You know the phrase less is more? Incorporate this into every part of your daily life, especially when you travel. The idea of minimalist travel revolves around the removal of things that distract us from what’s important in life — what we value most. Bring yourself back to the reason you are taking the trip in the first place. Maybe you’ve read minimalist travel blogs that recommend visiting family or friends or to see a new country and immerse yourself in its culture. Perhaps you plan to be a tourist in New York or simply go on a business trip.
Whatever the reason for your trip, remember that reason and let it guide you on your journey.
Understand what’s most important about the trip and what you plan to get out of it, then use a minimalist approach to get the most out of your trip. Read on for ways I’ve incorporated minimalism into my own travels.
It’s easy to pack too much, so get a smaller bag that forces you to pack only what you need. In the past I always over-packed, worried that I may need extra outfits and options. In fact, I became so caught up with putting together the perfect outfits for each day, each activity, and each moment that I wasted lots of time that could have been better spent exploring my surroundings. I lost my vacation to my itinerary and over packing.
Let’s be real. No one really cares what you wear but reading a minimalist travel blog or two helps to give me ideas for packing. However, I advise against walking around in your birthday suit, unless you are at a nude beach with strangers. Otherwise, this isn’t high-school. What you wear isn’t going to make or break your experience. You should feel comfortable in exploring your surroundings.
When you create your packing list, think in terms of comfort and climate, especially if you plan to explore and spend time outdoors. You aren’t going to wear high heels and a short dress through the rain forest, so there’s no need to pack it. You won’t need to pack a survival kit with a bunch of hiking equipment, either.
As far as makeup, toiletries and other products you may use when at home — cut back, and only bring what you need. Use those TSA packing guidelines to your advantage, and if you run out, you can restock there. You don’t have to follow your full beauty routine when you travel. So, don’t bring your hair straighter and curling wand, two different body washes, your entire makeup case with all 40 eye shadows and four different perfume options. What is it that you need?
Think about the essentials and what you can use as a multipurpose item. What about a small stick of eyeliner, foundation and blush doubling as eye shadow? What about a two in one shampoo and conditioner? Pack your essential and approved electronics, like an extra charger and your laptop, on your carryon bag.
It can be great to have a travel itinerary that guides you on your trip but leave it at just that — a guide. Don’t create a step by step itinerary for your entire trip or you will be on autopilot. You will also feel stressed out of your mind and that doesn’t make for a mindful or relaxing stay. Once I learned this, it made my travels much simpler and more enjoyable because I was not so focused on what was next but was able to live in the moment more, and ultimately experience more. The memories feel like yesterday.
A freer schedule will also allow for more spontaneity, which means more excitement. The moments won’t rush by without you feeling like you missed out on so much. Your vacation will also feel longer. Who can say no to that? Part of going on a vacation means pacing yourself, not forcing yourself to stick to a strict schedule of must-sees and must-dos.
Instead, set exploration goals for yourself, such as trying a diner or coffee shop on a whim. Purchase one book from a local author as a souvenir to take home with you. Make conversation with a nice older lady as you feed the birds. Embrace the small moments for big experiences. Minimalist travel blogs tend to have plenty of tips for how you can do this.
Take a mindful and minimalist approach to planning your trip. Try to schedule your stop at trendy, tourists’ spots when they are least busy so you have more time in the day to enjoy more experiences without ending up stuck in a line for hours. Let go of your need to have everything planned to enjoy your trip in ways you couldn’t have planned.
Here’s what gets us all in trouble. Almost all of us are guilty of this — packing the just-in-case pair of shoes, extra handbags, and multiple sweater options. You’ll need the poncho, your little black dress and No Halloween costumes in case you get invited to a Halloween party, no floor length gowns in case you’re invited to a ball — only pack what you know you will use.
If you’re anything like me, I used to pack extra everything in case I was stuck somewhere longer than expected, in an accident, lost — you get the idea. Well guess what? You can’t live a life full of what ifs. Make those what ifs positive. Make them about experiencing your travels to the fullest. Once I realized this, I was no longer overwhelmed or stressed.
Another thing to keep in mind — it’s ok to re-wear an item of clothing if it isn’t dirty. In fact, I wear pairs of jeans and certain sweaters at least a couple of times before washing them, and this is on a normal basis. I even outfit repeat. Once I started to apply this rule to traveling, it immediately simplified it. This will also increase room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
Back a few basics and neutrals, to dress up or down. Foldable black ballerina flats that work well for casual and formal. Even a little black dress can fit into any scene. Add a jean jacket, and you’ve got a street look. See? Minimalism opens up possibilities.
The travel portion of a trip does not have to be a rush or a burden. Yes, airports, hours flying and road trips can be boring, but make the best of your entire journey. This includes the there and back, a concept called slow travel. Walk instead of using Uber so you can see more along the way and stop at different tourist spots or local areas you may not otherwise discover. So, what if you spend an extra 30 minutes absorbed in taking in the scene?
Minimalist travel bloggers — I included — also suggest using public transportation if the option is safe because it will immerse you into the local scene. You want to be part of the scene and experience a city like a local? Then, you must be a local. Walk the streets. Take the bus. Let yourself slip into conversations with others, and you’ll find out information not listed in the tourist brochures or even recommended by the hotels. You’ll find the best local grub and deals. That’s the joy of spontaneity!
Getting there can be just as fun if you set your mind to it and choose more minimalist modes of transportation. So, rent a bike or walk. Get some exercise and let your feet power your adventures.
I’m a visual person and like to look at things in front of me, like a packing list — I must check things off for them to truly be complete. There’s just something satisfying about placing that final checkmark in red ink, but paper tends to collect and get trashed. I wanted to make my travels eco-friendlier instead of wasteful.
However, I’ve implemented a paperless strategy into my travels and have ditched printed boarding passes, itineraries and other paper documents. Instead, keep important documents on your phone or iPad so they are easily accessible. This will also save space and minimize clutter. This is common tip among minimalist travel blogs because you’ll move through TSA and other gates much more easily when everything you need is accessible right at your fingertips.
Minimalist travel will not only simplify your life, but it will bring your focus back to what’s important —the journey. I think everyone should give it a try at least once to see the difference in the quality of your overall trip. I love to live in the moment as much as possible and this is a simple way to do just that.