Lessons Learned Traveling The World as a Minimalist
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One of my first big international trips was a two-week European tour with Contiki that included stops in 11 different cities. We moved around a lot, and I soon found myself regretting that I’d brought a full suitcase and a backpack. Since we were moving around so much I couldn’t do laundry so I basically had a heavy suitcase full of dirty clothes. That trip was amazing and it changed my worldview, but it also made me seriously rethink how I packed and how I lived my life.
After that, the more I traveled the more I challenged myself to pare down the amount of stuff I owned. I became a minimalist – someone who deliberately owns no more than what is required or essential. While anyone can live a minimalist lifestyle, it’s especially good for remote workers and world travelers because we’re always on the go. If you fly frequently, imagine what it would be like if every trip through airport security was fast and easy. Also, when you travel lighter you are contributing less weight to the airplane and which uses less jet fuel which is better for the environment.
For me, one of the biggest advantages of being a minimalist traveler is the mental freedom. The more stuff you have the more you have to think about your stuff. Where is it? Is it clean? Do I really need this thing? By traveling with only what I truly need, it frees my mind up to think about other things that are far more interesting (like friends, family, my business, etc.).
When traveling, I see a lot of people with big bags. Usually those people don’t know how to restrict themselves so they just keep buying stuff. For me, it's very easy not to buy stuff when i'm traveling. I’ve been living this minimalist lifestyle for so long that I just don't think about buying stuff anymore, unless something breaks or an item of clothing is worn out. That way, I’m not really accumulating more stuff – I only buy things to replace something else that no longer works. (OK, there is one exception to this – I like to collect magnets in every new city I visit. But they don’t take up that much room and they are not expensive.)
A tip that I tell people is to continually evaluate what you are packing. Start by looking at what you use over the course of a month. If there’s anything you don’t use in that month, get rid of it. Then do the same over a three-week period. Then two weeks. For me now, it's one week. Within one week I use everything that I have in my posession.
Right now I’m traveling with a backpack and a carry-on suitcase. I used to travel with just a backpack but I had to switch that up when I went to London in [month?] and had to bring a jacket. If you want an in-depth look at what I pack when I travel, take a look at this post . Since I wrote that post, the only thing I’ve added to my packing list is a GoPro.
Of course, traveling this way does have its disadvantages. I have basically been wearing the same clothes for two years, which doesn’t bother me at all, but other people might notice. People I’ve met on my travels don’t usually say anything about it … unless I’ve pissed them off with a sarcastic comment of my own. So if you choose to travel this way, I would not recommend criticizing other people’s clothing choices. They may give you shit for wearing the same clothes all the time as retaliation!
If you can handle a little shit talking about your clothes, traveling the world as a minimalist is so much easier, less expensive and mentally freeing. I highly recommend it.