Before I even started planning my visit to Zagreb, I read about the Museum of Broken Relationships. It's a collection of objects from failed relationships along with personal stories written by the people who donated them.
The idea is to give people a platform to release their pain and grieve, to remember, and to move on. The museum is also a place of connection between visitors and artists, and humanity in general. I felt connected to many of the stories.
Some of the artifacts were obscure and some were ordinary, like this box of popcorn. Each object was specific and personal to the story it carried, and also relatable on a broader scale. The pain of losing someone is universal.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was an interactive piece at the end, a book for guests to share stories or encouragement. It was a beautiful platform to help strangers connect in a meaningful way.
If you're in Zagreb, I would definitely recommend stopping by... It was a highlight for me!
Today I had lunch with a backpacker from Costa Rica. He’s an engineer and when he lost his job a couple months ago, he needed a change of pace. Now he’s biking his way through Europe… from Barcelona to Moscow.
He sleeps in tents and hostels and he doesn’t have any rigid plans, just ideas and an amorphous framework of where he’s headed next. Most days, his only plans are to “wake up and bike.”
When I asked what he’d learned from his journey so far, he told me he feels relaxed and free. He doesn’t listen to music or anything to pass the time as he bikes… he spends that time thinking, whistling tunes and focusing on where he’s going. He talked about how he’s been leaving behind stuff in each city he visits. I’ve been doing the same thing. I’m realizing I need so much less than I think I do.
One of my favorite classes in college was Consumer Behavior. And one of my most memorable takeaways from that class was marketing to psychological needs. For example, luxury brands tend to market to the need to be unique, the need to feel rare and special.
On the other hand, trendy, fast fashion clothing companies (think “it” items) tend to market to our need to belong. This strategy is used a lot with the teenage demographic.
I have an example of this type of marketing from early in my own life. When I was in kindergarden, I came home from school one day begging my mom for a pair of jeans. Apparently, leggings weren’t popular with the trendy 5-year-old crowd and I needed jeans to hang with the cool kids. Even at such a young age, I wanted to belong, and I wanted to find that belonging by buying something.
We’re all born with the need to belong, and the need to feel unique, along with all kinds of other psychological needs. We all want to feel worthy. And know we’re enough. And feel successful. But buying more stuff only gives us those feelings for a fleeting moment.
In another one of my marketing classes, we did a case study on a fast fashion brand whose design-to-market turnaround time was ten days. They literally have people sketching on iPads at fashion shows so their designers can see the latest trends in real-time. The clothes immediately go into production and are on the shelves the next week. The company’s goal is to have such a high turnover of clothing that consumers feel out-of-trend a month after making a purchase and are back in the store for more. Real-time sketching is such a cool concept but it’s being misused. Not only is the company’s goal for customers to always feel uncool and untrendy, but it’s so terribly unsustainable for the supply chain, for the people making our clothes (and for the earth.)
I know that’s not a happy thing to realize, but my goal isn’t to be depressing. The concept of minimalism is freeing, not constricting. We don’t need to feel guilty about owning stuff we use, or about enjoying nice stuff. I love buying nice things. But I shouldn’t be finding our worth or identity in what I have. That’s not freedom.
I’ve started asking myself the question, “Is this thing giving me value, or would it be better if I give it to someone else?” I want to be a good steward of my wealth, and if I’m hanging onto stuff I’m not using, stuff that someone else could be getting value and joy from, it’s time to reevaluate.
I’m still new to the whole concept of minimalism but I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be drastic I’m-giving-away-everything deal. It can mean giving away things that aren’t my favorite to someone who could get more use out of them. Being a responsible consumer and buying fewer, nicer things that are made in an ethical way. Taking time to realize that my worth is inherent, and owning more or better stuff doesn’t make me more worthy or successful. Taking my time to enjoy shopping. Shopping for things I love that express who I am. And making space to enjoy life, to experience more adventure and connection and joy.
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (I'm not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in being vulnerable, following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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