Minimalism is not about the stuff. It is a way of examining how I allocate my resources. Not only money but my finite human resources: my time, my focus, my efforts.
My travels are the crucible in which my minimalist life views were forged. It is easy for me to be swept away by the experience of each day and each new place to the neglect of the aspects of my life that I value. It is just as easy to get caught up in the regular demands of your life and neglect (or worse yet - never discover) what truly adds value to your life.
From the inception of my plans to travel, I was attracted to the idea of significantly reducing my physical possessions. This process eventually extended to other areas of my life and taught me to carefully curate those things that I build my life upon.
So, What Does Minimalism Mean to Me?
Like the label or not, it is a way of honestly asking myself does this item, person, relationship, habit, whatever truly add value to my life? Or is it simply a distraction from what true matters or a placation from focusing on the areas of myself that truly need work?
Embracing minimalism while traveling has been truly rewarding. I am selecting destinations, planning activities, and structuring my days with more intention. I learning to continually reassess where my focus lies. Not to mention I am thriving with a a pretty small pack!
Every single item in my bag truly adds value to my travels. I regularly wear every piece of clothing I have with me. I have used, and needed, every item that is currently in the my bag (with the exception of the sewing kit which is the size of a matchbox and worth the space for when I will eventually need it).
This is not a boast about how well I have chosen to fill my bag but the result of the process I use to chose what I carry. I am constantly asking, "Do I really need this? Does this truly add value to my life?" When the answer is no, I abandon that item.
The flip side is also true. I do not hesitate to buy an item that I truly believe will add value to my life and my travels. I favor quality as I see every purchase as an investment. For example, when I arrived in Iceland I immediately purchased merino wool tights and socks. The warmth and comfort they will bring to my three weeks on the island (and coming months in Europe) far outweigh the financial and space cost.
You are probably thinking that being a minimalist world traveler is all well and good. You will never be able to bring all the comforts of home regardless the size of bag you choose. Travel is, in a way, inherently minimalistic right? True, but remember, minimalism isn't about the stuff. It is about intention and choosing the things that truly matter. When is the last time you wore every article of clothing you brought on a trip? I'm guessing never. What percentage of the clothes in your closet have you actually worn in the last month? 20%? 30%?
Minimalism has helped me to structure my travels in a meaningful way but I will the carry this philosophy of intention with me to life after travel. I am excited to settle back into a "regular" life because I know that I will approach it with completely different motivations. I am excited for the type of life that waits for me at the end of this journey. While I will probably have a bit more stuff I will never stop asking, "Does this truly add value to my life?"
What Can Minimalism Mean to You?
This a different answer for everyone but the over-arching theme is intention. Approaching every decision by asking, will this truly add value to my life or am I just following my regular patterns, bad habits, the expectations of others, or societal pressures? It is an honest look in the mirror. It is figuring out (or discovering) what truly makes you happy. Asking if you are doing your best to prioritize your own happiness and well-being.
This journey often begins with eliminating superfluous possessions. Learning to understand what things matter while learning to let go of those that do not. The process of paring down possessions teaches you to apply this level of intention and curation to every aspect of you life.
How To Begin
There are tons of minimalist writers that have fun ways of beginning. My favorites are a Packing Party or the 30 Day Minimalism Game, although I haven't actually done either (my process was simply to pack my travel bag and and get rid of nearly everything that was not coming with me). Whether it is a slow paring down of your possessions, a spring-cleaning style purge, or anything in between, let your focus be on intention. Ask yourself the difficult questions about where your priorities currently lay. Give honest answers.
Check out some of my favorite minimalist authors. They have fantastic essays of motivation, tactical advice, and inspirational stories.
- Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists (See my post about meeting Joshua and Ryan: An Evening With the Minimalists)
- Colin Wright of Exile Lifestyle
- Leo Babauta of Zen Habits
- Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist
I'd love to hear about your journey and any steps you have taken to remove superfluous influence from you life. Please comment and join the discussion. Thanks for reading.