Minimalism: It’s a fad, a lifestyle, a way to design spaces, and even a fashion statement. Traveling like a minimalist was natural before today’s minimalist trends came into the picture. Minimalist travel has to do with the stuff you bring with you, the speed you travel and your attitude while on the road.
It’s hard to say whether traveling has made me more of a minimalist or if I became inspired as I spent more time abroad. Every trip I take it seems like I bring less and less stuff with me. Because less stuff = more seamless and more meaningful adventures.
To travel is to be on a journey. And why would you want to go on a journey when you’re physically and mentally bogged down with lots of stuff?
Traveling like a minimalist means having less stuff. It doesn’t mean letting go of the comforts of the modern world or limiting your possessions to a ridiculously low number. It is not a set of rules; it’s about letting go of things you can do without. It’s about feeling free to live your best life at your fullest potential.
The concept of minimalism means different things for different people. For some it’s about decluttering physical possessions, and for other’s it might be about focusing their career or letting go of activities or relationships. For me it’s about simplifying my external and internal world, and being conscious about the impacts of consuming more than I need.
Minimalism challenges me to be a more conscious traveler and just a better human being. It has also changed a few things about the way I travel.
1. Pack Less, Carry Less
Packing less stuff means that it is MUCH easier to get around. When I have just one or two bags with me, packing, transportation, and mobility are more seamless and less stressful. I can also find everything I need much more quickly when I know where everything is.
LEARN MORE: HOW TO PACK A MINIMALIST CARRY-ON
2. Buy Less Souvenirs
When I have a smaller backpack there simply isn’t enough space to carry trinkets from the places I visit. And honestly, friends and family back home appreciate foods and photos more than plastic knick-knacks made in China anyway.
3. Be Environmentally Friendly
I invest in fewer pieces that are of good quality, last longer, and that I really enjoy. I also try to avoid buying ‘disposable’ clothing from fast-fashion companies like H&M because of their ecological and social impact on workers and the environment.
LEARN MORE: HOW TO BE A SUSTAINABLE TRAVELER
4. Save Money on Checked Baggage
Having less baggage = spending less money. Most airlines allow you to bring one checked bag on long-haul flights which means that having one backpack fits these parameters at no extra cost. By packing light I avoid airport hassle, overweight fees, and long lines at baggage claim. It’s a win-win!
5. Feel Lighter
I feel lighter mentally and physically when I have less stuff. My shoulders don’t hurt (as much) from trekking around a city for 4 hours waiting for hostel check-in time. Having to do laundry a little more often doesn’t compare to the feeling of walking around and not being bogged down by a 30-kilo pack.
6. Be More in the Moment
Let me explain – owning less stuff and removing unneeded possessions make my head feel clearer. Getting rid of items associated with past memories frees up mental space to start living in the present. Another way to be more present is to travel without phone.
7. Have Better Experiences
I’m far more focused now on what experiences or foods I could try instead of the clothes or trinkets I could purchase. I’d much rather keep the same clothes until they are unwearable than buy an “I Love New York” t-shirt!
8. Be More Resourceful
Unfortunately by having less stuff I sometimes don’t have the little things I need. This means that I have to be a bit more resourceful to get things done, like borrowing an umbrella or some scotch tape from a new friend. Instead of buying new books that suck to carry around, I might get something to read from a free book exchange.
9. Feel Less Stressed Out
Someone once said that the more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. I couldn’t agree more. Having more items is like a mental burden. When the things I think I need (but don’t) are gone, it’s like a cloud is lifted from my brain.
10. Be More Spontaneous
The temptation to buy and have more things can stand in the way of exploration. Owning less makes it easier to change plans on the fly or to be more flexible when flights are delayed. With less possessions t’s so much easier to pack up and get going as well.
11. Blend in Better
By having a smaller backpack it less obvious that I am a tourist. I feel less susceptible to theft because I’m less likely to be pegged as someone who doesn’t know where they’re going. I am more comfortable walking around in a new city, and feel more like I blend in with the local culture.
12. Travel More
Do more, with less. Traveling like a minimalist leads me to spend less money on souvenirs and things I don’t need. This means I have more money to travel again, sooner.
13. Embrace the Challenge of Downsizing Even More
I try to think about my stuff as belonging to two categories: function or joy. If they have a specific function (like a toothbrush) then I need it. If a t-shirt brings me joy when I wear it, then I need it. When I buy a new piece of clothing, I think of what piece in my closet I can exchange for the new one so that my amount of things doesn’t get out of hand.
Traveling like a minimalist has given me more mental clarity, less stress, and the freedom to have more meaningful adventures. It has also made me more present and willing to try new things.
Next time you pack for a trip, unpack your backpack one last time and take out 1/3 of the items inside. Chances are you won’t need half the things inside anyway! And you’ll thank yourself later when you’re carrying it around.
Check out more minimalist travel tips here.