How Traveling and Minimalism Intersect

Minimalism isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s popularity has only recently gained worldwide traction. This is spurred on by the growth in the number of Millennials who view life as a chain of experiences rather than an increased number of possessions. As part of focusing on experiences, reducing the money spent on possessions allows for more money to be spent on adventures.

That said, traveling is a perfect complement to minimalism because it’s about embracing new experiences, not collecting more items in our travel bags. Living with less and enjoying your experiences more is elemental for both travel and minimalism in our lives and offers a multitude of other benefits as well.

Minimalism applies to all aspects of our life and allows for a greater connection to the present moment, a fruitful learning process on organization, and a sense of calmness that only comes with minimalist practices. Minimalism will truly improve the quality of your life if you fully embrace it.

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism put simply, is a way of living with less but it is so much more than that. It’s a lifestyle choice to reduce clutter in every aspect of your life, but mainly in the possessions, we have. A good introduction to the concept of living like a minimalist is to watch the documentary Minimalism or Less is Now. Both are documentaries on the principles of minimalism. Being that minimalism is a way of simplifying and organizing your life, it can be connected to many aspects of everyday living.

Minimalism by nature is about possessions, but also about a space and the way it feels. Whether this is the office desk you’re working at or the home you live in, minimalist design can be used to reduce distractions.

Another important understanding to have is that a journey for a minimalist lifestyle takes time. You must be willing to patiently make small changes and eliminate clutter from your life. This thoughtful progression allows for the right choices to be made and time to be saved in the long run. Minimalism is a journey, not a destination.

How Are Minimalism and Traveling Connected?

Minimalism and traveling go hand in hand because the less you have to carry with you on a trip, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your destinations. The intersection of travel and minimalism allows for improved efficiency and less distraction from the present moment.

Traveling by itself is no small feat. There are hundreds of details that run through your mind as you’re planning a trip or taking in a new place once you’ve arrived at your destination. The idea with minimalism is to simplify the process that is required for a successful trip and allow for a stronger connection to the things you can learn and grow from while traveling.

Basics of Minimalism for Travel

When trying to pack like a minimalist, you really have to spend more time organizing your possessions. It’s an intentional process that may take more time than packing freely but results in saving your time down the road when you’re busy enjoying a new destination. You should be considering an item’s purpose very thoughtfully, find items that serve multiple purposes, and know that your needs will change as time goes on.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I absolutely need this item for my trip?
  • Do I totally love this item?
  • Could I substitute this item for something more practical?
  • Will I use this item multiple times?
  • Could I buy this item in the country and save on space now?

An Example Minimalist Packing List

Adam, AdventureEXP’s founder, recently went to Peru for all of nine days where he was putting on the finishing touches to AdventureEXP’s Health & Wellness Cultural Immersion Apprenticeship in the Sacred Valley to be open for applications come summertime. He only took his backpack the size of a large school bag for the entirety of the trip.

This is what he took:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 8 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of boxers
  • 1 pair of workout shorts
  • 1 Nalgene water bottle
  • Laptop
  • Portable charger
  • Blue-light glasses
  • Universal adapter

Adam feels a lot of excitement about traveling with less. “Packing bare necessities brings me a ridiculous amount of pride because it’s my way of raging against the day in-day out routine of everyday life and proving to myself that I only need the essentials, to the point where I can arrive by myself in a foreign country and not only survive but thrive.”

In his travels where he applied minimalism, he has been able to learn a few basic concepts and lessons that he feels are important to relay to those trying out this new way of thinking.

Benefits of Minimalist Traveling

Traveling with minimalism is a self-imposed boundary and no one is requiring you to compromise on the items that you bring. Choosing items based on the needs of your destination will help you choose what basic essentials to bring.

Adam traveled to the Sacred Valley during the rainy season so a rain jacket was essential, and luckily his packs down to the size of a fist. He was able to do laundry while traveling so that helped reduce the number of items he would need instead of packing individual outfits for every day of the trip. His advice, “Be mindful to pack items that you won’t be able to get while traveling. Socks can easily be purchased abroad but prescription medication is likely not available.”

For Adam, toothpaste is something he’s unwilling to buy abroad though. Some of the worst (funniest) experiences traveling abroad are using international toothpaste that is chalky, slimy, grimy and of course the odd flavorings – looking at you, eggplant-flavored toothpaste in China. He knows from experience that packing a travel-size toothpaste is essential.

Eliminate Insignificant Decisions to Make Way for Significant Ones

Traveling, and traveling by yourself at that, is all about making decisions. There has been research conducted on the number of decisions a person makes in an average day and that there is a threshold of decision making where we reach a point that we can no longer effectively make quick, appropriate decisions.

Mark Zuckerberg wears the same shirt and jeans every day because it prevents him from having to make a decision first thing in the morning on what he is going to wear, thereby paving the way for him to make more significant decisions at Meta.

Deciding if it’s best to walk, Uber, or use public transit to go to a restaurant can be a challenging process when traveling by yourself, in a foreign country with a foreign language, foreign currency and limited Wifi. You need all your tools at your disposal and by limiting the decisions you make with your clothing, you are allowing yourself to focus more on the ‘real’ problems and finding the path of least resistance.

Disconnect From Consumerism, Reconnect With Your Surroundings

For Adam, traveling is about new experiences, challenging the way he views the world and fostering deep, lasting connections. Those connections aren’t limited to just people – it’s a connection with the environment and culture that he is immersed in.

In his experience, he has found that minimalism travel produces the most consistent results of meaningful connection and profound exposure to new experiences or ways of thinking. This is what he is always pursuing when traveling. It’s a curiosity and energy he hopes to imprint on all of the AdventureEXP participants because it has been such a positive influence in his own life.

Save Money for Experiences, Not Possessions

One of the most obvious benefits of being a minimalist in every aspect of your life is that you’re buying fewer things and ultimately saving money. That money can be used for anything of course, but the most obvious use for a minimalist traveler is using it to buy their next plane ticket or the rental of a moped in Southern Italy.

For a minimalist traveler, and many Millennials, new experiences become a priority, not possessions. Possessions weigh us down and don’t allow for flexibility in life. If you want a change of apartments within a city or maybe to another country, having less possessions makes that transition easier.

Be Willing to Leave Something Behind

One rule Adam tries to adhere to when traveling with minimalism is that he never brings his favorite piece of clothing. It was sparked from an accident that is so easy to make – spilling something on his shirt or pants. When you’re trying new foods and styles of eating them, a mess is bound to happen.

This favorite shirt or pair of pants has instead been replaced with simplistic clothing that is more practical. It removes the emotional connection to the piece of clothing and empowers you to leave things behind making way for items you pick up along the way

During Adam’s travels in Peru, he was given a poncho by the Quechua community that future participants will volunteer in. It’s more than likely that the same exchange will be made with those participants as well. Having the space for something so beautifully woven is worth leaving Adam’s 4th favorite shirt at home. Plus a piece of clothing hand-woven in the very same method that their Incan ancestors from the 15th century utilized is pretty special.

Start Your Minimalism Journey Now

As mentioned above, minimalism is a continuous journey of learning and improvement, so starting now is the perfect time. Clean out your desk or your closet of things that are weighing you down. Think about that T-shirt in the back of your closet – when was the last time you wore it? Starting in your day-to-day life can help make packing your backpack for your next trip a little easier when you’ve got less to consider bringing.

Minimalism allows us to focus more on the moment, save money for amazing experiences, and increase the amount of time we have for the most important things. It’s also incredibly sustainable by nature because you’re buying less and contributing less waste to our precious planet.

If you’re ready to start making plans for your next trip, think thoroughly about your packing list, where your destination will be. Maybe one of the AdventureEXP programs will be the perfect opportunity for you to try minimalist traveling out in the near future.

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