Colin Wright is an author, entrepreneur, minimalist and full-time traveller who left behind a successful career and material lifestyle six years ago to pursue a more meaningful way of life, redefining success beyond money. Every four months he moves to a new country, and his readers get to decide where he’s going. His possessions count roughly 55 in total, and they all fit into a carry-on.
What lead you to embark on this journey and embrace a somewhat unconventional lifestyle?
There were a lot of variables, but mainly I realized that I had always wanted to explore the world — to learn what I could from it and meet all the people out there I would never otherwise meet — and I kept putting it off because of “more important things,” which at the time meant running my business. The business was doing well, but I was killing myself with overwork and focusing on money to the exclusion of all else, including my health, relationships, growth, and happiness. It wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle.
So I recalibrated and figured out how I could travel full-time for a while. I got rid of my stuff and hit the road; it didn’t make sense to hold on to the things I couldn’t fit in carry-on bags, and I decided that I could have it all back, eventually, if I wanted it, and if the travel thing wasn’t as amazing as I hoped it would be. I could always make more money, but I could never get more time.
Thankfully I loved it from day one: it’s been six years of travel, and I consider leaving that lifestyle behind one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What is minimalism to you, and how has it influenced your way of life?
To me, minimalism is the intentional, focused use of my time, energy, and resources (like money). It’s knowing myself well enough to understand what brings me joy and fulfillment, and what helps me grow, so that I can focus on those activities, relationships, habits, and everything else.
It’s about getting the most possible value out of the time I have by eschewing the superfluous and amplifying the core, vital components of my life. This has changed the way I do things in every particular, and in each case for the better.
Being a full-time traveller, how do you make a living on the road? How do you manage financially?
I make my living from my books. I have all of my time to spend on whatever I like, these days, and I spend a lot of that time writing about whatever seems interesting at the moment. Sometimes that means I’m writing about philosophy or relationships, sometimes it’s science fiction or collections of short stories. I’ve been fortunate to build up an audience of people who enjoy my work over the last six years, through my published work and my blog, and that’s allowed me to pretty much write about anything, so long as it brings value to someone out there who reads my work or knows my story.
That said, being an author pays a lot less than my old work as a brander, so being a minimalist certainly helps. I don’t spend money on things that don’t feed back into that lifestyle I’ve built for myself, and as such have plenty to spend on travel, self-education, and having new experiences.
I imagine that you face naysayers every now and again, and I’m curious as to how you tackle them and in general tackle living life differently from the majority of the people you meet on the road?
You know, I don’t have as many people nay-saying as you might think. I do get people who question my choices, wondering why I’m not taking the same path they took. But most often when I explain the rationale behind my choices, and what I enjoy as a result, they let it go, or even ask for advice about how they can do the same. I’m not proselytizing a lifestyle that’s right for everyone; just something that’s worked for me, and some ideas that helped me achieve it.
Presenting it in a way that makes clear folks can take or leave whatever they want from what I’m presenting helps, since it keeps them from thinking I’m preaching at or judging them in some way.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned on your journey so far?
You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do, so act accordingly.
We’re all human first, and everything else is icing. The lines we draw in the sand to designate ‘others’ who are supposedly different from us are fairly arbitrary and political, not absolute statements about the people on either side of the lines.
Be nice and ask a lot of questions.
Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot; people don’t really care and aren’t judging as harshly as you think. And the ones who are aren’t worth your attention or concern.
Go, do, enjoy, be uncomfortable, learn from it, get back up when you fall, grow confident as a result, be hurt sometimes but grow from that, as well. Repeat.
Finally, can you give one or two good pieces of advice to someone looking to simplify their life in order to live more meaningfully?
Take the time to really, truly know yourself. All the simplifying in the world won’t do a thing for you if you’re being intentional based on other peoples’ intentions and preferences. This isn’t easy; it’s actually a lot harder than the simplifying. But it’s totally worth it, on many levels.
You’re not required to help anyone else, but if you can build yourself into someone who creates excess value, who is strong as an individual and as such has left over energy to use to help others, that’s really wonderful. Do your best to leave people better than you found them, and know that you’re doing it because you can, not because you have to.
(Photo credit: Joshua Weaver)