It's a fantasy shared by many a middle-aged, mortgage-strapped adult.
Sell all the gear you've accumulated, pocket the money, stuff a few
clothes into a backpack, and take off for Europe or the South Pacific,
where freedom's just another word for nothing left to download.
Way more often than not, of course, reality prevails. That 60-inch
plasma-screen TV is pretty cool, after all. And while it may be true
that you can't take it with you, hey, why not enjoy it while you're
So meet Christian Richardson, 24, a college graduate with a promising
future in the restaurant business and a taste for expensive toys such as
high-end electronic equipment and fancy kitchen gadgets. Though it's a
bit early for him to be having a midlife crisis, Richardson did
something rather unusual, if not revolutionary, recently: He posted a
list of his possessions on an Internet shopping site and invited
everyone to his sale.
"I am selling everything," Richardson announced, supplying
a link -- with home phone number -- to his own Web site.
Notebook computer, DVD player, DJ-quality turntables, studio speakers,
leather sofa and chairs, cordless phones, kayaks, binoculars, floor lamps,
fish tank, wine rack, food processor, microwave oven, mixing bowls,
martini glasses, even the bathroom towel rod and shower head -- all were
for sale. His list contains 229 entries, from $200 (his price) ADJ
Pro-Scratch CD players to a $2 banana stand.
Richardson posted the notice on www.craigslist.com
at 4 in the morning on Sept. 22. By 8 a.m., his cell phone was ringing
furiously. It rang so often that by the end of the day he was 170
minutes over his monthly allotment and had yet to return several dozen
Something about the sale, the whole idea of it, struck
peoples' fancies -- more than just bargain-hunting might account for, at
any rate. By that afternoon, Richardson was directing strangers around
his apartment so they wouldn't trip and smash the Asian globe lamps.
Many were seeking deals on barely used stuff; Richardson's prices
(nonnegotiable) were generally 75% off retail, in some instances more.
Others were curious, though. Was it desperation or inspiration that
"I got an e-mail from some MIT friends asking ... why is
he doing this?" says Sahar Aminipour, 25, a master's degree
candidate at Boston University Medical School, who showed up -- twice --
and wound up buying candle holders, a drying rack, two cobalt bowls, and
a pair of headphones. "But talking to Chris, yeah, it made sense.
If you're trying to find yourself, why not reduce the number of material
objects that are weighing you down?"
Richardson has been eager to answer questions, too.
"I've said my goal is to walk out of here on November 1st with
nothing but a backpack, a toothbrush, and a plan," he says.
"Right now, there is no plan -- just one step at a time, the first
step being to get rid of everything."
Richardson says he's not a closet Buddhist or born-again back-to-the-lander.
In fact, he used to get the same buzz from buying a 300-disc CD
player that others get from taking drugs or eating a good meal.
Nor is he drowning in debt or depressed over a busted romance. The job
he recently left, general manager of an upscale South End restaurant, paid nearly
$1,000 a week, more than enough to support his Sharper Image shopping
"People say I live more like a 30-year-old than a college
student," says Richardson, who graduated from the University of
Vermont in 2002. "I was always checking out the coolest, latest
stuff. I bought a lot of things that made me feel I was on the cutting
edge. But the problem is it's never ending."
The restaurant job -- a high-pressure, long-hours situation -- had
its drawbacks. The harder he worked, the more miserable he felt. Owning
a better subwoofer or shinier espresso maker wasn't going to make him
any happier, he realized, whereas a change of scenery might.
Friends have suggested Richardson go hike the Appalachian Trail or
take a cross-country car trip. Having sold his new Volvo, the latter
seems unlikely, but adventure is definitely in the cards. Richardson is
leaning toward buying a round-the-world plane ticket and spending
several months globe-trotting before settling in a foreign city.
He wants to raise enough dough to buy the
time and freedom most people can't afford.
What will he keep? A point-and-shoot digital camera so he can
keep his website updated like as a sort of online journal. His backpack, of course. Camping
equipment. To those who might wonder whether Richardson wouldn't feel
freer by giving the money away, too, he has a ready answer. "Could
I afford to? I don't think so," he says. "Unless this becomes
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.