Tag Archives: Simplicity

A Lesson from the Nomads

Outside our Mongolian "ger".

Outside our Mongolian “ger”.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about boxes. In particular, the ones that we used to pack up all of our belongings and ship to United States before leaving Beijing. Somehow, we accumulated a lot of “stuff” during our seven years of living there. And now, we’re so attached to these things that we feel the need to pack them all up, put them on a boat, send them halfway around the world, and add them to the collection of other stuff that is already in our small Connecticut home. One hundred and seventy boxes are on their way, and we’ve got to find a place for them.

What’s in them? you might ask… a fair and logical question. But, it’s funny, the further away I get from these things, the less I can recall. I know there’s a lot of clothing, some of which will be needed when the weather get cold. There’s also a bunch of books which, in our home of four Kindles, seems increasingly nostalgic and unnecessary. We also have a lot of decorative items from our travels in Asia… all good, if it weren’t for the decorative items from our travel in india that already fill our house. And finally there’s the furniture. Yes, we told ourselves that we’d really try to limit what we’d buy in China, but one or two pieces a year really add up when you’re gone for seven. So much for keeping it light.

My feelings of what may be called “movers remorse” intensified last week during our family trip to Mongolia. Here, we did a two night homestay with a nomadic family on the grasslands outside of Ulaan Bataar. The family moves four times a year in order to provide food and shelter for its herds of sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. Home is comprised of two gers, or yurts, and their belongings include just the bare essentials (though in the past five years they’ve added a solar array for electricity, satellite television, and a couple of cell phones!). We were told that the entire ger could be packed up and loaded onto one camel in about an hour. I would estimate that all of their possessions could have fit into the large duffle bags and backpacks that we brought for our 5 days in Mongolia.

To be fair, there’s plenty about the nomadic lifestyle that doesn’t appeal: subsistence diet due to intense isolation, infrequent bathing due to limited access to water, and a difficult, routinized lifestyle due to the harsh environment and reliance on animal herds. That said, I also think there is something to be learned from the nomads… something about resourcefulness, simplicity, and living close to the land. I’m hoping that our year in the RV will help us appreciate these lessons and get better at making due with less.

Until then, I guess we’ll start planning for our shipment to arrive. I’m thinking big yard sale!