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Travel like a minimalist

How to Travel Like a Minimalist

Baggage can slow you down when you travel. Not only does it make you stick out more but it makes traveling more difficult. Personally, I always stick to a carry-on and a backpack. No matter if it’s 5 days or 5 weeks I can fit all I need in one carry-on.  There are many ways you can minimize what you take with you. Often we tend to over pack and take far more than we really need on any trip.

In 2010 Rolf Potts, who I recently interviewed, traveled for 6 weeks to 12 countries and 5 continents with no baggage at all. The only things he brought with him were in his pockets. He was used to carrying only a Eagle Creek Thrive 65L which carried everything he needed. On this trip, however, he was off to prove he could travel with no baggage at all. While this is an extreme it can teach us a lot about what we actually need to carry when we travel.

Here are Rolf’s key tips on how to minimize your travel belongings:

1) Manage the journey from your mobile phone

Leave the laptop behind and use your smart phone for all your communication needs. Your phone can store your boarding pass, copies of your passport, make phone calls, email, browse the web, and even update your blog. It is a sacrifice but I am sure I could handle everything I need from my iPhone today.

Your iPhone will also double as your kindle (no need for books or an actual Kindle), your iPod, a GPS, guidebook, and camera. It is an incredibly useful tool for travelers who like to stay connected.

2) Keep your footwear simple and practical

It is tempting to carry a few pairs of shoes or sandals on a trip but in reality you don’t need more than one pair, the ones you are wearing. Depending on your type of trip stick to something comfortable that can handle any environment. Rolf opts to wear Blundstone Boots. I like my Patagonia boots but Rolf’s will get you through variety of settings. Go with something that will fit your needs for your trip.

3) Buy or borrow certain items as you go

An old vagabonding adage goes, “Pack twice the money and half the gear.”

This applies even when you are bringing almost nothing. For example, if you are only bringing boots to your trip to Thailand I bet you will find a pair of sandals for $2 on the street no problem and you can leave them behind when you no longer need them. If you need an umbrella just buy one on the street for the day that it rains for a few bucks. You can also borrow things such as medicines or toothpaste when needed just don’t make a habit of it.

4) Be disciplined and strategic with what you choose to bring along

Do not bring anything you will not use everyday. This includes small items such as nail clippers and even razors. You can pick these up cheap after a week or so and toss them out.

5) Use a minimal rotation of clothing

Most clothes you wear at home you can wear a few times without washing them. For example, cargo pants or jeans can be worn over and over with no problems of odor. Pack clothes you can wear many times without washing them. Next, pack clothes made of light-weight material like mircofiber and under armor types. This can easily be washed in your hotel or hostel sink and be dry enough to wear by morning.

6) Utilize the postal system for souvenirs and extra gear

Baggage fees on airlines are only going up and they are even charging for carry-ons on some now. When you are traveling from place to place there is no doubt you will pick up some souvenirs along the way. All you need to do is find the local post office and send your things home. This can also apply to clothing. If you are traveling from warm to cold climates you can send clothing ahead to your hotel by letting them know ahead of time. You can even ship the clothes you no longer need back home. One of my favorite things to do is just buy t-shirts or clothing for a couple bucks and wear it while I am in that location. If you want to keep it, carry it, if not leave it behind or drop it off to someone who needs it.

7) Remember: Travel is about the experience, not what you bring with you

Rolf points out that traveling light is not a contest or a rite of travel-superiority. Backpackers are no better than heavy packers. Packing light simply frees you of baggage, hassle, and makes things a little more worry-free. You don’t need to watch your bags closely on an overnight train or stow them for extra fees on your next flight. The key is to try to bring less. We don’t need to take it to the extreme but the challenge can be fun.

Check out what Rolf packed on his no-baggage challenge:

Check out my interview with Rolf Potts for more insight into how and why he travels.

Rolf Potts via Tim Ferris 4-Hour Work Week

I have been traveling to over 100 countries by using the methods I share on this site. My goal is to maximize every trip and make the most of my adventures. Join me on Instagram.

  • “Travel is about the experience, not what you bring with you” Love this quote. Thanks for all your advice!

  • John from Lifetimetrek.com

    Hey Clint,

    I cant believe I haven’t found your site until now. I travel with just a small backpack, but I just recently started. Its good to see a more experienced travelers advice as well.

  • Mishelem.com

    Really great advice. I notice I pack way too much and end up wearing and using the same few things, while the rest go unused. I am working on transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle, and this post will definitely help with my packing for traveling.