Graham Hill in the NYTimes discusses his epiphany while touring the world in the arms of an Andorran beauty:
I DON’T know that the gadgets I was collecting in my loft were part of an aberrant or antisocial behavior plan during the first months I lived in SoHo. But I was just going along, starting some start-ups that never quite started up when I met Olga, an Andorran beauty, and fell hard. My relationship with stuff quickly came apart.
I followed her to Barcelona when her visa expired and we lived in a tiny flat, totally content and in love before we realized that nothing was holding us in Spain. We packed a few clothes, some toiletries and a couple of laptops and hit the road. We lived in Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Toronto with many stops in between.
A compulsive entrepreneur, I worked all the time and started new companies from an office that fit in my solar backpack. I created some do-gooder companies like We Are Happy to Serve You, which makes a reusable, ceramic version of the iconic New York City Anthora coffee cup and TreeHugger.com, an environmental design blog that I later sold to Discovery Communications. My life was full of love and adventure and work I cared about. I felt free and I didn’t miss the car and gadgets and house; instead I felt as if I had quit a dead-end job.
The relationship with Olga eventually ended, but my life never looked the same. I live smaller and travel lighter. I have more time and money. Aside from my travel habit — which I try to keep in check by minimizing trips, combining trips and purchasing carbon offsets — I feel better that my carbon footprint is significantly smaller than in my previous supersized life.
Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.
The piece generally discusses the benefits of simplifying one’s life and becoming less attached to objects of consumption. It is, to use Berry’s phrase, about maximizing one’s well-being with a minimum of consumption, surely a worthwhile reminder. Still, the piece made me uneasy, and this probably because I found the author to be the wrong messenger. It comes across as an affectation of the 1% rather than an insight into how we might better organize social life. True, it is better that persons make such choices rather than not, and better that the outcome in question be a result of such choice rather than coerced through government planning, but the constant references to his wealth make it seem as if such living is an indulgence of the super-rich rather than a mode of being within everyone’s grasp. It still seems all so deracinated to me, but maybe I’m just picking nits.