<< Back

Mind Body and Soul: Traveling Like a Minimalist – Getting Out More With Less

So, how’s that New Year’s resolution coming? You know, the one where you promised to travel more and get out of the borders of your hometown. No judgment here – I know how travel can be. Sometimes it’s expensive, it can be stressful and sometimes it’s a downright pain in the butt. However, research indicates that travel statistically raises happiness in individuals, and can also be invigorating, inspirational and provide new insights into the world around us. Moreover, traveling offers a profoundly deeper appreciation for that moment when you get to come home and sleep in your own bed. Speaking of which, how are you fairing on that New Year’s resolution to focus on gratitude? Ok – we’ll talk about that some other time.


By: Meghan Pescio

The Burdens of Travel

It’s true. Sometimes traveling can be quite the ordeal. If you’re like most,  your pre-travel routine looks something like this: booking flights, booking hotel, booking car, planning itinerary, packing bags, worrying about weather, packing more into the bags, considering a night out, packing more into the bags, weighing bags on your bathroom scale to ensure you don’t get charged for overweight, checking the weather, again… and so on.  Not only do you “have to” pack for every situation, but on your trip you’re “forced to” lug around your suitcase, “worry” about things getting stolen (especially if you’re moving locations regularly) and all around transfer energy that should be used for enjoyment into stress. Not good.

The single underlying factor for this stress is stuff… way too much stuff. So, how can we cut down on stuff and stock up on savoring the moment?  Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known in more enlightened circles as “The Minimalists” (www.theminimalists.com), have a way. The duo have embarked on a series of conferences designed  to recount their journeys from six figures and a sure spot on the top rung of the corporate ladder to a simpler life, driven by the philosophy of minimalism. They gave us some pointers on how take a sliver of the minimalist mindset and apply it to our packing and traveling…thus freeing up time, energy and space to enjoy what’s really important – the voyage.

Lighten Your Load

Living a minimalist lifestyle means different things to different people. Ultimately, it describes a method of “de-cluttering” your life (think: getting rid of stuff you don’t need) in order to determine what’s most meaningful and relevant to you (family, friends and experiences). Minimalists range from the diehard counter-consumption warrior who has 50 objects to his name and travels the world, to someone with a family, career and simply a purposeful, actionable strategy to prioritize the matter that matters.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all, but there is a basic premise that can allow for an easier and happier life, as well as vacation: be aware of your stuff.

Josh and Ryan gave us three tips for traveling like a minimalist. We challenge you to incorporate at least one into your luggage (or lack thereof) next time you plan on jetsetting:

Check Yourself Before You Pack Yourself

We all need less than we think when we’re traveling (The Minimalists are currently on a 10-month, 100-city tour, and each packed only one carry-on bag…show-offs).  While you might not be planning a backpacking trip with hostels and constant travel, it may do you some good to really think about what you need and what you don’t need before you break out the “big suitcase” from the back of the closet.

Questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do I really need a different outfit every day to get the most out of my travel?
  • Do I really need a different hairstyle every day?
  • What are my favorite, most valued items that I know I will use regularly during my trip?
  • What are my needs and what are my wants? 

Asking yourself these questions should help you as you decide whether to pack that crimper, suit or extra set of heels that “go better” with a certain outfit.

No More Just-In-Case Items.

That leads us to those three little words “Just in case…” and the distant cousin, “What if…”

The mental paranoia that acts out every single vacation scenario packs on the suitcase poundage…and fast. The truth is, unless you are on your way to Antarctica or another completely underdeveloped part of the world there is a simple rule that should be your mantra: “Everything is Replaceable.” Even more, almost everything is replaceable for under $20. Choose to pack the items that you absolutely need, put away a small amount of your vacation budget for items you opted out of packing (don’t forget to add in the $50-$100 you’ll save on overweight baggage fees), and leave the “flapper costume just in case I find myself invited to a Roaring 20’s-themed party” at home.

Versatility is Key

The final, and arguably most important tip for packing like a minimalist comes with your ability to repurpose. Think of it as a game. What can you pack that you will be able to use in two or more ways during your trip?

  • Clothing: Look for clothing that can be used for a leisurely day, and dressed up at night, like a light cotton dress, dark jeans, khakis or even convertible pants that can be unzipped into shorts during the day (www.rei.com). Try to keep your clothing in a neutral palette, and if you are a fan of color try to only choose one to two colors and plan around them.

Three tops (tank top, sweater or button up and t-shirt), two bottoms (jeans and shorts or leggings) and one dress can create 12 unique outfits. Add a few more light shirts and you’ll have plenty of options to create semi-new outfits each day. Also, each pair of shoes adds an average of 1.5 pounds to your pack. Wear boots or formal shoes on the plane and pack a pair of flats or flip-flops only in a neutral color. Stick to quick-dry, wrinkle-free material like cotton/poly blends.

  • Layers: If it’s going to be cold where you’re going, don’t take up precious space with a bulky winter jacket. Learn to layer with lighter, long-sleeve shirts, a thermal and a light jacket.
  • Other Tricks: There are plenty of other repurposing tricks you can use to ensure you’re packing with minimalism in mind. Pack a small water bottle that will cool you down in hot weather locations and double as a travel iron to get wrinkles out of your clothes, use conditioner (in the small travel size, of course) instead of packing extra shaving cream and use sunscreen instead of carting the lotion.

Ultimately, the goal of minimalism is not just to condense your cargo. It’s a mindset that helps you to figure out what means the most to you, and to focus all of your energy and resources on those things. Start out with a minimalist attitude while packing for your travel, and transition it into other parts of your life as you see fit. Who knows, your new state of mind may even create more time and money in your life for more travel and to do the things you love the most. 

Leave a comment