My Minimalist Escape – How Minimalism helped my Travels

 
We were never meant to live life accumulating stuff.
We were meant to live simply, enjoying the experience of life, the people of life and the journey of life – not the things of life

This is what Joshua Becker wrote in his bestseller “Simplify” and as a newly minimalism disciple I couldn’t agree more. Whether you are an avid follower of  @MarieKondo or never heard of her obsession with tidiness, you must have heard of the new “less is more” thinking trend which I already mentioned here and here.

Back in 2013 when I started looking critically at all the stuff in my wardrobe, I was still in my full-time corporate job in London. Appearance back then was crucial and I really struggled to make the first steps into a less-cluttered life. However, with the purpose to have a bigger budget to travel with, I started selling my designers’ shoes, bags and clothes on eBay, putting everything I got from the sales into my “To Travel Is To Live” Saving Account. Things got much harder when I started decluttering my sentimental and personal boxes filled with letters, books, pictures, postcards and other notes. It was much easier for me to get rid of my material stuff without a blink of the eye, but throwing away drawings of my nephew and old letters felt distasteful and rude. So…I didn’t.

I decided that there is a limit to the things I feel good without and there are less-expensive but more valuable things that I will never throw in a bin. I had to accept my personal limits. You have to find and accept yours.

Hotel HotelA year ago, I stored all my remaining belongings at a friends house, (Thanks Duncan!) and left with a 12kg backpack on my shoulders and a 5kg camera bag as a carry on. Fast forward to a few months later and I had collected shells, books, clothes, souvenirs from all over India and Australia, which weighted me down enormously. So, once again I was faced with the tough process of letting go. But of what?

One day back in my hostel in Darwin, I pulled out all my belongings which I guess were well above 30kg by then and distributed them all over the floor. I started a rough Project333 with all the clothes I owned, realising soon that some things I bought in India were not suitable for the rest of my journey in Australia; several books (which I already read) were taking most of my bag’s space; and two pair of shoes were so destroyed and disgusting after hundreds miles that it was a huge relief to see them in the rubbish. I made a bag of clothes to leave in the free for all basket of the hostel, left most of my books on the exchange shelf and picked only one promising myself -once again!!!- to switch to my kindle permanently. Since that episode, I decided to keep the number of things I own and travel with down to the same number. If I acquire a new item, I will force myself to get rid of something that’s already in my bag. This is my new rule and has been working for the past four months.

But there are many things I would do differently if I could start this trip all over again, that’s why I’m sharing the following tips to start your transition into a minimalist life b e f o r e setting of for a long trip or a relocation abroad.

Don’t Pack. Just Go! 

I am not a pro at this minimalism game, I still struggle to let go of things while I try to accumulate/buy less, but I’ve learnt that living and travelling with less is much easier and cheaper (just think of the price of extra luggage every time you catch a plane!). First and foremost, forget all the packing tips you find online, I would just recommend you to leave home with a fraction of what you think you will need, not half as some suggest, but a 10th. It will be too impossible to resist the temptation of buying new clothes and various souvenirs  especially if you are travelling to cheap countries, so be smart and leave plenty of room in your bag right from the start, and don’t fret you will reunite with your favourite t-shirt or jumper upon your return, I promise!Image-1

Sell it or give it to charity. 

It’s hard to get rid of things you paid and it’s even harder to get back the money you spent on it, but my philosophy is that it’s better to have $50 rather than a $100 jacket I never use. Start slow with a winter clear out, go through all the things you own and make groups: old-but-I-love, never-used-once, too-small/too-big, emotional-value and start getting rid of all the things you know you don’t need. Put them on eBay or Gumtree or even get down to your local market or charity shop. I got so used of using the same 5/6 outfits I own, that I love having a restricted choice to make every morning a bit like Mark Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt and jeans work uniform.

…But Keep What Makes You Happy

As I struggled to get rid of books and things of emotional value, I’ve decided that I don’t have to get rid of everything, I can and must keep the things that bring happy memories to me, photos and letters that belong to a distant past perhaps but that still make me happy today. Some minimalism fundamentalists would shout at me for writing this, but I don’t believe in owning a set amount of items is the key to happiness, I believe in owning only things that add value to your life and this is even more true while travelling.

You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.
Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains

Do You Really Need It? 

VaranasiBefore buying anything new ask yourself: do I really need it? This is something I ask myself every time I’m in a shop and I’m tempted to spend a few bucks on something. Most of the time, the answer is “Nope, I don’t” and leave the shop empty-handed but proud of myself. Something that I started practising back in London, it’s now a useful habit I cling to while browsing stores in Port Douglas, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. Here, the things I need are very few and often are just things I need to replace because they finish (toiletries, food…) or they worn out. So, once you learn to make a distinction between what you want and what you need, you will soon realise that your life is already pretty complete and you will start saving hips of money on useless stuff. If on your travel you see presents and things you love for your family and friends, my top tip is to pack it and mail it immediately. Don’t make the mistake to drag it with you across country as I did, the gift will get ruined and your money will be wasted.

Clutter is a manifestation of a) holding onto the past and b) fear of what might happen in the future.
Leo Babauta, Clutterfree
 

Buy Experiences. Not Stuff. 

YAY!More importantly, I am a big advocate of experiences VS things. In a world where we are all summersed in stuff, unique experiences can really stand out. I remember the face of my parents when I bought them a cruise ticket for their 40th anniversary. They expected the usual material thing, but once they came back they told me it was the best experience of their life. I also bought swimming courses, amusement park tickets and dance classes to my nephews and friends. These are things that you can keep in your house, but the memories you make are going to stay within you for a very long time. What’s more important that happy moments?

The best things in life aren’t things.
Joshua Becker

Digital Decluttering

But minimalist is not just about material things, it’s also about our busy digital lives. Since I’ve been away, I’ve unsubscribed from most of the newsletters I once found interesting but actually never read, I consciuously cleaned my Facebook wall and Instagram feed by all the negative people, cat-lovers, depressive attitudes to have my rare moments of connectivity only filled with joy, happy moments and real friends instead. And having a limited or no internet connection I quickly developed a very harsh filtering system for what emails I want to read or reply to. Similarly, I found it surprisingly easy and calming to ignore a lot of social media updates and stuff, even though that’s the industry I work in, and I’ve been amazed by the positive effects this change has had on my creativity and how much time I now have to spend on my writing, photography or simply enjoying my occasional free time instead.  The idea is that your real life is more important of your social media persona, and you should rather spend time living life rather than sharing it online.packing

Do something incredible. Don’t tweet about it.
Colin Wright

And while it’s easier to travel with a minimalist mindset, it’s also true that travelling helps you become a better minimalist. After all this time away, I’m dreading the moment I will have to go through all the stuff I left behind and I already know that I should have binned most of it before leaving. And travelling with less is less stressful. I’m no longer scared of losing things behind (well except my camera gear, laptop, hard drive and passport) but I learnt that all other things are simply replaceable.

 BECOME A BETTER MINIMALIST WITH THESE PROS: 

BOOKS: 

  • Everything that remains, The Minimalists
  • Simplify, Joshua Becker
  • The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, Francine Jay
  • The Power Of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, Leo Babauta
  • My Exile Lifestyle, Colin Wright

The moral of the story: we don’t really need that much stuff both at the home and especially while travelling. You may have been forced into thinking that you need that brand new car, that you need to upgrade your phone, or that dress but the truth is that you don’t. I’ve learnt to spent the money that I would have otherwise spent on buying new clothes and stuff on experiencing life and seeing the world. I couldn’t recommend you enough to do the same.

Love people, use things. The opposite never works.
The Minimalists

  • I guess I am a minimalist. I detest clutter. I will travel with one bag to save me sanity. Great article

  • Kari (Happy Coconuts Travel Blog)

    Less stuff, less stress! Simplicity to me is happiness. Collect moments, not things!!

  • Wow. I am in exactly the same place. I sold all my stuff and started traveling last year. I feel like I get better at packing during each trip and I’ve cleared out most of my closet but I always feel like I can do better. I want to minimize ALL THE THINGS! Thanks for the links to help keep me motivated! (Check out Unfancy – my fav minimal closet blog). I must follow all your social things now!

    • Thank you, Miranda! I need to follow you too! 🙂 And I’ve had a look at Unfancy: so smart and beautiful! Are you still travelling or are you back now? Also, it’s true that once you start from something, you can never stop, it’s like an addiction!! i love it!!

  • I’ve been slowly getting rid of things too and buying less material things to start with, but I also need to work on overpacking for trips, ahhh! Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • hahah! Just think this way: if I leave home this and that, I’ll have room to buy myself something very special instead. It’s really hard to beat the thought “I might need it”, but let’s be realistic: unless you are trekking the Himalayas or going on a Cast Away adventures, you will always find a shop to buy that extra jumper or underwear. Try next time!!

  • Love so much of this advice – and it’s always good to be reminded of it occasionally. I especially like the “Buy Experiences, Not Stuff”, I’ve been trying to do more of that in my gifts to others.

    • Excellent! I love to buy experiences to others. I believe it might be hard for some to understand, but once they make some special memories, I believe they will start do the same! Good luck, xmas is approaching!! 😉

  • As someone moving abroad once again, I am very much in this mindset. What can I take and what can I live without? I use kindle for reading and have a harddrive with content. I don’t have a lot of clothes but some things I know I will need given I am heading into a winter season…but its true declutter is the key. Spend your money on experiences and not the latest burberry coat (as if I ever had the money to be buying that expensive anyway haha!)

    • hahahh!! who doesn’t dream of that coat though? Oh well, when I think how many experiences I can have instead, I immediately forget about all the coats in the world and just book a plane instead! good luck with your new adventure dear! 🙂

  • I agree that traveling does allow you to be minimalist. Even though I am nowhere near your definition of minimalist, I have started to buy only things that I need. It is difficult but still trying to. So that I can travel with all the money I save.

  • I agree that traveling does allow you to be minimalist. Even though I am nowhere near your definition of minimalist, I have started to buy only things that I need. It is difficult but still trying to. So that I can travel with all the money I save.

    • That’s a great start! Don’t get too hung up on the minimalism definition, we all have different needs and timings, you just have to follow your mind and do what’s right for you now! Good luck! 🙂

  • This really spoke to me as I have been researching zero waste and minimalism. The one in one out rule is a great tip and your ideas on digital de-cluttering are really inspiring- I need to get on that! Of course Marie Kondo’s book springs to mind if you haven;t yet snapped up a copy.

    • Thank you, Danni! I follow MarieKondo’s tips and I love her to bits! If you are interested in zero waste I recommend you to watch the incredible documentary about the fashion industry: The True Cost. It’s incredible how us, consumers have the power to really change things just by making conscious decisions! buy less,buy better! 🙂

  • Wow, I can relate so much to this post! It started every time I moved and I would slowly downsize my possessions every time. But after I moved abroad I got rid of about 50 percent of my stuff. Life honestly feels simpler with less stuff! Happy to connect with you 🙂

    • Hey Alex, lovely to connect with you too! I totally agree with you, life is SO much better and simpler without less stuff! I remember having so much more free time at weekends just because i didn’t have to clean my flat all the time. It’s a new life and I’m sure I will keep this trend once I’ll have a house again! 🙂

  • I’ve been trying this from an environmental point of view. Any new clothes I buy, I am trying to only buy fair trade and only if I get rid of something else. I thought I was doing well until I got back from my 2 month trip and realised I don’t need anything more than what I had with me (apart from rain and winter gear- this is Ireland after all!) This has inspired me to try again with more focus. Great post.

    • Excellent point! My minimalist journey started exactly with that in mind: too much garbage, too much pollution. Have you watched “True Cost”? It’s a brilliant documentary exactly about this topic, have a look! And don’t worry, it’s easy to fall in the trap when you are travelling, I bought 3 sarong and many other things when I was in India, but then I sent them home and gave them as presents to my sisters, so everything will still be used and it wasn’t a total waste! 🙂

  • Great tips. I used to be such a shopper until I realized how much I was spending on clothes and other things… I cut back and I’ve been amazed how much more I can travel. 🙂

    • Isn’t it??? travel is much better than that gorgeous pair of shoes or that amazing dress, so yeah! well done gal!! xx

  • I agree that packing light makes much more sense when traveling. I have read and like Marie Kondo’s book but I had never thought about applying it to packing. FWIW I also am too sentimental to throw certain things away, but I have tried to make those things more accessible to me so they aren’t just clutter in a box somewhere.

    • yes, I never thought about applying minimalism to my travels, but when you embark on a long trip like the one I’m on now, it becomes essential. I’m so glad to be travelling with only two small backpacks and it’s just a matter of more frequent laundry, but who cares? things dry so quickly out here!! 🙂 And excellent idea about your personal things! I’m planning to do the same once I go back! 🙂

  • I love this whole theory! Am trying to switch to minimalism + essentialism + my fave – Konmari method of keeping only things that spark joy. Will be applying them slowly towards travel-packing, though there’s still the usual nagging worries of oh-no-do-i-have-enough and the issue of appearing in the same clothes in social media, haha!

    • hahah! I know exactly what you are talking about but if you are afraid of using the same clothes all the time, I can suggest you to have a look at Project333 and capsule wardrobes. They are so amazing at putting together the same things in a different way that you will never look wearing the same clothes. How genius! good luck with your progress! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Kristine! I used to have the same issue as you, but then I realised that wherever you go in the world, you can always find that one (or two) thing you desperately need. And most of the time is actually cheaper (depending on where you travel to, of course!). And in terms of social media outlook, try to be creative, combine the same things in different ways, and you will be surprised to see how much a scarf or accessories can make an entire outlook look totally different. Let me know how you go! Take care!