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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Is Location Independence Bullshit?

Lonely Traveler

Location, Location, Location

“I can’t be a minimalist because I don’t have that desire to travel.”

Man, if we had a dollar for every time we heard something like that.

Many people stumble across some of the extreme aspects of minimalism and immediately think, “That is not for me.” They see minimalists with 55 things and think, “Not only does that seem unattainable for me (and for my family) but I don’t even want that kind of lifestyle.” They see minimalists with peripatetic lifestyles who travel all over the world and say, “That’s cool, but I don’t want to do that.”

What Minimalism Is All About

Minimalism isn’t about counting your stuff. Even Dave Bruno—the guy who started this whole counting thing with his 100 Thing Challenge—would tell you that counting is not the point.

And Minimalism isn’t about traveling all over the world with all your stuff in a backpack either.

Minimalism is about taking the time to get rid of the excess stuff in your life so you can live a more meaningful life, so that you can focus on what’s important.

Thus, there is nothing wrong with living with 67 things or with living in hotels in a bunch of different cities. We respect that. But we respect it because the people who are doing those things are pursuing their passions, they are living a meaningful life by pursuing their dreams. A meaningful life to them is one that is filled with travel and meeting new people in new places and having new experiences with those new people in those new places. This is how they are growing as individuals, which is extremely important and admirable.

Conversely, there is also nothing wrong with owning 417 things or with not counting your stuff at all.

But, let’s rewind for a moment…

An Interesting Meetup

Last December we attended a minimalist meetup in Chicago with Colin Wright, Nina Yau, Joel Runyon, Jeff & Marla Sarris, Jenny Smith, and dozens of other really cool people. As you can imagine, it was the type of clandestine meeting to which people arrived to its top secret location in large unmarked black vans, blindfolded after being tranquilized and tied-up by a team of well trained ninja spies.

Or at least that’s how we got there.

Well, either that or we traversed across the flat expanse of Indiana in a white Toyota to a bar in Chicago. But which story sounds sexier? The ninjas, right?

Also in attendance at this special event was Dusti Arab. We had a long discussion with her at the bar that eventually turned to location independence. It went a little like this:

Dusti: So, where do you guys live?

Ryan: I live at my house. Duh. Winning!

Joshua: I think she means, where do we live geographically?

Ryan: That’s a big word.

Dusti: Yeah, are you guys from Chicago?

Ryan: Nope.

Joshua: We live in Dayton, Ohio.

Dusti: Really? I live in Portland but I always have that itch to move, to travel and explore the world. Where are you guys going to be a year from now?

Joshua: I’ll probably still be in Ohio. I really like Ohio.

Dusti: Really? Why don’t you travel after you quit your job?

Joshua: Because I don’t need to travel to be happy…

Ryan: Um, I really have to pee, I think I’m going to go and find the bathroom.

Joshua: …you can be happy wherever you live. If someone wants to move to San Francisco or Portland or Iceland or Bali, then they should. But realize that won’t make you happy. Not by itself at least. Only you can make you happy, regardless of your location.

Dusti: That’s an interesting perspective.

Joshua: Now, don’t get me wrong, I might move somewhere else in the future, and I might not be in Ohio my entire life, but I’ll be happy in Ohio while I’m there. If I move it will to be to grow as an individual or to contribute to other people in ways that I can’t at my current location.

Dusti: That’s the best reason I’ve heard for not traveling. I think it’s cool that you guys like Dayton so much.

Ryan: Yeah, well it’s a cool place. It’s a blue collar, rust belt city. The population is diverse, the culture is unique, and it’s a place where you fit in because you don’t fit in. It also has a ton of socioeconomic challenges, which makes it a place in which we can contribute and make a difference.

Family, Friends, and Money

Another reason people don’t change their location—and this is often the largest reason—is that they feel tethered to the area in which the live. Meaning that people have families and friends that are very important to them. One of the key factors in living a happy life is our relationships with others. But that doesn’t mean that one must stay in the same place forever.

True friends remain friends regardless of your location. And your family will always be related to you. Plus, your immediate family can move with you if you decide together to make a location change.

If you desire to live in a new place, don’t let the anchor of relationships hold you back. There are endless possibilities of new exciting relationships everywhere.

Roots and Community

There is, however, something to be said for planting roots within a community. If the meaning of life is contribution—which we strongly believe that it is; we believe that giving is living—then a great way to contribute is to establish a foothold in a community and to contribute in meaningful ways to the people in that community. That’s not to say that you can’t travel and still contribute though, but communities require community leaders and thus someone must establish themselves as leaders within a community for the community to flourish.

Traveling Is Respectable

We really do enjoy traveling though. We’ll take the occasional road trip to see a great concert, or we’ll spend a week in New York City or San Francisco, and we’ve even been to cool places like Hawaii and Mexico and England. But we don’t feel obligated to travel. And that is perhaps the difference.

So if you’re contemplating a minimalist lifestyle, but feel burdened by the whole traveling requirement, don’t be. The majority of minimalists are not nomads. Some minimalists have families and children and suburban homes and personal baggage and go to school and practice their religion and live extraordinary lives with less stuff. That’s the commonality: minimalists live meaningful lives by eliminating superfluous excess from their lives. Minimalists live a life of freedom, one in which they are aware of what’s going on around them and inside them. And regardless of their traveling preferences, they are walking with the living, not the dead.

So, no, we don’t think location independence is bullshit. If you’re passionate about traveling, then by all means, have at it. Minimalism is great for that too. But you can be happy either way. Said another way, there is no “wrong” way to live a minimalist lifestyle. A location independent lifestyle—a lifestyle of of moving and traveling all the time—or a community based lifestyle (or a combination of the two in some cases) are equally valuable.