How Does Travel Fit Into A Simple, Minimalist Life?
Whether by car, bus, train, plane or even on foot, there’s nothing simple about the way most people travel. Complicated arrangements, high-priced accommodations and lengthy itineraries don’t immediately seem to fit into a simple, deliberate life.
So how does travel fit into the minimalist lifestyle? Many insist that it does, but is that a stretch? I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this one.
Some so-called minimalist bloggers have created very convoluted definitions of the simple life. Have you noticed that?
Because they have a penchant for the finer things in life, they include high-end designer laptops among their possessions, rationalizing that since they work online from coffee shops they need a full-featured, status-symbol machine instead of the simplest, least expensive one on the market.
Some who call themselves minimalists are also brand loyalists, adorning themselves with name-brand khaki shorts and expensive shoes that hug their toes instead of simpler, more durable alternatives.
More interesting than either of those example, however, are those young minimalist writers who insist that a simple lifestyle includes lots of traveling. Since they aren’t tied to possessions, they can go anywhere they want with restriction, can’t they?
At least one admitted, however, that after a lengthy trip to Australia, he came back with thousands in debt. How simple is that?
In fact, how can something like travel that depends so heavily on corporate systems really be part of a simple, deliberate life?
The Case For Traveling
Travel expands our small lives in grand ones, doesn’t it?
Travel promotes connection with ancient cultures, and the simplicity of these ancient lifestyles is sometimes amazing. The things ancient people were able to create because they had the time is amazing too. I talked about that idea last year in a post called Ancient World Lessons In Simplicity.
Of course, another important reason for living simply is to have time to enjoy the beauty of life around us. On my trip to Los Angeles a decade ago, I found the city’s downtown area just as beautiful as the cityscapes around where I live. The beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Crystal Cathedral didn’t escape me either.
In San Antonio, ancient missions stand as testament to a different, perhaps simpler time. Replicas of an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue and the grotto at Lourdes are inspiring even to those of us who don’t understand their significance to Catholics. And the Paseo del Rio — called the River Walk by most people — is stunning even though it is human-made and commercialized.
Living simply also allows time for adventure. I don’t want to climb a mountain or fall from a functioning aircraft, but I can understand the desire some people have to establish broader boundaries on their lives. And I can’t climb a mountain here in North Texas. We don’t have any.
The Case Against Travel
Many people use travel as a way of escaping the very real problems of life. Running away only feels good for a moment. Reality is always waiting for us when we return. Using travel as an escape mechanism isn’t a very good idea.
Then, there’s the environmental impact to consider. Every method of travel except walking along established paths has a negative impact on the environment. Is it really worth further damaging the planet just so I can see Stone Mountain?
Perhaps the strongest case against travel involves the complex systems in which travelers must participate.
Travel by car is relatively simple. A few traffic jams, some high gas prices and dependence on a single, fallible vehicle while hundreds of miles from home is almost tolerable.
But traveling by air, train or bus involves participating in complicated corporate systems designed to make money for others and create hassles for us. Like me, don’t you do everything you can to avoid needlessly complex systems?
For me, the verdict on travel varies with my mood. I don’t have the money to travel right now, but that never really stopped me in the past. Some of my favorite places are just a couple hundred miles away, but I also enjoy the attractions that I’ve visited in the towns around me — and there are many of those I haven’t seen yet.
What’s your feeling about how travel fits into the simple life?
I’d like to see Venice and even Cardiff, but I haven’t seen Portland or Madison either. I’ve seen Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City and even Cozumel, however, and I know distance and preferences means many of you will never see those places.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to some dream locations in my life, but I’m not very motivated or excited about visiting any more bucket-list locations in the next few years. Maybe someday.
For now, I’d like to get my own house in order before I gawk at someone else’s, ancient or modern.
It seems a reasonable course of action to me even though I know that somewhere in this nation a supposed minimalist, backpack in tow, is boarding a plane for Auckland.