Pre-departure: The art of letting go of my earthly possessions and convert it to cash!

aka declutter and sell my crap.

Apologies. This post was in draft mode even before I started my Central America trip (since Nov 2012) but is now finally published. Thought I share a little pre-trip perspective with everyone now so I can move forward with my others (still in draft mode) post, (Packing List series).

I confess. I am a pack rat and I feel more comfortable being surround with stuff than living in an empty space “a la extreme minimalist style”. I have too much stuff. Metaphysically speaking, I was probably using the stuff to fill the voids in my life; whatever that void happens to be. Admittedly, Americans spent far more disposable income on “toys” to entertain themselves and myself included in this informal survey/statistic.

For some, it is about owning the latest tech gadget or the most efficient, multifunctional gourmet kitchen appliance or arts and crafts. For the fashionista in us, the adrenaline would be luxury purses, high end designer clothing, expensive shoes or fine jewelry.  How about all of the above? I think I can identify myself as one of the above, one time or another, in my former life as a consuming American.

This consumption and acquiring behavior was so bad that I even had to recruit a professional organizer for help in April of 2012 to help me declutter my guest room cum home office cum Yoga room cum craft room. Of course, at the time, I didn’t have the vision to down size nor going on an extended trip.

A glimpse of my hired professional organizer

Fast forward to the present. Having a preset departure date for my Central America really kick my tushy in dropping my  lazy couch potato and avoidance attitude in getting rid of my material accumulation. In the past, I typically took the lazy short cut by dropping the stuff off at Goodwill, Discovery shop, Career Closet or the homeless shelter, depending on the contents of the donation. This time, with a pre-scheduled trip of 2 months throughout Central America, and another trip shortly after that, I need to either save or raise as much money as possible. This can be done by either reducing my monthly expenses or sell off my stuff. I did a combination of both to financially sustain my traveling plan/budget. I’ve sold stuff on Ebays in it’s early infancy years but it’s been too long since I could be bother with online selling as the effort put in didn’t justify the end result. With long term traveling in plan, I turned to the “no fee” friendly Craigslist.

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I started out with big, bulky items like furniture and home decors. This is no easy job as I have to do it auction style:

  • Multiple pictures of the item
  • Single listing of each item
  • Copy writing of the item
  • Take measurement of the item
  • List the item
  • Be available for showing/picking up of the item
  • Email/availability coordination of the item
  • Double list/post the item on my blog

In the end, the effort paid off as I had people shown up, paid me money to take things away from me. Totally saved me a trip to The Goodwill store or other similar donation centers.

Total cash raised from Craigslist sell: $293.00 USD

Lesson learned: While I was selling my stuff on Craigslist, I also met with many buyers whom I share a similar ill habit yet common among American. Many of the stuff I sold were never use, or very gently use due to my lack of inspiration to carry through an idea or execute  the elaborate interior decor theme I originally came up with. In the end, most of these stuff were just sitting there gathering dust, and taking up valuable real estate space. I always wanted more room, more space for my stuff (or craps, actually).  These stuff were just sitting in my guest bedroom or was being a sad decor piece. I was so happy that I was able to make almost $300 USD for the sale, but the sad true is, it was just a fraction of what I’ve paid for in the first place.

This week marks my 7th weeks on the road of my Central America trip, and living out of my backpack, I learned real well that many of the precious things in life, sometimes, are just “the experiences” or “relationships”, and not the material possessions. With 7 weeks of travel in the region under my belt, I have not met more than 5 Americans which 3 are from California and 1 from Boston and the last one from New York. This could be due to distance or close proximity to Central America but this also double confirms that American are too busy paying bills to be able to freely travel like their European or Australian/New Zealand counterpart. It is very normal for European to have a gap year immediately of high school graduation to travel, or working profession to take off for a career break. I met 3 cocky, ignorant, Standford University to be student at El Retiro lodge in Guatemala and they were asking: so, are you going to return to your work after this “career break”? Or how they aggressively asking me what I do for a living, a la “interview style”. Duh….they were rushing off to tick off the list of places off their list (less than 2 weeks in Guatemala), and not have a vacation, in my opinion and at the same time, eagerly show off their “knowledge”. I think I can normally spot if people were trying too hard and this was one of those case. I hated that I ran away from the rat-race of corporate/Silicon Valley and ran straight into these dudes.

In summary, I felt this much needed get away, slow travel vacation/career break has helped me to be more insightful about many things (both professionally and personally). But most of all, it helped to validate that I still love to travel, and when I returned to the US, would continue to find ways to save so I can travel more. The more “world” I see, the more I see that it’s too little time to do so, especially with the average American, 2 weeks vacation allotment. I wanted to live life to the fullest, explore the world, while I can still do it. I don’t want to do it comfortably, in some day mode. I know I’m speaking for some of my dear friends too, who would loved to be able to travel with me but due to health limitation, is traveling with me, armchair wise.

It’s a beautiful life. The world is your play ground. Now, get out and explore before it’s too late.

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