How to Travel like a Minimalist

. 4 min read

At its core, minimalism is about not letting your material possessions control you; it is as much about diminishing stress as it is about reducing 'stuff'. So, if you are the type to worry about expensive clothes or electronics, don't bring them!

Clothes

Minimalism is a thought process; imagine you have your holiday wardrobe laid out in front of you and cast your eyes to the bulk of it. You see shirts, trousers, and underwear all folded neatly - ready to be stuffed into your bag. Now pick-up each item and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What weather will I be encountering?
  2. What will I be doing?
  3. What am I already bringing that will do the same job?

(No, don't ask yourself if it will bring you joy).

Learn to be critical with these questions, experiment and push yourself to find your limits. For me, that ended up being: two t-shirts, swim/casual shorts and a pair of socks and briefs. Depending on question one I'll also bring some trousers and an insulated rain jacket. As for shoes, this is where question two comes in - can I get away with just my minimalist sandals (huaraches) or do I need something more formal? I can get away with taking so little because I have mastered question three and over time collected the functional items/knowledge necessary to remove what most would deem 'essentials'.

Versatility

What do I mean by functional items/knowledge? Well, there's a growing market of formal-looking activewear which is perfect for travel - gone are the days of bright blue hiking tops and bulky cargo shorts. Some brands out there are using top-quality, tactical materials and giving them some sharp looking cuts, for example outlier make a range of smart, durable, comfortable and odour free clothing. Look for materials such as Tencel for smell resistance and quick-drying and Schoeller soft-shell for stretch/comfort.

Rohan is an excellent brand if you are in the UK.

Before investing in expensive (quality) materials, I rotated between two cheap cotton t-shirts. This was a pain as I had to wash them every night, but it was an important practice, taught me I already have all I need to travel the world with a minimalist lifestyle.

Hand-Washing Your Clothes

The image of hand-washing your clothes in the sink or shower can be a desperate one, but it's a great skill if you want to travel the world with just your carry on. (Before you ask I've been doing this for over a year and nobody has suspected a thing.)

Being comfortable (and proficient) at hand-washing your clothes will let you travel, with less, for less (no laundry/baggage fees), and keep you fresher than travellers relying on washing machines. Depending on the country your in, washing machines may be sparse and/or expensive! Not only that but you are doing the world a favour by reducing your electricity and water usage. Plus, if you spend enough time abroad you'll probably find yourself in a scenario where you have no other choice - so you may as well embrace it.

Bonus: Walk into a shower after an awesome (exhausting) day of exploring while still wearing your clothes. By the time you get them off, you and the clothes are soaked. Wash while you wash! Washception!


When you look at that pile of clothes, know that every gram in front of you is one you'll have to carry on your trip. Do you really want to waste your hard earned travelling time and money washing them as-well? Travelling light will get you the most out of your time.

Hygiene

Depending on where you are going most hygiene products are available in travel sized bottles for free when you arrive. If not, most people like to use Dr. Bronner's all-in-one soap to have their toothpaste, shampoo, soap all in one bottle.

Let's take this a step further for a moment... do you actually need any of them? Look at your hypothetical luggage and fumble open the zip-lock bag full of the little concoctions that cause airlines so much fear. Pick out each thing, one at a time:

  1. What would happen if you didn't bring it?
  2. How can I prevent that from occurring naturally?

This process will broaden your understanding of the human body; it's excellent at telling us when something is wrong - we're just bad at listening. Consider the possibility that smelling is a symptom of a bad diet or environment, it's not that crazy when you take into account bad gas and bad breath. When we are covering ourselves with nice smelling things, we are treating the effect, not the cause.

No 'Poo'

My experience with removing these products from my life has only been a positive one. No bad breath, no body odour. In fact, this was how I cured my dermatitis. Of course, hair is a bit greaser for a few days, but even that normalised within a week. It just goes to show the power of advertising - these things are entirely unnecessary.

When hygiene products, in general, go from a 'must have' to 'optional' you gain a surprising amount of freedom: that toiletries bag you travel with disappears. Saving weight, space, time, and even money! All that remains is your toothbrush and floss.

Just imagine walking past all those people getting stopped at airport security. Fiddling with their travel size potions. And I bet you've never done the math of how much you'll spend on these things over a lifetime?

Electronics

In general, the best advice that can be given here is, like with all things minimalism, be critical and honest about your values. Will you be working? Why? Is it necessary for you to take quality pictures? Why?

Related: Living without a Laptop.

Remember, each thing you decide to take with you is another thing you have to worry about getting stolen/broken/lost.

Just to warn you, once you try this a few times you'll be compelled to apply it to your entire life! It might sound difficult at first, but it can really help you focus and determine what's important in your life.


What do you think about the guide? Anything you'd add? Share in the comments!



Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.

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