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How to Travel like a Minimalist

At it's core minimalism is about not letting your material possessions control you. It's as much about reducing stress as it is reducing "stuff" so if you are the type to worry about expensive clothes or electronics... don't buy them! The same effect can be achieved by looking in thrift stores or local classifieds.

Clothes

Minimalism is a thought process - so imagine you have your holiday wardrobe laid out in-front of you:

Cast your eyes to the bulk of your luggage: shirts, trousers, and underwear all folded neatly - ready to be stuffed into your bag. Now pick-up each article 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?

Learn to be critical with these questions, experiment and push to find your limits. For me that means: 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 insulating 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 etc. 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? There's a growing market of formal-looking active wear which is perfect for travel - gone are the days of bright blue hiking tops and bulky cargo shorts. Some smart people out there are using these top-quality materials and giving them some pretty snazzy cuts. For instance outlier: smart, durable, comfortable and odour free. Look for materials such as tencel for smell resistance and quick-drying and schoeller soft-shell for stretch/comfort.

Rohan is a great brand if you are in the UK.

Before investing in expensive (quality) materials I was rotating two cotton t-shirts. This was a pain as I had to wash them every night but it was an important practice, showing you already have everything you need to travel the world, even with a minimalist lifestyle.

Hand-Washing

The thought of hand-washing your clothes in the sink or shower can be a daunting one but it's a key skill if you want to travel the world with just your carry on. Oh and 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. 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! Wash-ception!


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 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 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 miniature 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 happening naturally?

This process will broaden your understanding of the human body. It's great at telling us when somethings wrong - we're just bad at listening. Smelling is a symptom of a bad diet, from bad gas to bad breath it's all the same thing. 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 my hair was a bit greaser for a few days, but even that normalised within a week. Goes to show the power of advertising - these things are completely 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? What's the harm, give it a try.

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 important for you to take nice pictures? Why? Here's my experience living without a laptop.

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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