A Guide to Minimalist Travel
Born To Travel
I grew up traveling. Before the age of 3, I flew over the Atlantic 7 times and lived in two foreign countries. This taught me a lot about how to travel.
I learned how to roll clothes so you could fit more in a suitcase. I learned how to pack like items together, so you could use your suitcase as a dresser. But most importantly, I learned to only take what I needed.
I’d Like to Take the Goat as a Carry On
Yesterday my girlfriend and I were in the airport eating our breakfast when we saw a woman enter with her son.
He couldn’t have been older than 14 or 15. But the bag he was carrying was about the size of a twin futon mattress folded in half. We watched as he stumbled and drug this behemoth of a bag towards the check in counter.
As soon as he dropped it on the scale, he turned and walked back outside. He returned a couple minutes later with another bag about the same size. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
Jane and I sat and speculated about what the bags contained. Gifts for folks back home? Clothing samples for a convention? A small farm animal?
Packing Light is Hard
I began to realize how hard it is for some people to pack light. I realized the packing light requires courage.
Many people are afraid of being unprepared in a strange place. So, they overpack in an attempt to control the unexpected. But ultimately travel and life is unpredictable.
Packing light is about being present with that unpredictability. It helps us let go of worry and embrace the joy of being somewhere new. After all venturing into the unknown is what makes travel so amazing.
Packing Light – A Guide to Minimalist Travel
Limit your Bag size
The first step in traveling light is to limit your bag size. When I travel, I typically pack a small roller bag and a messenger bag.
Choosing smaller bags forces me to be realistic about what I really need to bring. I know from experience that when I pack a large bag I start thinking, Well I have the space, maybe I should bring this . . . just in case.
This mindset leads to over packing. Which leads to hauling around a heavy bag and trying to find what I need in a pile of ‘just in case’ junk.
Make a list
Another key to minimalist traveling is knowing what you need.
Take a minute and think about your trip. List the activities that demand certain types of clothes. Don’t think about different outfits, or styles, just about categories.
Going to the beach means, I needed swimming clothes. I don’t differentiate beach vs. pool. I just think swimming. Will I be going out to a nice dinner? Nice clothes. Will it be hot? Warm weather clothes.
Make your categories as broad as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the difference between club clothes and nice dinner clothes. So instead, just say clothes for going out.
Start with the basics
Now that you have a list of categories start by laying out one outfit for each category. Imagine you were going to do that activity right then. Think which outfit would you pick right then and lay it out.
This will give you a basic palette with which to start. The goal from here is to add as little as possible and remove as much as is reasonable.
Take double duty clothes
Always try to make one outfit work for different occasions. Take two shirts but one pair of slacks if you really need two nice outfits. Take board shorts that can double as swimming trunks if you decide to swim.
Remember the double duty clothes should only be added if it means you can bring less. Don’t take DD clothes just because they are versatile.
Only take enough for the time
Aim to take one outfit or less per day. We all love the feeling of clean clothes, but changing twice a day is usually not necessary. And wearing something two days in a row won’t kill you, I promise.
People often pack for twice the number of days they are going to be gone. Try to stick with the one day, one outfit or less rule.
All purpose nice utility outfits
Nice clothes are where most people get into trouble. Causal outfits can be easily mixed and matched, and worn on multiple days. ‘Nice clothes’ require more care, space, and accessories.
Do your best to pack only one or two nice outfits for your trip. On most trips, I bring one nice shirt and a pair of slacks. And I have almost never needed more.
My girlfriend probably brings two nice outfits with pieces she can mix and match. But neither of us brings nice clothes for every day of our trip.
If you might need it, then you don’t need it.
This is a BIG one. When we pack, we tend to think, I should take X because ‘I might need it.’ Then we imagine some bizarre scenario where we ‘might need‘ a pink flamingo shirt.
There is no end to the things you might need. In fact, every piece of clothing, gadget, book, and knick-knack ever made. Was produced because someone somewhere believes that someone at some point ‘might need it.’
So, I live by this simple rule. If I might need it, I don’t need it. If its summer in Oregon I might need a rain jacket, but I probably won’t so I don’t bring it.
Packing light is really about overcoming fear. Our minds think that if we plan and plan, and plan some more, we can avoid everything bad that could happen to us. But in truth no matter how hard we plan the unexpected happens.
Packing light is an act of faith. When we pack light, we are saying, “I trust myself to be able to adapt to whatever might come.” Not by being super prepared but by just being present.
What Are Some Of Your Best Packing Tips?
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