About 3 months ago, Hsinya and I left Irvine, hopped on a plane, and flew to Taiwan. We expected to return early March—then we changed our minds and decided to stay for an entire year.
By becoming a Greenimalist, I had opened up a whole new world of possibilities. With no baggage or burdens tying me down, I had no obligation to return to California. If I didn’t want to return in 3 months, I didn’t have to—I was free to go wherever I chose.
There’s something amazing about being able to change your mind. I’m not talking about being indecisive, but rather the ability to pursue new opportunities as they come. Too often, we turn down new opportunities—not because we choose to, but because our obligations force us to.
Your ability to change depends on how many burdens you carry. The more weight, the harder it is to pack your bags and leave. Possessions increase your weight, and so do long-term contracts and financial debt. Each one is a type of shackle on your freedom.
A house can be a great investment, except it weighs you down. A car could get you to work faster, except it weighs you down. A dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, and refrigerator are all great, useful stuff, but each one slowly takes away your mobility. You lose the freedom of being able to spend time with your family, move to a better job elsewhere, or volunteer on worthwhile work. Once you start making irreversible commitments, it’s hard to turn back.
Some obligations are totally worth taking on. It’s worth losing some mobility to have a family or to work on a meaningful job. But I refuse to surrender my mobility in exchange for more stuff.
Life is full of unexpected surprises. It’s impossible to predict what opportunities will present themselves 10 years from now. 10 years ago, I was still in middle school; cell phones were a novelty; and Google was a small company. I have no idea what the next 10 years will bring. All I know for sure is that the more mass I take on, the fewer opportunities I’ll be able to pursue.
Last year, I could never have predicted that I’d have such a great time staying in Taiwan, that my Grandpa would be happy to have visitors, and that I’d be able to find a solid church here. If I had kept all that extra baggage back in Irvine, I would have to return—like it or not—because the high price of storage was driving me back home.
But because I didn’t carry so much dead weight, it was easy for me to change my mind. And so I did.
This post was inspired by Less Mass from software company 37Signals. I took their unconventional guide for creating lean, mean web apps and adapted it for everyday life.