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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

Developing Ears for Travel

There are three things I hate: large crowds, public speaking, and extensive travel. And yet I find myself on tour once again. In fact, this year’s Less Is Now Tour is our eighth tour in the seven years since Ryan and I started

From Seattle to San Diego, Pittsburgh to Portland, Vermont to Vancouver, we’re traveling to 40 cities this year to talk about living a meaningful life with less. There comes a time, whenever we’re on the road, that I begin to ask myself, “Why in the hell am I doing this again?” Which I should probably ask myself before embarking on another multi-month jaunt around North America. But the initial excitement of planning, coupled with the perceived glamour of exploration, always seems to erase the question. At least for a while.

At some point, though, often while we’re parked at a rest stop surrounded by a sea of Midwestern cornfields, that question interrupts my waning excitement, and I begin to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. That’s when the self-doubt creeps in: Another crowd this evening? Two more hours of talking tonight? Three hundred miles till our next city? Yikes!

It’s not that I actually hate people, speaking, or travel. Rather, these things make me uncomfortable. So my answer to my internal “why am I doing this?” dialogue is simple: I go on tour not only to share our message of simple and intentional living, but also to embrace discomfort.

In the modern Western world, once our basic needs are met, we have the means to cocoon ourselves in perpetual comfort. Swaddled by air conditioning, technology, and consumer goods, we ease into a daily life that is rich in luxurious niceties, but lacks the rigor required for sustained growth. And without growth, our lives lack meaning, purpose, and passion.

It’s no wonder most people feel discontented today: we’re vessels of anxiety, stress, and debt, camouflaged by consumerism.

So, despite my innate desire to stay home and bubblewrap my life, I hit the road, interact with other humans, and face the terror of public speaking in every city we visit.

Each night, we meet people from various walks of life: from factory workers to executives, high school dropouts to college professors, monks to hoarders. Whether they’re young or old, rich or poor, black or white, they all ask the same fundamental questions: How do I live a meaningful life? What must I do to regain control? Who is the person I want to become?

Sure, these questions manifest differently depending on the individual, but one thing has been made clear to me over the past seven years: we’re all different, and yet we’re all the same. We all struggle, we all fail, and we all desire to be the best version of ourselves, warts and all.

Ryan and I stand on stage and present an in-depth talk at each event, but the real reason we host these events is to listen. It would be easy—comfortable, even—for us to stay at home and discuss simple-living in our books, blog, and podcast. It’s much more difficult, however, to actively listen.

Real listening requires letting go of expectations, preconceptions, and the desire to be the center of attention—it’s uncomfortable to do so, but it’s necessary if we want to grow. Because if we don’t listen to the world around us, it’s impossible to hear what’s going on inside us.

That’s why travel is important: it forces us to confront discomfort and develop our ears to hear—and ultimately attempt to understand—other perspectives. In time, those perspectives better shape our own worldview.