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Less is more: one student explains how he lives out of his backpack

Unlike most college students, Daniel Calix can fit his life essentials into a normal backpack. Photographs by Jonathan D. Lopez


By Daniel Calix – Collegiate Staff

I’ve been living out of my backpack since September 2014, with everything I own. Four shirts, three pairs of pants, two sweaters, four pairs of Merino wool underwear, six pairs of Merino socks, and one pair of shoes. All the clothes I own. It isn’t much, but it’s all the style I need.

A couple years ago I felt like I was on top of the world, I had everything I thought I wanted – all the stuff I would need to feel content. I was wrong, but not in the sense that I didn’t have enough, I had too much.

There were days I’d question why I had some of the things in my room. Why do I have these tennis rackets? Well maybe I’d want to play again. I hadn’t played since middle school, but maybe I’d pick it back up.

That’s how it went for years. I collected books, clothes, movies, toys that reminded me of my childhood, an insane amount of old school work, just in case a certain topic came up in future classes.

Daniel Calix

In 2013 I was asked to trek the Appalachian Trail – a marked trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I jumped on the invite, of course I wanted to go, I’ve wanted to travel my whole life. But, what would I do with all my things? Being gone for a few days is one thing but the Appalachian Trail is months long. In the end I turned the opportunity down, my reasoning justified by the need to be responsible.

It took time but I slowly learned that being responsible wasn’t what was holding me back from dreams of traveling. It was my stuff. After a night of serious thought, I’d had enough.

I started with clothes. I took everything in my closet and drawers and dumped it into a bag to be dropped of at the Salvation Army. Everything I normally wore was already lying on the floor of my bedroom, so I had no trouble. I got rid of all of it until I could fit everything I needed into a 40-liter backpack, and the gifts that held sentimental value from my friends and family went into a 2-by-3-by-2-foot tote, stored away until I’m ready to settle down.

My views on life and death have changed. Five years ago if you asked me where I wanted to be in life I would have given you the typical spiel: a big time, nine to five job, the girl-next-door girlfriend, an amazing loft. I would have everything I wanted. Ask me now and I’ll tell you something completely different: I just want to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to have some of those things still, but I don’t strive for them. They don’t define who I am. The experiences I have with the people around me do.

I was always so busy working to afford the things I wanted that I didn’t have time for my friends. Now I always have time for them, so much time they think I don’t have a job still. They don’t completely understand why I got rid of everything, but they’re okay with it and instead of spending our days inside they’ve begun to reach out with me.

I’m leaving for Mackinac Island in a couple of weeks, and they all plan on going up with me for a little while, which surprised me. Before, they would make a fuss if I wanted to go across town and now they’re willing to go across the state with me.

Today I’m ready to go on a moments notice. No more searching for the right outfit, or scrambling to find things before needing to be somewhere. Everything I could ever need is always with me, and if I ever get invited to go on another adventure, you probably won’t know about it until you open your mailbox.

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  1. I love this! There is so much more to life than “acquisition.” You can’t take it with you when you die… and what you have left can cause loads of headaches for those that are left… You are my new hero


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