Leaving behind the materialistic, consumer-driven rat-race in search of a simpler way of living – it’s the driving force behind many people’s choice to travel the world. For me, it was a liberating experience to sell my house and the majority of my possessions, to sever the connection between the material things that tethered me to the UK and to pack my life into just one backpack. It was a welcome realisation to find that I didn’t miss the things that I’d taken for granted at home, the things that I assumed that I needed. Nail varnish, makeup, high-heels and expensive hair products have become obsolete, I wear a rotation of the same 9 or 10 outfits without batting an eyelid, and staples of normal evenings in at home – TV, microwave meals, hot showers – have quickly faded into a distant memory of a life that I no longer really crave. After a couple of months living merrily in more spartan conditions, I congratulated myself on the knowledge that I didn’t need large amounts of money or expensive things to make my travels happy ones.
So it sounds counterintuitive to be celebrating this day as if it’s the second coming, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t over the moon. Because today’s the day that I’ve finally got a laptop again.
A couple of weeks ago, my prized laptop died on me. After three years of loyal service it simply turned off its lights and refused to wake up, and no amount of prodding, poking or cajoling could tempt it back to life. To say I was annoyed would be an understatement: I was crushed. My primary means of communication was gone, and I was faced with the prospect of a long stretch of the blog equivalent of radio silence; after months of hard work and dutiful posting, the defunct laptop represented a whole lot more than a simple technical failure.
It didn’t take me long to convince myself that I needed a new laptop, that the expense could be justified. Thanks to a couple of pieces of freelance work, I had a small amount of cash set aside and, with the breakdown coinciding with my birthday, the gifts from my family that were earmarked for treats such as a new bikini or a posh dinner out were swiftly diverted towards the ‘new computer fund’. But deciding to commit to the expense was the easy part. What followed was a complicated process whereby I used someone else’s credit card to deliver a high-cost item to a complete stranger in Tulsa. This stranger (a very generous one I might add) then packed the laptop into his luggage and brought it with him to Roatan where he’s spending a week diving with the shop. It’s not the smoothest purchasing model I assure you.
After its eventful journey into my waiting arms, I switched it on and began eagerly tapping away. I had been looking forward to seeing the warm glow of a screen, hearing the satisfying clack of keys for days, and I felt pure elation to be reunited with my means of expressing myself. But in doing so, I was forced to assess just how footloose and fancy-free my attitude towards living abroad is. I left my convetional life in the UK to experience new levels of freedom, to divorce myself from the shackles of a desk job, from staring at a screen all day. So can I really claim that I’m living a simpler life, unfettered by the expensive wants and desires of the Western world, when I send myself into a meltdown the second my high-end gadget fails on me?
This unfortunate malfunction has been a valuable exercise in perspective for me; I have been forced to reevaluate the things that I really want, as well as need in life to make me happy. Whilst there’s a whole raft of things that I’ve willingly, often even unwittingly, narrowed down or gone without all together, when it comes down to the basics, the things that I would say I need to make my new life run smoothly, they’re not quite as basic as I so smugly thought.
I know that I’m lucky to be able to class access to a laptop, an underwater camera and a smartphone as ‘need’-to-haves, and I’m immensely grateful that being able to do so allows me to pursue travel blogging seriously. But I also strive to remember that doing so requires sacrifices else where. I will happily forgo new clothes, fancy meals out and top shelf liquor, if it means I can rent an apartment that has wifi and pay for urgent repairs to my gadgets. It’s all about finding the balance between what you want from your time abroad, and what you really need to make the experience the one you’d planned it to be.
What do you rely on when you travel? What’s the one thing you’d feel lost without?