Learning to Travel as a Minimalist

Life is a gold mine of lessons, realizations, and growth; all of which are gained through experience. My first time traveling outside the United States helped me recognize a desire to travel long-term, and it also taught me the benefits of traveling as a minimalist. Everything combined, I grew a strong desire to someday travel the world with only a backpack; collecting experiences, not things.

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Lessons from Jamaica

Jamaica was the chosen land for my first solo travel adventure. I spent three months volunteering at a local hospital during the week, and I explored the island on the weekends. Like one would expect, I made all of the amateur travel mistakes like over-packing, buying too many souvenirs, and overspending, but they made me into the experienced, minimalist traveler that I am today.

If you’re not quite sure how to travel simply, these are the key things that I learned from my first big travel experience. I hope they inspire your own travel experience!

Pack the Essentials

It’s easy to overpack because we naturally want to be prepared for any situation, and it takes time and practice to effectively pack light. Start by limiting yourself to only one backpack that’s easy to travel around with. If you can get your bag small enough to bring as a carry-on you’ll avoid paying high bag fees (always a plus)!

Research your location and pay specific attention to the weather in that region. It’s easier to pack less for warmer destinations because summer clothes are smaller and take up less room. If you’re going somewhere cold you’ll need a slightly bigger bag since cold-weather clothes are bulkier, but it’s still unnecessary to bring more clothing. You don’t need a clean outfit for each day if you wear things twice and frequently do laundry (sinks work great). The key to packing less is to bring versatile items that you’ll use throughout the trip.

Simplifying Toiletries

This is probably a bigger issue for women, and it’s not the easiest thing to cut down on. Start by finding a soap that can double as shampoo and body wash. Slowly phase hair products out of your life and reduce or completely do away with makeup. Like I said, this isn’t easy at first, but once you get used to living like this it will become normal and traveling will be a lot easier.

Cutting Down on Souvenirs

Whether it’s for you or someone back home, collecting a small gift from your trip is always a good feeling. However, these souvenirs can take up a lot of space in your one backpack. If you want to bring something back, search for small gifts like postcards or necklaces that are easy to stow away and take up minimal space. If you bring a good camera you can always print out a picture of something that reminded you of that friend or family member from your trip. Again, the idea here is to keep it simple, and more often than not, the act of giving a gift is more treasured than the gift itself.

Sticking to a Budget

Even if you’re only traveling for a short time, it’s always a good idea to create a budget. Minimalist travel is all about making your dollars stretch, which means frugality becomes your mantra. A great travel budget app to use is Trail Wallet, which helps you monitor your daily spending. It’s always good to leave yourself a little wiggle room, so remember to add a 10-20% spending cushion.

Be Cell Phone Conscious

At some point during your trip you’ll want to visit with your family members back home, but if you’re traveling internationally it can be all too easy to rack up a massive cell phone bill. In order to avoid this, turn off data roaming on your phone and disable auto syncing (for Android) and push notifications (for iphone). You’ll also need to utilize WiFi whenever you can. Most businesses offer it free of charge, or you can hang out at an Asian-style internet cafe to send emails and Skype for a few hours. I personally used Vibr in Jamaica, which allowed me to text and call my friends and family back home when I was connected to WiFi. Since WiFi is usually free, your monthly phone bill won’t go up and you’ll still have quality communication; perfect for minimalist travel!

Above All, Keep it Simple

Reducing how much you pack, spend, and use your phone while traveling is easier said than done. It’s quite a process to become comfortable traveling as a minimalist, but once you’re there, life itself becomes a lot easier even if you’re at home! I personally started caring less about material things and learned how to live happily with only the essentials. Because I didn’t always have internet access, I began to care less and less about social media and started enjoying my surroundings instead of spending time on my phone.

I hope my advice helps you on your journey to travel simply, and if you have any questions please post them in the comments!

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