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Monday, 1 August 2011

Meet Andrew a.k.a. Photo-Vélo

Let me explain to you how I arrived at my cheesy blogger name. The intention of this is not a proclamation of snobbery. Nor is it an attempt to slot myself as a photographer and cyclist and nothing else. My interests are actually quite diverse and, although photography and cycling top my list of interests, I am by no means distinguished in my abilities in either pursuit.

It actually started a few years ago when I decided that instead of continuing to subscribe to the idea that consuming more, and the idealogy of consumerism, leads to happiness, I would reverse my course and subscribe to minimalism. Why? Because “you don’t own stuff, stuff owns you.”

I have read several articles that discuss the minimalist lifestyle. I have intended to read a book called “100 Things” that I saw the documentary version of, but just hadn’t read the book version yet. It is about a man and woman who were having problems both with their relationship and financially. They decided to cut the number of their possessions down to 100 items and since then they have never been happier. Another article was about a woman living in a 90 square foot apartment by Central Park in New York City. Like the 100 Things couple, she had no idea what to expect, but ended up being happier than she ever was.

These cases prove that stuff really does own us. When you buy that new iPhone, you may think you consciously decided to go to the store and buy it. The truth is that iPhone lured you in and you caught its bait. Once it latches on to you it won't let go. At least, not until a newer and flashier iPhone comes out. Why? Because buying new stuff serves as instant, yet temporary, gratification to the consumer. New stuff becomes old within months and becomes discarded in favour of even newer stuff (by the way, I still use my 4 Gb iPod Nano).

As a result, our basements are filled with old and dusty items we deem to have “sentimental value” and our garages are filled with stuff we never use. This stuff takes over our lives and robs us of adventure and valuable life experiences. Consumers are weighed down with so much useless stuff that we are like a ship that, instead of exploring our vast surroundings, remains anchored to the shore.

So how do you know if stuff owns you? If, say, you are addicted to shopping and may have a closet bursting at the walls with clothing, yet are not happy with your wardrobe. Or if you buy an expensive status-affirming car but soon take it for granted as simply a tool for getting around, and are soon stuck with a gas- and cash-guzzling boat. You will soon become unhappy with it and buy a new one.

Only those people with a true passion for their craft will take the time to foster it. Someone truly passionate about cars will buy a vehicle they love and then continue to foster that love. They will get under the hood themselves and get their hands dirty, instead of taking it to a mechanic. They will run their car to the ground before buying a new one.

One of the articles I read about minimalism also advocated that everyone has certain hobbies or possessions that they are passionate about. While minimalism involves the practice of getting rid of everything you don’t need, this article encourages designating a few categories as exceptions to the minimalist rule. These categories represent passions that make up your identity.

Having read this article I decided to start taking on the minimalist challenge with a few designated exceptions. Those exceptions were cycling (Vélo is a french term for bicycle - thanks Reh!) and photography (and possibly cooking). My Kona Marco Polo and Nikon D90 instantly became my most cherished possessions and everything else was deemed disposable.

Recently I went cycling from Banff to Canmore along its new recreational pathway, taking pictures along the way, and also creating a time lapse video. I cycled back to Calgary that day too. I plan on getting some more accessories for my bike and camera. I have never felt more passionate about these two things in my life.

At the same time I started giving old clothes away and selling useless stuff on Kijiji. Except for biking and photography gear I don’t feel the need to go shopping for things I don’t need anymore.

I have never felt lighter than before.

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