

As many know, I’m a light packer for most trips. I recently returned from a trip where I didn’t need to go as light as I usually do and therefore did not. What I found was that there were a few pieces that I brought with me and ended up not wearing. Not for any particular reason — just an extra sweater and an extra pair of pants that I just ended up not needing. It caused me to question whether I really needed either of these items at all.

Here’s the thing about packing light, it’s about more than being able to take only what you need in order to carry less and move fast. It’s not just about knowing what you really need (versus what you think you need) while on the road. It should also help you evaluate the truth of what you need most days at home too. Because, if you can live out of one bag for a week or more while on the road, with some minor additions there is little reason you could not live with the same amount all the time.

For instance, here’s a guy who travels with one backpack all over the world full time. There is no reason he can’t do the same if all of that were in one box and he lived in the same place.

I know some people have jobs that require them to have wardrobe or other items that are a bit more than others. I get that such an idea in not for everyone. I’m also not arguing everyone should live out of one bag. What I am saying is that there is likely little reason why many couldn’t do so. I’m also saying that if you have developed the skill of packing light when you travel, perhaps you could use that as a starting point to apply the same intentions when you are stationary.

If you like this post, you’ll also like my latest book — This Could Help. Buy it today in Paperback, ePub, or Kindle

Random Notes and Recent Thoughts #3

I haven’t done one of these in a while. Here are some short ideas I have yet to fully flesh out but are complete enough to share right now anyway. Perhaps in doing so they will drive a discussion that will lead to a longer post.

  • When “No” is your default, the things that fight their way to “Yes” have a deeper value and meaning. They not only have to earn their place, they have to maintain their worth to keep it. “Yes” is important. “Yes” means that something really matters to me. But, this is only the case — and I would argue only can be the case — when “Yes” is not easy and “No” is the default.

  • It is not enough to simply accept, put-up-with, or ignore those things that might drive us nuts about our partners in a relationship. We must learn to appreciate them. Find the ways in which those things might, in fact, be a part of what makes the other person so great. Unless we do, we risk it becoming the chink that becomes a hole that, under pressure, breaks the dam.

  • Like wide margins in a book makes it easier and more pleasurable to read, leaving wide margins in your life makes it easier and more pleasurable to live. Also, having margins in a book leaves lots of room to make notes, observations, doodle, and offer your thoughts. So goes margins in life, too.

  • The reason for quantifying your commitments, and making the time and space for them on a calendar, is as much about committing to your tasks and projects as it is to committing to the margins.

  • The gulf between irresponsibility and opportunity is bridged by intention.

  • Kindness is a habit. One that is strengthened and improved the more you are so.

  • Always get the best paint you can buy. The difference between the good stuff and everything else is measured in decades and, in some cases, centuries.

  • Just a little bit more effort goes such a long way because so many do so much less than the minimum required.