Out with the New, in with the Useful

November 17, 2011

Words by // Photography by Nita Breibish

We are now nine months away from our world adventure and lately I’ve been thinking, “I sure hope all of this new doesn’t get old” as so much of what we obtain in life tends to inevitably do, all too quickly. This, after all, seems to be a part of the human condition. Presently, new is all around us and remains the only thing we don’t see changing anytime soon. From the new homes and new neighbors next to us, to the idea of our new home somewhere, down some road, some years from now. “We must openly continue our never-ending search for our happy place rather than our happy pill…”

We’ve formed new outlooks on our past, present and future and the prospect of visiting new cities and cultures are now on the horizon.

For those of you who hadn’t read the previous post, we’re in the midst of selling all of our worldly possessions, particularly those that are deemed useless or that hold little meaning, in order to travel the world completely free of any material ties.

This process of letting go can be challenging and although I have been through it many times before, it continues to have me reflecting on some of the questionable choices I have made in my life and still learn from to this day. There are no regrets involved here – no judgments passed. Rather, they are observations with regards to my past and present self, coming together, at this stage in my life and how they both have and will continue to help me to learn, as I move forward on this quest for positive change.

It’s apparent to me that things are very different now. The seed of this grand scheme that’s been planted in us is yearning and reaching from sod to sky for growth – stretching both our minds and comfort zones in many directions. It leaves us only trying to imagine what we will encounter and have to endure over the next few years.

From the outside looking in, its business as usual at the Breibish house, where everything looks just the same. Four very comfortable West Hillhurst walls and all we have acquired over the last 5 years, neatly in its place. But the view is hardly familiar. In fact, it’s completely upside down, or better yet, feels more right-side up than ever before.

It hit me one morning driving around on my day off with Issa, that we would normally be out and about at the local Home Depot, Home Outfitters or some other major department store, purchasing the things we need to create, fix, better or butter something up. And occasionally, the solo jaunts to my favorite boutique or discount shop in search of that next new fun and creative inspiration. We always had some place to go and some item to cross off our never-ending to do list. And when we did cross something off, another would always appear to take its place and sadly more of my time. Sorry, let me rephrase that, I would most likely dream up some life-sized project to stuff in between other daily to-dos, that would in turn cost more money and fill up even more of my time.

On this day, now in the purging stage of our lives, we have just that – more time. More than ever before actually. We find ourselves forced to do something completely out of the ordinary by not going places that have to do with spending money, eating excessively and acquiring more stuff. It’s something we’re striving to be more conscious of these days. We know full well that rewiring our brains early on will only help us during the more difficult moments of our adventure. Being without a home, on two-wheels, with sometimes questionable things to eat, a strict budget and fully exposed to the elements, we realize that any creature comfort for us, at some point, will become a luxury. “I’ve left boxes in almost every borough in New York City…”

We drove around town playing hot potato with the “Where should we go today?” question and the only response we could come up with was, “I don’t know. We don’t really need anything.” This new outlook of less is more that had developed during our six weeks on the road this past fall, was proving to be the instigator of our newfound dilemma. It was a positive predicament to be in.

It was so clear. This was in fact the first ah-ha moment I would have during this exciting time in our lives. It was eye opening and completely liberating. I didn’t need anything… we didn’t need anything. I said it over and over again in my head. Even for me, someone who’s made many efforts to practice the quality over quantity mantra – was looking even deeper. I realized that we were not only enriching our lives with travel but, by changing the cycle of our daily acquisitions, we were allowing ourselves the opportunity to have more with less. More time to enjoy the time we have!

The simplicity of this idea is mind boggling! What makes this challenging for me is my creative soul that loves to dream up new ideas and things to do on a day off. Even after revisiting this contagious notion that “less can in fact be more”, I still have my moments of weakness. But for now, those “I’m-going-to-create-a-floor-to-ceiling-collage-of-photos-using-the-photo-transfer-techniques-I-learned-on-YouTube-It’ll-be-so-cool!” ideas, will have to remain on the back burner.

A great friend once told me that time is the biggest commodity. As we age and we watch our parents age, this becomes more apparent. He’s a smart man. Things that we require when we are older must serve a greater purpose than when we are young. In our earlier years we tend to spend all of our hard earned money acquiring that which is supposed to make us happy, in turn filling up more of our time, which makes us unhappy. So we continue to acquire more to mask the fear of never having enough to be happy. Bah!

So much of our lives can be spent surrounded by acquisition and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, in some areas of western culture, these two ideals have become one and the same, where having more means being happier. It’s an idea that leaves us wanting to have, wishing we had or envious of what others have and breeds that damaging and underlying fear of being without. This can be deeply rooted from a young age, sometimes even hidden somewhere deep in our psyches until the day we are unleashed into the working world. There, we are even more motivated to feed into these fears rather than facing them, continuing this vicious and, I admit, very delicious cycle of acquiring and requiring. This is why we must make positive changes and lead by example, giving our younger generations new choices and more rewarding and sustainable ideals.

Happiness is an ongoing experiment that can only be performed within oneself. What brings joy to one person may not for another and all we can do is look at our own lives and continue to develop our own workable formulas. After 35 years of living and learning, I’m certain the antidote is different for everyone. It’s possible my antidote is remaining portable, which is why I love to travel. Perhaps not being in one place long enough to really need anything, that I can’t let go of, is the answer to my equation. We must openly continue our never-ending search for our happy place rather than our happy pill and choose to not conform to any one social ideology of what happiness is or should be. Recognizing and believing we are entitled to that power is such a beautiful gift.

A few years back I found myself once again, standing in my closet saying, why, why, why do I have all of this stuff that I don’t use or need? Things that I thought I might one day do something with or wear or make. More than a few too many pairs of designer discount jeans that never fit quite right folded up neatly on my shelf, leaving me always feeling unsatisfied and in search of.

I immediately sought out my local consignments shops and charities. I began huffing in bags upon bags of things that were not being used or never really were useful to begin with. These became purging outlets for me. At the consignment shop, I make back 40% of every item of clothing, footwear and accessory I bring in that sells. Better yet, what doesn’t go on the rack, will go straight to the Women’s Shelter or other local charities. They told me I could literally bring in a set of hubcaps and they would find a place for them to go. The place I use is a little shop in our neighbourhood called Trend. Stores like this, along with other great online classified sites like Kijiji, have given us the opportunity to create space and time in our lives and put a little travel money back in our pockets. We feel so blessed to know we have options like this available.

This less is more notion has spread to many other areas of our lives, from work and play to nutrition and exercise. It has become a balance keeper and we have it to thank for helping us stay in check. At the same time it still allows us the opportunity to give into a little temptation once in a while. After all, it is the joy of being human. For us, moderation only enhances the appreciation for life’s luxuries and reminds us to not take the indulgent moments for granted. One useful thing in, two useless things out, even if the tags are still on. Doing this consistently over the past few years has made it easier for us to refuse those on-the-spot, I spy with my little eye moments and has taught us to make wiser choices.

Purging is no foreign territory to me thanks to my little gypsy soul. I’ve left boxes in almost every borough in New York City that I have lived in. I have ended and begun so many times in this life it’s become an ongoing joke between some of my closest friends. Where it sometimes feel more like a personality disorder rather than one of those single, life-changing events that you pull your biggest and best quotes from.

Before I returned to Calgary 6 years ago, I was in deep for the first time. I was in between work permits, which left me unable to find a job for almost two years. This was one hole I had no idea how to get out of. I couldn’t work, but also couldn’t stop living my life. It was one hardship after another and my semi-sweet temptations were marching by the masses, which unfortunately meant perpetuating the problem, as it always does.

Unable to live like this any longer, in 2005-2006 I decided to move back to Calgary to wait out my residency, knowing that I could, at least, find a job in the meantime. Before I left New York I had to sell almost everything I had acquired up to that point to help pay bills. The interest rates were so high that it was an impossible task. I was buried and feeling very stuck in the mud which made this first purging experience so much easier. I set up shop on a busy East Village street attempting to sell all of my belongings everyday for two weeks. What at first seemed sad soon became a sick addiction. It was great! I never once felt ashamed or “lesser than.” If anything it helped me realize that I can go to great lengths to survive and still find joy in it and no thing ever had me by the balls.

New York City was my school and greatest teacher – a place that taught me how to walk with my head up no matter how scared I may have been. It taught me to always look the world straight in the eye and smile like I had a big secret to tell. To always search deeper for truths and to not be lead down any uncertain path blindly, asking questions and going beyond what I saw or heard to be the truth. In turn, discovering my own path, proudly walking it and now sharing those discoveries with others.

So here we are, nine months out from being homeless and wandering, face-to-face once again with ultimate change and we are feeling inspired. It’s clear there is still so much to do, to see and to experience. Although these new to-dos on our list can’t always be free of spending, if we are more aware of the choices we make we will only be granting ourselves more time – and that in itself is freeing. Relearning how to acquire things that still afford us what we need to live a good, happy, healthy life, in more meaningful ways than ever before, is our challenge. Who knows, this may help us all one day realize that freedom and joy can be found somewhere in the realm of being without.


I’ve two passion-driven wheels, two small hands and one big nomadic heart. With my weather-beaten camera I’m looking to change the world one click at a time. In constant awe, I’m a professional dabbler, world traveller and the photographer-half of We Love Motogeo. I love breaking down barriers, challenging travel misconceptions and uncovering new notions of home. Thirty-seven countries and counting…


  1. Comment by Tabitha

    Tabitha November 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Nita…wow… Your post struck such a chord with me. I’ve been quietly following the adventures of you and Issa, and while our lives appear so very different, this post shows me they are so very the same.

    We…well, honestly, I…have been practicing the idea of living simply, minimally, for a few years now. When I look back, I see the roots of that having taken place ten years ago when Bryce and I bought our first home together. At some level, I’ve understood for quite some time that what makes me happy isn’t more things, a bigger home, a fancier car. It is time to be me. The authentic me.

    My needs and desires are simple, and I think my lifestyle has come to show that. Things we have, we have had for a long while. And our home isn’t packed with amazing finds or the latest must have gadget (though I think at times Bryce wishes it weren’t quite so much that way.). I cherish everything I have, and most of what I have no one ever sees. It is within me. A peace, a confidence, a serenity in knowing we do not need to fight the fight every day to own more, acquire more, have more. I have the most of anyone I know. I also have the smallest house, oldest technology and most secondhand clothes. And I could not be happier. Because those things let me have what I most want. To paraphrase you, I have time and space in my life. I have more because I have less.

    I work less than six months a year. I support our family on what I earn. My family is happy, healthy, kind, curious and present. Every day. Because there is no one thing I want more in this world than a chance to pursue what I want on any given day. Nothing I want more than to sit with my kids after lunch together on a Tuesday and build superhero castles.

    It is no simple exercise, as you and Issa have very clearly experienced. Every choice I’ve made for the last ten years has allowed me to get here.

    These decisions, both small and large, have made us a family where the parents are home for their kids every single day. Where we learn together and grow together. Where we are not rushed by life. It is a blessing, and it our choice of life much as your choice is to explore, learn and grow in experiences with cultures around the world.

    I respect, applaud and support your journey full-heartedly, Nita and Issa. A simpler life comes from difficult choices that challenge who we believe we are and what we believe society – our friends, families, loved ones – expect from us. Living on the outside of the norm brings with it a tension, an uneasiness that requires a deep and fundamental conviction in where you are going because it constantly threatens to make you turn back. You two, my friends, are going forward and doing it with a powerful belief that the journey will be as meaningful as any destination you will choose.

    Be well, friends, and thank you for letting us all be a part of where you are going.

    • Comment by Nita

      Nita November 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      Hello Tabitha, thank you so much for reading and also for taking the time to write such an open and honest account of your own life’s experiences. About how living day to day with these simple concepts can make such a big impact on you and the people you love. It is so nice to here from our readers in this capacity and to know how they directly connect to our own experiences. It is true, I believe that we are all more connected that we can imagine. Those discoveries are yours to own and you should be so very proud of all you have accomplished in life especially those things that effect the people around you in a positive way. We appreciate you for sharing those discoveries here with us.

  2. Comment by mark a. hamilton

    mark a. hamilton November 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

    what a great thing to read, today of all days. i’m doing the same thing – tomorrow, i move to vienna to be with one of the most amazing people i’ve ever met. last night, helping friends move out my television, electronics, knick-knacks, and whatever else has been holding me down in this house was a pretty moving experience. but something i noticed which really struck me was, once all of the art was off the walls and leaned against the wall, every room in the house echoed in a way i hadn’t heard before. the house sounds completely different, and has its own sound, now that everything previously in the way isn’t there …

    • Comment by Nita

      Nita November 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks you so much for reading Mark. I just love to hear about what others are going through and what positive changes they are making in their own lives. It is so wonderful and exactly why we do what we do here. Best of luck to you and keep moving forward towards your happy place.

  3. Comment by Maaike

    Maaike November 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I am so excited reading your post; I am waiting in anticipation for your journey and all that I will get to see and learn from it. Your purging tales are inspiring; I too have a desire to collect but ultimately need nothing and I struggle with this conflict regularly. I am trying to figure out a way to do this with Christmas and 3 children, how to pare down the gifting and really getting my kids to appreciate what Christmas truly is. I applaud you and Issa’s efforts and can’t wait to hear more!

    • Comment by Nita

      Nita November 29, 2011 at 11:27 pm

      Hello Maaike, thank you for your message and for hearing ours. I have heard and witnessed many struggling parents on the quest for change within their children’s young lives as well as their own.

      I don’t have kids so can’t imagine what it must be like to want to make positive adult minded changes and choices within your home and have your little ones understand. Especially when wanting to keep your kids smiling, happy and feeling safe is the first and foremost priority. But I think we underestimate how smart and sponge like they are, I see this in my niece all the time. Her ability to grasp a new idea, comprehend a situation and know how she can impact that situation by her actions is growing stronger everyday. She is 3 and a half.

      The only thing I can offer you is a story about a friend of mine who also has children and was determined to create positive change in her household, teaching her kids to differentiate between needing and wanting. She ended up taking her kids to shelters where they had the opportunity to meet other kids that were less fortunate. Also by talking to them openly about this and making sure to integrate the idea of giving back into her everyday life with her kids, somehow she was able to slowly get them excited about the idea. This is key I think for anyone, at any age.

      She would bring out a box every Christmas and have her kids take the initiative to choose, on their own, a handful of items, that they no longer used so that they could donate the box to other kids in need. They would in turn get their new toys and gifts as usual on Christmas and birthdays etc. At some point this just became something they did many times throughout the year.

      She started quite young so perhaps it is easier. Again, I can’t imagine how hard this process must be if it isn’t something they are used to, but the best and only advice I can give you as a non-mother working towards bettering my day to day life is, just begin, begin something, change something and work something at any capacity. The transition may be alien and difficult at first, but like any worthwhile change, it is necessary and the rewards are usually outstanding in the long run. :) Your children will be better for it as will you. xo

      Thanks again for your support and encouragement for our upcoming jouney. Best to you and your family this holiday season.

  4. Comment by michael 'ruff'

    michael 'ruff' November 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    sweet. beautiful to read. i hear our voices.

    • Comment by Nita

      Nita November 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

      The more voices the better and the louder the message. You inspire us! We are only walking in your footprints. :)

  5. Comment by michael 'ruff'

    michael 'ruff' November 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    i was so taken by your thoughts, i had to read it again. xoxo love u. ok issa too.

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