Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ What Travel Teaches Us



I am writing this post in hotel room in Amarillo, Texas, on my way home with the girls from an 11 day trip to Colorado. The girls and I drove; my husband flew. After more than two years of us having just one car, a van, I bought a Prius V a couple of months ago. I love it, and this is what we’re driving. (We kept the van for kid hauling duties and use it once a week or so.) The Prius V does not have a huge amount of storage space, as we have filled it. I keep thinking that Colleen would be appalled. She’s in the UK with Steve, and they probably have one suitcase and two backpacks total. Let’s just say the pioneers probably crossed the entire United States with less stuff than what we’ve packed.

But, let’s look at it another way. I was in the car with two kids for four days total. We cooked every meal in Colorado. We took some groceries, and we’re returning with some groceries. The only things that I packed but did not use were a rain coat and the game Apples to Apples, a couple of choices of books on CD that I check out from the library. Dan and I took pride in our “use it up challenge” of the refrigerator while on vacation. We wasted very little food; it was great.

Not bad.

What this makes me think of is all the things I have at home and can live without. Knick knacks, duplicates, books, games no one plays, excess dishes and china, craft supplies. All those things you think you can’t live without, or have to save for someday, or might use eventually. Do you really need them? Are they enhancing your life? Or are they just “stuff” that you can share with others or recycle, or maybe it’s time for a use it up challenge of your own.

Off to Palo Duro Canyon today and then home to Austin!


It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Oh Cindy! Dangit, you were in Colorado?? Shoot. Would have loved to try to meet up. I realize CO is a big state and maybe we weren’t even near each other, but would have been fun to try. Maybe next time, eh?

    I know what you mean about making do with less. There is a cabin we stay out in the mountains in CO a few times a year and it is super basic. Every time we are there, I think yep, I could live like this. And then I sit there and seriously consider it and I think maybe I couldn’t live like that. Work in progress, my dear. 😉

    • We played the game “could we really live here?” The kitchen had almost no storage or counter space, and the bathroom was about as small as it could get. I suppose we *could* live there, if we had too, but we sure would prefer a bit more room.

  2. Oh and by the way, I have read a lot of fun articles about Austin and the (hope I get this right) Riverwalk. Shops, restaurants, and galleries, Oh My! 😉 Maybe someday.

    • Lots of those things are in Austin, but the famous Riverwalk is in San Antonio about 90 miles away. It’s a favorite place of mine to visit when we go to San Antonio. Love, love, love the little boat tours they have on the River.

  3. Cool story! I can’t believe you all fit in a prius. I was thinking of trading my honda for one but then thought that it is a tin can. Well done! As for the stuff we don’ need at home: it is always on my mind. Over the past 2 weeks we have given away so much stuff! It is very difficult, but it is a process. I am not sure we ever “arrive”, but it is an interesting journey, for sure! Thanks for the post as always :)/

    • Hi Tony,

      I’ve been thinking lately about the “difficulty” aspect of decluttering, and your post made me curious about what, for you, is the difficult part. For me, I know I’m still “in process” and I seem to hit plateaus. But then I realize, over again, that I’m still wanting to downsize more because we want to move to a smaller place & I certainly don’t want to fill a smaller place with anything but items that I know I love and use.

  4. I think what really made me realize how little I really need was the idea of being able to travel with so much less. I want a little more than the basics long term but realized that I didn’t need a whole lot of stuff. Here in Arizona we have a lot of snow birds during our “winter.” They either have a second place here or they come in RV’s. What is really interesting is that they have so much less here than at their “summer” home yet stay here usually 4-6 months. If they can do without it that long seems they probably don’t need it. That has been another eye opener for me.

    • You’re right, Deb. It does seem if people live half a year without a bulk of their possessions, they would know that they really didn’t need them.

  5. Actually Cindy we only have two backpacks, a small camera bag and Colleen’s day bag (all up about 30lbs). Shame on you filling the car with so much stuff ;). We toured a Georgian house in Bath today, opulent but minimalist in style, Colleen really liked it. Next the Cotswolds and for me the British MotoGP (motorcycle racing). Colleen says hi to everyone.

    • Good for you guys. That’s traveling light and I love it. Have a great time and hello to both of you.

    • Welcome to Blighty Steve and Colleen :0) Glad we are serving up a little decent weather for you. And Bath and the Cotswolds are so beautiful. Lovely warm Cotswold stone buildings.

    • So glad that you both are having a terrific time! The experiences and memories that traveling gives you is what is important, no need to complicate it with too much luggage to have to keep up with.

    • Show offs!!!!

  6. LoVe this article of ur Travel 🙂 it sounds like u really did only take what u needed 🙂
    Did u use Paper products ( plates napkins etc ) or did u bring ur dishes ? )
    At home do u use Cloth Napkins etc ? I’m just curious 🙂 for the fun of knowing I guess

    • The cabin had dishes. I use paper plates less than once a year. At home I have cloth napkins. On this trip, we made due with paper towels for napkins.

  7. LoVe this story 🙂
    Did u take dishes or paper product on ur trip ?
    When at Home do u use Cloth Napkins ?

  8. I am still only a baby at this. But what has horrified me is how much stuff we have got rid of and haven’t noticed one little bit. Steve and Colleen if you come north (Durham) you are most welcome to stop by for a cup of tea and cake. You will be horrified by how much stuff we have, but we are getting there…. one pair of shoes at a time 🙂 Enjoy your holiday. I love bath and the Cotswolds are beautiful.

  9. Ah, Austin…. Our fave city, Cindy. Travel can declutter our minds and then in turn assist us in decluttering our environments upon our return. One can be used to fuel the other. Love how that works, don’t you?

  10. GracefromBrazil

    Cindy, it is a different story, I think, when you have to be making your own meals and are trying to keep from making unnecessary purchases. It makes it a bit hard to travel as light as you would like to. I think traveling really does force you to carry around with you just the things you need. It gets tiresome real fast when you don’t have any room. We just got done with living out of our oldish Grand Cherokee Jeep for about 4 months. I am so glad to finally be back to where we live in Brazil, I can’t tell you. As we traveled I used only a small carry-on suitcase the whole time for my stuff. I did have another bag as my traveling office. My kids also had to keep it simple. But we also had to carry camping stuff (which saved us a ton of money, but nevertheless took up space) so our Jeep always felt stifling to me. I looked at everything critically often. We were always dropping stuff off at the closest Goodwill as soon as it was not needed anymore.. I kind of longed for a mini-van which we had used in the past but I have a feeling I would have filled that up if given the chance.

    We stopped in Amarillo on our way to Colorado at the end of July. We loved the amazing landscapes we saw along the way.

    • I’m with you Grace – I thought the landscape from the mountains through the semi-arid desert was really fascinating.

  11. Great post today, Cindy. I have told my story a few times before on here, and although it does not compare to what could fit into a Prius V, it is worth repeating. I lived without my stuff, just the bare essentials in a rental home, for about seven months. It was a huge eye opener for me. Not having that stuff around truly taught me that I really did not need, nor did I miss, the vast majority of the items that were being stored until I found a home to buy. I continue to evaluate my things and reduce everyday.

    • That’s great Jen. One thing I’m realizing more and more as I progress in this journey is that it would be SO MUCH BETTER if we didn’t accummulate a bunch of crap THEN decide we didn’t need it. It’s a waste of money and resources.

  12. I enjoyed this article – loved the bit about the pioneers crossing the wilderness – (I was a bit Laura Inghalls Wilder fan as a girl) – oh yes I’m sure we could travel extremely light if we had to but if one doesn’t have to, well, there’s no harm in that. In fact it could be argued that it can save buying duplicate items while away. 🙂

    Travelling with kids does prompt the need for a few more contingencies and depending on age more changes of clothing to accommodate a higher rate of clothing turnover. Yes it can be done more spartan but its a vacation not necessarily a challenge. I find that we do travel lighter in general these days but I do find items in my suitcase upon return that havn’t be used but its reassuring as we leave to know that bases are covered. Its easy to say that if we find that we’re missing something we can get another one, but I’d rather carry a few extra ‘just in case’ items than end up with unnecessary purchases.

    • That should have read “I was a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan”, not a bit fan. 🙂

      • You bit fan.

        I was a fan too, but interestingly, when I read those books to my girls a few years ago, they didn’t hold any of our attention. The same with the Nancy Drew books I loved as a girl. Interesting, I thought.

  13. Every time I go on holidays I think this, what do we need all that stuff at home for? We can live perfectly well without it on holidays so why do we need it at home?

  14. Very topical for me! We have just returned from a 12 night tour around the Dorset (UK) coastline. I too came home and thought about all the things I didn’t require. Most days I cooked and had just one sharp knife to use. It really helps to put it into perspective!
    Hope you enjoyed your trip…

  15. Yes! I love that you noticed how little you need compared to all that might be at home. In packing for a recent trip, I knew my children would want to bring favorite toys, but even they only had a few favorites when I mentioned they had to fit in a backpack. I smiled when I realized how few things I could think of that I wanted to bring. Really just the computer, Kindle (much as I prefer paper books), and a place to jot down notes and pens to write with. I packed literally ALL of my favorite clothes which isn’t much. That reminds me I should clear everything else out and work on my wardrobe!

    • One thing I was kind of appalled at was the number of electronic devices we brought, and the “care and feeding” they all required. I’m embarrassed to confess but will – 2 tablets, 1 iPod Touch, 2 laptops, and 3 cell phones for 4 people.

      • We had an ipod too for music! And 2 cell phones (one for DH work). If I had a tablet, I’d have brought one instead of my big laptop. Thankfully, we were so busy, the electronics were barely used so they didn’t need to be charged while we were away. I checked email, and the ipod played music only in the car when one child tired of the radio songs.

  16. Last weekend I escaped to the country with some friends. We stayed at an amazing holiday farm house. We all instantly felt at home and enjoyed just being in the house. It felt like someone had given us the keys to their home and said “here you go, stay at mine, just like it is, for a few days.”

    As we chatted about what made it feel so wonderful and like home, is that it is full of those nick nacks and personalised touches of home that you usually don’t find in hotels, holiday lets and cabins. Holiday places can feel almost clinical and stark in their barrenness and unclutteredness. This place was the opposite. Full of treasures but not cluttered or untidy.
    Some of the items have some value but most were obviously things not of high monetry value but there because Annie simply loves them and wants to share that with others.

    It reminded us that while TOO MUCH stuff can be stressful and wasteful, having SOME THINGS you love around you makes life comfortable and happier than a barren room where the chance of theft outweighs the value of making guests feel at home.

    • Well you make a good point. Decorations do make a home more cozy. I noticed that I started decorating our cottage right away by collecting pine cones and lining them up on the railing of the porch. While I don’t care for a completely sterile environment either, buying knick knacks just for the knick knack of them, rather than for love, seems like a bad plan to me.