Packing Like a Minimalist – How to Travel Free and Light

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t stop at having a minimalist home. Bags and wallets also weigh us down as we go about our daily commutes or travel to destinations.

Until recently, I would wander around town like a donkey, my bag hanging off my back like a sack of cement. And whenever I went on holiday, or even to my in law’s house, I’d pack for every conceivable scenario and emotion. Even at work, my bag was fit to burst with entertainment for break times.

Boredom was covered by my 3DS, my Gameboy Advance, my laptop, my notebook, and the latest book I was reading. I also packed snacks ‘just incase’, as if I might starve if I went half an hour without eating. Sometimes, I even packed a spare pair of shoes in case the weather changed or I changed my mind (even if we weren’t planning on going out and about) .

My wallet was the same; filled with cards I hadn’t used in years, and rammed with old receipts.

All this excess packing lead to the stress of getting home and having to unpack it all when all I wanted was to flop down with a cup of tea. It also made it difficult to find what I wanted, without rooting through my bag like a dog digging a hole in the mud.

Since those heavy days, I’ve learnt to only pack the things that I know I will need, and no more. Although, when I got married last weekend, I over-packed for my stay at the hotel and by the end of the day, the room looked as if a cyclone had spun through it and threw my clothes into every conceivable corner (less than half of it needed).

The problem was, I was packing out of fear. Fear of being bored, fear of being hungry, and fear of being unprepared. For feather-light travel, you must let go of those fears and realise that most scenarios in your mind are highly unlikely.

It’s not just your mind and your time an overloaded bag can weigh heavy on- it’s not good for our shoulders or backs, and I frequently found myself with a sore back and shoulders after a trip.

Packing lightly not only makes it effortless for you to find the things that you need, but is kinder to your body and posture, and you will experience much calmer travel.


Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

Here’s how you can transform from feeling like a pack mule, to as light as a butterfly:

Only pack what you need on any given day. For example, on days where I go out to write,  I pack my laptop, notebook and my wallet. And on days where I’m just walking around town, or going out for a drink, I take a smaller bag with just my wallet and keys. Ultimately, what you need depends on who you are and what you do.

If you’re going somewhere for a week or so, pack all-purpose clothing, and try to wear some clothes more than once. It’s surprising how full a suitcase can become when you pack for sun, rain, snow and blizzards, all for a summer holiday. Or when you pack a cocktail dress and several pairs of boots when you’re mainly going to be on the beach. Instead, pack a few tops which can be paired with a single coat, hoodie or cardigan for cooler days, and shoes which look great in both the daytime and evening.

If you’re staying at a hotel, find out what they already have in the room. Most will contain a hairdryer, and small bottles of shower gel and shampoo. If you must pack your own shampoo and conditioner, buy an all-in-1. There are even all-purpose soap bars which function as both body wash and shampoo, and take up very little space.  

Don’t wear a larger bag for casual trips. For example,if you go into the city for a browse with a bigger bag than you need, it can tempt you to splurge on stuff you don’t really need. If you don’t have the space to carry it, you’re more likely to think twice.

For wallets and purses, only carry the cards you need on the day. These days, you can even use a smartphone to pay by linking your bank card with related apps and services. Trash old receipts and scan the ones you think you’ll need. You can also reduce receipt clutter by allowing shops to email them to you, instead.

Instead of carrying boredom beaters, opt for interesting experiences. The lighter you travel, the easier it will be to move around and do what you want. Experiences are always better and more fulfilling than material stuff.

Allow yourself to sit and be ‘bored’. Too often, we carry things around to entertain us, but miss out on opportunities that are right in front of us, or pass us fleetingly. Smartphones and tablets have trained our minds to be permanently switched on, seeking dopamine hits and being constantly entertained. Slow down.

If you’re an avid reader, consider an e-reader.  With an e-reader, you can have hundreds of books to hand without the extra bulk and weight of a single paperback.

The next time you pack your bag, remember: Travel light, be free.

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