Minimalist Travel is the fastest growing trend for 2018. People are sick and tired of living only to work and pay bills, and they are desperate to have more fulfilling experiences.
I want to paint a minimalist travel scene for you:
Imagine you are sitting on a white sandy beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and feeling the warm sun on your face. It’s not just the tropical environment that’s making you feel super zen, it’s also the fact that you have no mortgage, no car payment, and hardly any bills. You have the freedom to come and go as you please, giving yourself permission to drink in the moment just a little longer. You’re not worried about where the nearest mall is, you’re only concerned about making incredible memories with the people around you.
Is this a dream?
No. This is the perk of being a minimalist and a scenario that can easily become your reality.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, but shhhh… don’t tell too many people, especially the banks, because they want you to keep taking loans out against your mortgage.
Minimalists get to travel more. Mass consumers don’t.
When people decide to give up credit card debt, constant shopping for fast fashion, and their obsession with the next trend, a magical thing happens. All of a sudden their world (and their budget!) opens up to an avalanche of new possibilities. Travel being one of the best!
How do I know this? Because I personally went from being a stressed-out, non-travelling shopaholic – into a freedom based, globe-trotting, minimalist.
A few years ago I was much more concerned with getting the latest pair of over-priced jeans and buying trendy decor than spending my hard earned money on experiences. But it’s not that I didn’t WANT to travel. Between working my ass off, paying my excessive bills and treating myself to material goods, I just didn’t have the time, energy or the budget to travel. Even when I was making great money. Instead I kept surrounding myself with more ‘stuff’ and over-extending myself with monthly payments, practically hammering the nails into my freedom coffin.
Once I removed my belief system that having a big house, luxury car and the latest fashions would make me cool and happy, I actually started to realize what DID make me happy. TRAVELING.
By not buying tons of stuff I didn’t need, and downsizing my life to the bare minimum, I all of a sudden had a rock solid travel budget!
WHAT IS MINIMALIST TRAVEL?
That mantra can look different to each person that uses it. When many people think of minimalism they think of the bare minimum, like a stark empty white room, when it’s really about having MORE of the important things in life.
Done right, minimalist travel will help you have MORE experiences, make MORE lasting memories and give you MORE purpose while you see the world.
Does packing light and buying less stuff have anything to do with minimalist travel? Of course, but that’s only a small piece of the minimalism pie. The great thing about minimalist travel is that it doesn’t have anything to do with your travel budget, personal style or age. It’s all about putting experiences first!
Here are the fundamentals of Minimalist Travel:
Experiences Over Things
Minimalist Travelers put experiences first.
Near the time of my full blown meltdown, I had to decide: Do I want this ‘thing’, or do I want to see the world? Because even with a good income, doing both was not an option.
By actively choosing experiences over accumulation of things (that low and behold, didn’t truly make me happy) I found the zest for life that I was missing.
Packing & Carrying LESS
A minimalist traveler learns to pack light, even if it takes a few years to perfect the process.
Ask my husband. I used to be that girl who checked a 70lb bag, plus stuffed 25 lbs into a carry-on, just for a week long trip to Mexico. I thought it wasn’t a big deal… until I started travelling with less! Now I can’t imagine trying to pile that kind of weight and frustration into a trip. There is nothing more annoying than hauling around an excessive amount of shit. The first few trips I took with 1 small piece of luggage changed my life forever. I couldn’t believe how much easier I breezed through airports, hotels and public spaces. I was also amazed at the correlation between how a lighter bag meant a lighter demeanour. It was like being 10lbs lighter and feeling 10 IQ points smarter.
I have never met an over-packer who wore everything shoved into their suitcase. Really, they don’t even touch 75% of what they brought.
Knowing this, I packed my bag with everything I thought I wanted and then promptly took 50% of it out. If I was feeling brave, I would try and halve the pile again.
A Minimalist Traveler thinks more about what to see and do, instead of what to wear.
We all want to be stylish while exploring the globe, but that doesn’t mean needing 8 different types of heels to choose from. My time and energy is always better spent on making new memories instead of being preoccupied with vanity metrics. Connecting with locals, meeting new people, touring different areas and trying new foods are the things I remember, not what shirt I was wearing.
Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg are onto something when they are purposely minimal with their wardrobes.
Do I still pack nice stuff? Of course, but I am super intentional about what goes into the bag. I only pack items that are versatile and can be mixed and matched for different weather and scenarios. I want to spend less time fretting about outfits and more time soaking in the culture.
(A minimalist packing tutorial is coming up in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!)
Slow, easy, efficient travel
A Minimalist Traveler wants to take their time.
Nothing says stressful travel quite like a jammed packed schedule. Being a minimalist doesn’t just mean having lighter bags, but also a lighter agenda. The weight of a busy itinerary can feel just as heavy as an over-stuffed bag, so I’ve learned to keep it stress-free, which also allows me to appreciate more of each place.
Not everyone will have extra time to tour around, but I still think that packing 12 countries into an 8 day Europe trip is insanity. That is the kind of trip that leaves you feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation! You feelin me?
Instead of chasing stamps, try hopping on the road less traveled and getting a little lost. Spend more time interacting with locals and learning about the culture instead of being late for trains, planes and automobiles. Even if it means visiting ‘less’ countries than you had hoped. I myself am not a big fan of counting countries because I truly believe it can make it a conquest instead of an experience.
Creating MORE opportunities to Travel
A Minimalist Traveler is wildly resourceful
I used to say “I can’t afford to go on vacation”! That was a bit of a lie, because later that weekend I would spend $90 on appies and wine, $100 on a new pair of shoes, and $200 on makeup at Sephora that I didn’t really need. Once I added all those little expenditures up, I realized I actually had about $1700 a month to spend on travel, if I just cut the other crap out!
I didn’t need to make any more money, I just needed to stop making it rain on pointless purchases.
Being aware of where my money was going allowed me to realize how much traveling I could actually accomplish! First it was watching my spending, but then I started to sell my used things that had once sucked the income out of me. I rounded up old clothes, shoes, handbags, electronics, kitchen appliances, even decor I didn’t use and sold it for cold hard cash. Why not right? It was just sitting around collecting dust or stuffed into some drawer so I started making my things work for me!
A Minimalist Traveler can downsize to travel more
If you really want to free up your travel budget, you can downsize your house, car or anything else that eats up a large chunk of your income! Case and point – we sold our house and 90% of our stuff to have the lowest bills possible! With no mortgage, no property taxes, no heating bill and no 2nd car payment, all of a sudden we could start travelling for months at a time! So what do we do when we are ‘home’? We bought a small piece of land out-right and placed an RV trailer on it. That way, when we are home in Canada we can enjoy the lake from our micro home without all the pesky bills.
Plus, we aren’t ‘double paying’ when we travel, which was something that drove us crazy in the past. Who wants to be paying a mortgage or rent for a house back home that you are never in? Nobody! Paying for our home back in Canada while we were travelling was adding up to be a major buzzkill, so we fixed the problem at the source.
If you have the job freedom of being a digital nomad, I highly suggest looking into downsizing into the smallest space possible to save money, or get rid of your permanent address altogether!
Ps- for anyone thinking a mortgage is the only road to retirement, there are other ways. We put the money we would have paid the banks in the form of interest into a savings account for our future.
Leaving less of a footprint
A Minimalist Traveler cares about eco-friendly travel
Over-tourism, traveler waste and the footprint of hospitality is a major global issue. I believe a big part of being a minimalist traveler is leaving each place better than when you found it. That can mean anything from staying at hotels that promise to reduce waste, to using tour companies that value eco-conscious and sustainable forms of exploration.
WHO IS A MINIMALIST TRAVELER?
Like I said before, minimalist travel is a lifestyle and is not one size fits all. There are many different types of people who travel like minimalists, but here are a few of the most popular types.
Are you any of these minimalist travellers?↓
- Recently out of college.
- Loves the work/life balance, gracefully juggling career domination with world exploration.
- Escapes on the weekends and finds a way to earn some extra vacation days.
- Uses: Air Fare Watchdog to score the best deals on last minute flights. HotelsCombined for getting the lowest price on hotels.
@wheretopeanut is a millennial escape artist, minimalist traveler and full time nurse who loves an adventure.
Luxe Nomad Boss Babe
- Likes the finer things in life but know she doesn’t have to own everything she likes.
- Spends her income on inspiring hotels and once in a lifetime tours, instead of luxury handbags.
- Works on her business while she travels the world, digital nomad style.
- Uses: Tep Wireless to stay connected on the go. DUFL to get outfits from her virtual closet (major luggage hack)
@kashlee_k is a self proclaimed high maintenance minimalist, hotel guru and digital nomad boss babe. (She is also ME! hi!)
'Let's Retire Early' Wanderlust
- Is over playing the never ending mortgage game.
- Travels full time, or ‘snow-bird’ style.
- Makes their income go a LOT further in cheap countries.
- Wants to shed the weight of decades of accumulation.
- Uses: Cruise Direct to find amazing reposting cruises to exotic locations. AirBNB for the best deals on staying long term in local properties.
@theplanetd are a couple who gave up the corporate bustle to travel and inspire others to live and play abroad.
- Loves the idea of micro homes and RV living.
- Camping, couchsurfing and hostels are the way to go.
- Doesn’t need more than a backpack to be happy.
- Loves eco-friendly travel, lowering his footprint and giving back.
- Uses: Couchsurfing to meet new people and score free nights accommodation. Kynder to find the most eco-friendly restaurants, hotels and tours in the area.
@wanderersandwarriors are a couple who values happiness, love and adventure above all else. Before being nomadic they lived life on a narrowboat!
WHY I LOVE MINIMALIST TRAVEL
I think the ‘American Dream’ is about to be turned upside-down. People simply can’t afford massive mortgage payments, huge credit card bills, and the feeling of ‘never being enough’.
Making the most out of our brief time on this planet is going to (thankfully) become more important than online shopping.
Embracing minimalism and travelling more has been the number one factor in seeing my life improve for the better. It’s made me more outgoing, curious, and driven, all while bringing me back down to Earth and giving me some much needed peace. It’s funny, I find myself actually interacting with people face to face in a more organic way and it feels good to the soul.
Who would have thought?
The space that used to be filled with shopping and ‘stuff’ is now being filled with bucket list experiences, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I can show just ONE person about the amazing benefits minimalism, it will be worth it.
Check out the video I made about why I sold my house to live in an RV! ↓
Want to learn more about Minimalist Travel?
In my book ‘The High Maintenance Minimalist’ I break down EVERYTHING about how to do Minimalist Travel right. It’s a modern guide on how to downsize, declutter, and create the freedom to travel more!
I cover everything from how to become a digital nomad, right up to how to pay off debt faster than you ever thought possible.
Anyone looking to dive into a freedom based lifestyle and minimalist travel should definitely read this book.
Saturday 17th of April 2021
Great article! I hope it inspires more and more people to travel like a minimalist. After years of hitchhiking, couchsurfing and staying at one country for months without a plan I can only agree that it's the best way of traveling :-). (and I won't take the plane anymore unless I go overseas, even better for the planet!)
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Tuesday 31st of July 2018
I love this so much! Having a tonne of stuff can really weigh you down when it comes to wanting to travel. Minimalism gives you the freedom to dictate where you want to go without being tied to material things. Awesome post!
Monday 30th of July 2018
Wow! I took away so much from this article. Thanks for sharing it. I'm packing for a trip as we speak and you inspired me to cut the contents of my suitcase in half!
Monday 30th of July 2018
Yay! I am so glad it inspired you! Have the best time on your trip :)