redwood sorrel

A Lighter Footprint

No-nonsense Jack Reacher owns no clothes beyond what he wears. This is minimalism at its extreme. And while we’re not yet to the ideal of Lee Child’s fictional tough guy, we’re not far off either.

We own two weeks’ worth of clothes. When something wears out beyond the repair of our tiny sewing kit (or gets pilfered by a wild animal, as our flip-flops were when left outside in the desert), then we have fewer clothes. 

Enough of that, and we’ll wrap up our Havens Path tour with nothing to wrap up in.

So be it.

We had too many clothes to start with. Now I have a pair of jeans, a pair of khakis, and a pair of hiking zip-offs. If I’m not wearing one of these long pants I’m wearing one of the four pairs of shorts I own – all of which I got at thrift stores as a way to game the system. If they wear or tear on the road, that’s okay. There’s no room and no need for designer duds on this trip.

Rachel’s wardrobe is similarly spare. 

We can’t help ourselves from buying the small, one-off item that will conjure memories and wonder each time we handle it, or the growing collection of souvenir stickers that make us happy whenever we look at them, but on the whole we’re shedding possessions, not acquiring them. 

Which is an intentional continuation of the plan we’ve been working on for six years now.

Sure, there’s value in simplicity for its own sake: less overhead maintenance, a heightened appreciation for the fewer things we have, a constant re-affirmation that item must spark joys to earn their portage levy.

Simple costs less. Less money and less psychic weight.

There’s also the confidence boost that comes from having mastery over what you own, pioneer style. We’re gaining that with our bikes. There’s no shop around the corner to fix the latest flat, adjust the derailleurs when they get out of line, or swap out grips and other accessories. That’s on us.

There’s a satisfying connectedness in learning to take care of your own stuff, whether you want to or not.

And the lack of a fixed address has forced us to abandon our embarrassing pack-a-day Amazon habit in our brick-and-mortar before-times. It’s just not convenient (as it used to be, and overly so) to acquire anything from a long distance. Instead, for example, we’re doing a giant fraction of our groceries at serendipitous roadside markets — to the peril of drivers behind us when we brake too suddenly after spotting one!

The bonus is that this kind of hyperlocal shopping leaves a lighter footprint than we’ve ever done before.

And by not spending so much time wrapped up in all our stuff, we have more time to wander among and appreciate the world directly around us.

Which this week is Northern California’s giant redwoods – living and fossilized – where I’ve been wearing one of the four pairs of shorts that I own … that have been torn and mended once already.

I don’t think the trees noticed.

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