The beautiful photo above was taken on a trip to Nepal in 2007 and serves as a good starting point to how my ideas, thoughts, motivation for this year of buying nothing new was influenced by my travels. I ended up spending a little over a year in total in Nepal over three separate trips. It’s no surprise that my experiences in this country must have had a profound effect on me.
When traveling in developing countries, I was surrounded by reminders of how much I have in Canada and how lucky I was to be living a life where my basic material needs are met. Still, I can recall a few times when I really questioned how dependent we think our happiness is on material gain.
The first I remember was when I had just begun the Annapurna Circuit, a 21 day trek of over 200km. We were forced to take a day of rest after our jeep broke down and we walked 40km to reach our starting point. My good friend was suffering from painful blisters because of her new hiking boots, so I took the day to sit in the village and try and take it all in. There were many curious children, but one in particular of around 2 or 3 years who took interest in my Birkenstocks. I’m talking over 30 minutes of interest, mostly in the workings of the buckle! I thought about all of the toys many felt compelled to surround their children with, and here was this boy happily playing (and learning!) with the buckle of my sandal.
In retrospect I feel that a child here in Canada could be equally captivated by my sandal. Don’t you always hear people saying “Jack opened his presents but is more interested in the boxes!” or “I can’t keep Anna out of the pots and pans…she has so many toys but would rather explore in the kitchen!” But, we are bombarded with toys that we are told help our children learn, give them a boost, a leg up, an advantage to the overwhelming plethora of things that need to be learned. How would we look as parents if we didn’t provide these learning opportunities (aka toys) to our children? Are we somewhat guilted into thinking we need to own so many products?
Although I had yet to become a mother and couldn’t see it from the perspective I now can, I was overwhelmed with this question of; “Are so many toys necessary for a child’s well-being, learning, and development?” and WHY DO WE FEEL WE NEED SO MUCH STUFF?
And that was the beginning. The seed had been planted all those years ago in my early 20s. Although it didn’t necessarily shoot up and thrive quickly, I appreciate that it had begun to take root and that traveling gave me that opportunity.