Wealth is found not in what you own but in how you spend your time.-Henry David Thoureau
One year ago, I sold everything I owned to travel the world and try to discover my life purpose. On this journey, I have learned a lot about my relationship to work, purpose and money. It made me realize that when I was living in the US, the greater majority of my money was spent on “stuff”.
I didn’t feel wealthy even though I was making more money than the average person does. I felt stressed out, like I constantly had to keep working because I had been sold the American dream. I had blindly followed the vast majority, signed on the dotted line, and promised my wages for 30 years. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that home ownership is a negative thing. I had just entered into it blindly, giving no thought as to what my soul wanted.
I had caved in to the belief that wealth equals happiness and proceeded to accumulate as much stuff as possible. Again, I don’t see money as being a negative thing, but if it comes at the cost of your soul, it is.
Now that I’m rambling around the world without even a spoon to slurp my soup with, I’ve come to realize, I feel wealthier than ever. This has led me to ponder,“What is wealth, anyway?”
Photo Credit: Toban B. via Compfight cc
I know that when I spend my time writing the messages that my soul is pouring forth, I feel wealthy. I know that when I am deep in conversation with someone, being completely vulnerable and open, and staring into their eyes, and seeing the miracle of that person, I feel wealthy. I know that when I am letting go of judgement and past pain, I feel wealthy. When I’m staring at the sunset, my bare feet being tickled by the sand, my toes being tickled by the kiss of the salty waves, I feel wealthy.
Notice, all of those experiences don’t cost a thing. It never made me feel wealthy to have the latest technology gadget, or to be able to offer a different plate for every course of the elaborate dinner parties I used to give, or to have had three bathrooms when there was only one of me.
When I moved to Mexico, I started realizing how unique people were there. I watched people who would work all day to sell their art, or their tamales, or their handmade crafts for very little money. At first, I felt sorry for them. But, then I realized something. These people were happy. They usually worked together as a family, and they were doing what they wanted to do. It really wasn’t about the money at all. This led me to write one of the most popular articles on my travel blog, Consumerism In America: How Your Stuff Is Killing You. I began to realize just how much I had given up to follow the American dream.
I started realizing that true wealth had nothing to do with money. I realized that I felt truly wealthy when I followed my life’s calling. When I was struggling against my heart, I was causing stress in my body, and I was letting fear of “enough” guide my life.
However, it does take money to live. I have a lot of people approach me who want to follow their dreams, but they are scared to death. What is the main cause of their fear? They don’t wind to end up starving on the streets. So, how can you do what your heart desires without going broke?
“We no longer live life. We consume it.” ― Vicki Robin
First, you can let go of the conditioning of the media that tells you what you must own to survive. The media does a lot to shape our ideas of what we must own to make it in this world. Yes, I have had it easier by living inexpensively in other parts of the world during this year, but I’ve also learned things about how I can live in the US on less.
I don’t need to own a big house like I used to. I don’t need to own as much stuff. I don’t need an iPhone. Really. I’ve lived without a Smartphone for a year now. My cell phone bill is $10 a month. I remember when an American visited me in Mexico and was astounded that I was a blogger without a smart phone. Guess what? It really is possible to survive without being connected to the internet all day. In fact, my most inspiring thoughts usually come when I’m not connected to wifi, but instead to my spirit inside.
I don’t have to rely on someone else to provide food, water, and shelter. I can grow my own food. I can learn to live off the grid.
I can have people over for dinner without it being a “party”. It doesn’t have to be lavish. I am perfectly capable of making my own coffee and, I don’t need to spend the money I could be spending to cook an entire meal on one cup of coffee. I can socialize with people without buying expensive cocktails, and we are likely to have conversations that are more real without alcohol masking our feelings. I can actually make it in life with ten outfits and three pairs of shoes. No one is going to judge me because I wear the same outfits a lot. And if they do, they’re probably not someone I really want in my life anyway. I don’t need a television. In fact, I don’t want one. It has been wonderful to live a life where I’m not being constantly told how I should think. You may be thinking, “I can’t give up….”, but at what price are you willing to hold onto it? Is it worth sacrificing your dreams for?
A lot of people say that I am “lucky” to travel. But, I am able to travel because I gave up “stuff” that was important to me at the time. Some of the “stuff” I gave up was even painful for me to part with at the time? But, you know what? I get to wake up every day and create my own day. That alone is worth it.
Second, once you have reduced your bills, spend as little of your time as you can working to pay those bills. I had a job with flexible hours when I worked in the corporate job. It would have been possible to work a lot less hours, but I didn’t because I was convinced I needed all the “stuff” I had to survive. If you live with just the basics, you will find that you don’t have to work as hard as you think you do. You can spend the extra time taking the steps to living the life of our dreams. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist, makes some wonderful points on his blog about what we are really needing but tend to substitute the desire for money for. Things like more gratefulness, contentment and generosity.
Also, look at how you are spending your time. I started my travel blog while I still had a full-time job. Yes, this meant less time on Facebook, less time in front of the TV, and made for some very late nights, but I would say it was worth it. I recommend always starting your new business or venture while you still have a job in place. It may make for some long work hours, but the time spent following your purpose won’t feel like work. If it does, then ask yourself seriously if the new venture is really what you are dreaming of doing.
If you have debt, the first thing you must do is work to pay it off. And, live life in such a way that you don’t use credit cards to pay for anything which depreciates in value. I have never owed money on anything which depreciated in value. This means that the cars I drove around were at least ten years old and a lot of the things that I bought were second-hand, but being responsible with my money gave me the life of freedom that I was longing for.
Third, trust life. Guess what? Life is pretty awesome. When you align with your soul’s calling, life makes sure you are taking care of. How can you do that? Well, life is energy. Have you noticed that the people who life supports are the people who have a pretty positive view of it. When you are positive, you are going to attract positive energy. You don’t see people who are negative and complaining attracting much, do you? That’s because the energy of life always matches what you are creating.
Are you always going to have all the money you want? Maybe not. But life will give you all the money you need. I realize that part of my calling was to learn how to live a simpler life. I was supposed to learn that I had an identity outside of all the stuff that surrounded me. Life will give you the exact lessons you need, and if the end result is that you are following your purpose, there is no amount of money or comfort that can replace that.
To contact Valen for a Skype session on how to better manage your finances so you can create your dream life, click here.
Really motivating post! I’m so glad you are doing what makes you happy and spreading the word for others on how to do it! Thanks for sharing!
I especially love the last bit – just trust the process. I’ve had my doubts, my ups and downs and through it all, I’ve trusted that Spain is my path. Keep on trucking!
Yes, trusting can be the hardest part, but surrender and allowing is the key!
Thank you for your post . Really inspiring and has made me rethink a few things and not to slip back into getting caught up in stuff that is totally unimportant and certainly doesn’t create happiness . 🙂
We are so glad that it inspired you!! Yes, it’s so easy to lose sight of what brings true joy.
Yes, I think if you make an effort to target what you want in life especially traveling, you make the sacrifices necessary to save and get motivated to make the right steps to get you there.
That’s true. It starts by targeting what you want first!
Pretty sure ‘Trust Life’ sums it all up. Great article and an important message, overlooked by so many in the chase for ‘happiness by things’. 🙂
It sure does!! Trust Life. It’s that simple, and so easy to forget.
Very powerful blog and it really speaks to my heart. I have lived as a nomad for over a year and a half and what I have found makes me wealthy is freedom and friendship. The relationships I’ve developed with people as I’ve spent time in their homes has been priceless. I agree with every point you make. Thank you for sharing your adventures in wealth.
Yes, freedom and friendship are definitely the two things I’ve valued the most as I wander this world!
Great Post! I have done this in my own life but I am seeing that I need to go through this process again of clearing out to live the life I really want and feel wealthy 🙂
Yes, I think it’s good to do this several times throughout our life!!
Great post I loved the quote of how we no longer live life we consume it, your post is a great reminder to enjoy where we are and follow our heart’s calling
Thank you, Lillian!! We can’t go wrong when we are following our heart.
Great post, too many people spend too much time worrying about the things they have no control over, and forget to target on the things that they have some control over
It is so true!! Thanks, Mike!!
Great post. Very inspiring. I’m in the process of downsizing, minimizing, and preparing for a more free life. Thanks!
It feels good, doesn’t it?!
Val, you make some excellent points here! I’m a bit of a money nerd, and I agree wholeheartedly with your advice to get rid of debt as quickly as humanly possible!
It’s definitely the best step you can take!
What an inspiring post! It’s so important to find what really matters to you in life and take action to make it happen instead of accumulating “stuff” you think you need. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
Thank you, Dan! Glad you liked it. Yes, there’s so much more to life than stuff!
You said it!!!
Such a great post. Thinking about how much something costs in relation to what you must give up to have it certainly helps put things in perspective.
It really does, doesn’t it? Freedom is wealth, but many people overlook this.
I’m sure everyone finds this inspiring. But who’s going to do anything with it?
I’m at my most miserable when I’m trying to decide whether to buy Thing 1 or Thing 2 with the money I have. I know it’s awful. I want to be like you, Valen, but something is keeping me from making the jump. Not anything concrete: I’m out of debt, I don’t own a house, and I WANT to travel, at least the Western United States. But there’s something that separates the people who actually make the jump from those who just comment on inspiring blog posts. I really want to know what that thing is so I can make that jump.
I think it might be fear that keeps people from making the jump. Or a desire to just remain comfortable. A fear of change. Let’s talk!!
Thank you so much for this post. I was just thinking as Christmas gets closer, there are so many things I own that I really don’t need and really don’t benefit my soul’s happiness. I’ve recently found direction in my life and suddenly I feel the need to shed everything that doesn’t help me move in that direction. I’ve already gotten rid of all my personal accounts on social media, and am in the process of creating positive, succinct and professional accounts strictly for getting my music out there. This post couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. Thanks so much for that last little push!
I am so glad it helped!
Just got home from 6 months in India. My goal is to spend half of each year traveling. It’s nice to connect with another traveler.
Awesome! What was your favorite part of India? Nice to connect with you, too, Carole!