Enjoying life with less

Kids come up with priceless tidbits of wisdom every once in a while. Even mine.

When D & D were recently asked what advice they would give to parents that want to undertake a similar trip with their kids, Daryl’s advice rang true.

“Do it. You really don’t need to have a chest full of toys and your own bed. All you need is a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and imagination.”

I love that. Especially the imagination part.

We, like most American families, had a houseful of toys once upon a time. The boys had buckets of blocks, Legos, and K’Nex. They had toy cars and trains and hot rods. Water guns and Nerf guns. Davy and Daryl had a PlayStation and a stack of games.

They had toys. I mean – TOYS!

And then we piled on our bikes and headed out. Each child was given a small handlebar bag to stash his toys. If it didn’t fit, he had to leave it behind.

The boys had spent hours planning which toys they would take with them. They took their handlebar bags to their toybox and practiced stuffing them with various toys. They cooperated together to make maximum use of the limited space they had.

In the end, they packed a few plastic aliens and a wiggly snake.

The first day of our journey those aliens and their pet snake made their way out of the handlebar bags during every break we took. As soon as we hopped off the bikes, the boys’ hands were digging in their bags to pull out the toys. Their aliens fought battles and conquered new lands while we sat on the side of the road, and then they headed back home to sleep while we pedaled.

By the second day, the aliens still came out, but sticks and pinecones became their spaceships and distant planets the aliens controlled.

Within a few days, the aliens had been forgotten and the boys’ playthings were solely of the natural variety: rocks, sticks, leaves, and pinecones.

Sticks are incredible toys that can turn into just about anything with proper imagination

Davy and Daryl had bucket-loads of imagination. Tree branches became Ninja swords, rocks became baseballs and discarded Coke bottles magically turned into bowling pins. Their imagination soared as they discovered the world about them.

Now that we’re back, the boys have rediscovered plastic toys. But now they’re more particular about what they choose. Whereas before we traveled Davy and Daryl wanted every toy they laid eyes on, now they make their purchases wisely. If it’s a toy that will be used for a few minutes before being discarded, they’ll pass. If it’s something that allows them to use their imagination to create new and fantastical wonderlands, they’re all over it.

All four of us now understand how little we truly need to be happy. All we really need is a place to sleep, food to eat, and our imaginations.

Children's imaginations never stop - even when following in Lewis and Clark's footsteps

We’re not the only family out there carrying very few toys. Or much of anything in fact. Here are some posts from other travelers living with less.

Worldschool Adventures: Getting rid of stuff
Break Out of Bushwick: Live with less – Lessons learned from downsizing
Family Travel Bucket List: Living with Less and 5 Kids? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Around the World in Easy Ways: Living with Less
Carried on the Wind: Living with less
Our Travel Lifestyle: Does having all our gear again really make us happier?
Livin On The Road: Four Kids and Almost No Toys
The Drop Out Diaries: Anchors Aweigh
Discover Share Inspire: 1 Truck, 2 Continents, 7 People – How We Organize Our @321 Things
New Life on the Road: Living with less stuff
Got Passport: Less IS More: George Carlin had a point about all that *STUFF*
Fullness of Life: Don’t Use It? Don’t Keep It!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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25 Responses to Enjoying life with less

  1. lisa Shusterman September 6, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    Love Daryl’s comment! Our kids too found hours of enjoyment in little things. We bought 4 meters of cloth in India for $4.00 and then spent 3 hours just the first day wrapping themselves in the cloth and creating a fashion show. The material traveled with us for another 8 months and became everything you can imagine.

    • Nancy September 6, 2011 at 9:25 am #

      It truly is the little things that are the most special. It’s those things that encourage you to imagine and create that end up being the most fun.

  2. Melissa Banigan September 6, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Here, here to using one’s imagination!! That’s what we do in my house, too. Love Lisa Shusterman’s comment- I also remember being gifted many yards of fire engine red cloth- my kiddo used it for MONTHS.

    • Nancy September 6, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      LOVE the idea of a whole wad of fire engine red fabric. What couldn’t my kids do with that???

  3. Amy September 6, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    I love Daryl’s comment too! Such wisdom in a young man! Imagination is the key, isn’t it? There is so much wonder in the world if we are open to it, who needs the plastic crap?

    • Nancy September 6, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      No kidding. Mother Nature provides everything we need – as long we come supplied with imagination.

  4. Loving the Bike September 6, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Once again, you’ve provided me with the perspective and thought pattern that my soul is needing. Thanks for another great post and true incredible wisdom.


  5. Rebeca September 6, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    I love this! What a great perspective!

  6. Wilma in WV September 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    We gathered summer before last to celebrate five generations in my family. All fourteen of the grandkids were there. The younger 11 had no toys with them. First thing we knew, the oldest of the 11 had organized a baseball game using sticks for bats and walnuts for balls. Yep, imagination is the key!

  7. Amy September 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I love how well the kids play without toys. We found the same thing, that less toys mean a better imagination.

    • Nancy September 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      Yup – there’s something about having to find your own playthings that brings out the best in kids.

  8. Barbara - The Dropout Diaries September 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    I love Daryl’s advice. I think sometimes parents lose their imaginations, in the daily grind of working, commuting, cooking and cleaning.
    Here’s too parents getting back in touch with their playful sides and kids using their imaginations to the fullest!
    Great post, Nancy!

    • Nancy September 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      It’s way too easy to allow our imaginations to get left behind when we try to be adults. Here’s to being kids forever!

  9. Caz Makepeace September 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I love the imagination quote!! I was just thinking that this morning when my daugher grabbed a ribbon and created a whole Rapunzel scene from it. Her imagination is wild and none of it really comes from her toys!
    Less is more.

  10. Justin September 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    My sons favorite toys: A 2 inch train, a random stick, and loose change. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but kids sure don’t need much. So many choices for kids and adults today. Sometimes you need give the brain a bit of a break to let the imagination go to work.

    Loving the new blog style!

  11. Lisa Wood September 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    I love reading about their imagination, and how much their toys mean to them now! Love how they started riding out with toys, and then the enivronment around them became their toys 🙂

    Gosh you guys are amazing for riding on bikes for so long! Funny how little amount of stuff can make us happy. Like you our boys had far too many toys, and now they use what is around them to play! Kids imagination rocks.


  12. Susan September 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Imagination seems to be a forgotten “toy” of today. Our 3 yr old became a ghost with a dish towel and then was a monster walking around with a cardboard box on his head. His toy cars? Decorations on a window sill. And sticks? He’s got years to perfect his stick creations! Love your son’s comment. Very true!

  13. Jade Johnston September 7, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    That is so awesome! Its great to see that the next generation wont all be brainwashed by consumerism!

    Jade Johnston | http://www.ouroyster.com/home

  14. Rita September 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    We as kids had nothing but imagination. Today It is amazing the difference it makes when children are given the opportunity to use their imagination,I love to hear that you and your kids are enjoying living with less.

  15. Doug D September 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    We recently took a much shorter bike trip and when we were done, my wonderful wife commented to me one day as we set up car camping, “it was so much easier when we were on the bikes. We had so much less stuff to deal with.”
    Strangely, one thing I would have taken is more toys. Our daughter would have been much happier with a couple of crayons and some paper. Sticks were pretty popular though.

  16. PaulO September 8, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Great idea and wonderful to hear that it has had a positive long term effect.

  17. Harry & Ivana, WorldOnaBike September 12, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Hey, first of all, welcome to WordPress, a great improvement 🙂

    Love the quote, thanks for sharing the minimalist view! Life is so much easier when all you have fits in 5 waterproof bags.
    Less is more, now is just more people would realize this less-on 🙂

    Cheers from Patagonia,
    Harry & Ivana

  18. Heather September 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    I’ve seen how well this works on the road but haven’t seen it carry over once home again.

    Any advice on keeping the imaginative play coming at home? My 4 can spend months traveling without any toys except paper and pencils but it ends the second we walk in our door at home. Thanks. I can’t wait to read more here and at all the links you’ve got!

    • Nancy September 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      We are committed to making it carry over now that we’re home. True, we won’t have as little as when we were on the road, but we’re making conscious decisions about everything. We’ve made the decision to move into a house half the size of what we lived in before we left – because we simply don’t need all that space. On the road I only had one pot to cook in – now I’m thrilled with 3! We’ll increase, but not to the extent we had before we left.

      Our boys have naturally come to the conclusion that, with most toys, they get bored in a short amount of time. They’ve gravitated toward things like Legos that can be used again and again and again -a nd never get boring. Maybe it’s just that we spent so much time without all the toys that they’ve learned??


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