Travel Light

Packing for travel gives you a taste of minimalism.  You have to carefully consider which clothes you'll need, which toiletries and accessories.  Maybe you make a list.  As you pack, you might think of a few additional items it would be nice to have, just in case.  But you're still limiting your choices – you're only going to take a fraction of your possessions, after all.

As you roll your suitcase out the door, are you full of excitement and anticipation, or are you worried that you've forgotten something important?  Hopefully, you let that sense of freedom take over and realize that you'll probably do just fine with what you have.  You know you packed the really important stuff, because those things were on your list.

When you arrive at your destination, you're greeted by a clean, uncluttered hotel room with its freshly made bed.  You have no desire to turn on the TV for distraction, like you might do at home, because the outside world beckons.  You unpack quickly, but you're no longer worrying about things you brought with you.  As you step out the door, you feel light on your feet, interested to see what lies around the corner, and already paying attention to the details of your new location.  

Traveling gives us the perfect opportunity to try a different lifestyle.

Carry just the essentials.

What does what you pack say about you?  My suitcase used to say, "I'm insecure and fearful I won't have enough, so I've stuffed in as much as possible."  Sometimes it said, "I'm desperate to impress the people I'm going to see."  Today, I think it says, "I'm simple, comfortable, and confident."  That's because I've learned to pack lightly.

When you travel with more than you really need, you weigh yourself down.  You're slower, less flexible, and you have more to think about and manage.  But when you live for a week with a small suitcase of belongings, you're reminded of how little you actually require.  You also get a clear sense of which clothes fit well, flatter your body and your coloring, and are comfortable and easy-care, since that's probably what has seen the most use.

On your next trip, pack the clothes and other items you think you need, and then remove half of them.  Leave the "just in case" items at home.  Notice how light you feel when walking through the airport, unpacking at the hotel, and exploring your surroundings without worrying about all of your stuff.

Leave time for free time.

Studies show that people who maintain some unscheduled time tend to be happier overall than those who don't, probably because being over-scheduled makes us feel anxious, overworked, and out of control.  Vacations let us leave behind our usual chores and work responsibilities, creating unscheduled time to explore.  We experience time affluence – the feeling that there's enough time for the activities we care about.  

Traveling may free us from our normal obligations and distractions, but Americans seem to be suspicious of unscheduled time.  Maybe it's the influence of the Protestant work ethic, but even on vacation we get so worried that we're going to miss something, we rush from here to there, making ourselves nervous and impatient.  We're so focused on our itinerary that we may wind up missing the experience of being in a new place – not the tourist destination that we're determined to cross off our bucket list, but the actual place.  The streets, the houses, the shops, the sky, the scents, the sounds, and most of all, the people.

On your next trip, consider scheduling just one must-see destination per day, and don't rush through anything.  Leave time for serendipity so you can explore off the beaten path.  It's true, you might not visit every single thing that's available (that's probably impossible anyway).  But what you do experience will be deeper, more detailed and memorable.  And you'll come home feeling like you really got away.

Travel lighter every day.

How can you carry just the essentials and leave time for free time every day?  A minimalist mindset can help you declutter the stuff you don't need – stuff that burdens you and steals your time and attention.  It can help you remove some of the obligations and distractions that leave you stressed and frazzled.

If you want more help practicing minimalism, check out my book Uncluttered: How Minimalism Can Help You Thrive.*

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

Updated February 2023


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