I won’t bore you with a biography about me. This post is mostly about some of my philosophies and how I arrived at them.
I grew up in the city and I worked two or three jobs at a time from sixteen until I was about thirty. I worked hard and saved my money before I ever started investing in real estate. I won’t bore you with all the details in this post, but after making a considerable amount of money in real estate I did what most average successful Americans would do. I went out and bought a bunch of expensive things to show everyone how successful I had become. I had a Maserati, expensive wardrobe, a Rolex watch and a waterfront condo in Miami. I was living the American dream that’s typically portrayed in marketing, TV, movies and magazines. I wouldn’t say that I was unhappy, but I had a lingering feeling as if I didn’t belong in the luxury world or around the people that fill that world. The car, the condo, the watch, etc. didn’t make me happy in and of themselves. Having money and lots of nice things made me feel ‘comfortable’, but that feeling of being comfortable (for me at least) took me away from the feeling of basic gratitude for the smaller more important things that we as people should be happy to have. It sounds cliche but it really is the small things in life…the basic things (food, shelter, clothing, freedom) you can be grateful for that truly make you happy. You need to understand that this was the environment I grew up in. I grew up a city kid and was only exposed to media and marketing pushing the American dream lifestyle. The American dream being marketed to me was to have a high paying job, find a wife, buy her a big diamond ring, buy a big house with four bathrooms, fill the house with lots of furniture and TVs, pop out two kids, have matching luxury SUVs, go on a Caribbean cruise every February and retire when I’m sixty-five. I had been so programmed by the environment in which I was raised and marketing I was exposed to that it was difficult to see just how backwards I had everything.
From a very early age most of us are taught to do well in school so that we can get into a good university. If we get into a good university then we have a better chance of securing a high paying job with benefits. Once, we get established in our career and make a lot of money we’re programmed to spend that money on bigger and better things (and thus keep working to maintain the lifestyle that we’re projecting). We get so caught up in projecting this lifestyle and having all these things that we give up the one thing that will make us happiest…FREEDOM. Most of us never realize that there are alternatives because we are exposed to so much marketing (programming) from the day we are born that it’s over before we ever had a chance. Our childhood toys turn into adult possessions and we end up working jobs we don’t like…for things we don’t truly need…to impress people we don’t even like. Once we are in this cycle, it takes a lot of work and a little bit of a leap of faith to get out of it.
I worked hard to deprogram myself out of the environment and programming I was born into. After working for most of my adult life I came to the realization that most of the things I was spending money on were not essential. Every single thing I bought was weighing me down and taking me further and further away from freedom. Have you ever had to move apartments and realized how much useless crap you had? I also realized that the watch, clothes, car, condo were all really just part of an illusion I was projecting to the world and I stopped caring what other people thought about me. I also finally understood that most people are so busy thinking about themselves that it doesn’t even matter if you’re projecting an illusion anyways. The only person I needed to be honest with was myself and although it was tough at first, it was freeing.
At the same time I came to this realization about myself I realized that my daily routine was completely lacking in any kind of self-growth, adventure or connection to the universe. Like most people my daily routine consisted of going to the gym, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV or read a book and go to bed. Wake up and repeat. By the time the weekend rolled around I would spend it running errands, decompressing from the previous week and loathing the week to come. The average American does this in the name of surrounding ourselves with…stuff. Yes stuff, I wish it was more complicated but that’s it. Slowly but surely I started making small incremental changes. I was spending more and more time outdoors hiking and camping, traded in my real estate and business books for more philosophical books, gave up my TV in exchange for podcasts and documentaries, and started doing yoga and meditation instead of weights. For me it really ended up just becoming a matter of allocation. I would rather allocate my money and time on traveling, being immersed in nature, meditating, exploring my inner-self, educating myself on subjects I truly cared about than I would filling my life with stuff I don’t need and projecting an illusion of someone I didn’t like. There is so much truth to Thoreau’s line that ‘We have become the tools of our tools’. I know that this is probably going to sound like a bunch of hippie granola, but stay with me…
…We as humans, are just highly evolved animals. Although we have been blessed with the ability to reason, we still have primal instincts and urges just like all other animals. The main difference between us and all other animals is that we have consciously surrounded ourselves or constructed a society that purposely keeps us from being free, self-reliant, living with immediacy (in the present) and co-existing symbiotically with our natural surroundings. What happens when we leave society, put away our cell phones and return to nature even for only a few days? It’s been my experience that we consciously or subconsciously return to the truth of what we really are, live in the present and thus become content and self-realized…
Ok enough of my philosophical rambling and back to the story. So here I am with a nice watch, car, condo and STUFF…and I don’t want any of it anymore! I decided to sell my watch first since it had basically been sitting in my safe since I bought it. Sure, I wore it a few times to show off but it didn’t make me happy…it mostly made me worried. With each item I sold or got rid of I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I started reading books on minimalism and decided to see just how little I needed. (spoiler alert: it wasn’t a lot). In fact, the more stuff I got rid of the happier I became…with one exception. I started obtaining the gear essential for camping and backpacking. I justified these items as necessary for taking me further into nature that I had previously been.
With this new found love of ‘less’, I decided to make a decision that would change my life forever. I would create an ‘experiment’ that would combine my love of minimalism, the environment, travel and the outdoors. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden, my experiment was to sell all my non-essentials, build a van and live in it while exploring all the natural places I had dreamed of. The van would ultimately force me to take my obsession with minimalism to a new level. I had already been vegan for 12 years and following other environmentally conscious practices so my carbon footprint was already low. The thought of moving into a solar powered diesel van would which shrink it to microscopic levels excited me.
A lot of people ask me how I arrived at the decision to move into the van and travel. There were a few catalysts that set this whole journey into motion:
- Walden. I read this book when I was seventeen and it left a mark on my soul that didn’t completely flower until much later in life. Upon re-reading it after I had accumulated wealth and possessions I understood it much better. Having grown up in Boston, a couple miles from where it was written, many of it’s passages resonated with me and the book is still as relevant today as it was 165+ years ago. I understand this book more and take something new away everytime I read it.
- The Four Agreements. After reading this book I started doubting the path that I was on and the programming I had received up until that point in my life. If I could recommend one book to anyone, this is the book.
- The Environment. I had become increasingly concerned after doing extensive research on human consumption behavior and it’s effect on the environment.
- Kayaking Trip. I took a kayaking trip with my friend Eli and we stayed in a tiny plywood hut with no cell signal. The hut and it’s 2×4 bunk bed couldn’t have been more rustic and simple, but it was quietly tucked away in the woods, alongside a river and I couldn’t have been more happy.
- Tiny House Movement. I’d become increasingly interested in minimalism and shrinking my footprint. From watching tiny house TV shows to vanlife youtube videos, the evolution and decision to build a van crystalized when I realized this was possible.
- The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns was one of the best docu-series I have ever seen. After watching this documentary I realized that while I spent my life traveling the world I had neglected the treasures in my own backyard.
All of these catalysts came into my life at around the same time (Spring of 2017) and by the Summer of 2017 I had made up my mind to change the trajectory of my life. Within a year I had built my van, sold my stuff, sold my company and was hitting the road to begin the physical journey that was a manifestation of the mental, philosophical and spiritual journey I had just embarked on.
If you have anymore questions about my philosophies or journey feel free to reach out to me!