This post is also available in: German

In just a few days, I’ll be setting off on my first long-term travel adventure. The kind of adventure where I don’t own anything besides a 20kg baggage allowance.  The kind where I roam all across Europe and Asia for an indefinite amount of time.

I have never been a hoarder, but stuff just accumulates from living in the same place for a while. The dust piles up and somehow you get quite emotionally attached to that postcard your best friend sent you years ago or that trinket you got as a gift but never really liked. I always used to make up excuses along the lines of “that was a present, I can’t throw this away!” or  justified the bursting closet with “maybe I want to wear that again one day!” It was hard but eventually I ended up giving it all up and feeling good about it.

Here’s how you can do that too:

Where to next?

1. Get rid of that apartment

Paying for something that you aren’t using is, unless you are filthy rich, not really an option. My old flatmate and I decided to find someone new for her to live with. The process wasn’t easy and it took a few weeks to get everything settled, from placing an ad for the room on a local website to interviewing people, showing them around and then picking someone and organizing everything with the landlord.

The housing market in Zürich is still so dried up that I still remember vividly the desperate process of trying to find an apartment years ago when I first started university. It involved standing outside in huge lines during apartment viewings, the sickening feeling when realizing that once again there were a hundred other people applying for the flat and getting more and more desperate with every new rejection letter. Once I  got almost punched in the face when a nasty brawl between a few other applicants broke out over an application form. When I was successful at securing an apartment in a good location after a few months of trying, I swore to never let go of that place. Ever!

Of course, when I had made up my mind to give it up, thoughts along the lines of “what if you want to go back? You will never find a flat like that again!” made their way into my mind. If you know that you will be back eventually, there is always the option of subletting your room, apartment or house, but I personally didn’t want to worry about some apartment half a world away while I’m trying to enjoy myself.

I opted for a clean break, especially since in my mind and heart it is clear, that I will never return to Zürich again. I never felt at home there. But, and this is why I listed this first, make sure you give yourself enough time to get your housing situation settled before you leave on your adventure. For me, the whole thing took roughly four weeks.

Getting rid of that apartment also involves canceling the cable and internet. Additionally, make sure to terminate all magazine or newspaper subscriptions and mail going to your old apartment. I have set up my permanent residence address at my parents home and the few things I’m still signed up for (government stuff, bank correspondence) will be collected by them. I suggest you do something similar with a person you trust.

To keep or not to keep?

2. Trash, Trash, Trash

When you first decide to go travelling long-term, you will soon realize that you own way too much stuff. Apart from a box full of memorabilia (consisting of photos, old school yearbooks, a beautiful wooden jewelry box a friend had gotten me in Nepal and other souvenirs, prized possessions and gifts I had picked up in the past few years) and my beloved books as well as some clothes, I decided to get rid of everything. My parents are graciously storing my few remaining possessions in their attic, but apart from that I will only own what fits in a suitcase for an indefinite amount of time.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, I employed a radical system that served me quite well: I set up a garbage bag (which had to be thrown out and replaced repeatedly), several “to donate” boxes and one single box that would hold the things I decided to keep. I told myself that I was only allowed to fill that one box to force myself to choose wisely and not hold on to unnecessary things.

Several afternoons were spent surrounded by cardboard boxes and knee-deep in old possessions. Often I found myself almost tearing up over throwing away a birthday card or lost hours when I suddenly decided to leaf through an old photo album. I’m not going to lie, it is an emotional process, but at the same time incredibly freeing. It was only after everything was over and the last boxes were donated that I felt like an incredible weight got lifted off me. I hadn’t realized before how much that old and mostly useless stuff had tied me down and that I had desperately held on to such mundane things for way too long.

It was then that I decided that from now on I would start collecting memories and not possessions.

3. Sell

The only, but by far the biggest things I sold, were my pieces of furniture. I admit that I’m just way too lazy to spend all the time required on Ebay selling a couple hundred pieces of junk and yard sales have never caught on in Switzerland. There are flea markets but the effort for me was just too big. Therefore I only sold big and valuable things and gave everything else away for free. Good Karma brought on by laziness 😀

4. Insurance

While it is compulsory for all Swiss citizens to have basic health insurance, the insurance system is horribly messy, confusing and frustrating and nobody really seems to get it. There are a million different insurance companies, deductibles, exclusions, limits and supplements. I hope that wherever you are from this stuff is easier, but then again, dealing with insurance companies seems to be a pretty horrible experience anywhere.

I’m not one of those hardcore travelers who decide they can live without it and I’m forced by my country to get the insanely expensive insurance anyway, therefore I had to find the “cheapest” and best option for me. Make sure your insurance covers you worldwide and add travel insurance.

About The Author

Tiffany is a Swiss travel writer, digital nomad, and photographer, who, after a fateful journey through Africa, has decided to get her passport renewed, sell all her junk, and live out of a suitcase in various corners of the world, as well as share the experiences with other travel enthusiasts. This blog is intended to inspire you to pack your bags, leave everything behind for a while, and make you go discover the world. Check her out on .

12 Responses

  1. Lauren

    I was amazed by how much extra money I earned just through selling “junk” for one or two bucks a pop. Those items that were seemingly worthless (I didn’t exactly have any flat-screen TVs or Jags to sell) totalled an extra 2 grand of funds. And that was just through garage sales! Can’t imagine how much more I would have earned through Ebay and the like (but, like you, I’m far too lazy and just want to get out of there!).

    I’ve also become a mega hard-arse when it comes to parting with my stuff. I used to cling onto old birthday cards and stuff when I had no bigger plan – now I have the goal of long-term travel to shoot for, and that makes purging unnecessary stuff a lot easier 🙂 Just a few boxes remain at my parents’ house. Trust me, you won’t miss it when you’re jetting around the world! Best of luck, buddy.

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Wow that is amazing Lauren! You must have had a lot of stuff to sell 🙂 I ended up making about 1 grand off of my stuff and just gave away the rest. Like you, I just want to get out of there fast.

      Reply
  2. Jesse

    I found this really interesting. As I’m currently just beginning to go through my stuff as I plan to go on a trip much like yours soon! Im finding hard to figure what I want to sell and what I want to donate, and what to keep its amazing how much we can accumulate over time and become attached to.

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Thanks Jesse! Best of luck to you and I hope you have an amazing time. Also, if you haven’t used or looked at a possession in a year, throw it away, you can probably live without it 😉

      Reply
  3. Jaryd

    I can’t believe the difficulties of securing an apartment are in Zurich, thats crazy. I find that since I started travelling I have given away just about everything, although selling my car was the hardest. I now no longer buy things I don’t think I would use on the road and wouldn’t have it any other way. Simple living is great!

    Reply
  4. Mags

    Great post. I’m gearing up for some major travel and I know parting with all the junk I’ve accumulated over the years will be the hardest part! It really does tie you down. Congrats on being able to make a clean break from it!

    Reply
  5. MACH

    “…I decided that from now on I would start collecting memories and not possessions.” Words to live by. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge