Minimalism with Colin Wright

As a self-proclaimed fan girl , I was extremely excited about this feature. There are few minimalists out there that I look up to, and played a big part in my decision to becomine a minimalists, and Colin Wright is one of those people, which makes this feature very special for me.

Little about Colin, aside from being a minimalist, he is an author, speaker, blogger, and podcaster who travels full-time, relocating to a new country every four months, with each home/location determined by his readers— Colin is currently based in Memphis, Tennessee where he spend most of his time working on his podcast Let's Know Things,  finishing up on a new book and learning how to cook.

Colin's journey to minimalism began 8 years ago (2009) when he decided to get rid of most of is belongings (things that couldn't fit into a carry-on bag) and pursue an Exile Lifestyle (his then blog). Since 2009, he has visited about 60 countries,  and all 48 contiguous US states (twice).

Down below Colin talks about his journey to minimalism

How do you define minimalism?

I usually think of it as figuring out what's important so you can clear away the superfluous to make more room for the vital.

What or who inspired you to become a minimalist?

A lifestyle change. I made a hard pivot from running a branding studio in LA and all the accoutrement that comes with being a business owner in such a competitive market, to deciding that I wanted to start living, rather than working myself to death aspiring to someday live.

I wanted my life to orient around travel, so a key component of that pivot was getting rid of anything I couldn't carry. As I streamlined my stuff, I noticed the benefits, started writing about it, and at some point someone told me I was a minimalist...back then there weren't too many people writing on the subject, so I hadn't come across it before.

What are some advantage and disadvantage of being a minimalist? 

It's mostly advantages, actually. If you find yourself getting rid of things that you actually need, that are actually valuable in some way, then you're doing it wrong. Minimalism isn't about denying yourself things, it's about having more of the good stuff, and less of the stuff that you feel compelled (for whatever reason) to have; and that includes possessions, but also relationships, work, and everything else.

So I guess you could say that some people consider it weird to be a minimalist, which could be construed as a downside. But there are not a lot of downsides to focusing on the important stuff, thankfully.

Is minimalism or the exile lifestyle for everyone?

Traveling full-time certainly is not. I think the vast majority of people would probably hate to live the way I life; it's a lifestyle very custom-tailored for me and my priorities.

You could make the argument that minimalism is for everyone, I think—I hate to claim absolutes, so I won't make that claim. But it's such an individual thing that anyone who's suffering from minimalism is probably trying to live according to someone else's standard for it, and as such, is not doing it right. For folks who are actually looking at their own priorities, though, and refining their lives to be more aligned with their wants and needs? It's hard to imagine someone who wouldn't benefit from that at least a little.

It seems like the minimalist lifestyle is becoming mainstream, what do you think is driving this shift in mindset?

Oh, I think there are a lot of variables. Part of it is a pushback against the conspicuous consumption of the 80s and 90s. Part of it is a response to more recent political and economic happenings. Part of it is the popularity of certain aesthetics that do particularly well on social networks that have gone super-visual. Part of it is carried by the convergence of new technologies that allow us to have less conspicuous forms of luxury, and access to valuable things without needing to own them.

I think it's important to distinguish between 'minimalism' the visual and consumer trend, though, and 'minimalism' the philosophy. There are a lot of 'minimalist' products that aren't; they might be structurally simple, but they might also be largely superfluous and more or less piggybacking on the minimalism trend. Both are growing, and either can lead to the other, but I think the larger, more mainstream version—at the moment at least—is the one that encourages people to buy things with a certain color palette or price tag, rather than the one that encourages people to think hard about what they buy and whether buying will be a better use of their time, energy, and resources than their other options.

People often think of minimalism as a mission to rid the world of all consumerism, what do you say to those that think that’s what minimalism is all about?

It's more about buying the right things, than not buying things. The 'right' things will be different for everyone, of course, but it's absolutely not anti-consumption. It's anti-thoughtless and anti-compulsory consumption, but it's kind of pro-intentional consumption.

We live in a society that value material possessions, which makes the transition to minimalism seem impossible at first, how do you suggest people make that first leap of letting go of material possession?

Figure out what's actually important to you, first. Don't just start tossing stuff, figure out where you want to be, how you want to get there, why that direction makes sense.

Have a less-cluttered space can be valuable all by itself, but the bigger point is clearing your space and your mind to ensure you have plenty of everything to commit to whatever it is that's most important to you. Taking that time to stop, step back, and look at things from a new, wider perspective ensures you're not just going through the motions. It can also help clarify why you're doing it to begin with, which makes the process more of a pleasure and less of a task.

Does a less-is-more life bring happiness?

It certainly does for me! I'm having a blast.

Do you miss having a normal home or ‘life’ that doesn’t involve having to constantly travel?

I tend to view wherever I'm at in the moment as my home, so it's not an issue most of the time.

I do miss certain people sometimes, but I also have the ability to stay in touch with them and visit them regularly, so it's not as big a deal as you might think. I like the fish-out-of-water feeling that comes with unfamiliar surroundings, and I like the process of making a strange place feel cozy and familiar.

That said, I do mix things up: at the moment I'm spending a year in Memphis, so I have more of a typical home life than usual. Balance is key with anything, and this is how I strike that balance, to ensure that I don't miss out on anything.

Can you tell is us what the Let’s Know Things podcasts is about?

It's a news analysis podcast, through which I add context to current events.

Each episode, I take an article from the news and extrapolate on it, explaining why it's important, how it connects to other issues of the day, the historical significance of it, and different ways to think about it, from as many angles as possible.

I release a new episode each week, and it's currently my favorite thing I'm working on. It's such an incredible challenge, and super-rewarding.

What elements of life is important to you? and how do you incorporate minimalism?

I'm happiest when I feel challenged and like I'm growing. I also like feeling free to pursue whatever random thing seems interesting at the moment, and being able to take on new projects even if they aren't going to be big money makers.

In this case, focusing on the important things means making enough money so that I can pay the bills, but also not fixating on money to the point where I don't have plenty of time to spend on all those other things. Striking that kind of balance isn't easy, but it's something I've been working on for many years now, and it allows me to have more or less 24-hours a day to spend on stuff I enjoy doing.

What are important life lesson have you learn as a result of becoming a minimalist?

A lot of what other people care about will be utterly unimportant to you, and that's okay. And the same is true in reverse: a lot of the most important things in the world, to you, will seem meaningless to others. There's nothing wrong with this. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we were all into the same things.

How do you like to begin and end your days?

I change it up quite a bit, but lately I've been doing about ten minutes of exercise in the morning, followed by ten minutes of quietly thinking about nothing at all.

At night I have an exercise routine that goes for about twenty minutes, and then I tend to read (usually fiction) for maybe an hour before going to sleep.

What elements are crucial to your workflow and creativity?

I've worked hard to make sure I'm not reliant on any outside factor, when it comes to feeling creative. You just never know what you'll have available when you're traveling, so I've gotten good at being able to get in the zone wherever I am, whatever's going on around me.

That said, I enjoy coffee in the morning and big glasses of water the rest of the day. I don't know why, but having a simple, clean beverage at hand while I work helps me stay in the right mindset, longer.

What are you currently working on? and What's next for Colin Wright?

My podcast is taking up a lot of my time at the moment, and I'm very happy about that.

I'm also learning to cook, learning to play the piano, and doing a lot more flexing of my guitar playing and singing than I've been able to do for a long while; some habits are trickier to maintain on the road, and anything involving instruments or crooning into a microphone is included on that list.

I've got a few books outlined, and I've been working on a lot of smaller creative projects here and there. A lot of my effort right now, though, beyond the podcast and playing music, has been on filling in some of the gaps in my practical education. If you travel full-time long enough, the 'staying in one place' thing begins to seem somewhat exotic and mysterious, so I've been doing my best to live a holding-still lifestyle to its fullest, and seeing how my priorities translate into a space where I'm still not inclined to own a lot, but in which I have more than just a carry-on bag-worth of real estate to work with. It's been quite the adventure, thus far.

Where you can find out more about Colin:

Exile Lifestyle, Let's Know Things, IG @colinismyname and twiter @colinismyname


Photo:  Colin Wright