Guest Post: Minimalist Traveling
This is a guest post from Lisa Shoreland.
Some people have told me to travel in my twenties—before marriage, before babies, before loans, and before everything else that strips me of my freedom. They say that you need freedom to travel. Many of us travel, however, to get freedom.
In my twenty-something years, I have experienced more freedom in the few months I spent working in Italian vineyards and exploring the deep, underground cavern of Marble Mountain near Hoi An, Vietnam than in my daily humdrum life. This is to be expected—endorphins race across your brain like six-year olds on Halloween when you do something out of the ordinary like travel halfway across the globe.
The problem with traveling, however, is that many of us can’t cut the umbilical cord to reality when we do it. We bring our current lives with us in the form of laptops, magazines, and half our closets. To truly experience freedom from the lives we know and relish the short bursts of novelty we get by traveling abroad, we need to take a leap of faith.
Minimalist packing is part of this leap. I couldn’t worry about properly packing delicate items like earrings, high heels, or a GPS while romping around through the Italian Alps. I would have felt like a pig rolling a big suitcase through Hanoi and its slums on the way to the hotel. Whether you’re going to see the pyramids or backpacking across Europe, traveling is easier—and freedom tastes sweeter—when you go light.
1. Whenever I travel, I start out with a smaller carry-on, like a 32 or 40 L backpack. In addition, I prepare a small messenger bag or plain, undecorated purse (something that doesn’t look expensive) to carry a camera, a snack, and something like a paperback or a copy of Lonely Planet.
Don’t bother with a suitcase or anything with wheels. It doesn’t matter if it makes walking easier; it won’t be fun to bang up stairs, especially when you’re running late for your train. A backpack stays close to your body and is extremely versatile.
2. I wear walking shoes throughout the airport and my travels, and bring a single pair of flip-flops to wear in showers, beaches, and out on the town.
3. If I’m backpacking, I never pack more than 3 neutrally-colored shirts and 2 pairs of pants (preferably convertible if I’m going somewhere warm in the day but cool at night). If I’m visiting friends in Tokyo or Prague, I bring a nice shirt but leave the heels at home and instead wear my flip-flops.
I take comfort in the fact that If I absolutely need something, it’ll probably be available in stores around my destination. Moreover, I remember that it won’t kill me to be caught wearing what I wore Monday on Thursday. People I know realize I’m traveling and expect as much, and no one else will recognize me or care. Besides, what other people think is none of my business. I’m here to be free, right?
4. I’ve tried filling up that plastic bag at the airport with multiple containers of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, face scrub, body scrub, and, well, you get the picture. It doesn’t work. Something always leaks, they add weight to my luggage, and arranging them so they all fit back into the bag gets increasingly challenging. Instead, I pack only one kind of soap: Dr. Bronner’s, which comes infused with lots of essential oils and works multi-duty as body wash, face wash, shampoo, and detergent for sink laundry.
5. Yep, I said sink laundry. There’s no sense in wasting time or money going to a coin laundry establishment. Instead, I stuff my stinky clothes in the hotel room’s sink, add water, and squirt less than a single teaspoon’s worth of Dr. Bronner’s soap into the basin. (This stuff lathers surprisingly well for its watery look.) After I’ve scrubbed, I empty the sink and fill it once more with water to get the suds out. To dry, I can usually find hangars in the hotel room, but I bring along an elastic clothesline just in case.
6. As a sometime-photographer, I bring along my DSLR wherever I go, as well as a wall charger, USB cord, and external hard drive. I have yet to travel with my laptop, but I can understand why someone would. One caveat: Check your email and blog at risk of your own mental freedom. If you’ve taken days off of work, your employer will understand if you don’t answer her messages. If you’ve announced to your followers that you’re backpacking across Southeast Asia, they’ll understand why you’re not blogging. Instead, experience the world at your fingertips—and I’m not talking about the keyboard. Rather than bringing your laptop, try keeping a journal during your travels to record memories and ideas. Leave your cares with your closet for a time.
Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been writing on all kinds of scholarships and sharing her favorite scholarship essay writing tips. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.