How traveling has changed my views about materialism and possessions

By Cacinda Maloney

OK, I will admit it, I was pretty  crazed about the latest and greatest things I could get  my hands on.  There was a time when I went crazy furnishing my house, having the walls faux painted by a professional artist, to get my house on the inside, to look like those houses in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico *since you know it is one of my lovers!  I even purchased a copper sink for my kitchen (which I love by the way), installed granite counter-tops and bought old furniture to give it just the right look (I own lots of wrought iron and carved wood furniture pieces).   And it does actually look like one one of those San Miguel haciendas, only more high end and less rustic, because I started with a new build and some of those houses date back 350-500 years ago.  But, over time, day after day, I noticed that my house would have to get remade, meaning done up again and again.   With two kids,  and a busy husband, and even with the full time nanny and housekeeper I had, only a few moments or hours of my life was spent actually admiring those beautiful walls and accessories while the house was in that perfect state.  Here’s a photograph of when my house was actually in its’ perfect state around Christmas time one year:

I was also heavily into diamond jewelery and designer purses and clothes.  As I look back, I realize that so much money was spend on high dollar items, that quite frankly, I didn’t need.  They just added to my collection of stuff.  What I begin to feel over time about  these things, was emptiness.  They weren’t bringing me the joy they once did.

I realized that since I had the beautiful china dishes, I then needed the napkin rings, the cloth napkins, the table cloths, the matching wine glasses with charms, the place mats, etc, you get the drift.  And I have all of that and then just suddenly realized that I don’t like to entertain that much.  I mean, I love the perfect catered party, but if it was just a thrown together party, I didn’t like it at all.  I liked the glam and the glitz of the party, but not cooking or cleaning up afterwards.  I loved the conversations with my guests, but really wanted my parties to be perfect: outstanding.  I soon realized that the more I had the more I needed,  then, as I collect stuff,  I then need shelves, cabinets, drawers and bookshelves to put all of my stuff in or on.  It became a vicious cycle of stuff needing stuff.  It just started to get to me.

As I traveled, I noticed that the joys in my life began to emerge.

I started enjoying things other than “stuff”.  Things like reading, art, music, writing and photography.   I didn’t necessarily have to buy stuff anymore.  Now I could just look at it, read it, listen to it, etc.  I appreciated it and could be just as satisfied as I used to be when I was driven to buy it.  Suddenly, I was passionate about something other than designer clothes, purses and jewelery!  Each trip would bring me more peace than the last.  It got to where I was only truly living peacefully while on these trips (I think that is part of the reasons I took so many trips.)  These feelings were the catalysts for change I so thoroughly needed.  In fact, it was part of the reason I started to write this travel blog.  Doing something other than collecting stuff now gave me my joy back.

Having traveled to so many cities and countries with many different cultures and economic classes, I now have a new respect for simplicity.  I did just return from a trip, where some of my fellow travelers were buying everything under the sun, and it was at that point that I confirmed to myself that I don’t NEED as much stuff as I used to.  Sure, I still like stuff, but travel gives me simplicity, it engages my mind and lets me dream thoughtfully about life.  It helps me define who I am and who I am becoming.  For me, travel is my new “stuff”.  I enjoy collecting each memory and storing it away in my mind instead of in my house or in my closet.  I am fortunate enough to share these memories with others and now they can see my collection.  It is really not that different than coming into my home, but now you get to come into my collection of experiences and memories, and this gives me joy!



  1. BlondeBrunetteTravel November 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    It’s surprising isn’t it how travel changes your view of possessions? I used to buy Armani suits, diamond jewelry and ridiculously priced handbags. Now I make way less money and am amazingly happier because I spend my money and my time on travel! Memories are what matters and stuff – especially as you get older – is just stuff that needs to be taken care of or disposed of. I’m still walking around with the nylon purse I took to TBEX in Girona and have sold some of my jewelry because now it just represents possible trips to me! I think this change in values is one of the main benefits – to me – of travel. Take care!

    • admin November 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      Blonde of Blondebrunette Travel! You said exactly what I was trying to express. Maybe it is because I am getting older, I am not quite sure, just know that all that “stuff” didn’t make me happier!

  2. Jeff Broman November 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I feel the same way. I do not have near the amount of stuff that other people have but it still feels like too much to me. I would rather spend my money on travel than more stuff that I do not need.

    • admin November 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      I am with you on that one Jeff. Makes downsizing seem more honest and worthwhile in this bad economy. I know when I used to travel, I would shop and shop and shop. I brought home everything under the sun and gave gifts to many (family, friends and employees), but now I just don’t feel the need. Its the experience that I bring home with me this time! Thanks for reading.

  3. garybembridge of November 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Good to read this post, as was a theme we spoke about when we met at TBE – and it is really a very important life lesson (without wanting to sound too dramatic!). Like so many things, we all often only realise this when it is too late – like a major health issue or loss of someone close to us – and so hopefully others will be inspired and reminded that chasing the dollar and possessions is not always going to be the most rewarding part if life. Dollars are good, when if they help enable more and more travel!!! Glad to see you enjoying you adventures still

    • admin November 17, 2012 at 12:16 am

      Gary, this seems to be a popular post amongst the middle aged travelers! I am so glad that I am past all that! Finally, life is good!

  4. […] Nor can I really explain it.  It is such a mixed bag of “stuff”. […]

  5. SUNDAY TRAVEL ADVENTURES - "A Journey through the streets of Istanbul, not Constantinople!" - Miles Momma November 26, 2012 at 9:09 am

    […] overwhelming. The streets of Istanbul Nor can I really explain it.  It is such a mixed bag of “stuff”. Is there such a travel blog where the writer doesn’t really write anything?  Words can barely […]

  6. […] THEN, I was thinking, all those souvenirs are the old me, and the new me would want a photo of each of my travel guests, in front of a row of famous […]

  7. Tiana Kai (@TianaKaiMiami) December 24, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Great read and thanks for reading my post about this too. The worst is when couples get married and their registry is $150 for a serving dish. I feel like telling them to get real and take that money to put into an amazing trip or art, i don’t get it. Also, dishes are things you can buy yourself as an adult, couples in their 30’s should already have dishes, am I right!? lol. I mean, I would hope they do. Merry Christmas!

    • admin December 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

      We are on the same page. More stuff just needs more stuff, that needs more stuff!

  8. NewNomads July 7, 2013 at 5:26 am

    1 year ago July 1 my husband and I started getting ready for our estate sale. On Aug 11 we finished up with 3 suitcases full of clothes, 2 laptop/camera bags and a jeep. We sold everything else including the house. We had been full time travelers for 7 years but couldn’t figure out how to be rid of our burden of stuff. We’d go home after months away and make feeble attempts to downsize but we’d get discouraged and distracted and then leave without making a dent. We finally decided to hire a professional to help with the prep/sale and he kept us focused and motivated. It was an astounding success.
    This past year has been a blissful relief from worrying about our “stuff”. The jeep and off season clothes are stored at my Dad’s and he forwards the mail every once in a while. That’s it! We are stuff free! I can’t express what an amazing relief it is to not to have to think about it all anymore.

    • admin July 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Nomadic travel is amazing, freeing you up from hanging on to “things”. Enjoy the adventure!

  9. […] the perfect gift to give this holiday season! (And it is free!) At this point in my life, I am less materialistic and more into experiences. This gift will give your loved ones an experience that they can navigate through on their phone or […]

Comments are closed.