Neo-Minimalism and the Rise of the Technomads

By Sean Bonner

The Rise of the Technomads
[Photo: Paris, 2010, by Sean Bonner]

By definition, "neo-minimalists" don't have an overabundance of things in their lives. But one thing they tend to have more and more of these days is visibility. Recently, The New York Times talked to some people participating in the 100 Thing Challenge about how it has affected their lives; The BBC looked into the "Cult of Less;" and here on Boing Boing, Mark has been getting down to the nitty-gritty of what the "lifestyle hack" involves. The common thread here is a growing number of people are realizing that our mountains of physical stuff are actually cluttering up more than just our houses. All of this is exciting to me, because it's something in which I have a growing personal interest: I have been taking steps to get rid of the mountains of stuff I now realize I have no reason to hang on to. In fact, I'm not just doing it myself—I'm trying to help start a revolution.

This is a big change for me. I've spent most of my life as collector: comics, records, t-shirts, old Japanese robot & kaiju toys, creepy garage sale junk, art—the whole list won't fit here, let alone in my storage space. But after many years living in the same place, I moved in 2006. In the process of preparing for that move, for the first time in as long as I can recall I had to physically touch everything I owned. I found myself wondering why I was still holding on to so much junk.

Since then, I've been on a mission to un-clutter my life and get rid of as much crap as I can. The process has been slow going, filled with reflection on individual objects and their value to me. I've been doing a lot of thinking about who I am and what I want out of this life.

I decided to value the gathering of experiences over the acquiring of stuff, and to get rid of stuff which would enable the gathering of more experiences. I'd have more cash from the sale of my stuff, and less stuff to worry about, should I want to move or travel for a while. Stuff gets old and breaks and takes up room in your house, experiences stick with you for life and make you a better person. The more I thought about this, the more obsessed I became. The more I traveled, the more I realized how much less stuff I actually need to be happy, and how much happier I was with less stuff. I knew I had physical clutter, I didn't realize how much mental clutter came with it. The more I travel the less I pack, and the more I realize that increasing what I own is just increasing cruft— and, that I should get rid of it.

What I'm packing
[Photo: What I'm packing, by Sean Bonner]

I started writing about this on my blog and it sparked many interesting discussions (like for frequent travelers, does "home" have to be just one place?), one of which being: technology enables this lifestyle shift, and is changing the way we interact with our surroundings (meaning our stuff, as well as our friends and family).

Fifty years ago I couldn't sell an extra bike in 20 minutes by posting it on Craigslist. Fifty years ago I couldn't tweet that I needed a place to stay in NYC for a weekend and within minutes have offers from 5 different friends. Fifty years ago I couldn't work from anywhere and be just as, if not more effective than if I was in one place. Fifty years ago I couldn't video chat at a moment's notice with my family from my mobile phone while traveling around the world. And If I have all these options open to me now, why am I not taking advantage of them?

As I talked with friends, I realized I wasn't the only one thinking about this. It was clearly a very interesting topic for quite a few of us, and we often wondered aloud just how mobile you can go, if you trim your stuff down to the absolute minimum.

I had some wild ideas, so earlier this year I decided to test the hypothesis. I held a huge garage sale and sold a ton of my stuff, gave up my lease in Venice Beach, CA, packed up a suitcase and a backpack of stuff I might need, and put everything else in storage to be reconsidered at a later date. Then, I set out to travel the world for the rest of the year.

Now, by "travel," I don't mean aimlessly bouncing from one place to another and sightseeing. I mean setting up home base in one city for an extended period of time, living there as I would anywhere else, and then moving on. So far I've spent time in Singapore, New York City, Toronto, and Paris. The rest of the year will see me in Montreal, Tokyo, Vienna and Berlin. All of that with various stops in between.

You may be thinking that this is an easy thing for a young single dude to try out, but with a family it would be impossible. I should have mentioned that my wife is traveling with me. And my son. Who was just born this past March. Yep. Three people (one of whom is an infant), three suitcases. It's totally possible, but it requires a willingness to take some big steps. It's not without challenges, but so far, I have found the rewards to be very much worth it. While we've been on the road, my wife and I keep thinking about the stuff sitting in storage in LA, how little of it we miss, and how much of it we can't wait to get rid of when we get back to town.

A moment on the metro
[Photo: My son, Ripley, meets a stranger on the Paris Metro, while in the arms of my wife, Tara.]

This crazy idea has been top of mind all year for me and my family (well, my wife, anyway, I'm not sure about the little guy), but it seems that we aren't alone in that, either. And that's exciting to think about. . I recently gave an Ignite talk about this and showed these slides to a sold out crowd in Toronto. The audience was extremely receptive to these crazy ideas, and it was very encouraging to hear feedback from so many people excited.

Like any good experiment, I plan to publish the results, and have been working on a book about what I'm learning along the way. But the more I look around, the more people I find asking similar questions, and trying out similar experiments on their own. I decided we needed a community— part support group, part sounding board — so I set up a mailing list for what I'm calling "technomads". It's a new list, but it's active and growing. I think some great ideas and stories are going to come from it. If you find any aspect of this interesting, check it out, and skim the archives to see what's going on. A few of us from the list are also pulling links and info together on the technomads newly launched website as well.

I'll be keeping some notes here as well, posting experiences and advice about things that might make it easier and mistakes I made that definitely made it harder. If nothing else, all of this should make for an amusing story to tell when I'm older.

But going "technomadic" also suggests the possibility of totally revolutionizing my life. Maybe yours, too. Stay tuned.

bad espresso
[Photo: Bad espresso, Paris, 2010, by Sean Bonner]

More at Boing Boing

Technomads: Mobile wireless computing at Burning Man
The nitty-gritty of whittling down your possessions
Extreme lifestyle-minimalists
The extreme minimalist life of the Pete Campbell Mad Men actor
Charlie the Unicorn lip-dubbed
More posts by Sean Bonner

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By Brian Ashcraft

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By Mary Roach

189 Responses to “Neo-Minimalism and the Rise of the Technomads”

  1. Art says:


    I smell temporary, indulgent hipster fad and not the kernel of sweeping social change.

    We should check back in with them in 5 years or so.

    • Anonymous says:

      you made my day with this comment.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have to say, Art has amused me quite endlessly this morning. Especially when I know of one tech nomad who started in 1991 with a bike tour of the middle east… with his family. No trust fund or wealthy family, either. He was a part-time school teacher who taught my fiance the first steps of computer programming in high school. He now travels, still with his family, on bikes. (I believe they can be looked up under “Family on Bikes”) A fad for rich kids… indeed. I think Art must be jealous and too worried about losing a safety net to attempt anything like this.

      I am far far from being an “over privileged” anything. My family is absolutely not “rich” in any financial sense. If I have a trust fund, I wish someone would tell me.

      Yet, a couple of months ago I stumbled across a newspaper article on tech nomads. It didn’t strike a chord, it set off the entire orchestra on a full blown concert performance.

      I was already on the way to the minimalist part. Some of that was by choice, some by force of circumstance (being divorced and going from a large house to rooming with friends and needing to fit what you need to live into one room.. not easy!) What I realized though, is that all these things I had gathered, didn’t mean anything to me that was lasting or real. I didn’t need, or even use, the boxes of crystal… most of which hadn’t ever been opened. With the advent of the e-reader, hauling around and storing 16 boxes of books seems stupid, doesn’t it?

      I read that article though, and it’ll be 4 yrs before I can hit the road, but by gods, YES. My friends and family are being supremely supportive in the decision. I’ve been getting help from quarters I never expected it from. Friends from several backgrounds are offering their services, for everything from legal to taxes to investments! I’m doing this, my children think it’s the most amazing concept in history and want to come with me after they finish college, and for the first time in about eight years, I feel like I’m actually alive.

      Thanks to all of you who’ve put yourselves at risk of being attacked by others to tell your stories.

      Art, if you’re not brave enough to take a leap into living a world that is free… or if you’re happy with the life you have… why do you feel the need to pick at people for not choosing the same thing you did? It’s no different than if I want Orange sherbet and you want vanilla ice cream. If we’re both happy with what we have, what’s the problem?

  2. Grey Devil says:

    Very interesting, and you hit the nail on the head that many people have been considering this lifestyle. My girlfriend and I have had several discussions about traveling, seeing new places, but not just for vacationing but to go to new places and live our lives to the fullest while seeing the world.

    At the moment it’s just a hopeful dream as we have things that are weighing us down more than possessions. Money and large debt. We both have school loans, credit cards to pay off, and in my case a few traffic tickets as well. So these things hold us more effectively in place than physical objects ever could. And perhaps you could write about this, i’d be very interested in reading what you have to say about that.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      I think that’s a very valid point but I don’t think the two things are so different honestly, I think the debt and bills are designed to keep keep you in that kind of a lifestyle, or less conspiracy like, designed with that lifestyle in mind. Getting out of that makes getting rid of those things easier. In one of the articles I linked to in the very beginning there is a story of a family with that very thing and how this move helped them.

      That said, I think just talking about it is valuable because it helps you consider the steps you take in the future.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think there’s anything “fad” about this. Stuff is becoming less and less necessary as technology replaces things like book and music collections and communications goes on the move.

    Heck, I work on the Internet and have been traveling now for 6 straight months with no real end in sight. I’m not even just “bumming” around the country.

    I think this article is spot on.

    • wierdbeard says:

      AMEN. To every word. Not a fad in the least, it’s a lifestyle that matches the mentality and habits of a great many people, and wouldn’t have been possible all that long ago.

  4. Anonymous says:

    my one complaint as to the furthering of this minimalist technology dependent lifestyle is the externalization of your infrastructure. this works in your big cities such as paris, nyc and so on. those cities certainly cannot support the majority of the population. the farther you get from all of this wonderful infrastructure, the more you need provide yourself.

  5. tkaraszewski says:

    I like this idea, up to a point. Getting rid of all the old magazines that have been piling up in your garage that haven’t been read since the day you first got them, years ago? Sure, by all means.

    But ideas like the “100 things challenge” take it too far, I think. That’s not to say you can’t live with just 100 things, but you really limit yourself if you do. You won’t be able to meet this limitation and still make things — when I say “make things” I mean real, physical things.

    Even a pretty minimalist kitchen probably has more than 100 pots and pans and knives and forks and strainers and thermometers in it. You can eat every meal out at restaurants, but you’ve removed your ability to become a great cook. Sure, you can borrow somebody else’s kitchen and say “but these things aren’t technically mine,” but that’s semantics and seems like cheating.

    Similarly, I probably have over 100 pieces of various types of sandpaper. I used these most recently to build a surfboard, along with a host of other tools — razors, brushes, a sander, a router, measuring cups. There are easily 100 items you’ll use if you want to do any sort of project like this.

    If your primary goal is to travel then having more than 100 things is a liability. Traveling is simpler with fewer things to lug around, and storage of things back home is expensive and doesn’t help you on your travels at all. But if your goal isn’t travel. If it is, for instance, creating things, then things can be simply tools, and they help you to accomplish your goals. These things are not liabilities but assets and should be considered as such. Imagine a mechanic who tried to limit his toolbox to 100 things — he’d be causing himself more difficulty, not making his life simpler.

    It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Minimalism for it’s own sake isn’t a goal I can understand. Minimalism for travel’s sake makes sense to me, but you have to remember that the goal is simplifying travel, not simply minimalism.

  6. bcsizemo says:

    I said it on a different post and I’ll say it again….where are his tools at when all his high tech stuff breaks?

    Sure I have a lot of stuff, but I’d say 85% of it has a purpose. (This is just MY stuff, there is lot of stuff in my house, but I don’t really care about that floor lamp over there….I’m talking about things she wouldn’t want if we got divorced, and no she’s not a tinker/mechanic/fix-it person.)

    I see this as a fad at best, or something to revel about in your 20’s. Reminds me of the old thing about backpacking around Europe after college graduation…. Sounds interesting, but I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      Since I’m in my mid 30’s I think this is probably a bit more than some fad to revel about in your 20’s. I also think that there are different strokes for different folks. I don’t have a lot of tools to fix tech stuff that breaks, because I don’t tend to have a lot of tech stuff that breaks. I’m not saying you buy cheap things, but my point is that considering what you are buying helps with this a lot, and sometimes it makes more sense to spend more on things that will last longer, or have repair/replacement policies so that if/when things break I replace them without stress.

      That’s a new thing for me, I used to spend a lot of time and effort being prepared for all the things that might break, but that was stressful in and of itself, just dealing with them when they do break is much easier and comes with less mental baggage.

  7. penguinchris says:

    I think Grey Devil makes *the* point of any discussion that arises from these kinds of ideas. It’s not just about giving up your lease and putting your stuff in storage until you can get rid of it later.

    If you have a cushy lifestyle and can do all your work via the internet, then yes, any of this is possible. Sean writes that “Fifty years ago I couldn’t work from anywhere and be just as, if not more effective than if I was in one place”, but that’s ridiculous once you analyze his entire situation. He gets paid for writing and managing stuff on the internet (I don’t really know what he does, just basing this on the description of who he is on his other BB posts). True, fifty years ago nobody could do *that*, because the internet didn’t exist. But fifty years ago, someone with wealth or a source of income could certainly travel the world and still get work done. Primarily, these people were writers.

    The point Grey Devil is making and that I’m trying to expand upon is that this lifestyle is simply not possible for most people. I agree with many of the ideas behind minimalist living, I too am trying to get rid of my mountains of stuff, and I spent four months living overseas in Thailand (by myself with Thai friends & girlfriend who I met there). Yes, I lived the “technomad” life for a while. It took an extraordinary series of circumstances, and many thousands of dollars of debt that I still have, to enable that.

    Meanwhile, I’ll hopefully have a full-time job soon, and while it may involve travel it won’t be the kind of job where I can work from anywhere. Which is true for at least 99% of people in the world. We’re all stuck somewhere because we need to make money to get by.

    I don’t know how Sean got into a circumstance where he makes decent money and can work from anywhere. Perhaps he got lucky, knew the right people, etc., or perhaps he’s just talented and worked hard to get there. Doesn’t matter either way – he’s still incredibly fortunate to be in that position.

    I don’t want to sound disparaging or jealous or whatever, although I know I do – I am trying to position myself in a similar situation because I like the minimalist lifestyle and I like to travel freely. But it should really come as no surprise that people pass this kind of thing off as an “indulgent hipster fad” that a bunch of hipster douchebags are into, because that’s really what it seems like, and opportunities to enable such a lifestyle are exceedingly rare.

    And yet, that’s what it was like in the old days, too. Travel writers wrote about their adventures so that most people, who would never have the chance to do such things, could have some idea of what it’s like. I’m not sure today’s “technomads” fill quite the same role, however. Processed iphone photos and self-indulgent blog posts a travelogue do not make.

    • John Greg says:

      “… this lifestyle is simply not possible for most people.”

      Precisely. And if one really analyzes it, pretty darned impractical if not utterly unachievable for probably about 95% of the world’s population.

      Yet more “hippyesque” utopian fantasy — just another rather silly elitist trendoid fad.

      • Xeni Jardin says:

        Commenting on a blog isn’t practical for 95% of the world’s population.

        Hell, drinking fresh water and getting three meals a day isn’t a luxury enjoyed by X percent of the world’s population.

        We make choices when we have the ability to make choices. This may not be a lifestyle change you care to make, but Sean’s done a fine job of laying it out for you, in case it’s something you find interesting. If not, move to the next post.

      • Art says:

        Bingo!, John. I heard this exact same dreamy philosophy back in 1969.

        I suppose it’s just a ‘fanciful’ (read: privileged, indulgent) youth thing.

    • David B says:

      Amen. My soon-to-be-wife (two weeks!) is a doctor, and my work ties me to the city I live in. Neither of us could work from the road. It is nice to dream about these things, but most people just can’t do this.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      I don’t think that is the point being made, nor the case at all with this. I do agree that this isn’t for everyone, but then again *nothing* is for everyone. Your experience seems different than mine, as I find this lifestyle to cost less and be less stressful that the ways I’ve previously lived and embracing it seems to enable it more. My point is that this is all new and there are more and more people who are interested and finding ways to make it happen. Maybe you aren’t in that group, and that is fine, but I don’t think at all this is limited to rich writers.

  8. Variable Rush says:

    I love this idea, hipster fad or not. I would love to be able to just pick up and travel somewhere and then go somewhere else when the fancy hits me.

    But as has been said, obligations like bills and student loans keep the majority of us grounded quite literally.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think some take the idea of “100 things” a bit too literally. Whether you own 50 things or 150 things (both minimal numbers), the simple recognition of how people believe these things define them is significant and worth looking into. I appreciate the experiment and even if the experimenter doesn’t stick to this philosophy (of exactly 100 things) in the long run, I’m certain it will impact the way he and his family live the rest of their lives and be the catalyst for incredible memories and experiences. I just moved from Chicago to Seattle and had to “physically touch” everything I owned as well. Overwhelming and a bit ridiculous. I won’t limit my lifestyle to 100 things, but recognition is important, and I’ve definitely made changes for the better and am working on changing some habits.

  10. aelfscine says:

    Completely agreed with Comment #1 on all levels.

    When these guys are 50, it’ll be ‘Remember when we thought steampunk was cool? That was a fun time!’

    ‘And that year where I lived out of a backpack with a laptop and cell phone? That was fun, I learned a lot. And then I never did it again ever, ever, EVER.’

    ‘Yeah, me too! I lived in a tiny house with just a few things, but then I met a girl and she had all these damn friends. She kept wanting to cook meals together, like real meals made out of food, and she’d want to be in the kitchen at the same time as me. And then she’d want to invite her friends over so that like six adult human beings could eat real food together in the same room and sit on chairs and eat off of plates and have enough room at a table. And she’d want to do this regularly!

    So I sold my tiny house that I learned a lot from, and never looked back ever, ever, EVER.’

    ‘Good thing that both of us were wealthy, affluent, employed, and educated, so that the very instant we got bored of our little experiment, we could immediately go out and rent an apartment with our savings and good credit!’

    ‘Yeah, that would have totally sucked if we’d have to live in those tiny houses without the knowledge that our upper-middle class upbringing could void any unpleasantness at the first sign of trouble!’

    ‘Ha! Ha! Let’s have some more wine, out of these steampunk goblets made by some Ukrainian guy.’

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is no fad but rather the way that I have been living for the past ten years. I have no car. My belongings all fit into a roll aboard suitcase and a 60 liter backpack. I live in apartments and have a very high savings rate. I buy nice things that last or have high resale value instead of disposable crap.

    This is also the way people lived before the the consumer driven economy. Talk to your grandparents and ask them how much stuff they had when they were kids. Probably a LOT less then they have now.

    I am glad to see this getting attention as it is a real alternative to the mindless consumerism. Who cares if it is a hipster fad, organic food was a hippie fad…

    • eanmdphd says:

      At any given moment only 1 or 2, maybe 3 things are important … and then something can happen that makes none of it important.

      Much of what we have is in abeyance, not for immediate use, yet readily to be discarded by something else.

      And it all can be made unimportant in a moment.

      With so much stuff all around us, we seem to have lost our selves in the clutter.

  12. Xeni Jardin says:

    Sean, this essay isn’t very junk-positive of you. Hoarders like me bear a lot of discrimination as it is. How dare you conquer your addiction to stuff and write about it!

  13. edgore says:

    I would gladly get rd of most of the stuff that I carry from house to house, except that the stuff that follows me around falls into one catergory – media that I love and wish to share with others over and over. When I buy and love a physical book, CD, comic book, DVD, and so on, one important expression of that love is later being able to press it into someones hands and say “You have to hear/read/see this. If I get rid of my physical object, I lose that in today’s DRMed, licensed and otherwise restricted world. If all of the various sellers of digital goods today simply gave me the ability to temporarily tansfer my license to another I would be much more likely to switch to digital. Doing so would get rid of nearly everything that I feel I *have* to drag from home to home, assuming that all of my existing media was available digitally, and I could afford the replacment cost

  14. Kaden says:

    So, you realize how few people in the world are…er… fortunate enough to live and work exclusively on-line, right?

    I mean, it’s cool that it works out for you, but seriously dude: we’re talking niche lifestyle choice for a statistically negligible demographic at the very best.

    So when ya booked on Good Morning America?

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      Seriously, what the hell’s wrong with that, Kaden? We’re lucky and in the minority to be able to access the internet at all! We’re the world’s elite, just in the fact that we have daily access to computers, food, water, and a safe place to live, and any kind of gainful employment or source of well-being.

      So that said, who cares if Sean leads a rarer lifestyle, or if people who are able to telecommute are in an even smaller minority? It’s all in varying degrees. Why all the dissing?

      • Kaden says:

        That’s a diss? Standards have apparently plummeted of late.

        Another generation of refinement to telecommuting is laudable, but the term ‘Revolution’ is seriously overstating the best possible case outcome.

        • Xeni Jardin says:

          Kaden: yeah, okay, the comment sounded diss-y, like the wisecrack about going on GMA and stuff. But that’s fine, maybe I judged wrong, I’ll relax.

          As for the word “revolution”– It probably feels like quite the revolution to anyone who goes through the process of dumping 90% of their belongings. Its’ a figure of speech, lighten up! When lots of people wake up to a new lifestyle possibility based on ideological principles (say, being vegetarian, using bikes more than cars, whatever), i think that’s a fair term to throw around.

          Like i said, it’s not for me, not now anyway. But I don’t get why so many people sound like they’re mocking Sean over the piece, or sneering at the ideas, or at him.

          • Kaden says:

            C’mon… if GMA isn’t all over la famile Bonner by the middle of next week there’s a flaw in the structure of the universe: They’d be the perfect ironic lead-in to an Early Holiday Shopping Trends featurette.

          • Xeni Jardin says:

            Baby Bonner is super adorable, and his parents are no slouches in the cute department. I agree that this would actually make a fantastic GMA segment, seriously. It’s a great story.

          • Art says:

            Precisely, Xeni.

            It’s a story. It’s conceived and created to be only that. Isn’t that obvious?

            I probably missed it but… where is the money coming from to sustain a family freewheeling around the globe?

            Just askin’

          • Xeni Jardin says:

            hahahaha, you’re funny!

            So, Sean’s a friend of mine, I’ve known him for, eh, 10 years? He, like me, is a creative/internet/freelancer/maker type, and as he’s already explained above, lives on a $30-80K a year salary. He is not, I can assure you, a trust fund baby, a millionaire, or someone who concocted this story for publicity. He’s been living it, and I asked him to document this for Boing Boing.

            You crack me up!

            Also, I travel a lot, internationally. It can be done on the cheap and thrifty. There are ways to make a nomadic lifestyle non-costly, particularly when you are staying in places for a long time in each place.

          • Ito Kagehisa says:

            He’s been living it, and I asked him to document this for Boing Boing

            Thanks, Xeni! I find the subject matter and photos intriguing, and Sean writes well too.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      Kaden, that is exactly my point. There may be few people right now, but there were fewer people 5 years ago, and even fewer than that 10 years ago. And you know what, in 5 years even more people will be able to do it. Which is why this is titled “the rise of” rather than “at least 100% of the world can finally be..”

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      And I should add: I do not live this lifestyle, and have no plans to in the near future. However, I find it very interesting, and I enjoy reading about it. And I might incorporate elements of it into my life, even if I don’t go as far as Sean is. But, one day, I might choose to go full-on minimalist. Or not.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Look at this steampunk banana holder crafted by a neominimalist maker.

    Just look at it.

  16. knodi says:

    Geez, what a bunch of negative nellies in this thread. I found the article intriguing, whether I choose to act on it or not.

    However, I don’t see how he’s doing it, from a practical standpoint. Can you answer these questions?

    1.) What do you do for living space? Surely it’s not all hotel rooms; but getting short-term apartments, and references, and deposits, and making sure that the lengthy paperwork process is completed BEFORE you arrive at a place, and taking care of the move-out paperwork (and deposit refunds) BEFORE you’ve left the country… is that just a huge hassle, or do you have some tricks?

    2.) Do you have knives, pots, pans, etc? Are you capable of cooking at “home” much, or do you mostly eat out and take home?

    3.) Do you plan to give this up by the time your kid is ready to start making friends? I presume it would be a big burden on a child’s psyche to only allow him to make short-term friends, but I don’t see how you’d work around that.

    4.) What big hurdles have you run into that AREN’T necessarily obvious to a stay-at-home dreamer like me?

    • Sean Bonner says:

      Sure thing… lemmie see…

      1.) What do you do for living space? Surely it’s not all hotel rooms; but getting short-term apartments, and references, and deposits, and making sure that the lengthy paperwork process is completed BEFORE you arrive at a place, and taking care of the move-out paperwork (and deposit refunds) BEFORE you’ve left the country… is that just a huge hassle, or do you have some tricks?

      This year is an exception and a trial in many ways, and I don’t see it being the end all be all, but we’ve been doing longterm sublets and house swaps, combined with the occasional bed and breackfast or something. There are a lot of communities that enable and support this stuff so with a little work it’s easy to get in the hang of it.

      2.) Do you have knives, pots, pans, etc? Are you capable of cooking at “home” much, or do you mostly eat out and take home?

      Because we’re staying in other people’s houses, generally fully furnished and what not, we are able to cook at home all the time. I do have kitchen stuff in LA in storage but I plan to get rid of a lot of it because it just never gets used. The things I actually need to cook are pretty limited.

      3.) Do you plan to give this up by the time your kid is ready to start making friends? I presume it would be a big burden on a child’s psyche to only allow him to make short-term friends, but I don’t see how you’d work around that.

      Give it up? No. Adjust it to the circumstances? Yes. We have many friends who travel with their kids to the same places again and again, and think that’s likely the direction we’ll head. We’ll have a more permanent main base for most of the year, but continue to travel out to places and keep exposing him to things outside of one small area.

      4.) What big hurdles have you run into that AREN’T necessarily obvious to a stay-at-home dreamer like me?

      There are hurdles for sure, and things you don’t realize until it’s a problem but so far they have been pretty small and easily adjusted to deal with. Our credit cards not having the chips in them that are standard usage in many european cities, needing a printer for a small job, not being able to read ingredients to check for allergy info. Luggage breaking has been a pain, but again that goes back to the idea of spending more on a better made item than buying cheap stuff that needs to be replaced again and again. I definitely think much more about each purchase now.

  17. UncaScrooge says:

    I think it’s interesting that the author is writing about trying out an “alternative” lifestyle — and writing about it with a sense of surprise that it could work — and the general reaction here is one of scorn.

    It’s as if he wrote some screed criticising you personally for having children and a house full of stuff. Re-read it. There is no criticism implied.

    I have personally decided to go through my life without tattoos and jewelry. Are you going to take that sitting down? Defend yourself!!

    Also I would point out that some of the greatest things in life started out as “hipster fads”. And I feel the need to reiterate that hipsters seem less hateful the moment you move out of their neighborhoods.

  18. malthusan says:

    It’s interesting that the commenters who reject Sean’s ideas do so with such defensive vehemence, apparently believing that ad hominem is an effective rebuttal to an idea they disagree with. Several of the initial comments are written as though Sean attacked the authors personally, condemning them for their choices, their values, their priorities. It’s very telling.

    The topic interests me because, as I enter my 40s, still single and childless (with no desire to change either condition), I see no reason to carry around as much crap as I have been. I see no sense in needing a 16′ moving van to move from one place to another. I teach, which means I have to be in place for nine months of the year, but the idea of giving up that place for three months in the summer to travel is very appealing me. To that end, these sorts of articles, lists, and resources are interesting and useful to me.

  19. lewis stoole says:

    sean–good luck on your adventure, thanks for sharing.

  20. Susannah Breslin says:

    Thanks for writing this, Sean. Three weeks ago, I gave away 90% of my stuff, and it was terrifically liberating, physically and psychically.

    This lifestyle is only impossible to those who refuse to grasp its possibilities.

    The negativity of some of these comments echo the negativity of the comments in connection to a similar post here recently.

    People who resent what Sean is doing lack his fearlessness, his ability to take a leap of faith, and that he has a family that supports this way of being in the world, that doesn’t insist it is bound by a series of tangled, store-bought wires.

    The baby picture is the best — he will grow up in this. What a wonderful little technomad.

  21. Anonymous says:

    (Anonymous only because I am discussing work and employers)

    Regarding the whole “moving around and working from anywhere” aspect, I think a lot people are more limited in their ability to do this by their employeers than the work they do.

    Of course if you work in a store, assemble widgets in a factory, or cook food for immediate consumption for a living you have to go to that location to perform your job functions. But many, many other jobs do not actually require you to be in a particular location, your employer has just decided it’s makes them more comfortable to put you in a cubicle.

    I do IT Compliance Work. I spend 4 days a week in a cube on phone calls with people all over the world, or reviewing or writing electronic documents. I spend one day a week doing the same things from home, with my office phone forwarded.

    No one can tell the difference.

    Why do I do this? Because my employer’s policy says I can have one day per week to work at home. That’s the only reason.

    I am not saying the policy is bad (heck, I am extremely happy that I can work that one day from home!), just that there is no compelling reason relating to my job function for the situation. I am guessing that the same is true for many others.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Sean Bonner sidetracked many possible converts when he said “…Singapore, New York City, Toronto, and Paris. The rest of the year will see me in Montreal, Tokyo, Vienna and Berlin.”

    I don’t think this is about jet-setting. I think its about how objects can become heavy icons for unmet expectations.

    For example, my expensive kitchen utensils keep reminding me of my failed attempts to learn how to cook.

    As Sean says, we should favor experiences over objects. Maybe we need to take each object and ask ourselves: has this contributed to any recent positive experiences? Not “can it?”, but “has it?”.

  23. Rob Beschizza says:

    I remember just chatting to someone about getting rid of possessions a few weeks ago — nothing spectacular, just vague talk of losing extra computers, cellphones, furniture and so on. They were very defensive about it, almost to the point of anger, like I’d said I was going to have a pet put down because feeding it had become inconvenient. But no real explanation why: just the same vague accusations of elitism, pretentiousness and so forth

    There’s something about downsizing your inventory of shit that just winds people up. It’s as if it’s on the same resonant frequency as something else entirely and the two things are being confused somewhere. For example, I’m pretty sure that person thought I must have been some kind of goddam communist because I felt three televisions might be too many.

    • Ito Kagehisa says:

      When I first got my Toyota Prius, people used to get angry at me for buying it. Seriously, no kidding. How dare I conserve gasoline! Now that they are commonplace I don’t get that reaction much anymore.

    • Anonymous says:

      People do think you are some sort of goddamn communist if you don’t want three TVs. One of the heavily-endorsed paths to happiness is the acquisition of property. Since that doesn’t actually work for a lot of people, they feel dissatisfied. Then you say “Yeah, this stuff isn’t working out for me”, and on some level, they either go “He has more stuff than me! I must envy him now!” or “He has more stuff than me and it didn’t make him happy! Perhaps that’s my problem too, and I was sold a lie for my entire life (or he’s a goddamn communist reptile)!” None of these are particularly pleasant feelings, and unless people look at it rationally, all they do is feel attacked, without a really good handle on who did it or why (but with you conveniently standing right there when it happened).

  24. Ernunnos says:

    95%? This is a lifestyle that’s maybe achievable by one in a million. You have to be a trust fund baby or knowledge worker with relatively few attachments or physical responsibilities, well-paid enough to afford the energy it takes to fly around the globe. It reeks of privilege. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What rankles is that the people who practice it really don’t seem to appreciate just how privileged they are, and in fact promote it as a simpler or cheaper lifestyle.

    Yes, it’s interesting, in the same sense that “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” is interesting. Except that the celebrities on that show didn’t pretend to be humble and anti-materialistic while consuming vast quantities of oil and infrastructure to support their jet-set lifestyle.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      Sorry dude, you are completely wrong on that one. 100% off base. People talk about it being simpler and cheaper because it is.

      I love the idea that keeps coming up here that it’s some how LESS EXPENSIVE to buy more things, and how in order to buy less things, you must have more money.

      I’ve never in my life had a job that paid more than $80K a year, and in fact most of my life I’ve made less than $30K a year. I have tons of personal and physical responsibilities that I’m able to take care of even better now with a more flexible lifestyle. Again, it might not be for you, but your idea of who it is for is completely wrong.

      • wavechild says:

        I really think that people are getting angry over this article because they identify with their stuff, and get hostile about losing it. It’s like an addiction. People are getting defensive because it threatens them to think that their way of life could somehow be “wrong”.
        I do believe it’s better to have more stuff, but that this is not a hard a fast rule- someone made a comment about the importance of having the right tools for a job in reference to making things, specifically surfboards- I’ve also made several alaias and a couple of surfboards and can attest to the importance of having special tools for doing a good job. Tools add up quick and are indispensible for working efficiently and accurately!
        However, I do think that the majority of people in wealthy countries do have too much junk and could stand to get rid of most of it.
        My family and I are in the process of getting ready to spend a year travelling, but it’s not to travel indefinitely, it’s to find a place to settle down. I know people will see that as a sign of privilege, or being a spoiled hipster, etc. The truth is, being an average consumer is as bad as or worse than being a lame hipster. Travelling indefinitely, even if cheap, also consumes resources, however. As one who has traveled pretty extensively, I feel that it can be sort of a waste to travel with no “mission”- mine is to learn about living sustainably through visiting permaculture sites and other like-minded projects and resources.

        The crazy thing about this discussion is that no one seems to see how living a “normal” life and one like the one the author is currently experiencing are both unsustainable! Why isn’t there talk about living cheaply by practicing permaculture, for instance? One of the great things about it is you can have the best of both worlds- set up a permaculture system where you live, then once it’s pretty much self-sustaining, take off and travel once in a while if you feel the need. If you don’t want to travel, do this anyway.

        People seem to be thinking in terms of money- if it’s cheap, it’s right. Sure you can travel cheaply, but as an end in itself, it sure doesn’t make much sense. The traveler is most likely depending on external resources just like the average person living in one place, engaged in the same destructive way of life.

        Anyway, thanks to the author for inspiring this discussion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another person who takes this post as an attack on their personal life choices.
      People who can live this lifestyle: IT workers, call centre workers, tradesmen (plumbers, builders, cooks, carpenters etc.), teachers, musicians, comedians, journalists / writers…
      Read the 4hour work week, stop being defensive, get out there and live and stop sitting in your cave throwing rocks at people enjoying their lives.
      Take it from me – 6 years on the road, later thirties, it is all possible and the most rewarding choice you can make.
      You will remember your experiences and the amazing people you met on your death bedd, not your interactions with expensive meat thermometers or rare manga comics…

      • Ernunnos says:

        Christ. I’m happy for them. I support minimalism. I think technomadism is probably very fun. For a small group of people. I’m just pointing out that the lifestyle doesn’t scale to any more than an extremely small tribe of people who benefit from a specific confluence of economic and technological factors, and that by promoting this lifestyle to a wider audience, they’re liable to destroy – or stretch to the point of breaking – the very resources that made it possible in the first place.

        If I really hated them, I just shut up, sit back, and laugh as I watched them soil their own nest.

        • Art says:

          Thank you, Ernunnos. Exactly correct.

        • sgnp says:

          I actually think the idea that Sean and Tara are going to poison their own personal resources are slim. Sean’s writing about something he’s already in the middle of doing, so the network of friends they’ve got seem to be down with the plan.

          Back when I was working for a large Internet retailer, a common idea floating around was that if you take away the ordering system, the business was a lot like mail-order. While the front-end was new and shiny, you still needed to ship things from a warehouse to a customer. Mail order worked, so online ordering would work.

          (I’m acknowledging here that on-demand content and 3D printing may make that statement incorrect, but neither of those things existed for that business at that time.)

          In the same way, being a technomad sounds a lot like being a couch surfer. While the way you communicate and the things you can bring with you have gotten newer and shinier, there’s already a workable back-end.

          Musicians and touring fringe theatre groups have been doing this for a really long time. In the latter group, you can often have an artist-in-residence who needs to stay for a whole summer, or a whole year, sometimes with their family. Usually, it works out that there’s someone who’s a friend to the theatre in question who needs to find someone to sublet their apartment and it all works out.

          I think it’s important to note that in both of these cases there’s some buy-in as well. The musician and/or theatre artist is given this consideration by virtue of their talent and/or someone vouching for them. I expect there is a form of gate-keeping in the technomad community as well, however unofficial.

          I also think that if the job market doesn’t turn around there may be some sort of technomad underclass, evicted folks who are moving from place to place with their old iPhone 3Gs. (They have no resale value, and getting rid of the service plan wouldn’t even help make a dent in the monthly rent.)

    • Michael says:

      Sean and Tara are trust fund babies? I never knew.

    • Anonymous says:

      Look, I’m not trying to be a dick, but if you think it’s hard to become a “knowledge worker” you’re just not trying that hard.

      I didn’t know jack about computers and networking, other than how to get my parents’ printer working or whatever, until about 5 years ago. Now, I make all my money remotely as a web developer.

      I’m not a genius. Frankly I can be pretty dumb. But I put the time in to learn a new skill. And I did it while I was earning minimum wage at a string of crappy restaurant jobs AND going to school.

      That’s not “privelege”. It was hard f***ing work. But now, once I finish my bachelor’s degree, I have the ability to pack up all my belongings (which I’m whittling down slowly) and live and work wherever I want.

      Nobody handed this to me. I had to work for it. Is that intimidating for some people? Perhaps. But it’s not unreachable by anybody.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I am not a minimalist, but I admit that I have thought quite a bit about the positive benefits of reducing the amount of stuff I have trailing me around everywhere I go and how it can seem suffocating at times. For instance, if I got a job in another city, I would need to do a massive, massive clean-out of things I own, many of which I haven’t thought about in years. I look at the stuff in my basement and think “what is even IN these boxes?” I often marvel at the idea of an easy move.

    I don’t really think Sean is suggesting that everyone who adopts a minimalist lifestyle can automatically go jet-setting around the world, speaking at tech conferences and photographing exotic locales. But I think the general idea of reducing the sheet quantity of things you have in your life in order to just free yourself up is a valid one and probably would apply to most people. Do I need 5 tupperware tubs full of old issues of Maximum Rock n’ Roll and Punk Planet? Not really. Yet, they’ve followed me around for years now.

    Really, the biggest issue is finding the time and motivation to dig through it all, list it on eBay, or whatever else. But I would personally love to get to the point where I don’t feel so weighed down by possessions. Not to the point of absurdity, but to at least the essentials and not much more.

    To the first commenter’s point- Yes. Pretentious hipster minimalism is annoying. Agreed. It’s hard to take minimalism seriously from people who seem to do it exclusively so they can get online and blog about it (complete with pics of their backpacks, expensive Moleskine notebooks and iPads, of course). But once you get past all that, at the heart of it, I think it’s a good idea.

  26. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I hope to hear more about this in the future, Sean!

    But I think your term “tech nomads” is far better than anything containing the word “minimal”, because as soon as you purchase a telephone or laptop you have ascended a vast mountain of waste and resource depletion, and possibly slave labor as well. I can’t bring myself to ignore the poorly concealed maximums in that illusory minimum.

    Myself, I am taking an extremely different approach to minimalism. I am reducing my family’s waste stream, eventually hoping to reach zero. This obviously requires arable land, livestock, running water, and many tools.

    Most of the “Neo-minimalists” I have read about seem very wasteful to me, because they do not maintain the tools and surroundings required to live in equilibrium with their immediate environment. They have to constantly buy things that are overpackaged and overshipped, and they have to constantly burn fuel to visit cafes, laundromats and jobs. They are the visible tip of a vast iceberg of non-renewable resource depletion; their lifestyle is Le Guin’s “Omelas” or Lang’s “Metropolis”; penthouse-dwelling elites blind to the struggling masses hidden in the packing plants and shoe factories.

    • Chris Tucker says:

      because as soon as you purchase a telephone or laptop you have ascended a vast mountain of waste and resource depletion, and possibly slave labor as well.

      One way to, at least, partially offset all of the above is to buy used goods.

      For example. The computer I’m using right now is a 2 Ghz G5 Dual Processor Macintosh. I bought it off eBay for US$300. It replaced the used G4 Dual Processor MDD Mac, which replaced the used Blue and White G3 Mac. Etc Etc Etc.

      The keyboard I’m using is a more than 20 years old. It’s an Apple Extended Keyboard that I bought at Goodwill years ago for US$2.00.

      Yes, my LCD monitor IS new. However, it replaced an Apple 21″ Studio CRT that I grabbed off a street corner before the trash pickup could get it. That Apple monitor lasted me more than two years before it died and was responsibly recycled.

      In fact, the last NEW computer I owned was a Commodore 64, purchased in the late 1980s. Eventually, I sold it and used the money to buy a used Commodore 128. Which I still have. It’s a great game machine and superb text editor.

      But I digress.

      Most of my DVDs and pretty much all of my CDs were purchased as “Previously Viewed” or “Used”.

      It is easy enough to not add greatly to the waste and human rights abuses, if one just has a mind to.

      Congrats on your efforts to minimize your effects on the Earth. Not everyone can follow that path, but it’s heartening to know that people like yourself are making the effort and learning how to do it. Best of luck to you!

      • Ito Kagehisa says:

        Thanks for the kind wishes, Chris! I agree very strongly with you about used and salvaged equipment – taking something out of the trash stream is best, but buying used is good too.

        In fact I bought a used RIDGID brand aluminum Stillson wrench at a flea market today, and I hope to pass it down to my great-great-grandchildren (along with my Briggs wrenches, which have been in the family for four generations already).

        We can’t live entirely without impact on future generations, but we can always try to make our impact more positive than negative.

  27. Xaq says:

    You convinced yourself that more is more. You have a vague sense of dissatisfaction so you tell yourself that to live differently is impossible. Sean shows you it’s not, and that only your belief that it’s impossible makes it so. That makes you mad, because it puts your life back in your own hands.

  28. twelvesixteen says:

    At one point I was very minimalist. I refused to buy things because I had moved a lot leading up to that point in my life. The moving experience taught me to question every item that came into my house. I would think, “Well, do I really need this? Can I get by without it?”

    I knew that unless I had an equal amount of stuff I was getting rid of to match the stuff coming in, I was going to be building up a cache of goods that would be difficult to pare down in the future.

    It was being utilitarian about it and not thinking too much about “freeing my mind” of the clutter. Then, one day, it all broke because I realized I wasn’t moving around anymore and I was holding myself back from conveniences that I “needed”. I started buying things, gasp!, and building up a store of junk.

    And you know what? I don’t feel like it’s made a difference to have or not have all that junk. I don’t feel a mental load because I have more stuff than before. So color me skeptical when I read about things like this where someone is going to declutter and somehow feel freer. I don’t feel like it’s made a difference to me. On the other hand, I know that I have much less junk stored up than other people I know. I tend not to buy things unless I feel I need them.

  29. tarabrown says:

    I’m the wife, Tara and FTR I’m 35 and not a damn hipster. I’ve been in the software biz for 15 years, I don’t use a backpack, and I’m definitely not rich. I do have an imagination and not set in my ways and will definitely not let society dictate to me what I can and can’t do with a baby. We are lucky that we surround ourselves with supportive people that put us up in their homes when we need it and are caring for our cat and dog. For those that think it’s not doable, seriously, where there is a will, there is a way.

    • Art says:

      Tara states: “We are lucky that we surround ourselves with supportive people that put us up in their homes”

      Yes, you’re very lucky you have friends with homes who can put you up. I assume these friends are gainfully employed and have “stuff” in their homes to accommodate you and your family- like electricity,food and beds.

      • Sean Bonner says:

        You are making assumptions here. Most of my life I’ve welcomed people into my house and shared what I had with them. Growing up touring with punk rock bands, that was the only option we had available to us and I’ve tried to repay that favor every chance I can. But there is an entire community of people (google home swapping) that trade the resources they have with others and that is what I’m getting at with much of this – you don’t need to be rich to travel and stay somewhere, you just need to use modern tech to find the right people to swap with. I’ve lent my stuff to people who are using it rather then buying it for themselves and I’m using other peoples stuff. It all works out nicely.

        I’ve never once said people should get rid of everything or not pay their bills, so it’s amusing to see so people people continually jump to that conclusion.

    • Anonymous says:

      You said: “… supportive people that put us up in their homes when we need it and are caring for our cat and dog.”

      Do you take your cat and dog with you, to any or all of your destinations? My indoor/outdoor cat is the main reason I feel stuck in one spot…

  30. Apreche says:

    A few years ago I started getting rid of all my junk. Still, going to the extreme of tech-nomadism isn’t really necessary. I want to have less, not none.

    Part of what I’ve been doing is finding ways to save space. For example, reboxing board games to take up less space is good, and also maker-ish. Another thing I did was minimize my optical discs by ripping as many as possible and putting the others into a binder. I don’t have any plastic cases anymore. Another thing to do is to get clever furiture and storage stuff from IKEA, The Container Store, and/or Muji.

    When my tiny apartment is clean, there really isn’t that much visible. Just a couch, desk, bed, dresser, shelves, and entertainment stand. If I buy something new, I make sure it is always something I will actually use. If I don’t use something that takes up space, I get rid of it quickly. I also make sure to get small things.

    I even got rid of my car, which I loved, because I wasn’t using it after I moved to NYC.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      I’m not advocating having no stuff in anyway. I’m saying making the choice to have less stuff helps you think about the stuff you do have in new ways. I like stuff and by no means am I going to get rid of everything I own, but I realized how much better off I was having fewer things that I cared about more than more things I cared about less.

  31. felixjawesome says:

    This is commodity fetish taken to the extreme, it’s Technofetishization. I think the idea of “neo-minimalism” is a probably fad, but I still find it a worthy experiment and can see the philosophy of Neo-minimalism going mainstream.

    There is something intriguing about owning less…and only owning that which you need…that the idea of less being more, and the elimination of specialized-only-does-one-thing items.

    Considering the number of television shows centering around the topic of hoarders…I welcome neo-minimalism with open arms. And while I will never be able to cut my possessions down to 100 items, it shouldn’t be so difficult for me to get down to my garage and start getting rid of some of the junk I’ve accumulated in my 20-some years of existence.

  32. Tristan Eldtritch says:

    I dunno, I think the reason this piece has prompted so much ire is because there is a hellish big recession going on, and people are extremely conscious at the moment of HOW LITTLE CHOICE they actually have as regards lifestyle, how much they’d love to go travelling all across the globe but just can’t afford it, how they can just about afford to buy all the stuff they need, never mind starting a blog about how cool and cutting edge it is to get rid of all your stuff. Its not a question of people going “I think it’s cool to have lots of STUFF and debt and be stuck in one place all the time, and damn anybody who says otherwise.” Its that most people are yoked to that situation that sheer economic necessity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Sean has worked really hard, and thought really hard, in order to enjoy the lifestyle he does. And good for him, he’s perfectly entitled to enjoy the fruit of his work. But this just isn’t what people want to hear at the moment. I kind’ve agree with the poster who made the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” comparison.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      But that is exactly what I’m saying. People think they can’t afford it, so they don’t try, but actually they can because it’s much more affordable than they thought. And all that stuff they can’t afford but think they need, yeah, they don’t really need it, and if they weren’t spending their money on that stuff that they didn’t really need they’d have more of it to spend on doing things that would make them happy.

      • Tristan Eldtritch says:

        Fair enough, that’s a reasonable argument! I would love the travel aspect as your lifestyle, and I would probably enjoy the mimimalism for awhile, but man, I love collecting clothes and books! I’d crawl back to stuff eventually, with my tail between my legs. Do you ever get any cravings for the Old Way?

  33. duus says:

    I’m distressed by the negativity of the comments here. That saddens me. I think this conversation would be better facilitated by threaded conversation.

    I think this is a very interesting idea. I think it meshes well with the “made by hand” movement, and the “productivity” movement as well. I smell success here.

  34. lewis stoole says:

    >isn’t minimalism just stripping away to the bare essentials, nothing more? so as far as minimalist living would be concerned, it wouldn’t require assessing the environmental or sociological impact, but if the individual wants to add that to the mix, or if it is an indirect result, then more value is etched out of approaching “near nothing”. but even with that, i would surmise that using as much of the shared collective as a resource rather than owning individually is intrinsically greener and more socially conscious as less is produced, stored, transported, and tossed. and to stay connected in a technologically driven society, one would only need access to a phone and a laptop, but these are things that are better to own than have to play by library hours of access, especially since they are multifunctional.

    >technomads is definitely a better word for what sean and kelly sutton (previous bb article on minimalist living) are doing, however, you could still be a technomad and not live a minimalist lifestyle.

    >ito, i like what you wrote. if you haven’t already, maybe check out possum living?

  35. soultravelers3 says:

    Please add me to the list!

    We have been living this Neo-Minimalist world traveling Technomad life as a family since 2006. We travel slow & green, but have been to 32 countries so far on 4 continents. We live large on 23 dollars a day person ( & we have been mostly in “expensive” Europe so far) and it’s been the ultimate education for our child who is now a very fluent trilingual/triliterate.

    It is an AWESOME way to live! Perpetual travel is not new, but the trend IS growing and will continue to grow.

    We are featured case studies in the 4-Hour Workweek & Chis G’s new book on Nonconformity.

    It is not a life for everyone, but tech and the “new economy” will keep it growing. Once you live this life of freedom, it is hard to stop.

    We have friends who have been doing it for over 25 years. The masses won’t get it, but for those who are willing to do what it takes to live a dream, I can tell you it is more than worth it!

  36. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t the route I would go, but it makes for a fascinating story. And the general idea — that it’s way past time to take a step back from mindless consumerism — is beyond reproach.

    There’s not a hint of preaching or holier-than-thou attitude in this story. None. Not one iota. So I have to assume that all of the bitching and moaning and whining here reflects more upon the people complaining than the person they’re complaining about.

    – Matthew McKenzie

  37. Mark Oshiro says:

    Hey Sean!

    Just wanted to throw in my two cents about this…a lot of Sean’s tweets/posts about this inspired me to do a lot of minimalism in my life when I moved from Los Angeles to Oakland this year. I got rid of all my furniture, had a $1 sale at my old loft (any single object was $1, no questions asked, and I made nearly $150 and got rid of most of my stuff).

    I moved up to Oakland in one trip. (I haven’t quite made it down to 100 Things at all; my stuff had to take two trips because of some awkwardly-sized tech stuff and because I had to take my bike up on trip one.)

    I now only own books, records, clothing, and some electronic/musical shit. I have a small collection of kitchen items that I saved up and bought because I knew they’d last and because I spend so much time in the kitchen.

    Throughout 2009 and 2010, my gradual shedding of objects and my desire to stop spending money on things finally allowed me to have money to travel and go on tour. Some of the trips were brief jaunts, some were much longer adventures, including getting to experience a blizzard in Boston and becoming stranded for a few days.

    My monthly costs of living are lower than they’ve ever been; I downsized to a small studio in Oakland instead of a huge loft in Los Angeles. I now only pay for wireless, my iPhone bill, and Netflix for monthly bills aside from rent. And even though I have a full-time job that doesn’t pay me a fortune, I can’t believe how much free time and (this is important) freedom I have.

    I grew up in poverty as well, so I’ve always found joy in doing things that don’t cost money or cost very little. So even though I’m grounded in the Bay Area by a job and (low) rent, I’ve become liberated in other ways.

    I don’t think Sean has ever purported to say that y’all should quit your jobs and stop paying your bills so you can flutter around the globe. But there are some great lessons you might learn from his lifestyle that you can pick-and-choose to apply to your own life.

    If I can, I would love to adapt much more of this philosophy into my own life. Until I can do it, I’ll continue to do what I can and make myself happy in the process.

  38. Cruftbox says:

    The main problem with Sean’s plan is the simple fact that getting good coffee is difficult in most places around the world.

    To have good coffee, Sean will be forced to travel with extensive supplies of coffee beans, grinders, thermometers, and brewing apparatus.

  39. JohnnyOC says:

    I feel conflicted about this.

    On the one hand, I applaud that a person can lead a more minimalist lifestyle and gain more experiences in the world. It’s an good example for other people, maybe not to emulate since it’s out of the reach for most, but to at least keep in the back of their minds that there are other alternatives.

    On the other hand..well, I’ll tell you some family background for perspective.

    All of my uncles and father were Army brats. My younger cousin and her husband are also military.

    My cousin and her family moved CONSTANTLY. Germany, Puerto Rico, South Korea, San Diego, etc, etc. because the parents had to move. If there is one thing that can scramble a kid up pretty well and give them a feeling of resentment (at least in my experience with talking to my uncles and cousins) is constantly making and then breaking up friendships and the sense of “home” when you have to move every year or so.

    I get that the author and his wife are living this lifestyle, and that’s great but also with the child growing up esp. the those developemnt years?

    How is he going to be schooled? Private tutoring? Is it legal to even bounce around the world constantly with child in tow and not have a education? How about friends? Yes, you said that you meet up with like minded parents in places but does that really count for a real sense of family?

    How about extended family? Are you going to visit for more that a week a year?

    Is there going to be a sense of grounding, security and a place called “home” for your child? And I’m not even going to detail the vast amounts of prejudice and even racism/classism that I guarantee you and your child will have to overcome if you set up base for schooling for a while in some areas of the country/world. The Boingers on here are saints compared to what’s out there. (My cousin said Puerto Rico was the worst experience of her life growing up there was so much hate toward her just because she was American and in a military family).

    Just saying it’s what I’ve heard from people who been through a somewhat similar situation and maybe those kind of questions can help. Sound negative but you might be running in to those issues.

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      JohnnyOC, I applaud your thoughtful and civil comment. I’ll just take issue with this one item:

      Is it legal to even bounce around the world constantly with child in tow and not have a education?

      Where in this essay did Sean say they were planning to deny their son an education? I’ll let him reply, but I think you’re assuming some things that aren’t the case. Ripley’s like, 8 or 9 months old right now.

      • Sean Bonner says:

        JohnnyOC does have a good point. I know Ripley is only 6 months old, but he’s completely illiterate, his math sucks, he doesn’t know crap about world history. Hell he can’t even talk! Sure he has more passport stamps than most adult American’s already, but I’m clearly failing as a parent and should be locked up.

        • JohnnyOC says:

          “… but I’m clearly failing as a parent and should be locked up.”

          Hehe..Sean, if you honestly think I’m judging you or it’s a personal attack on your parenting then I’m not communicating effectively enough. :)

          I’m just telling you what my experiences with extended family were from their travails and was asking hypothetical questions that might be helpful to think about when your child is going to be of “school age”. That’s all.

      • JohnnyOC says:

        Oops..Yeah, weird wording. :) I wasn’t thinking that they would deny his child an education, just how to work around the morass of the traditional U.S. educational system and what the government would think of someone who’s not officially been in it at an area for an extended time.

        Maybe with tutoring and passing developmental level tests per grade they would be fine with it.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      There is a difference between moving because of a job (or the army) where you have little choice, and making the choice to travel. I (we) get to decide when we go, where we go, and for how long we go. We get to decide to go to the same places or find new ones. Those aren’t choices people who get moved around because of the choices of others get to consider, and i think those make a big difference.

      • JohnnyOC says:

        “There is a difference between moving because of a job (or the army) where you have little choice, and making the choice to travel. I (we) get to decide when we go, where we go, and for how long we go. We get to decide to go to the same places or find new ones. Those aren’t choices people who get moved around because of the choices of others get to consider, and i think those make a big difference.”

        That’s true. I’m not implying that it’s bad, it’s just complicated.

  40. BridgeFellow says:

    I am looking forward to the Neo-Minimalism lifestyle and where the Technomads will be heading. Interesting times in every way.

  41. Beelzebuddy says:

    Back in the sixties all the hip kids were living as nomads too, traveling the world with whatever they could stuff into a beat-up volkswagon. This is basically the same thing, but replacing the twenty pounds of pot and acid with tech gadgets. So you’re not as cool, Sean. Not nearly as cool.

    Furthermore, while this is merely an interesting idea, the sixties saw an actual movement. Which then died in the seventies, leaving nothing behind but abandoned communes and children with unfortunate names. In all likelihood, that’s more than your technomadcy will develop into. Nomadism needs more than a desire for simplicity or a unifying philosophy, both of which people are more than willing to abandon once they get the urge to settle. It needs either a commonality of culture, or some financial incentive to roam. Think carnies, truckers, Roma, hobos, or migratory retirees.

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      This is basically the same thing, but replacing the twenty pounds of pot and acid with tech gadgets. So you’re not as cool, Sean. Not nearly as cool.

      Anti-drug fascist DEA troll. Why do you assume he’s not also packin’ 20 pounds of pot and acid? [scoffs righteously.]

      • Beelzebuddy says:

        Because a) they weren’t in the picture, and b) he didn’t bother to specify whether each joint and tab counted against the 100 item limit. If we’re to take this seriously, clarification and thorough listing of exceptions are important, bitte.

        • lewis stoole says:

          if he has a 100 count box of paperclips that spills, does that count as 101 items? and when he picks them up and returns them to the box, is it now back to 1 item? oh, the pain of it all.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      Furthermore, while this is merely an interesting idea, the sixties saw an actual movement.

      “We’re aiming for a different goal,
      Succeeding where the hippies failed.
      But one thing’s sure and you can bet,
      We’ll be more than a drugged-out threat!”

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      That’s right.

      Sean Bonner:


  42. YourMessageHere says:

    First, anything that makes people think “do I really, honestly need this?” rather than buying without thought is good in my view. I think Sean Bonner et al’s version is extreme, though.

    For myself, I don’t see how you can live without books. Books probably account for 70% of my possessions by number. I cannot kid myself that ebooks are anything like a substitute. Oh, and my own bed.

    The unspoken problem with this is the idea that this has the potential to “help start a revolution”. Enough people have flat-out dismissed this as a priviledged person’s dream and been rebutted to show that that isn’t quite right. But irrespective of how much more plausible this is now than it was X years ago, there will always be only a tiny pool of people for whom this is possible, and that by definition cannot be a revolution in any meaningful sense. A revolution among freelance tech correspondents, maybe, but that’s not meaningful for most of your readers, let alone the world.

    Another thing that makes me suspicious of this idea is that it places you in a position of having to depend wholly on others a hell of a lot. It’s cool that Sean Bonner has loads of friends all around the world, but I don’t. I have maybe half a dozen friends I would fully trust, and four of them live inside of 20 miles of me. I’m big on taking responsibility for yourself and being self-reliant, and while this reduces your reliance on Stuff, it concurrently increases your reliance on people. In fact, it’s pretty much bumming around your friends’ sofas on a global scale.

    The other thing: a revolution needs something to overthrow, an enemy to define itself against. ‘Stuff’ is not that thing. Marketing and advertising, and the sales system that drives it and relies on selling as much stuff to as many people as possible, as fast and often as possible, is what this needs to overthrow if it is to become a truly meaningful movement or ethos. I want it to succeed, if only because some sort of alternative to wall-to-wall conspicuous consumption that average people can relate to is sorely lacking in the world. I want it to, but I don’t think I’ll be betting on it.

  43. soultravelers3 says:

    You bring up some good points Johnnyoc, but let me assure you that a Neo-Minimalist world traveling Technomad is NOT an army brat nor are they 3rd culture kids. The world is very different today and unlike the army, the whole family can choose to move or not.

    I know what I am talking about because my child was 5 when we began and is now 10, we love it so much and find it so fantastic for our child that we have no plans on stopping.

    Today because of tech, we are in a NEW paradigm. It is VERY different from army life or even missionary life or diplomat life.

    I wrote about the social aspects here:

    And the amazing educational benefits here:

    There is much more on my website on these topics, but these will give you a taste of our experience and we have been doing this going on 5 years now.

    You will not find a happier or more content and fulfilled kid than mine. Also check out Maya Frost who took off with 4 teenages who all graduated early from University with no debt.

    It is not for everyone, but we have found it an extraordinary way to live, bond deeply as a family, and a superior way to educate a 21st century global citizen!

  44. edgore says:

    Well, it’s legal to send your kids to a Christian School that doesn’t believe in science, so I am pretty sure this is not a problam at all.

  45. El_Rich says:

    I’m having a little trouble understanding these complaints about “neo-minimalism” when it comes to economy.

    I am not, by any means, rich. My “minimalism” stems from this basic fact. I do not own things largely because I cannot afford them. This has enabled me to look at many of my purchases as things that I truly “want” or “need.” Don’t get me wrong, I do splurge when it comes to various personal items, but it isn’t out of control.

    I also choose not to own things because I’ve had the basic rule (ever since my father kicked me out of my house at the tender age of 18) of never owning more than I can carry. To this day, all of my clothes fit in my U.S. Army duffel bag and I own a large box in which my various memorabilia is stored.

    To me, I don’t see how being a neo-minimalist goes hand in hand with being a trust fund baby. In fact, I would think just the opposite. The reason why I would think so is because to me, people that are generally very well to do are those that are caught in this never ending arms race of the trappings of their status.

    The thing that I see with most people that are on the cusp of financial teeter totter is that they wind up acquiring many things in the attempt to elevate their illusion of status/privilege.

    I see this as a general pitfall of American at large. We all try to amass great amounts of materials in an attempt to show others that we are well off or to give the impression of such.

    I applaud Sean in his attempts to un-clutter and remove the things from his life which are unnecessary. Fad or not, this is probably something that we all can benefit from.

  46. Art says:

    I hope those worker drones at Apple stay at their jobs so you can continue to buy their digital stuff while you “walk tha’ earth” (Jules-Pulp Fiction)

  47. Anonymous says:

    listen to chairman bruce:

    favella chic & stuffed animals, best useful equipment you can buy and get rid of the rest

    first and last 1/4s are of interest.

  48. Ernunnos says:

    “People talk about it being simpler and cheaper because it is.”

    $80k is pretty darn privileged. Even in the first world.

    To the extent that it’s cheaper at all it’s because there are so few people doing it. It wouldn’t be hard to double the number of technomads out there. What would that do to the wages paid by the kind of jobs they must have to support that lifestyle? Will it still seem cheap when there are 2, 3, 4 people competing for those same jobs, and driving down wages? Where will all the new guest rooms for them to crash in come from? Or will all those tolerant friends whose hospitality and sunk costs you currently enjoy find themselves overwhelmed, and a little less likely to be generous? What will all those new travelers do to the cost of airline seats, and the oil that drives them?

    (The cost of which, by the way, is pure consumption, burned immediately into the atmosphere. A lot of the stuff people buy is durable goods that will last for years, perhaps even decades. At a certain point, it’s possible for most people to acquire all the things they reasonably need and stop consuming so much. Anyone who’s ever been to an estate sale or grandma’s house and marveled at all the decades-old appliances and funishings has seen this in action. Although that’s dying out with the Depression generation to a certain extent. Everybody “needs” the latest and greatest. But it used to be that the majority of consumption was not upgrading belongings, just replacing things that broke.)

    Technomadism is a completely unsustainable lifestyle for anything more than a tiny, tiny, fraction of the population. If you actually enjoy it, you should shut up about it. If you were to successfully sell the idea to a large audience, you could find yourself priced right out of the lifestyle.

  49. sgnp says:

    Yeah, so far I’ve yet to see a detractor who says, “I tried this a few years ago, and it’s complete bullshit.”

    In most of my adult life I’ve seen people much more willing to put effort into arguing about why something won’t work rather than putting the same amount into making it work.

    I think folks may be making too big a deal about the money aspect. My first instinct, too, was to get mad at all the stuff Sean had, and his ability to travel, and go, “Yeah, must be nice if you can afford it.” I don’t think it was the point, though.

    Unless I totally miss the mark, Sean isn’t putting forth some kind of, “be a technomad and you too can afford to travel the world,” speech for people who are below his level of income. (A note on that, $80k a year isn’t something to sneeze at. My family of three is living on less than $40k right now.) He’s not saying you have to buy a laptop and a video-enabled phone if you don’t have and can’t afford one.

    Hell, he’s not even advocating a radical change of lifestyle. (Travelling to someone’s house and using their kitchen isn’t the same as only having a pan and a hot-plate, after all.) Folks like me who can’t afford to travel after adapting Sean’s ideas to their own life wouldn’t be able to afford to travel anyway.

    This basically sounds like an extended version of the kindness-of-strangers lifestyle my family adopted for a month after we got flooded out of our house, with the addition of some extra gadgets, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  50. Eric Ragle says:

    I think like most things, there should be moderation. While a drastic leap like Bonner took may be necessary for some, for others it’s not. I like the idea of ridding myself of things I no longer use. However, just because I’m not currently using my scroll saw to build a jigsaw puzzle for my kids, that doesn’t mean I won’t tomorrow. Moderation.

  51. soultravelers3 says:

    You bring up some good points Johnnyoc, but let me assure you that a Neo-Minimalist world traveling Technomad is NOT an army brat nor are they 3rd culture kids. The world is very different today and unlike the army, the whole family can choose to move or not.

    I know what I am talking about because my child was 5 when we began and is now 10, we love it so much and find it so fantastic for our child that we have no plans on stopping.

    Today because of tech, we are in a NEW paradigm. It is VERY different from army life or even missionary life or diplomat life.

    I wrote about the social aspects here:

    And the amazing educational benefits here:

    There is much more on my website on these topics, but these will give you a taste of our experience and we have been doing this going on 5 years now.

    You will not find a happier or more content and fulfilled kid than mine. Also check out Maya Frost who took off with 4 teenages who all graduated early from University with no debt.

    It is not for everyone, but we have found it an extraordinary way to live, bond deeply as a family, and a superior way to educate a 21st century global citizen!

  52. fnc says:

    I’m guessing some of the negativity comes from people reading more from Sean’s essay than is really there. I didn’t feel as if he is insisting that I own too much stuff, or that I’d be much happier if I owned exactly as much stuff as he does and lived as he does. All I gathered was that -he- is having a fun and interesting time living the way he does and that he wants to tell other people about it. Which is just a very basic human desire.

    Some people are probably also trained to associate “travel” with “leisure” due to a life where the only time for travel is on vacation, and thus equate Sean’s lifestyle with a perpetual vacation and life of leisure.

    I don’t think he wants everyone to live like he does, he just wants us to understand we live in world where such a life is possible for some people. And personally, I’m happier knowing I live in a world that allows for such a lifestyle even if I don’t have any desire to sell all of my stuff and hit the road. And just because it’s not the life for me doesn’t mean I feel the need to denigrate it. I say more power to you guys. I think the world is made better as more people are able to travel and cross (and blur) cultural boundaries.

    And the baby picture is very awesome.

  53. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I used to have a (suburban) gypsy friend who, when she would get frustrated, would cry, “I’m getting in the vardo and heading out!”

  54. Ernunnos says:

    he just wants us to understand we live in world where such a life is possible for some people.

    A trivial truth. Just about any kind of lifestyle you can imagine is possible for some people if you set the value of some to a low enough number. This is not a surprise, or even worthy of note. No, there is a certain amount of promotion inherent to articles like this, and it’s ironic that same promotion can destroy the thing being promoted.

    There’s a certain thrill that comes from telling your friends about the pristine camping spot you discovered. But you’d better enjoy that thrill more than you enjoyed the solitude, because if your audience believes you, it won’t be quiet and pristine for very long. If you really love it, keep it to yourself.

    It is interesting to see who loves the thing itself, and who loves being known as a person who loves the thing.

  55. Art says:

    Yes. We have WAY too much stuff and divesting ourselves of superfluous objects is liberating.

    The “Technomad” concept is wonderful as long as the rest of the world keeps working it’s day jobs.

    As an aside, Sean, are you gainfully employed while on your journey?

  56. bronwyn says:

    Much like Mark Oshiro, I’ve been following Sean and Tara’s posts and tweets and it has also inspired me to minimize the amount of “stuff” in my life. A little over a year ago, while still in LA, I got rid of my car and with that savings alone, quickly started to pay down my debt.

    In LA, I had a one bedroom apartment, but kept my bills relatively low. I found I didn’t need cable TV (but definitely needed the internet), cooked at home more, participated in a community garden, and so on. All of which added up quickly to save even more money.

    This summer I was accepted to the New School in NYC, and so I sold off a large amount of my stuff (and donated just as much), making about $800 (which I then used to pay for shipping the remainder of my stuff to NYC, which cost $1250).

    My tuition is steep, and something I’m managing with scholarships, federal loans, and my own paycheck (so no assistance from my family and no private loans).

    But also, my current cost of living (excluding tuition), is about $1500 a month (yes, in NYC – I live in Inwood in a nice two bedroom apartment with a roommate). That includes $250 a month going into savings, plus a handful of luxuries (netflix, xbox gold account, cell phone, metro pass, and a few other things). My cost of living (rather comfortably, I feel) is $18,000k a year after taxes. I make significantly more than that at the moment, which is helping me pay for school and allowing me to save some money up so I can leave my job in a year or less.

    Different expectations here are key. I don’t care about blowing a ton of money at a bar on the weekend. I like riding my bicycle and reading in the park. I don’t mind using the library (especially now that I have both the New School and NYC libraries available to me). I don’t need cable TV with Netflix and Hulu around. I like cooking for my friends and having movie and game nights.

    Minimalism isn’t for everyone. And yes, by living in the developed world and being able to post here, we’re already significantly privileged compared to those elsewhere. But you really don’t have to be rich to spend your life on the road, especially if you’re happy to skip the nice hotels and fancy food. I’ve found most people I know don’t want to skip those things, though. They don’t know how they could live without cable TV or a car or going shopping every weekend.

    You don’t even have to be a “technomad” if you’re willing to work to experience the world out there. Pick fruit, build houses, teach kids. Get creative and if you really want to, you can radically change your life. Or not.

    The vast majority of it just about expectations and priorities.

    Keep up the awesome travels and writing, Sean (and Tara).

  57. M. K. Reuer says:

    Congratulations to the Bonner family on an interesting experiment, one that deeply cuts into American culture and consumer capitalism. Although certainly not a minimalist, I’ve had to watch my consumption patterns for economic reasons my entire adult life and still have accumulated too much stuff, none of which makes me terribly happy. What makes me happy is free time, new ideas, and relationships, not stuff. I’ll spend my entire life re-learning that lesson.

    The question I have is the depth of relationships you develop moving from one place to the next. Can you form meaningful friendships as a nomad? I don’t think a stationary existence necessarily results in deeper or permanent friendships, but too often we make disposable McFriends while traveling. Congratulations again on your journey.

    • bronwyn says:

      This is kind of a general reply to a couple of folks, but since you also asked about friendships, etc…. Lainie and Miro have been “nomads” in Latin America for the past year. Miro is 10 now, I think, and while they’ve settled down for bits of time here and there, they’ve traveled a bit too.

      This style of travel (that the Bonner’s are pursuing, as well as Lainie and Miro) is different from the “spend one week here” and “spend another week here” travel mentality people are used to. Plus, with the internet today, it’s possible to become friends with someone over a few weeks or months, keep in touch, and then meet up again in the future.

      Here’s Lainie and Miro’s site/podcast… lots of cool experience and info on there, including stuff about friendship on the road (as well as education on the road).

    • Sean Bonner says:

      The question I have is the depth of relationships you develop moving from one place to the next. Can you form meaningful friendships as a nomad? I don’t think a stationary existence necessarily results in deeper or permanent friendships, but too often we make disposable McFriends while traveling.

      This isn’t the 1800’s, so in most cases we know people ahead of time thanks to contact on the web, and easily stay in touch with them and new folks we meet after moving thanks to that as well. It’s easy to stay in touch with people everywhere thanks to e-mail, skype, IM, twitter, etc.. no matter where you are.

    • technomadia says:

      “The question I have is the depth of relationships you develop moving from one place to the next. Can you form meaningful friendships as a nomad?”

      Indeed you can.

      I met my partner Cherie after I had already moved onto the road, and within a year she was selling her house and joining me.

      We have also built up some wonderfully deep and lasting relationships with other technomads, and we regularly rendezvous on the road. We have met up with our technomadic photographer friend Ben Willmore ( in over six different states in just the past year.

      Also – when we do visit friends and family, we tend to stay in their area for weeks, not just a long weekend. This has been great for building solid community bonds.

      – Chris //

  58. Stu Mark says:

    I love the Boing, I surely do. And I love the fact that the BoingBoing curators keep the comments section open, and I love that the editors stay engaged with the commentators. I’m a philomath and BoingBoing’s virtual university is a blessing.

    What I don’t love is the denizens who enjoy tearing down what they find disagreeable. I’m fine with folks who disagree or disapprove, but I sure wish they’d find a way to be civil about it. I’m a parent, and I do my best to teach my children to say “That’s not for me,” instead of “That sucks!” or “That’s stupid!” or “F@(K you, you dumb f@(k!”

    I get that this is normal in society, normal on the internet, but gosh and golly, it’s a bit of a bummer. Also, I’d really like it if y’all would use your turn signals a bit more often. Thank you kindly.

  59. technomadia says:

    Hi Sean, welcome to the club!

    There are a lot of us technomads out there traveling the world right now – you should have done some research and linking to some of the communities and people pioneering the lifestyle.

    In particular, some credit is due to the original technomad and coiner of the word – Steve Roberts. He sold his belongings and moved onto a computerized bicycle (yes, bike!) in the mid-80’s! His bike is actually now on display in the Computer History Museum, his book “Computing Across America” is a must read, and he is now working on nautical pursuits, including his new boat being blogged about at

    I myself have been on the road pursuing and preaching technology enabled minimalism for well over four years now. I purged my Silicon Valley tech-life via a massive house cooling party (guests take stuff), and moved into a small solar-powered and thoroughly geeked out RV for a full-time life on the road starting in April 2006.

    My partner Cherie and I have spoken on Technomadism at the O’Reilly E-Tech conference in 2009, and we are planning to host a panel on Technomadism at SXSW 2011. We also host a theme camp called Camp Nomadia at Burning Man, and this year had 90+ nomads and technomads from around the world join us on the playa.

    We are also in touch with a producer who is working on a documentary about modern global nomadism.

    There really are already a LOT of us out there, and we have been getting to know each other over the past few years too.

    I will check out your new mailing list, but there are a lot of great communities and resources you should be checking out as well. The community is a collection of younger non-retired full-time RVers, for example.

    Anyway, welcome to the world of Technomadism. This lifestyle is great indeed!


    – Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard //

    • soultravelers3 says:

      Hi Chris & Cherie,

      It is true, minimalism and perpetual travel is not new at all. We were inspired by some oldies but goodies when we sold our home in Santa Cruz in 2005 because we saw the housing collapse and “new economy” coming. We mostly got out of the dollar at that point as well.

      The Terhorsts wrote “Cashing out on the American Dream in the 80’s and have been living a perpetual nomadic life for over 25 years. ” Your money or your life” was a classic written in the early 90’s. Kim from Families on the Road, has raised a child from diapers to adulthood on the road & has built a great community. In In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38 and have been living the life ever since.

      When we started out there were not many families doing world nomad living, I don’t know of any who were blogging about it in 2006, nor even many singles or couples. Rolf Potts influenced things and Lea Woodward built a community and coined the word Location Independent Professional. Mike Elgan has written much on this topic, including one called “Is digital nomad living going mainstream?
      Who’d a thunk it? A fringe band of crazy working globe-trotters just might be onto something” in Aug 2009.

      Since the 4HWW, tech changes and the 2008 economic crash, there has been a HUGE increase in people choosing minimalism and a perpetual travel lifestyle.

      Timing is everything. We have proven that one can thrive as a family doing this and get an amazing education that suits our times. We have also proven that it can be done luxuriously on very little money. We’ve lived on 25k a year total for a family of three as we traveled the world, MUCH less than we ever lived on at home.

      No life is perfect & each person or family will find their own way of doing it. Like any life there are challenges and pros and cons. But I’m in my 50’s and I’ve lived a lot of different ways & this is the best that we have ever found. It is a dream life. You do not have to be rich to live a rich life! Time is wealth. The new economy seems to be helping people wake up to this.

      This is such a high quality of life, it often makes me wonder if this isn’t the way people were meant to live. ( I am writing this from a beautiful luxury resort in Barcelona by the beach where I pay 16 euros a night & have many friends here from all over Europe who we have seen repeatedly as this is our 12th time here since 2006 and we usually stay a month at a time).

      I think travel and “home” will change for many people in the future. Thanks Sean for letting more people know about it!


  60. Anonymous says:

    We got to comment #100 without anyone mentioning the people who have done this before? Steve Roberts? Anyone? “Computing across America”?

    And others:

    There is nothing new under the sun. But read the book. Or follow him on Twitter @nomadness

  61. user23 says:

    While not strictly commenting upon Technomadism, I do feel compelled to comment on parallel lines.

    Wow. I’m a bit amazed at what I would call anger & FUD surrounding this concept of neo-minimalism. Until the last 2-3 months (when I noticed this becoming documented & printed via the internets) I had very little idea that I was one of many people striving for this & actually living out this paradigm.

    Call me old school, but I’ve been inspired by the “slow cooking” & “slow living” movements (popularized, I dare say, in the Pac Northwest) for the last many, many years of my life…along with philosophical Taoism & practical Zen philosophy.

    I easily possess fewer than 100 things – kitchen equipment included. Of those possession, I’m only interested in “keeping” my laptop, fancy mattress, clothing & my few pots/pans the next time I move. Essentially, this whittles my true possessions to <20 items, give or take. Of those, were it necessary, I’d just keep my clothing & laptop. At the end of the day, I don’t care about my ‘stuff’ – just my quality of life & quality of consciousness.

    Further, as some have feared is a consequence of minimalism, I (for one) do not purchase things which require huge amounts of waste. For instance, I purchase fresh produce & bulk beans/rice/quinoa (grains). If I purchase something like Shoyu, I refill the container when empty from a bulk dispenser at a food coop. Same thing with the liquid soap I use. & so on. This is not elitist or impractical, I see it as a mandate for living on a planet of rapidly dwindling resources.

    By living a life which de-emphasizes ‘stuff’ (including the incessant intake of media, whether books or music or film or internets) I find that I’ve developed a keener sense of self which I’m more fluidly able to share with others around me. The context of my life has certainly become more meaningful & richer by eliminating things & instead cultivating substance & cherishing interpersonal relationships itrw. Also, not accumulating has made my attachment to my location(s) more fluid. In the last several years, I’ve gone from corporate graphic designer in a metropolitan city to massage student to organic farm manager in the middle of nowhere. At one point, everything I owned fit in a couple of backpacks.

    And, fwiw, yes. Everyone can, in fact, live this sort of lifestyle. While it may seem impractical, one’s need for things is only as necessary as one wishes it be. Our limits exist only because we create them. Of course, to fully address the article, No. Not everyone can be a tech-nomad. But, we can all draw from the principles.

    cheers to no-thing :)

  62. Anonymous says:

    Um, Sean…

    …for what I’m calling “techmomads.” Seriously? As Chris and Cherie accurately pointed out, there is a LOT of history here, not just in the well-explored concept but also the term (which I coined in 1984 while traveling full-time on a computerized recumbent bicycle). Later, I ran the active “technomads” listserv for well over a decade, starting in 1989, and it has been a growing meme for quite a while… with hundreds of people inventing and discussing countless variations on the same basic principles. Chris and Cherie even published a lexicon of related terms last year, trying to bring some clarity to what has become a bit of a semantic tangle caused by people carving out namespace and trying productize coaching materials and the like.

    I’m happy that you are doing it and writing about it, of course, but claiming it as an original experiment and your own neologism is a bit disingenuous. I suspect you actually discovered this, as it doesn’t take much Googlage to find an considerable variety of related material.

    Anyway, I wish you good travels (and my compliments on the successful transition; I’m trying to do it again, after a long project in one place, and it’s harder this time). I have a decade of hospitality karma to repay, so if you’re ever passing through the Pacific Northwest while I’m still sailing these waters….

    Steve (the paleo-technomad)

  63. Drhaggis says:

    Skimming though the article, I almost always read it as “Techomaids”. This brings three simultaneous images to my mind:

    1) An army of Rosie the Robots riding Roombas.

    2) Maids who specialize in wiping monitors and cleaning the schmutz from your keyboard and mouse.

    3) IT personnel whose sole job it is to clean out your cache and browsing history.

    Sad that none of these are being described in the article.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Having lived the last few years in Toronto, Vancouver, Accra, and Shanghai with two kids in tow and in a minimalist fashion, let me just say that I have now made the decision to acquire stuff…lots of stuff…including things I might not need. This lifestyle will wear you down.

  65. EMJ says:

    This lifestyle but only going between two places, one with a large garden is what I want. Less stuff, but good tools. Strong meaningful relationships, but a bit of space.

    Go for it, Sean & Co!

  66. elfspice says:

    i am very interested in the idea of technomadism, have been for years. the cost of doing it has now dropped to the point it’s viable to live out of a suitcase and there’s now so many ways to organise things that would have been impossible previously. i accumulated a few boxfuls of electronics and nicknacks and quite frankly i find these things encumbering, i’m actually in the process of razoring it all down bit by bit and one thing that i am thinking seriously about is finally ditching the desktop machine if i can find some decent 11-12″ laptop that can run S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat at reasonably attractive settings, the nvidia ion looks possible.

    anyway, how does this page do that neat column spanning thing, columns appear and text flows once the column width exceeds some amount… very nice. there is an unavoidable sense of ‘glossy art-magazine’ feel to this page.

  67. CheshireKitty says:

    “This thing you’re doing is going too far!”

    …about right? :P

  68. Microship says:

    Hi again – just remembered I have an account here (duh!) so am not anonymous this time.

    This is an excellent thread, and raises issues that I have been hearing and thinking about for years. Many posters have made the very correct point that this does not scale, and for a variety of reasons…

    But that’s OK. I see it as a variant on the classic symbiosis between specialists and generalists. Think of the world for a moment as a huge mineralized mountain range, with people digging mines, chasing mineral veins, building tools, specializing in various ways. (Without them, there would be none of this delightful gizmology, and the subject would be moot.)

    But equally important are those who cross-pollinate, to mix metaphors… wandering around, dropping in on mines, making connections, acquiring tools, consulting, teaching, learning. The most interesting stuff happens at the boundaries between specialties, and if you have the tools to make your physical location irrelevant while remaining productive, then you are well-positioned to take advantage of that.

    One doesn’t need such lofty motives to be a technomad, of course, but it is a model that has a long history (on the order of centuries): itinerant practitioners of skills and arts various, living a nomadic life of bartering win-win. It is nothing new, philosophically; my own contribution to the field (sparking the “technomad” meme with my particular toolset) was really just the application of technologies that were flickering to life when I left Ohio back in 1983. A primitive laptop, CompuServe, solar panel, recumbent bicycle… the synergy of those was obvious and inevitable, and what started as a freelance-writing bicycle tour turned into a self-sustaining symbiosis of project, sponsors, and media as it caught the public fancy and kept me going.

    Anyway, I thought I’d post a somewhat more thoughtful reply to this thread than my earlier reflexive one.

    Cheers from S/V Nomadness (my new ride)

  69. Microship says:

    Oh, another thought…

    This lifestyle does indeed depend upon a support network, and during my 17,000 miles of bicycling one of my most precious possessions was the “hospitality database.” This began as a few far-flung friends represented as purple dots in the atlas, grew through various stages of binders and text files, and by 1990 was a real GIS-enabled database. I was fairly high profile back then, and every piece of fan mail that mentioned a shower or place to crash was saved.

    There are also what I called my “dynamic networks,” unfolding as I traveled and made connections in the major shared contexts: CompuServe users, ham radio operators, recumbent cyclists, etc. The FOAF network was powerful, and I would frequently leave one house and set my sights on their friend’s place 60 miles away.

    This level of public exposure is raw, risky, and usually wonderful. If I had to depend on paid accommodations, the adventure would have ended within months. I should also add that it worked even better during the 6,000 miles I traveled as a couple (and I knew some French folk who did it very successfully with an infant in tow).

    There was a novelty about this in 1983, so I had it pretty easy… but there is now a much more fine-grained range of networking options. Most people back then had never heard of modems; now you could carve out a technomadic niche with an interesting mission, a blog, and a Facebook page. Boom – instant hospitality network!


    • Sean Bonner says:

      Hi Steve, just catching up on your comments – Thanks for chiming in. As I said I twitter I never suggested I came up with the term, quite the contrary in fact I thought it was just a descriptive word that many people were using for various different things (a google search reveals your site of course, as well as a speaker company called Technomad, a line of luggage called Technomad, a book about rave culture called Technomad, etc..) and I thought it was a good descriptive term for what I was trying to describe.

      Anyway, I’m glad you are here now and I would love for you to join the mailing list and continue the discussion. It’s exciting to see so many people talking about this stuff, pro and con, and I’m looking forward to where the conversations, and the experiments that different people are trying with their own lives, will lead.

  70. narddogz says:

    Interesting read. The most important lesson here is to realize that one’s happiness is independent of their “stuff”. Once you’ve learned this, you can be happy in almost any situation.

    I’ve been happy with very little… pretty much living a trailer with a guitar and a dog, and I’m happy now with a medium sized American home on five acres with four autos, two motorcycles, ATVs and lots of fun stuff that I don’t really need, all paid for. I love having a home base and feeling anchored right now.

    I currently have the room for excess stuff; it’s not deteriorating if I don’t pay attention to it. Am I less of a person having this stuff? You could make the valid argument that consumption is bad for the planet, but most of it was bought used. Whether or not I OWN it is irrelevant. It exists and I exist.

    Last time I checked,(once paid for) this “stuff” doesn’t have some sort of invisible beam draining my energy or happiness. It’s not preventing me from traveling or meeting people. Well, honestly I couldn’t drop everything and live like Sean does. But some of my physical possesions allow me to have postitive experiences that I couldn’t have without them. For example, tomorrow I’ll be taking a horse-based camping trip to meet friends at the beach. It helps to own a truck, camper, horse and horse trailer in this case!

    So yeah, learn to separate yourself and your happiness from owning objects. Just as you shouldn’t become happier from going out and buying something unnecessary (which is what consumer media is trying to drive into our heads), you ALSO shouldn’t suddenly become happier because you sold off your stuff. If you do, you must believe that objects have some sort of voodoo spell on you and you haven’t learned the real lesson… it’s SEPARATION.

  71. Anonymous says:

    If you’re not risking jail time at the very least, then what you’re doing is not “starting a revolution.” Maybe time to ditch the daddy issues along with the rest of the baggage?

  72. Anonymous says:

    >If you’re not risking jail time at the very least, then what you’re doing is not “starting a revolution.”

    Read “The One Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka. Who says jail has to be a possibility to be revolutionary?

  73. Eric Ragle says:

    I think employment and housing would be the biggest things for me. Relying on the kindness of others doesn’t always get the kids out of the rain.

  74. Art says:

    OK. One more from me and then it’s adios.

    I think this is a fascinating social experiment. and divesting ourselves of superfluous “stuff” is great. If Sean’s purpose is to write about the experience, then it is truly a valuable exercise.

    However if one wants to simply “drop out” (as we used to say) I have no respect for it whatsoever.
    I am going to foist a very antique concept here, one that may sound outdated, quaint and just plain dumb: If you plan to become a tecnomad out of choice, what do plan upon doing for your social obligations? You know, being a productive contributor to the rest of society? Is simply Tweeting new social contacts, globetrotting and crashing at their houses all there is?

    Also, not everyone can do this. SOMEONE ELSE has to maintain a full time job, own or rent a house and produce a world where digital devices can be purchased and maintained with juice.

    I dunno…This entire concept is the result of spoiled, well-off kids. It’s adolescent, selfish and unrealistic for 99% of the population. Not a social trend of any value.

    • sgnp says:

      Maybe Sean can clarify, but he’s been using the term “sublet,” which for me means, “paying someone else’s rent while staying in a place where they have a lease.”

      If you’re a renter and you want to take an opportunity in another city or country for a few months, having someone sublet your apartment can defray the costs while you’re gone.

      A list of friends who are always looking for sublets would be handy for a lot of people who need to travel for a month or two for work, for example, rather than just eating the cost of rent.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      “This entire concept is the result of spoiled, well-off kids.”

      Art, again you’ve shown you’ve missed every point and just continue to make up whatever you want to complain about. I’ve said from the beginning that we’re paying for things, subletting, leasing, subletting our own stuff out, etc. You’ve been on some tangent from the beginning that isn’t even relating to what I’m talking about.

      You seem to think I’m advocating being a homeless bum who just uses everyone elses stuff when nothing could be further from the truth. Go back and read what I’ve written here, look at my own site to see what I do for a living and stop reading between the lines and injecting your own neurosis and you might see that.

  75. Anonymous says:

    As a graphic artist who only needs his laptop and an internet connection for work, I used the opportunity that I had at the time and did the same. Over a two years period, I worked the usual 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but while in Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. It wasn’t always easy, but it was the best time of my life.

    There is however one issue that hasn’t been discussed here and that is taxes. If you wanted to make everything 100% legally, aren’t you supposed to pay taxes in the country on which soil you earn the money? As opposed to working with contacts from back home, using your home bank, etc. Not to mention tourist visas or work permits…

  76. technomadia says:

    When we first set off on being technomadic over 3 years ago, there were a subset of people who could only relate it to becoming a homeless bum, or being a ‘spoiled rich kid’. I think it’s a natural assumption anytime someone starts talking about shaking up the normal definitions of how one should live their lives.

    The fact of the matter is .. by and large, the technomads we’ve met in our travels are all self-sufficient, self-supporting, contributing members of society. And many of them are able to give back to society in ways that those with location dependent lives can’t. Such as one traveling duo we know who volunteer nearly full time with the Red Cross, using their location flexibility to move to where disaster strikes and helping out in epic ways.

    For us, we both hold tech jobs supporting some pretty major healthcare clients in areas that we’re passionate about and feel better the world. We’re able to do this as we roam, because we designed our careers to be location independent. We don’t bum off others (although, people do invite us to come stay with them for a bit, which we appreciate – and give to their households when we do, by contributing to meals, helping with chores, etc.). But by and large, we pay for campgrounds for our RV. And because our expenses are low, we’re able to use our income to take ‘time off work’ and use our location flexibility to volunteer full time long term on projects that inspire us.

    Yes, if everyone took off being technomadic – there would be no structure in which support everyone. We are thankful to those that build the substrate that we’re able to utilize to be nomadic. Technomadism is not something that everyone, or even a majority of folks, can do. We do need people staying in one location and building & supporting the infrastructure. And there is only a small subset of us that are actually well suited for this lifestyle – mentally, career wise, etc.

    And our society also needs folks who are moving between locations, filling in gaps that others can’t and cross-polinating ideas in ways that only face-to-face quality time can do. There’s room for us all in this great big world – and that’s a beautiful thing.

    – Cherie /

  77. bobbcorr says:

    The choice between “stuff” and “experiences” is not the defining question – exploring how to discern between “want” and “need” is.

    What does it mean for an individual to become aware of this difference? What are examples of lifestyles that embrace material essentials (the “needs”) while still pursuing ambitions and desires (the “wants”)?

    The technomads are not bound to locations, which obliges them to be discerning in some regards as a matter of practicality. But does this teach them to be discerning about what their actual “needs” are and through that, who thy are, like the story of the 10 bulls from the zen tradition?

    Or is it just a fad for people with a lot of stuff to indulge in to make them feel better about themselves?

    I’d like to see Mr. Bonner explore some of these topics, if possible, not just show pocket dumps and suitcase dumps. Carrying less stuff does not lead to enlightenment, it just means you’ve got less stuff.

  78. Mimi says:

    It makes me laugh to read that minimalism, or technomadism, or whatever we want to call it, reeks of privilege, etc. How nice to learn that I, a lowly English teacher, am a trust fund brat!

    One question: where’s my trust fund? I could certainly use it now.

    I’ve been a minimalist for at least 10 years now, though I did succumb to Stuff for a year or so – and it was one of the worst years of my life. When I gave away everything I owned outside of what I could fit into 3 suitcases, I felt FREE!!! And that freedom from Stuff is what has enabled me to pack up and go, whenever I’m of a mind to go. Like Sean & his family, I stay for an extended period of time in a given place before moving on. But when it IS time to move on (as it will be in a few months), all I have to do is zip up my suitcases and be on my way.

    I can never imagine going back to Owning Stuff. In fact, I have another box of stuff I’m taking to Goodwill tomorrow.

  79. tuggless says:

    This is attracting a lot of comments, and I don’t want to finish reading them all. I’m just not that interested. So please forgive me if the discussion is past this point. The rest of this comment is written for Sean and Tara.

    I think its great that people can live this lifestyle. Sure it requires some mooching off of people with the items you don’t have and this isn’t possible for most people, but its fantastic you guys can live the way you want to. I’m jealous ;p.

    The only thing I disagree with is if this lifestyle is continued when the baby is older. The last comment I read was Tara speaking about not letting society tell her how to raise her child. I’m all for breaking the traditional mold, but this can be dangerous for the child. Just because you both love living this way doesn’t mean it is good for the him. Lemme throw in a mandatory, “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”. Why would you force your child into your lifestyle? Well obviously every parent does it, but you are denying the child the ability to make “proper” relationships. How many times will he cry over losing his best friend(s)? What happens when he wants a girlfriend? What happens if he decides making friends isn’t worth it anymore? What do psychologist say can be expected for his mental development?

    I’m not an expert on child raising, I don’t even have a child. I’m just concerned for his well being. I’d hate to see such wonderful people be horrible parents. I don’t like telling people what to do, but I do feel the need to question them as to why they do it. I’m sorry if I come off kinda preachy. As I said, I’m envious of your lifestyle, but I do worry about the person that has no say-so in the matter. I hope you take this into consideration.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Well obviously every parent does it, but you are denying the child the ability to make “proper” relationships.

      At nine months old, he’s several years away from making long-lasting relationships with anyone other than his parents.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      He’s actually 6 months old, not 9, and as I’ve mentioned several times in this comment thread as he gets older the schedule will change of course and we’re making decisions after talking to many doctors and families who have traveled extensively. Rest assured no decisions on that matter are being taken lightly.

      • sgnp says:

        As the parent of a four-year-old, I can tell you that one of the things my daughter is into right now is exactly what you’re pitching: new experiences.

        As long as she’s with you and Tara, I think you’ll be able to keep this up for a while.

        One thing you may want to think about is trying to maintain some consistency with rules. My mother died when I was three and we didn’t have that much money, so my father had to find a steady stream of volunteer baby-sitters, a situation that I suspect you may find yourself in sometimes. This lasted until I was in second grade and my dad remarried.

        I vividly remember being confused and frustrated at how something that had been okay with one sitter was wrong with the other one. Something you’ll be less inclined to run into was inconsistency in punishment. The first time I got a swat on the behind rather than a time out, I had no idea *what* was going on. Obviously, when we told our dad what had happened we didn’t see that caregiver again.

        Still, as far as socialization with other kids goes, I don’t see you running into any problems for years to come. We go to a lot of different playgrounds and my daughter meets tons of different kids. She’s very outgoing and can play with just about anyone.

        As far as school goes, who knows what the world is going to be like in five years? Now that kids can go to high school online, it’s possible that your son can pursue his academic studies in a virtual classroom and get his socializing done by participating in real-life activities of a more hands-on nature.

    • Mikeachim says:

      tuggless –

      Children don’t have a say in the matter until they are older. That’s the whole point of parents. They make decisions for their children until those children are old enough. That’s what parents do. That’s their call.

      Personally, I grew up a British Forces child with a father who was posted abroad, so my childhood was Germany, Cyprus and various stations round England. Now I wish I’d travelled much more than that. And if my parents had been on the move the whole time I was growing up, I’d probably see my childhood in an idyllic, instead of mild resentment at spending 7 teenage years in the same coastal English town.

      “Proper relationships”? You mean sedentary, stay-put relationships? You mean, straight out your own biography, when you were growing up, in a world before the information revolution, before e-mail, Skype, before everything that enables a technomadic lifestyle? Ahuh.

  80. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t “stuff” vs “experiences” a false dichotomy? Indeed, don’t many of the latter require the former (though not necessarily *owned* things, to be sure)?

    In just the last week I’ve taken my mtn bike down some great trail, driven my car to the coast for hurricane earl surf on my surfboard, shot my guns and ammo, etc etc. So how are these kinds of (rad) things accomplished on the minimalist’s terms– just by borrowing from friends or renting?

    I’m meaning this as a good faith question, really just to get a better sense for what these ultralight experiences look like in practical terms. (Tim Ferris shows a pretty tight system for his thrills in 4HWW, but those seemed to require his huge passive income stream.)

    Kind regards.

    • Sean Bonner says:

      It’s not “this” or “that” – the problem I found myself in, and the problem I see a lot of people in, is they think that the stuff will create the experiences, rather than enable them. For example: I ride my bike in Los Angeles a lot. I know a lot of folks in LA who say they wish they rode their bike but they don’t because their bike isn’t nice enough, they need a new helmet, they need better biking clothes, their shoes don’t fit on the pedals, etc.. so they keep buying things, piece by piece, but never getting out on their bike and riding.

      Of course you need a bike to go on a bike ride, but you don’t need a room full of bike gear go out on a bike ride. Know what I mean?

  81. kwsdurango says:

    Interesting write and trend identification.

    Me – Corporate headhunter working online in the US from home (a furnished apartment in Croatia) at the moment and doing a fair amount of traveling. Going on my third year of living out of a backpack and camera bag. (Clothes, Laptops, Cameras – that’s all.)

    I’ve accumulated a few things on the road, mostly replacement clothing. I kept some things in the USA, the most important of which is a vintage car. And that’s it. I don’t own anything else. So I guess I am already doing this.

    I’m an Army Brat so moving about comes naturally. As a family we never accumulated too much stuff so I kept that trait as well. I’ve just taken it to the a bit further.

    I have one main rule: If I can’t carry everything (no rolling) for 1km I’ve got too much! It’s rare that I miss “stuff.” I definitely don’t miss the responsibility of “stuff.”

  82. Anonymous says:

    I travel with my six month old too. We started traveling full time in 2008 and work completely online. I write about my experiences here:

  83. Anonymous says:

    It’s horses for courses in my view.

    I have a house here in the UK, in which I have a fair amount of ‘stuff’. TV, dvds, books, cushions, high thread count bedding, art. I like having these things in my life, and they bring me happiness. I don’t feel like I need minimalism to be liberated. if anything, minimalism of ‘stuff’ for me actually is negative. I don’t need my stuff. I choose to have it.

    When I travel I take just what is needed and no more, so, in that sense, I’m a travel neominimalist.

    Like alot of the comments, the fundamental point here is that the vast majority of us are required to be in one fixed location for a sustained period of time to bring in money. Thus, we want that location to be enjoyable. Where’s the fun in living in a prison cell? If it all had to go tomorrow, fine. I’m not burdened emotionally, socially or physically by my stuff. Tyler durden wasn’t necessarily correct. I am not owned; I own.

  84. soultravelers3 says:

    It is funny to hear the talk here, especially about raising a child this way.

    We have been doing this for 5 years with a child who was 5 when we began and is 10 now. She is years ahead of her age peers in academics and the happiest kid you will ever meet ( not to mention a very fluent trilingual/triliterate raised by monolinguals who can speak some of many languages).

    We are minimalists but she also plays violin and piano well beyond her years ( takes lessons via skype webcams with teachers on other continents like she does with her Mandarin or Johns Hopkins University CTY online classes).

    I grew up with lots of moving and THRIVED on it ( as have many others).

    There are many ways to live and this is a good one for kids and families ( if like any good parenting done with thoughtfulness and love), perhaps the very best for preparing and educating tomorrows 21st century global citizens. ( Um, you may have noticed, schools are in trouble like many old dinosaurs today).

    “We are educating children to have safe secure jobs in 1950.” Kiyosaki

    Fear not Sean and Lara, you are on the right track!

    I wrote this about our experiences of educating through world travel ( we travel with a tiny carryon each for months at a time & use a van sized RV in Europe as vehicle, home, storage unit and world wide furnished rentals so we can live easily on 25K a year as we travel the world).

    Our primary reasons for doing this was in seeking the best possible education for our child and to have more quality time together. It has more than met our expectations and we do not miss our beloved home ( built with love and sweat equity) or stuff at all.

    It is hard to understand how liberating this life can be unless you do it.

  85. Anonymous says:

    It’s amazing how much this concept is pissing people off. Seems folk don’t like to be reminded that they’re materialistic money-worshipping hoarders. The article is about minimalism and efficient living, not asceticism.

  86. Anonymous says:

    I started my own business straight out of college because I didn’t want to follow the status quo. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to follow whatever dreams I have at any given time in my life… and they do change with time. By not accepting the rules of society, I’ve created an extraordinary life for myself. I’ve been location independent for 8 years now taking various extended trips to 11+ countries and 30 US states. I’ve also pursued many passions from racing motocross, skateboarding, photography, ect. As life presents me opportunities, I’m able to jump on them rather than be bogged down by asking my boss for the day off. I have the ability to make these decisions for myself as I see fit without asking anyone for permission.

    In a recent chain of events I find myself wanting more… more from life that is. I’ve decided to fully cut the umbilical cord and sell all of my possessions besides a few boxes I’ll keep at my parents house and travel the world indefinitely (with my laptop in tow working from the road). This lifestyle is not uncommon, it’s unconventional and there are many different ways to accomplish this task. My friend, he is saving up over a years time to take a year off, and is also reducing the amount of things he owns in the mean time. Other’s get various jobs on the road and move from place to place as they feel the need. It’s not an elist lifestyle and it CAN be obtained by anyone in a variety of different ways. Once you spend at several months carrying everything you need on your back, you begin to look at stuff in a different way. This lifestyle does take hard work and dedication and is definitely full of sacrifices. I feel saddened to say good bye to my friends, but with technology it’s much easier to stay in touch. I don’t feel sad to say good bye to my items.

    If you see something you want, go after it. Don’t make up excuses to why it can’t be done.

    With every day that passes moving into my new lifestyle… I feel liberated.

    If you’d like to follow my journey as I prepare to leave for indefinite travel in January 2011… you can follow along on my blog

  87. Eric Ragle says:

    Looking over the comments, it reminds me of the hostility I experienced when I went vegetarian. People just don’t like the idea of giving things up. Materialism is a powerful religion.

  88. Art says:

    It’s true that it’s terribly easy to have a knee-jerk, negative response to this concept.
    I did myself. I suppose it was the “revolution” aspect that gave me pause.

    Sean is obviously not advocating this lifestyle for everyone. But there are those who are not required to have a home/office base who can work and make a living from anywhere.

    People who do this certainly sound quite happy and with their choice. I myself can ship my work from any location but I need a rather large shop to do my work. Franky, if I could find a way to pack my studio into a camper, my wife and I would be on the road touring the country- guaranteed!

  89. Anonymous says:

    FYI: Traveling without luggage makes you a terrorist suspect in Airports.

  90. Anonymous says:

    uh. neo minimalism? technomads? how about just being young and poor.

  91. Eric Hunting says:

    I see parallels here to the brief Urban Nomad movement of the 60s and 70s, inspired by the first emergence of Post-Industrial theory and futurism. There was a briefly popular idea that a new nomadic intellectual youth culture was emerging that rejected consumerism in favor of a light mobile lifestyle based on repurposing the detritus of the declining Industrial Age Capitalist culture -which then was expected to imminently collapse on itself due to its inherent non-sustaiability and the growing social back-lash. Of course, that prediction proved somewhat premature as Consumerism was just winding up for the spectacular cultural onanism of the 80s and 90s. Back then the Urban Nomads were more focused largely on the techniques of adaptive reuse -which led to all those books like ‘How To Build Your Own Nomadic Furniture” featuring various forms of industrial cast-offs recycled into fun and clever -if not always effective- home furnishings. Today we find ourselves in the midst of another resurgence of Post-Industrial culture fueled by a similar mass disillusionment in the mainstream culture. And so we are seeing this ‘neo-minimalism’ emerge with a similar underlying sentiment; that realization of the raw deal we’ve long been getting out of the Industrial Age. But now the focus is more on an empirical experimentation with new lifestyles rather that just an exploration of the physical trappings of an imagined new culture -the adaptive reuse now the province of the Maker movement and it’s attempt to go beyond the mere skimming off of the old culture’s detritus to an all-out re-appropriation of technology for its own ends.

  92. minimalistwoman says:

    It may be new, but I suspect it’s not a fad. It’s comparable to backpacking across Europe years ago. Would do it in an instant myself if I was young. It’s logical and it crosses socioeconomic barriers.

  93. BastardNamban says:

    I have not had time to read any comments yet. Too much news lately- the Narco Blog (sad, but amazing that someone has that much balls), soldier suicide, too much to ingest.

    I just finished reading my first Kerouac book, Dharma Bums. I’m a college grad that never read Kerouac till now. It was one of the best books I ever read, and the only book I ever read (in 1000s of books) that left me with a want to LIVE again.

    This man’s concept is like a digital version of Dharma bums, in a small sense. I’m single, and jobless 2 years now despite an impressive bilingual background in Japanese, so I would love to wander the world, working as I go.

    But I don’t have whatever literary career Sean does. If I found a way to do this, I would pack and leave home tomorrow- the only things holding me back are my books (if I could scan all them into PDFs somehow I’d do it!), and no money.

    I wish I could join you Sean, I would join you, really, in an instant if I could somehow.

  94. Anonymous says:
    This blog by Bruce Sterling is all about turning what you are talking about here into some kind of science, a bit like your 100 things method.
    It ended in November 2008 but I think the whole thing is still pretty relevant. Here’s an excerpt from the last entry:

    You will need to divide your current possessions into four major categories.

    1. Beautiful things.
    2. Emotionally important things.
    3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
    4. Everything else.

    “Everything else” will be by far the largest category. Anything you have not touched, or seen, or thought about in a year – this very likely belongs in “everything else.”

    You should document these things. Take their pictures, their identifying makers’ marks, barcodes, whatever, so that you can get them off eBay or Amazon if, for some weird reason, you ever need them again. Store those digital pictures somewhere safe – along with all your other increasingly valuable, life-central digital data. Back them up both onsite and offsite.

    Then remove them from your time and space. “Everything else” should not be in your immediate environment, sucking up your energy and reducing your opportunities. It should become a fond memory, or become reduced to data.

  95. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Installé sur son échelle
    Jacob jugera de bien haut
    Le célèbre Diogène
    Voyageant dans son tonneau
    — Soeur Sourire

  96. Anonymous says:

    Ya’ll should check out It’s and excellent technomad resource. Basically a non-profit that provides free housing and a local guide to travelers. I’ve used it to stay for free in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. As well as meeting and hosting ton’s of travelers.

  97. Anonymous says:

    In my case, the utility of an object trumps all. What I want or need aren’t questions I ask myself when buying new stuff. Do I want a new iPad?- yes, most certainly. Do I need it?- absolutely not. But I will use it, and that’s enough for me.

    And why all the adverse reaction to ANYBODY wanting to travel? Live vicariously, I say. If I can’t do it, then I’ll read about it (in blogs like these) or watch video on said subject. Squeeze whatever bits of joy out of life in any way.

    The problem, with the detractors, is that most of these people have been conditioned to satisfy-by-consumption. Buying things, as an American, has become a hobby in and of itself. The stuff makes no difference. Acquiring the stuff is all important; then it’s on to the next shiny thing. So exploring the possibility of lightening up one’s life through the expulsion of one’s personal items is almost a personal attack for some people- “this is my pursuit, my identity, and now you’re asking me to get rid of it? No, thanks.”

    Talk to a young person about the next great purchase and their eyes light up, but ask, even in the simplest terms, what kind of experience they expect out of it, and you’ll get nothing but blank stares.

    There’s a whole generation growing up with no imagination because consumerism has replaced romanticism. Life’s little pleasures, sadly, just don’t involve the human experience, these days, without a bunch of junk to complete the experience.

  98. Anonymous says:

    I wonder, do you do any sports at all, like running, cycling, climbing diving, surfing, etc…

    Is software a ‘thing’? does having 30 different programs on your S-10 count as 30 diffrent possessions?

  99. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of my nephew, who is not dependent on the internet for his income. He is extremely frugal. His great love is rock climbing. His job is with a concern that helps kids kick drug habits in a wilderness setting, giving them minimal camping gear and teaching them survival skills, to start. He does keep a few things stashed with his parents, but not that many because he is quite unattached to material goods.

    He works a long stretch, then has many days off, which allows him to travel to other areas to climb with friends or catch a flight to see his girlfriend several states away.

    Before that, he worked in Yellowstone, basically in concessions, nothing that required a specific skill set. But once you start doing this kind of thing, rock climbing in a serious way, working in the parks, etc., you tap into a knowledge base of opportunities for sustaining yourself and doing what you love. That’s what I found so interesting and inspiring. That there IS a way. And not just for the very few people who are able to make a living from the internet.

  100. Piper says:

    This is really a great article. I did this for a few months several years ago. Now that I’m not as mobile, we’re trying to take the challenge of less is more while staying in one place, which I’m finding a bigger challenge. When I had to carry my belongings around with me I was much more choosy about what stuff to keep!

    One way we do this is by trying to choose the minimum of stuff that sustains life (gardens, composting)or creates fun we do together rather than a bunch of stuff we don’t ever use. The hardest part here for us is letting go of really good books we’re probably not ever gonna read again.

    We also try to think of what stuff builds those new life experiences in the context of a not new place. Which is also harder than the excitement of discovering somewhere foreign to me. Like maybe if we get bees all the things we’ll learn about them and pollination and get to share with others who come over…

    Finally, a lot of this stuff also assumes a job that leaves some disposable income left over and allows for moving around, which is why it has “tech” in the name. There’s a class implication here that I really encourage us to be aware of. Which is it’s cool to live as if you have no money while having actual money when you need it. I just want us to remember that it has a lot more appeal when it’s a lifestyle choice then when it is just the lifestyle we can afford.

  101. no1crush says:

    For those of you who are truly happy with your conventional 9-5 keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle, would you feel the need to judge and condemn Sean’s lifestyle choice? Who seriously can say that you’re truly happy with a home full of stuff, especially if they’re just sitting there collecting dust while your credit card bill is growing? Where is it all going to go when you die?

    So sad that so many people are content to be sleepwalking through life.

  102. Anonymous says:

    Hi,I Applaud what you both are doing ! Since I have done it, I will share my experience now being 20 yrs later looking back.. I found your posting on David Orban and Andrew Hessel FB page. I have been part of the Singularity Group and Foresight Nano since 2002 when I met many of these wonderful People and Now with Humanity + taking off that is so Global ~~ I think many of us are saying ~~ Have to ride this wave ~~ Cause it is going to be Awesome so then one thinks … Gee I have to manage the “Cost’s” of all this travel for learning and networking… This is where the Nomadic Life takes shape and form ~~

    So the 2010 result of life as 20 yrs a Nomad following the “Science” is I am a Mom to a wonderful 20 yr old son at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington U. I did not plan but ended up bring him into this world in 1990 all by myself ~ No Dad or other half etc… I had lived in same town in FL for 10 yrs and had built a really good practice as a therapist but with my son I realized what worked for me a single woman was not going to work for “US”.. So “Hit the Road Jack” seem to be logical answer at the time.. and as My son got older… I told him “Home” is where ever I am.. Where ever he sees me is “Home”.. As Home is He and I together… Not a house, a couch, a fridge etc. It is the Soul and essence of the Person.

    I know the storage game well! Luckily I downsized our belongings into just the “momentous” a long time ago and know the value of climate controlled indoor storage ! I started traveling with my infant in 1991 to find another home.A place where we belonged. It is the best thing I have ever done in my life !! I exposed my son to so many cultures in his growing up… so many fantastic experiences.. and of course it cost much less to live as Nomads rather then my spending money on a house where it was just he and I staring at each other every day. Like in the Truman Show etc…

    We did what you are talking about… I had a fascination with NH and had friends there. We spent time in Peterborough NH where I set up a practice for awhile and then a year in Boulder CO where I had friends for a job that got me out of therapy work. And then it was traveling all through CA.. Networking with friends from my preventive medicine education in 1970s’as I was building my research on aging. Some places we stayed longer then others due to sharing space with other parent’s or the situation going on…Yes everyone is attracted to Babies and toddlers so it was a joyous journey…every moment of the day…

    Amtrak had all aboard fares ( and most likely still do) where you could travel on their trains for a month and go anywhere they go. Which we did a number of times. I met other single Mom’s on the trains doing the same thing as I… and what is cool every town has a awesome museum for kids… all over the country… We spent time in AZ, Orlando Fl, Chicago, DC, NYC, Boston every now and then settling in for awhile.. Rental cars, Hostel’s, I loved busing around a city as get to interact with the locals… and interact we Did !! Have excellent memories..

    By the time he was suppose to be starting school… I finally opt to stay put in Santa Fe NM where the culture and lifestyle was similar to ours of the Nomad… It was wonderful till I realized my son was smart and needed opportunities in his schooling life Santa Fe did not offer… Amazingly I found this awesome Jr boarding school for him to start 6th grade in 2001 in Hanover NH… I felt it was time he had a more secure and settled life and to be around men so he lived at the school
    ( Cardigan Mountain) and I lived in Hanover NH home to Dartmouth U which was a boon for me and my interest and research I was doing in nanotechnology to plug into. ( I had a investor for my research with the intent being taking products to market)

    By 2002 I felt my son settled enough ( he very happy.. He loved Cardigan and they him) at the school where he lived that I started to Nomad on my own.. Attending conferences around the country to do with singularity and Nanotech in the next years… Though always keeping some homebase close to his school. A room in a house with other’s or a studio etc…With cell phones… I told him the cell phone was a life line and he could call me no matter what time of day and I would answer and He did ! Plus we talked every night during the school week of how his day went and what he needed or what he was concerned about etc…

    As Mary Angelou wrote in 1993 her book ” I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now” Which I tell my son ~~ Ok we did not have the traditional life ( he went to and lived at another boarding school in Santa Barbara CA ( CATE) for high school) but someday we will have a Home with all the trimmings when I have the Cash flow to afford !! ( Oh Yes… The Dog too… a Dad ?? Who Knows)
    His X-Mass gift this year is a Book of Our Journey complete with time line and photo’s ( as we had a full life !) for his 21st B-day in Feb 2011 ~ Bon Voyage Son ! Home ( Mom ) is always here for You ~~

    In this day and age, of us pursuing science endeavors that are just arising into the platform of real world..
    It is best to follow the information and worry about the House with picket fence to a time in future when we have achieved Our Goals and have the time and space to Enjoy ~ Right now I have found it is much more vitally fun and intellectually stimulating to live in the Moment ! PS: I always travel with my own french feather pillow and when can my feather bed.. put it on top of any bed and it instantly becomes your own bed of ” Home”

  103. Anonymous says:

    Twice in my life have I lost everything I owned in fires. Both times the overwhelming feeling was one of liberation.

  104. claycourter says:

    I’ve been called a recovering minimalist. After spending the majority of my 20s as a transient (crewing & racing sailboats) I’ve gone from zero to an apartment’s worth of stuff over the subsequent decade – though most of it is second hand or self-made, so my “grown up” friends still have plenty to pu-pu at.

    So I’m in the middle. I like what I have, but could shed all but the sentimental stuff without a second thought. In the end, though, it’s more due to indifference than a strong opinion about our possessions-based culture.

    Like everything else in life, it all comes down to doing what makes you happy without being negative or causing trouble.

  105. Anonymous says:

    Would you take the time to explain the credit card issue with the chips? How does this work, and how can it be solved. Thanks.

  106. Anonymous says:

    Wow- These comments are a very interesting cross section of the American psych. Why are so many people threatened by this family’s lifestyle? The responses exhibit more to do with responders’ fears, prejudices and frustration, than the author’s writing. While maybe it’s not possible or even desirable for everyone to jump in to this kind of lifestyle, perhaps taking from it what we can is the whole point. Re defining what is and what isn’t a “creature comfort” challenges the very basis of how we will evolve as a species in the future. Both proponents of self sustainability thru “getting back to nature” and this “technomad” approach will presumably work hand in hand towards that goal. Why is it the first instinct of most people to take “difference” to mean “rejection” and therefore take a positon of defense, rather than consideration and possible collaboration. I for one have chosen to live simply with technology as a tool and still have friends over for homemade, homegrown dinners. Why does it have to be one or the other? I am not much of a traveler- but I do move every five years or so and I am by no means rich or expecting a parachute inheritance at anytime. My flexibility has enabled me to have a wealthy lifestyle within my means- which is a far cry from those who have found themselves in debt living up to the Jones’ expectations. The sentiment that this is a “thing to do in your 20’s” or “we tried that in the 60’s” is a pretty narrow estimation of what humanity is capable of. Times change, our basic needs do not. However we individually choose to meet those needs in a changing world, is always food for thought. The question is ‘Are you a JONES or are you not a JONES? And can anyone really afford to be a JONES anymore ( at the planets expense, and as humanity’s happiness quotient plummets regardless of net worth ) ? I say- to each his own! Thanks for writing about your experiences! We all need new perspectives to learn from.

  107. md23 says:

    agreed with Anon and most of people here. .. to each its own!
    personally I believe the thought of OWNING stuff is a false perception of reality. its a rewarding thought we tend to like as it helps us to maintain/enhance a social position within a materialistic society.
    some thoughts are skillful. Some are not, depends for who
    as a consequence some stuff are useful, some are not, depends for who.

    do it all comes down to a personal, brain re/wiring exercise of life style. . some will be radical, some will just follow a fad!
    thanks for sharing slices of your life Sean, time to unplug!

  108. Milt says:

    An excellent piece of writing Sean,

    I started travelling in 2002 and got hooked, continued for a couple of years and figured that if I wanted to keep travelling the only way to financially support it would be to figure out how to generate income from the internet. It took a while but I got there in the end and am presently living in Thailand and travelling around SE Asia and loving it.
    I’m not crazy about the minimalism thing, because I travel slowly, renting houses along the way.
    It is hard to make the initial jump but just gets easier from there on.
    I actually believe that 20 years form now this will be the norm as big corporate companies get on it and the cubicle warriors will be pushed to work remotely because it is not worth the expensive of running massive office buildings.
    The future of the traditional ‘job’ will be that you do not longer ‘go to work’ but instead ‘login to work’.

  109. aholecop says:

    i have been thinking about this for years, which now with the current economy seems more and more practical . unfortunately my job dosen’t allow me to travel as much as i would like but i’m able to retire in several more years and will absolutely be “downsizing” my life.

  110. Anonymous says:

    I grew up traveling quite a bit, in fact, between 9 and 16 my family didn’t stay anywhere longer than a year. The idea of living as minimally as possible so one can travel sounds great. I do hope to eventually move to Italy for a couple years and eventually move back to the country of my birth, Trinidad and Tobago. The one thing that does give me pause is all that moving as a family.

    Sean Bonner and his wife’s approach, from what I understand, is that when his son gets to an age when school and so on is an issue, they’d settle down for most of the year in a particular place and then taking time off when possible to travel to different places or to another place. I absolutely applaud that. It gives their son a chance at stability and still get to see the world and perspective of other places and cultures. Some kids can handle the constant moving better than others. I know that I didn’t, and I have major issues that I’m currently dealing with as a result. I rarely can make lasting friendships, just as an example. So their decision really seems like they’re taking the best of both worlds.

    Jeanne of soultravelers3, however, has made some statements that make me worry. Really? Your child is not a third culture kid? That term is not limited to army brats and missionary kids. And the research on third culture kids were done all over the place, not just 50 years ago in India. Have you even been to You really think that the experience of expatriation and repatriation no longer applies to you because you have better technology? All that tech does not guarantee that people will keep up. Maybe your child has the advantage of being a natural extrovert. But there are no promises that it will always be a good experience for them, especially when they reach their teens. Oh, and by the way, just about every Missionary I have known was very involved with the culture they lived in. And I’ve met a lot of them.

    That kind of attitude reminds me of a classmate who claimed she knew the culture after living in the capital of Kyrgyzstan for two months. Which was a bit insulting to someone like me who had lived in foreign cultures for multiple years and was aware that I still did not know those cultures fully. Who is so full of themselves that they couldn’t understand how incredibly complicated cultures are. There is so much more there than what is on the surface.

    By the way, my family did end up crashing. My sister is incapable of living in reality where she has to pay her bills and keep a job. My parents have bailed her out twice now. I cannot trust my father because he gave away so much of his life feeling good about helping other people that he doesn’t know how to take care of his own wife and daughters. There was a long time when I though I was fine and that I didn’t need help. Now, I have years of counseling to deal with all that emotional baggage. All that travel can have a toll, and if you aren’t careful and make a point to take care of yourselves mentally and emotionally, there very may be a serious crash eventually.

  111. Cy says:

    To those who think this is a fad and doubt someone can last 5 years.. well I’ve been doing exactly this since 2006 and I’m 32 years old. I primarily use craigslist as my medium for all housing, car rental, and any other services.. and I’m extremely happy with my life. What makes it really great is staying with locals who can give you their perspective on things. I’ve seen more in these years than most do in a lifetime.. and I feel really integrated in to the communities as I do it.

    Tip: instead of just looking for craigslist sublet/temp housing posts.. MAKE a sublet/temp housing wanted post. You get many craigslist followers with a spare room who are reluctant to make a full time posting.. but if they see someone makes a post who seems to be a good fit.. they will reach out to you. My best gems have been through this method.

    To those who think these jobs are super-niche.. well I’m an Oracle database administrator/engineer.. I can access my servers from wherever I can get VPN access. My entire engineering team has the same flexibility as well.. so that’s 15 people right there. I believe any forward thinking company will allow this more and more. Location is irrelevant for many tech jobs.

    Costs are not a deterrent.. especially when you are out of the country. America is expensive.. but when you use craigslist or airbnb it is quite reasonable for anyone making 50K with no debt I would think. Hawaii so far has been the most I’ve spent on housing.. and it has cost me $1200 for a month with 270 degree views of the ocean.. some people spend that much in 3 or 4 days here on hotels. The quality of housing has always been on par with my stationary house.

    The only thing

  112. Anonymous says:

    Sounds a lot like what this guy is doing: Exile Lifestyle

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