Last summer, I spent six amazing weeks as a camp counselor at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Northern Michigan, and a part of my identity among both my coworkers and my campers was that I was striving to be a minimalist. One night during bunk-talk, me and my co-counselor asked all of our campers to assign their bunk mate what animal they are. When it came around to me and my co, we had all of our campers shout (shout-whisper?) what they thought we were in animal form.

For me, they thought I would be a turtle. When I asked why, they said, "Well you've always talked about being able to carry everything you own in a backpack and suitcase, so it's like you have your home with you just like a turtle has their shell."

For the past seven months, that comment has resonated with me, and it has helped me take more active steps to becoming an official “turtle” so to speak.

It hasn’t been an easy journey though as camp life and college life are polar opposite in terms of fashion and general hygiene upkeep. Throughout the summer, I was limited to a uniform and 1-2 outfits of “rec/street clothes” and only had a few minutes each day to wash my face and shower. And on top of that, makeup was just not a thing anyone had time for. However, in college, I love to look well put together and professional on a daily basis.

This factor equates to owning and needing more material goods, which makes it a lot harder to fit everything in a suitcase and backpack. But I refuse to stop trying.

And this is why:

After observing my habits for the past few years, I've come to believe that possessions tie me down. Being a minimalist allows me more freedom and gives me more flexibility to leave home and travel, move, explore on a whim.

And my family inspires to do exactly that. I've had a cousin who lived on a boat; a cousin who backpacked South America; a father who walked to Florida, biked around the continental US and was in the 82nd airborne. So here I am, eager to make my mark not out of obligation but out of this burning need. Why the burning need? I have this crux where I hate staying in the same place for too long, especially if I don't have a chance to stretch my legs.

I love the idea of being able to pack up my life in 30 minutes just so I can go catch a last minute flight, hop in a car, ride a train, or do something spontaneous. I wouldn't need to spend hours, days, or weeks planning on what to bring, what to leave behind, or what to get rid of.

Pairing down all my items has been and will forever be a continuous struggle because consumerism and materialism are deeply ingrained in American society. There's advertising everywhere that appeals to me in one way or another, whether it's emotionally, ethically, or logically. However, with consumerism and materialism, there's another catch. Both of those ideals are directly linked to other ideals such as beauty, fashion, and health. As someone who has questioned how beautiful, trendy, and skinny I am over the years, becoming a minimalist helps to reject those bogus influences that I let interfere with my overall view of myself.

Even though adopting this new lifestyle isn't easy, it is worth it. Since I've embarked on this journey, I've found a freedom inside of me despite society trying to infiltrate my lifestyle by telling me that minimalism is "wrong", "weird", and "un-American." But I don't care. I'm happy roaming around with my turtle shell.