While taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, all of my stuff fit nicely in a Deuter 50 liter backpack. The minimalist items included three pairs of socks, three pairs of undies, two pair of hiking shorts (one with detachable leggings), a windbreaker, sleeping bag, two short sleeve wicking shirts, two long sleeve wicking shirts, hiking shoes, sneakers, miscellaneous toiletries, a camera, MP3 music player, chargers, a journal, Brierley guidebook, regular book, silk sleep sack, inflatable pillow, and a hat. The entire ensemble weighed 22 pounds. I was traveling with very little and my happiness was over the top.

With a few days under my belt, I began playing a mind game based on the contents of my backpack. When planning the trip, I had been careful to keep the weight of my pack below the recommended 10-15% of bodyweight (without water). Still, on the first few days, I eliminated a book, a silk sleep sack, and an inflatable Big Agnes memory foam pillow. In the early hostels, there was always a table loaded with excess items below a sign that read, “Take what you need; leave what you don’t.”

My new exercise was to mentally go through the contents of my pack and determine what was really needed to complete the trek. Did I really want my journal or could the memories survive in my mind? Obviously, my shoes were required, but did I really need three pairs of socks? Would the trip end if someone stole my camera? Were fingernail clippers required? Living with minimal material items was one of the many liberating features of this pilgrimage. Even though I carried little, I still endeavored to determine what I really required.

That thought process led me to the deeper question of what is required for me to be happy on my larger journey through life. What material items do I need to carry with me, but more importantly, what do I want to carry in my emotional backpack? Do I want more family time, more friends, more physical strength, more power? What are the true emotional necessities of life? Are events or people taking up too much space in my emotional backpack? Do any need to be cleared out? And the bigger question: what is missing that could truly enrich my life?

There is nothing wrong with having shiny new things. Just remember that happiness comes from gratitude and experiences……not stuff.