Minimalism has been a huge part of my life and travels for around a few years now, and there are many ways that it has drastically improved my travel experience. Had I not delved deeper into minimalism before I started traveling, I would be a confused mess with probably half my backpack full of items I didn’t need and dozens of overweight luggage receipts. Womp Womp.
While I don’t go to some extremes to travel with only 15L in one bag, I find comfort in my own 40L backpack along with my camera bag that helps me travel comfortably and within my means. Am I still working towards condensing? Of course! I could leave a couple shirts behind here and there but overall, I enjoy every single item that I travel with and they make traveling easier, not harder, which is how it should be. I know that adopting a more minimalistic approach to travel can greatly impact the way a lot of people travel in regards to having many heavy bags to carry and inaccessibility, so I wanted to share how minimalism has enhanced my travels and what products I love that help me travel more minimally in hopes that some of you might be inspired to rethink the items you pack for trips and their value in your life.
What Does It Mean To Be A Minimalist Traveler?
When I first joined the minimalism movement and since adopted it into my travels, I thought that it meant you could only travel with four things and you have to wear the same shirt every day until the threads fall out, or it gets lost on the road because who really comes home with everything they brought with them (not this girl)? However, I quickly learned that minimalism is not living with the least amount of things possible, it’s living and traveling within your means of comfort, and nothing more.
For example, some minimalists only use their smartphone or compact camera when traveling because that is how they prefer to document their adventures. Me, on the other hand, I have a camera bag with all my gear that brings me the most joy in my ventures as a photographer. While I only traveled with one lens for my first full year of travel, I have since added in other lenses that I adore and that allow me to explore my creativity. If you love books, you don’t have to buy a kindle to save space in your luggage. If you love jewelry, you don’t have to only bring one necklace. If it truly brings value to your life, don’t feel like you need to get rid of it to be a “good” minimalist or the right one because you have too many of them. I think there is a line, so you don’t end up on the show Hoarders: Travel Edition, but finding that sweet spot for you is essential for being successful in the world of minimalism. It’s so so important to not be overly critical of yourself when you first start on your journey; just be honest and the rest will follow.
Tips For Traveling/Packing Minimally
- Know What Amount Of Space Suits Your Travel Style: If you aren’t comfortable traveling with less than twenty items in a 15L backpack, it’s okay to want more space so that you have all your bases covered. What it all boils down to is bringing along items that you know you love, will use and will enhance your travels.
- If You’re Asking Yourself “What If” When Packing, Leave It: Once the ‘what if’s’ start rolling in, that’s when you frantically start tossing your entire closet into your backpack because of some unpredictable event that might occur on your trip. It’s one thing to plan for some light rain, but it’s another to bring an extra 20L of items just so you’re covered.
- If You Haven’t Worn It In Years, You Won’t Wear It Now: Ouch. This one stings a bit! I am guilty of this on more occasions than I would like to admit to, but it’s a golden nugget that you shouldn’t overlook while packing. If the shirt you just pulled out of the woodworks has that old smell and you need to dust it off, I guarantee that it will remain in the same state for the entirety of your trip. Trust me, just leave it at home, or better yet, donate it!
- Style Neutral Outfits So You Can Mix & Match: I don’t generally plan any outfits for my trips (I am trying to start), but I do pack along items that can be worn with each other so that I don’t have seven singular outfits. Essentially, I make a little travel capsule wardrobe where I have a set of items that can be worn in many ways! I am starting to build a more ‘fashionable’ travel wardrobe, so planning will come as I add items over the next year, but this is a great tip if you tend to pack too many clothes.
- Always Take One Week’s Worth Of Clothing: No matter what trip I am going on, this is always going to be my number one rule for packing light and saving space. I don’t always pack seven shirts, seven bottoms, etc., since mixing and matching outfits has me wearing one item more than once, but I make sure that I am covered for the first week, maybe a week and a half, until I need to find a laundry facility.
- Check Weather Conditions: Weather is always up in the air, and you never know when places are going to have a harsh or warm season. It’s important that you get a rough overview of what to expect on your trip and do weather research before you depart!
How Minimalism Has Made Me A Better Traveler
I never worry about overweight luggage and fees (+ sometimes baggage claim).
This is probably the most beneficial part of traveling light because you don’t have to fork over your credit card to pay overweight baggage fees and you don’t have to sit at baggage claim and wait, and wait, and wait. I carry around my Osprey Farpoint 40L Backpack and I adore its versatility to be able to be checked or taken on board as a carry-on. It gives me a lot of wiggle room in terms of different ways I can travel AND I have this pack in a gorgeous rainforest green color that is not only incredibly aesthetically pleasing but it’s really easy to find among the hundreds of black suitcases circulating the claim when I choose to check it.
I bring home souvenirs that are high-quality, lifelong possessions.
Souvenirs have coined a negative connotation with the explosion of tourism all over the world, but they can be the most cherished items that you’ll have for a lifetime. I feel that souvenir shops that carry mass-produced items are not only horrible for the environment, but the cultures that they have taken over. The word souvenir literally means ‘to remember’ in the French language. When you’re purchasing a souvenir, think, ‘how do I want to remember this trip?’ There are tons of great eco-conscious souvenir ideas, but my favorites are jewelry, artwork, household items, and handmade clothing! These may be more expensive, but you are more likely to remember that quaint, local dive in Rome that has been running for 75 years over that newly built souvenir shop that has the same things in it like every other destination that you go to: t-shirts, shot glasses, keychains, etc..
I don’t overspend on things I think I will need.
Often times when we go on new trips or places we’ve never been, we have no idea what to bring, and henceforth, we start making a list of things that we think we will need so that we will be completely covered. Packing lists are a great way to get a general feel for what you will need while on the road, and always remember that if you forget something, chances are you’ll be able to get it in the place you’re visiting. Before my trips, I like to do research on what exactly I will need and what I can leave at home so that I can maximize the space in my backpack and not end up with a bunch of things I am not using while traveling. Plus, there is nothing worse than thinking you’ll need a certain item while traveling, only to splurge on it and not end up using it, so check out packing lists and ‘essential items for ______” to find the best recommendations for your destination.
I invest my money into having the most optimal travel experience rather than possessions back home.
I don’t spend a lot of money in general, but when I do, it’s always to invest in something worth my while. One of the things I love most about traveling is that I am able to invest in the things that matter the most to me like a flight that allows me to explore the world, a new lens that lets me explore my favorite creative outlet, foreign foods that let me immerse myself in culture, and accommodation with world class views. While I am home I save so that I can splurge more for adventures and have the flexibility to have the best experience possible for the way that I like to travel. Not only that, but I don’t feel the need to spend a ton of money on unneeded items, so that helps me grow my savings by ten-fold each month because I really only spend my money on food and other utilities.
I place the most importance on making memories through my camera.
I don’t want to be biased here (but hey, I’m gonna lol), but photography is singlehandedly my favorite, and perhaps the best outlet for documenting a journey, emotion, and perspective during a certain time in one’s life. You don’t need a super fancy and expensive DSLR camera with all the bells and whistles to take a nice photo, and more often than not, the best photos are the raw, unedited ones that are snapped in moments that will never be able to be replicated. There are many ways to capture a memory whether you’re wanting a vintage look, modern composition or something you can store away. I believe there is a camera out there for everyone to fall in love and experiment with. It all depends on your personal style and what best suits the way you travel.
I know EXACTLY where all of my things are at all times.
You would be amazed at the weight this lifts off your shoulders while you’re traveling! I almost see this as a small scale way to achieve a photographic memory with all the times that you have to pack and repack your bag. Once you get into the routine of where and how things fit, there is no way that you won’t have every nook of your pack engrained in your brain. When you have a ton of stuff lying around, you tend to shove it in your suitcase or backpack, kind of like a junk drawer back home, and hope that you won’t lose anything along the way. Well, what good is that? I have had tons of items go to the travel graveyard simply because I forgot I had brought them with me! The fewer items you take along, the faster you pack, the less stress on your back, and you’ll return home with everything you came there with! (I had the greatest opportunity for a rhyme there and nothing fit in so my apologies for a missed opportunity of a seamless closure lol)
All my toiletries come travel-friendly, so I never spend money on travel-sized products or convenience.
I can’t count the number of times I have been so grateful to not have to repurchase items specifically for flying. Most of the items in my zero waste travel kit are not liquid based, which makes them the perfect option for ease of travel. I use a cream-based deodorant that is stored in glass, cream-based sunscreen, and solid shampoo and soap bars. If I am not using a solid shampoo or soap bar, I am using Pacifica’s Coconut Power Shampoo and Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Castile Soap in these reusable squeezie tubes. I like to use up and enjoy what I already have on hand rather than spending a ton of money for something that could easily be condensed from products at home. I never have to worry about TSA snatching my toiletries or my products exploding all over my bag!
I don’t spend a ton of time on my phone so I can be more present.
This sounds like a general rule of thumb for not being on your phone, but having few apps and distractions coming in from your device is the most freeing feeling. Every month or so, I like to go through all my photos, apps, and documents and delete everything that I am not currently using, or that I haven’t used in a long time. Most of the time, I do this while I am flying or waiting at the airport because it’s a great way to pass time and it’s the perfect opportunity to take the time and clean out all of your electronics. Once you have all your electronics cleaned out, there aren’t going to be so many distractions for you to click through and pass by the time, and you really feel like you brought your entire life together in under a few hours. My general rule of thumb while I travel is that similar to when you’re attending a concert. Take photos and videos, but don’t take so many that you forget to stand back and enjoy the moment.
Items That Help Me Travel Minimally
WANDRD Travel Journal + Planner
I love love LOVE this notebook! It has pages for planning up to twelve various length trips, travel rewards, a world map, symbol communications page, travel conversions, and places to doodle while you’re on the road. It has all the resources you need to have all your trip information in one spot which makes this the perfect product to keep you organized and carry fewer documents.
Osprey Farpoint 40L Backpack
My personal tried and true, and the backpack that I rave about in every single one of my blog posts it seems… I use this backpack no matter where I go and I have found 40L is my sweet spot for my travel needs. Any more than around 45L (other than when I am camping) and I would be packing along items that would make their way to the bottom of the bag in no time. This bag is stable and amazing for minimalistic travel!
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
These play a major key to keeping all your clothing organized, and it has drastically improved the way that I pack my backpack. I use the smallest one for delicate items, the medium size for tops, and the large size for bottoms! It is a carefree way to know where all your clothing pieces are and they only fit so much, so once these are full, you won’t be tempted to pack more than what you need.
GoToobs+ Travel Containers
While most of my toiletries are carry-on friendly, sometimes my shampoo, conditioner, and soap come in larger bottles that I don’t want to take up space in my bag. To help with saving room and taking less with me, I use these squeezie GoToob’s that allow me to take on the carry on size limit of my favorite products! This way I don’t need to buy travel sizes and I use up what I have.
Have you ever lost your favorite item while traveling? Share with me in the comments below!
This post does contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.
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