What stuff do you really need to be happy?

A friend recently posed this question to me:  if I had to live on a deserted island for one year with no possibility of escape or rescue, what five things, other than basic survival things like food, water, and shelter would I want to have with me.

deserted-island1Here’s my list:

The Tao te Ching (unless there is electricity, then my Kindle, but that seems like cheating)
Paper
Pens
A watercolor kit with paint and brushes
A camera—I know, the electricity thing again, but we won’t be super-strict with the rules.

As I thought about this, I realized I could have fun and stay really absorbed.  And that alone is a happy thought.  I’d keep a journal, of course, and then write all the things I never get around to, teach myself to paint, and take lots of interesting pictures.  My island, as I imagine it, has interesting shells and rocks and birds and plants and driftwood for creative inspiration.

Through it all, I’d read the Tao to keep inspired.  Maybe I’d understand it better at the end of the year.

After doing this little exercise, these questions came to mind:

What possessions really add to our happiness?
What do we really need for entertainment, for inner growth, for self-expression?
What would we be willing to give up if resources were really limited?

What would you bring along with you?  And how would it be to be alone with yourself?  Post your answers in the comments section.


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10 thoughts on “What stuff do you really need to be happy?

  1. Susan Viljoen

    How would it be to be alone with myself? Bliss, I’m thinking right now. But I do need people now & again, so that won’t last forever.

    Anyway, what to take with to the lonely island.. Plenty of blank journals & black pens.
    I’d need many books, including a whole set of Martha Beck’s books. I’d also take my Bible – the one I make notes in.
    And I agree about the painting/drawing equipment.
    A soft sarong I could sleep under at night and sit on or wear by day – soft fabrics are comforting to me.
    It would definitely be the ultimate place to practice meditation properly..

  2. maura conlon

    I love this idea of the deserted island and what would you bring. I just returned from my family homestead—an ole beach bungalow (very simple) on the Atlantic Coast, not too far from NYC. With the smell of sea air, the roar of the waves, the companionship of the local community, I felt my life is sooooo rich. And who needs more than this?
    —Now, that’s a difficult question as we are so programmed otherwise……

    Thanks for your post, Terry.

  3. Avril Oliver

    What a wonderful idea, an opportunity to just stop and get off the merry-go-round for 12 whole months! I would definitely need to take a pony with me, a miniature would be fine (not sure if I’m bending the rules here!). I would be kept in a constant state of joy just building a bond with the pony and learning more about these wonderful sentient beings daily. A journal would be great too, so I could write about any adventures. Any equine related book which I would be happy to re-read over and over . An encyclopedia of nature would be a useful tool when discovering interesting beasties on the island to write and learn about. Lastly a pen for writing.

    Wow! Felt I was right there on that island for the past 10 minutes… Thnks Terry.

  4. Carolyn

    I love this thought! I’m imagining an island with perfect temperature, gentle breezes, lots of shade, mango trees, beautiful shells and room to explore. It is interesting to me that I wouldn’t want to take much (assuming, of course, that I’ve got food, shelter, clothing and all the necessities of life):

    Pens
    Paper (I would definitely be writing a lot)
    Piano (I’d love to learn to play and this seems like a perfect opportunity to create music that sounds good to me without having to follow any rules so I wouldn’t be bringing books to learn to play.)
    I’d love to bring my dogs, too
    There is no fifth thing I can think of!

    I thought about bringing a book or books but then realized that I’d rather use the time for finding that same inspiration from inside myself and if I brought a book I’d be looking to someone else’s inspiration rather than my own.

    That was a fun exercise — Thank you.

  5. constanze

    Paper and writing materials would be the most important things as I could communicate with myself when no one is around. Draw or write, work things out.
    As far as books are concerned I might take Nothing to Lose by Pema Chödron. That would keep my mind engaged for a long time.
    I know I would want to make things: build a little house and make clothes?? So I would take a tool and knitting or crochet needles or just a sewing needle.
    It would be fine to be alone with myself for a certain amount of time, but not indefinitely.
    Of the “stuff” what matters most is something that would help me to express myself.
    I am glad I know something about self coaching – I would probably do that a lot!!

  6. admin Post author

    I love how each of us has at least one item solely for creative expression–Constanze is bringing knitting needles, Carolyn is bringing a piano, Arvil, a pony. I’m bringing my camera, although Carolyn’s piano seems mighty tempting. These are fantastic lists!

  7. Betsy

    Hmmm, five things?

    Agree that writing materials are important. That would be quite soothing. Also, it would be interesting to try to remember dreams, and later see how they change over the year.

    Since I cannot play the piano, I’ll settle for an iPod filled with music. Probably a lot of classical; the structure of classical would be a good counterpoint to the broad expanse of island life.

    I suppose a small boat might be cheating — but I love sailing, and if I promised not to go outside of a certain radius, would that be allowed?

    Books — I’d like to bring a whole library if I could. I’d like to read books by great British authors like Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh. I liked reading them when I was on vacation in Asia… it seemed so perfectly colonial. And I’d like to read 100 Years of Solitude again. It’s the only book I’ve read more than once, and it deserves a third or fourth reading.

    And some beach books too… some mysteries, some light-hearted and humorous stuff, and Oprah magazine, natch.

    All in all, it would be fun for a while, but I’d rather it only be for a week or maybe a month, max. I’d miss my friends, the people I love, my home, my neighborhood, my noisy and annoying neighbors, my cats, driving with the top down, sharing meals, gabbing, and meeting new, wonderful people.

  8. Liz

    Great idea and what an adventure that would be! And such an opportunity for self-discovery.
    1. Pens and plenty of notebooks
    2. Watercolors
    3. A harmonica
    4. A portable CD player with my favorite CD’s
    5. My favorite inspirational book
    (It also would be fun to bring who-kmows-what tools to build/create with, like a hammer and nails or knitting needles or sewing kit – but I wouldn’t know for sure what I would have selected to bring until I was already there and saw the terrain and climate. So I probably would fashion my own tools from things already there.)

  9. Liz

    Great idea! What an adventure that would be and such an opportunity for self-discovery! Thanks, Terry.

  10. Lailey

    I love thinking about what I need to be happy! It has changed from 5 years ago…..What I need to be happy is less stuff more time!!
    I LOVE my kindle but do I NEED it?
    My journal(s) 1 for thought work & morning pages one for gratitude.
    Time to meditate.
    Time to exercise.
    Time to give the child in me a wide sky and hang with friends and family!!
    I need to laugh (and love)
    This is where I am at these days!

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