Travel Minimalism

The best part about traveling is the forced minimalism. My life at home, as it has evolved, is quite complex and full of stuff. On the road I’m reduced to what I carry in a small backpack and hand bag — clutter becomes a physical burden. I really enjoy this simplicity as it helps me focus. One of my favorite things to watch as a friend or colleague travels more is how their bag gets smaller and smaller with each trip.

25 thoughts on “Travel Minimalism

  1. This is exactly why I reread Rolf Pott’s “Vagabonding” all the time. His philosophy is heavily focused on simplicity and it’s a great approach to living.

  2. It’s surprising just how accurate the central theme of carrying your life in a bag in ‘Up In The Air’ is for a frequent traveller such as yourself. I almost always travel with hand luggage only and most people I know think I’m crazy but really, you just don’t need that much kit with you. It’s very freeing.

  3. Serendipitously apropos post for me. We just bought one way tickets this week to Europe. My wife and I depart in October for 12 months abroad. Never knew how philosophical picking for and packing a bag could be. I’m enjoying the process of evaluating what is “really” important to carry. BTW: Thanks for WP it changed our lives.

  4. My wife and I have been traveling around the world continuously for 3.5 years (and doing some work along the way). I wish I could say that our bags have shrunk over time, but they haven’t. I find that the more complex the destination (in terms of connectivity, security and ability to replace equipment), the more compelled we are to pack more stuff.

    Hats off to you for the reaching simplicity nirvana.

  5. As a frequent traveler I’ve also seen the evolution of my luggage. Do you have something like a checklist of absolutely essential items that you would like to share with us?

  6. Expounding this beyond travel yields choice and massively improved focus across all of life. I don’t think it needs to be obsessive. However, less stuff usually equals more substance.

  7. Heh, we used to travel light by most people’s standards, even when we had more stuff than we needed. Then we had a kid. The optimization process started all over again.

  8. My wife and I live on a sailboat (14 years now!), so minimalism is essential with almost everything we do. When we land-travel it is always with a single, simple pack each. Unfortunately, when we visit family we always end up transporting ‘boat parts’ back with us; never a simple exercise. WP has changed the whole way the family communicates with each other.

  9. Interesting, I see a conection between this post and the other recent one where you quoted an article about “essentials”.
    Considering I don’t travel half as much as you do, it’s the opposite with me. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, too and we “need” to carrry more stuff and clothes and everything than man usually do. I was always worried about not carrying too many things when travelling, making the job of packing a real torment, but now, I decided that as long as I’m not carrying my luggage on my back all the way down my destination, I’ll carry everything I can, if I don’t use it, it’s ok, at least I won’t regret not bringing that important thing I left behind. 🙂

  10. Good advice. The longer the journey the heavier the baggage becomes. Getting rid of the emotional baggage we all heave around is even more freeing. Working on that as we speak. 😉

  11. *grin* I know what you mean. I travel almost none at all yet when I do I’ve learned to have just what fits in a small pack. I learned this as a child. There were seven of us plus grand parents and parents. We each were responsible for all of our own stuff plus something else. It made you learn to pack lite. Now as an adult I have a 252 square foot house, a tiny cottage, with my wife and kids. We have very little stuff. A few computers, books, not a whole lot more. Keeps it simple.

  12. Your post reminds me of what life was like when I traveled the comic book convention circuit, all my table gear and books in a large locker, delicate items wrapped in clothing, my necessities in a messenger bag across my side. I used the bus usually to get from one town to another. I was very careful about acquiring things. Everything had to fit perfectly with everything else. I feel I was more productive and less consumptive in those years.

      1. Because in a previous life (age 17-23), before I was a web designer, I was an award-winning comic creator, making webcomics for teenage girls at gURL.com. I went to conventions to sell self-published paper editions, meet my fans, and promote my work. It was a lovely life experience.

        (If curious, you can find a directory of links to my comics at http://SubcultureofOne.com/comics/ )

  13. This reminds me of “Up in the Air” with George Clooney. He had a monologue that dealt with extensive travel and how to get around quickly. Have you seen it?

  14. simplicity of stuff is a beautiful thing.
    but more important is simplicity in mind and spirit. once you get there, you realize how the rest is superfluous.

  15. I love the scene from “Up in the Air” where he packs his bag with lightning fast efficiency.

    I’ve been using the Eagle Creek Twist for a year now. It’s a roller bag, which saves me from lugging a backpack around everywhere, but also has (high quality) backpack straps so if I’m on walking through city streets or somewhere a roller bag would be cumbersome I can whip out the straps and use as a regular backpack. It doesn’t look near as dorky as it sounds 🙂

    So long as I don’t overpack it fits perfectly in overheads, fits a decent amount of clothes, laptop, books and extras perfectly.

    For my “murse” I have a small bag from Manhattan Portage – which has some unique designs and easy to carry around.

    I’ve used those two combined for weekend to three week trips, and keep it packed with shirts, socks and my cosmetics so it’s ready to go for a road trip or last minute flight.

    http://www.futuregringo.com/index.php/2009/07/11/wheeled-backpack-winner/

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