I’m Suited For a Tiny Life

I’ve Done It Twice

The door to my first house in Spain (my photo)

Twice in my life, I lived the tiniest life imaginable.

Once upon a time, I left home with a shoebox of my personal belongings. I was eighteen and on my own. Literally on my own. My parents had disowned me. It was up to me to figure it all out.

Many years later, when I was 54, I sold everything I owned.

My house, two cars, furniture, small collection of antiques. I saved two boxes of personal items, photos and memorabilia. My husband was forced to pare down his things to two boxes, too. He didn’t quite make it but he tried. We also had several boxes of personal items that belonged to our two kids for a total of a dozen boxes or so that we stored in my mother-in-law’s heated garage for four years. Not big boxes mind you. They were rather smallish. I still have one or two that I’ve never opened since I bought the house I now live in.

That tells you something about me. I’m NOT a material girl.

I breathed a big sigh of relief both times. The two times that I chose to live the tiniest life imaginable, although for entirely different reasons, gave me the same feeling.

One of utter freedom.

Stuff has a purpose sometimes, not always, but sometimes, yet it comes with demands. You gotta earn the money to buy it, you gotta find a place to put it, you gotta remember to use it, and when you die you’ve gotta figure out who should have it. However, nobody really wants most of our stuff. Unless you’re a rich son of bitch with valuable possessions, your stuff is just junk to most people. You kept it but you often didn’t even remember that you still had it or couldn’t recall why you got it in the first place.

Just like most of us could easily live in one or two rooms in our houses, our stuff largely fills the extra unused rooms.

After I sold my stuff, I lived in a one-bedroom condo for several months while making plans for returning to the road. You see, I’d already taken some pretty unusual risks in my life. I retired from my career at age fifty-four. Something that few get to do. I convinced my husband to just quit his job. And then, we went abroad for almost a year, living off my pension. It was supposed to be a one-time event, but we liked it so much that we came back home and began making plans to do it long term.

That called for the selling of our home and personal belongings.

Our house had already sat empty for over a year. We needed to do something with it. Even though we’d built that home literally with our own hands and a fair share of blood, sweat, and tears, raised our kids there, and loved the place dearly, it had become a weight around our necks.

I learned how to travel light.

I now only carry one small carry-on bag and a Travelon purse. It’s slightly more than my shoebox of belongings when I was eighteen. Most people look at me like I’ve lost my mind. Whether I’m gone for a year or two weeks, that’s all I carry.

I want the tiniest life imaginable and that’s the only way I can get it.

Our first year abroad, we hired someone to oversee our home, winterized the house, and informed our trusted neighbors that we’d be gone for a while. Then we left the country. This was 17 years ago. I’m not sure, I’d feel comfortable doing that now. But that’s what we did.

We headed to Spain with our passports in hand.

I’d done my research and had chosen to rent a house in a whitewashed village high in the mountains of Andalucia. This was before the crash of 2008. Everyone was partying in Spain at the time. Brits, Irish, Germans, Danes, you name it. Northern Europeans were retiring to a sunny location and enjoying the good life. Wine, late nights, and music.

We fell in love with Andalucía and have been returning to Spain for seventeen years.

But we couldn’t stay in Spain for more than 90 days on our passports without a visa, so in September we flew to Ireland. I didn’t think I could love a place as much as I loved Spain, but I fell head over heels in love with Ireland. We rented a house there as well and stayed for just under three months once again.

I’ve returned many times to Ireland and long to go again.

Our third stop was in the beautiful city of Prague where we enjoyed a touch of winter and the Xmas season. We rented an apartment and wandered the city on foot like we always do. Little tourism on our parts. We’re fortunate enough to stay long term wherever we go if we choose to do so. We can scout out the places where the locals eat, shop, and hangout. We can avoid the crowds because we travel off season. When abroad, we live like the locals.

We’re “untourists”.

At the end of that first year, we spent 90 days in Malta. What a diverse number of international experiences. We rented a 400-year-old house in the village of Attard. It was amazing. Once again, we had a small amount of stuff to carry around with us. Unencumbered we refused to rent cars during this year abroad. We walked and used public transport. Malta was easy to navigate. There were buses and taxis and much of it was walkable.

I went on to start an international house-sitting business where we traded our services for the amenities of a nice home.

Often, we were house sitting for Americans or Brits who were retired expatriates. They had acquired all the trappings of their old life in their new country of abode. Houses, gardens, dogs, cats, cars, and lots of stuff. They weren’t as free as we were and so we helped them out by taking care of their stuff while they went back home to visit family.

It was a win win for both of us.

Eventually, I returned to the U.S. Not because I was tired of my nomadic lifestyle but due to the birth of my one and only grandchild. I was in Ireland and flew to her house two weeks before she was born. We decided that we’d rent a small apartment for a year and help out with full intentions to go abroad sooner or later. Instead, we fell in love with our granddaughter and stuck around to watch her grow up and help raise her. We continued to return to Spain during the winter and often traveled from our base, a little Spanish apartment that sits across the street from the Mediterranean Sea.

To this day, Spain is still our home away from home. We lease the same apartment every year.

And, yes, we bought a house near our granddaughter and once again broadened our lifestyle. I’ve tried to keep it smallish, but it’s by no means what I experienced the two times in my life when I lived the tiniest life imaginable.

We only own one car, a used Toyota that we paid cash for, and our home is half the size of the home we sold in order to hit the road.

I still travel with only a carry-on suitcase and a Travelon purse no matter how long I’m gone. I’m suited for a tiny life. I miss my tiny life. But I am so glad that I was able to experience the tiniest life imaginable.

It has put everything in perspective.

Most stuff isn’t necessary. We’ve been led to believe that we need so much more than we really do. Freedom from too much stuff is an experience that I’ve had, thankfully. I have yet to have found another experience that quite matches it.

It is the ultimate feeling of freedom.

Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can fine her books on Amazon.



Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. She’s also a top writer on climate change and the future.

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Teresa Roberts

Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. She’s also a top writer on climate change and the future.