Traveling Lightly

I like the simple life. It is a way of living that has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. From my boyhood days of reading My Side of the Mountain, the tale of a boy who ran away to the woods in search of himself, to adulthood readings of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, another tale of a guy who wandered into the wild for a renewed perspective, I’ve enjoyed stories of learning to travel lightly through life.

Speaking of Thoreau, his stated philosophy was simplicity personified: “The rule is to carry as little as possible.” And other kindred spirits include Harper Lee, the reclusive bestselling author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who is quoted as saying, “All I need is a good bed, a bathroom and a typewriter…books are the things I care about.” Amen to that.

Jesus charged his followers to “keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” So what does it mean to live freely and lightly? For starters, I think it means that we own our possessions instead of them owning us. Also, we can’t be drowning in debt if we hope to keep our heads above water. In other words, learning to live with less is key.

My personal journey with living lightly is typified by a move to Cape Cod for the summer of 1985, when I shared a room with a friend of mine in a boarding house just blocks from the beach. I moved there with a couple duffle bags of stuff and, except for the Aiwa portable sound system and the Schwinn ten-speed bicycle I bought, I left there about as lightly as I arrived.

Of course, living lightly as a bachelor at the beach is different than living as a couple in a community but the principles of simple living are the same and can be adapted to fit any lifestyle. Far from an ascetic existence, my life is designed with aesthetics in mind, from the Cape Cod-style cottage I inhabit to the Volvo and Vespa I drive. But I am mindful of the cost of consumption and consequently strive to live and travel as lightly as possible.