After years of traveling around the world, I was very familiar with the airport routine and the long waiting times that seemed inevitable. I wasted what felt like years of my life standing in the queues to check in my luggage, only to await with dread whether my suitcase will appear on the baggage carousel. Unfortunately, there were times it did not.
When I was packing for my three-week long trip to Asia in the summer of 2017, I decided I am done wasting my precious time. It was time to apply my newly found minimalism to the final area of my life – travel.
Having simplified my wardrobe, packing has become surprisingly easy! I managed to fit all my clothes into a hand luggage, which proved indispensable as my husband and I travelled to a different city in China, Japan and South Korea every other day of our Asian adventure.
Small luggage also meant that I had to consciously choose what souvenirs to bring back from our travels. In the past, I used to bring a large number of cheap knick knacks “to remember the place by”. Over the years I learnt however that it’s the memories that matter, not these “travel trophies”.
Traveling light started as an exercise in minimalism but proved to teach me some important lessons. Here’s some of my tips on how to travel minimalist style:
- Try something new
One of the greatest joys of travel is that it allows us to break away from our everyday life and experience a reality different to what we know from home. Many people find change unsettling and try to recreate as much of their home environment and habits as possible – even if they don’t do so consciously. Traveling with sole necessities forces us to alter our routines and be comfortable with discomfort. It encourages us to be creative and to simplify, reminding us that we actually need much less than we think. It is also a great way to step out of your comfort zone and speak to the locals and practice that Spanish or French you’ve been learning at school while you’re forced to look for the sunscreen you never packed. You will be surprised what you can learn about the place you’re visiting as well as about yourself this way.
- Embrace the freedom
One of the great appeals of traveling is the freedom it gives us. Leaving our busy schedules behind we can truly embrace the time we have and allocate it any way we wish to. We can read the books we haven’t had time to open, we can wander aimlessly through the charming little streets of the city we’re visiting or get lost in the awe of nature we’re exploring. Every day, we are completely free to choose what to do with the 24 hours we are given. Why waste this time on packing and queueing at the airports? The less stuff you carry, the more freedom you have. Embrace it.
- It’s the memories that count
The less stuff we have, the more money we are left with for what really matters in life. I used to often end up paying more for the plane ticket, just so I can take a checked luggage. A number of times I even had to pay for the things I had already paid for at the time of their purchase, just so I can take my overweight bags home with me. People often worry that if they don’t bring souvenirs from their trips they won’t have any “proof” of their travels. Others are concerned that they cannot go back to their friends and family empty handed, without a token from their journey. I used to fall prey to these fears too, returning home with piles of cheap mementos that soon gathered dust instead of bringing back memories from the trip. Instead, I now limited the number of things I can bring back from my trip to one essential item that can have a practical use. For example, from my trip to Japan I brought only matcha green tea, which flavour reminds me of all the relaxed mornings my husband and I shared in that beautiful country. The less money I spend on stuff, the more money I have to travel, and to me those memories are more precious than anything I could display on a mantelpiece.
- Be present
The less stuff you carry around, the less you need to worry about them getting lost or stolen. Traveling with just a bag that you can see at all times, allows you to keep an eye on your belongings quite effortlessly. It gives us a chance to focus on experiencing the moment instead of worrying what will happen if our things get stolen. Rather than relaxing on holidays, I used to keep a watchful eye on my bags and stress whether I managed to pack everything when checking out of hotels and hostels. Now that the items I travel with are less numerous, I find packing much easier and less stressful. At the same time I get to focus on the experiences, be really present, without the worry spoiling my time.
- Leave your baggage at home
Many of us travel to get a break from our reality. Away from stress of work deadlines and boring routines, we can reconnect with ourselves and get some new perspective. Often just a short break or just the physical space can help us see a situation or a problem in a different light. The more stuff you carry with you, the more ties you down to the life you’ve been trying to get a break from. We like to hold on to our thoughts and beliefs just as we hold on to our belongings. The moment you leave what’s known behind, the more space you can create for the new and unknown. So leave your physical and mental baggage at home and travel light. Inside and out.