Minimalist Travel Tips

I enjoy traveling to new places.  If there is one thing I have prioritized as a recent college graduate, it is to continue learning by exploring.  Whether it is a weekend away or a lengthy trip abroad, I am determined to find something new and continue my travels.

As a minimalist, I look for ways to plan stress-free trips.  I know it is rather difficult to set such a lofty goal, but I have a few strategies I would like to share.

Minimalist Travel Tips:

  1.  Less is more.  I thought I would start out with a standard minimalist response.  However, this is an important one to remember.  Bringing less stuff will not weigh you down (more on this later…).  Also, when planning a trip, narrow your list of “must-do’s/must-see’s” because chances are, you will probably start out too ambitious.  It is better to limit your list in order to leave room for surprises and to prevent burning out.
  2. Check for resources.  Unless your destination is extremely remote, chances are you will find things you need there, or at least, substitutes.  For example, if I am staying at a hotel, I double-check if my room supplies complimentary toiletries.  If I take a plane, I check to see if there are shops I can pick up personal items like shampoo/conditioner/shower gel to prevent exceeding PSA limits and space in my bag.
  3. Buy smaller luggage.  If you are planning a weekend getaway or just want to travel light, I suggest downsizing your luggage.  As with Tip #2, you can always make purchases if you find yourself in need of items at your destination.  The smaller the luggage, the less weight you need to tote around.  My choice:  I love the Osprey Porter 46 travel pack (see my review on it)!  It is just a few liters larger than a standard backpack, has multiple pouches, fits within most carry-on requirements, and has multiple ways to carry it.  I like to keep my hands as free as possible in case I need to grab a water bottle, hop on a bus quickly, or take some pictures.
  4. Try a capsule wardrobe.  See my post on the Capsule Wardrobe for a full explanation.  I love capsule wardrobes because you end up wearing what is comfortable and save luggage space by mix-matching pieces to create new looks.
  5. Keep travel information all in one place.  Keep a small ziploc or waterproof bag specifically for travel documents (passports, travel insurance, etc.) easily accessible.
  6. Create a traveling routine.  I like keeping to a routine in order to cover my bases when I embark on an excursion.  For example, when I arrive at my lodging, I organize my gear immediately.  I return items to their original places, make sure nothing is missing, and review my plans/itinerary.  Keeping to a routine helps prevent confusion, losing items, and maintain excitement.
  7. Critically assess what you bring. This is especially important to me when dealing with road trips.  It is equally important to be comfortable when spending long hours on the road and to maintain a clean travel environment.  My first step is to assess every item I bring for the ride in the car.  Whether I am driving or a passenger, I try to limit how much I bring to the following categories:
    1. Emergency equipment (blanket, map, extra water, snow shovel in the winter, etc.)
    2. Sustenance (basic snack and water)
    3. Garbage Management (trash bag for wrappers, etc.)
    4. Entertainment (usually limited to music and a book)
  8. Develop a calm perspective.  Without letting down your guard – it is important to remain vigilant wherever you go – develop a mindset that helps you react rationally to the unexpected.  Maybe it rains during a week you thought was forecasted to be sunny.  Maybe you run into a minor vehicle problem.  Or a major one.  Maybe you get sick.  As a first responder and frequent wilderness trip leader, I cannot say enough about how perspective can change a situation.  While your problem may end up just being a wrong turn, it is critical that you simplify, not magnify, the situation you find yourself in.  A rational mind leads to results.

While I do not have all the answers for traveling stress-free, these eight suggestions have led me all over the mid-west United States, Canada, the UK, and Eastern Europe.  I definitely suggest trying out all sorts of strategies to find what works best for you!  Pass it on!

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Time Well Spent vs. Multi-Tasking

Why Time Well Spent Beats Multi-Tasking for Minimalists

As a goal-oriented and intentional individual, I value time well spent.  It does not matter if it is a menial activity or something extravagant, I just want to make sure that my mindset for using my time is treated carefully; my time is treated as an investment.

I seek to add life and excitement to my days, and one of the ways I can do this is to balance my priorities with fun.  But I have to be careful otherwise I end up multi-tasking my way towards oblivion.

Western society has made a big deal about “multi-tasking,” and much to our detriment, we have traded our sleep, sanity, and relationships for hours of hitting those birds with one stone.  However, research continues to prove that multi-tasking does not necessarily mean positive results (see: Forbes article).  The stress we bring upon ourselves trying to complete every task under the sun is not worth it (see: TIME article).  Multi-tasking, even for the best of the “movers and shakers” of the world, does not produce nearly as quality idea, actions, or results that simply focusing on one thing at a time does.  The more items we add to our juggling act, the more risk there is in dropping everything.  Personally, I would rather deal with one item at a time – would not want to over-complicated my juggling routine!

This is where minimalism gets it right.  Minimalism supports a simple lifestyle in which we can focus thoroughly on one task at a time.  Yes, I understand that we do not always have the luxury of slowing down (our work, family, and personal lives may become tangled as life happens), but we can learn to implement minimalist practices to our lives anyhow.  The way I see it, my ducks will not always be in a row.  The little rascals are bound to wander around, get lost, or gather an army, and I might not always be able to stop them!  However, I can manage my time in order to reach my goal of spending my time well by figuring out what my goals and priorities are.  I can control my obligations, commitments, and plan for the crazy days.  “Busy= Stress” is not an ultimatum.  We have the power to keep busy without getting in over our heads and can change the way we spend our time.  Busy can equal happiness and contentment!

Organizing a perfect schedule may not happen exactly the way we envision it – even if we are expert organizers.  We will always have to keep trying.  The good news is, we are able to spend our time well, and it is going to look different for every individual. Pass it on!

Strengths and Weaknesses

As a minimalist, I am exposed to my strengths and weaknesses daily as I apply my ideas to my lifestyle and find new strategies to test.  However, it is often the ideas I put into long-term practice that have shown me the most about myself.

“A true test of character

isn’t how you are on your best days

but how you act on your worst days.”

Twenty-one words never held so much power than these have for me.  Just like tests and trials, we find our strengths and weaknesses when we apply what we have learned.  In my journey with minimalism, I have uncovered many strengths and weaknesses that I can work with.  I am sure there are many more, but I will get to them as I expand my horizons.

An important concept I have learned is that we often assume our ideals as our character and our strengths.  For example, I would like to consider myself an very environmentally-conscious person.  The truth is, that is only what I aspire to be.  When it gets down to it, I did let those cans land in the regular garbage rather than recycle them.  I did let the water run too long while I brushed my teeth.  The truth is, I value the environmentally-conscious lifestyle, but I have not made it a foundation of my lifestyle yet.

So all assumptions set aside, I can use my responses, habit patterns/tendencies, and reflections to gauge what my true strengths and weaknesses are.  I have found that reflection helps me focus on the specific strengths and weaknesses because writing something down lets me see my thoughts.  I encourage you to try this exercise because you will not only get real with yourself, but also find areas to grow and improve on.  It is important to remember that writing down strengths and weaknesses is not about bashing yourself, but celebrating growth!

My Strengths as a Minimalist:

  • Finding new ideas to try
  • Reflecting in my bullet journal (see: bullet journal)
  • Remembering needs over wants
  • Applying positive past experiences as encouragement
  • Fast and efficient downsizing
  • Not attaching myself to stuff I need to get rid of

My Weaknesses as a Minimalist:

  • Committing to too many ideas all at once
  • Letting my doubts/failures get to me
  • Trying to be perfect
  • Letting frustration get to me before I find a solution

A list of strengths and weaknesses is bound to change over time.  What was once a weakness may become a strength after a lot of determination and patience to grow in tough categories.  The beauty is that our strengths tend to stay with us, while we can develop our weaknesses into strengths.  I know that my list of weaknesses is a flexible list; it will not change overnight, but eventually I will take those points and reverse them for my personal growth.  As long as we focus on growth, weaknesses become opportunities for change.  How exciting!  Take it as a challenge, an adventure, or a goal to take control of the life you want to live as a minimalist.  Pass it on!

The Capsule Wardrobe

If you are a minimalist searching the blogs and websites for ideas, you have probably come across capsule wardrobes.  Capsule wardrobes have surged in popularity among minimalists and non-minimalists alike.  They are efficient, cost-cutting, and practical whether you are trying to reduce your spending, find a use for that sweater hanging in the back of your closet, or cut down the time it takes to get ready in the morning.

I discovered the capsule wardrobe concept when I went to study abroad in Europe during my junior year of college.  Knowing that I had to pack for an autumn semester and for a mountain backpacking trip, my clothing options were limited due to luggage space and weight to account for all the necessities, textbooks, and gear.

While I did not know that my outfit planning was indeed a capsule wardrobe, I used the same strategy for my packing list, making sure I had the minimum outfits to keep comfortable, stay versatile, and keep within my packing limits.  Not only did I realize I could create a variety of outfit combinations, I ended up with the lightest luggage out of my group!  I had space to store souvenirs and a time-saving wardrobe to keep me out exploring!

Now as a graduate and full-time employee, I transferred packing skills into a practical solution for everyday wear.  As I looked for ways to expand my minimalism strategies, I put a name to the concept I used in Europe: the capsule wardrobe.  If you are like me, the name capsule wardrobe has a particular ring to it that suggests limits, simplicity, and organization.  I picked up on the phrase quickly, discovering I appreciated implementing the wardrobe.  It was just as satisfying as saying it!  Even more so, I appreciate the capsule wardrobe because it is easy to adapt to your needs.

I like to use up what I have before buying a replacement, so my closet was already pretty specific to my likes in terms of style.  I narrowed down what I could (see: Hanger Strategy) and focused my attention in preserving my favorite pieces while making good use of everything in my closet.  I was surprised how easy it was!

I discovered that my capsule wardrobe has many benefits:

  • I find joy in taking a few minutes every couple weeks to go through my clothes to create outfit options, saving the time it normally took me to choose clothes in the morning.
  • I found my style.  Sure the pieces were there already, but I found ways to be comfortable without trying to copy an outfit that did not suit my personality.
  • I spend only the time it takes to grab clothes and put them on rather than spending at least 10 minutes staring at options.  My morning routine is simple and not rushed.
  • My wardrobe lasts about 2 weeks, which cuts down on washing machine use, thus saving water, detergent, and electricity.
  • It allows me to invest in quality clothing, rather than needing to replace cheap pieces more often.
  • I am prepared for any kind of weather because my outfits are layered.  By having a variety of layers in an outfit, I am more flexible if a sunny day turns rainy or if a cool day turns into a heatwave.
  • It makes traveling a breeze because I can pack half the clothes and still come up with variety to take care of the entire trip.
  • I spend less on clothes because I buy classy pieces that do not go out of style.

I enjoy my capsule wardrobe for its benefits listed above and for the ways in which it teaches me to pursue minimalism in all walks of life.  Perhaps one of the best ways to build a minimalist lifestyle is to work with the tangible items; working hands-on helps me to see what I like about being a minimalist and helps me creatively sort through the conceptual changes such as mindset and strategy.  I definitely encourage trying the capsule wardrobe, even if it means starting out slow.  Check it out on blogs, Pinterest, or just experiment making one yourself.  Let us go back to the time before we got caught up in filling our closets, before we let consumerism convince us to buy more than we need, and before deciding what to wear became such a hassle!  Pass it on!

Reflections on Earth Day & Arbor Day 2016

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How appropriate to make a resolution on Earth Day/Arbor Day!  It dawned on me in the morning before work that Earth Day and minimalism often fall in the same circles.  And with Arbor Day following closely on the calendar, I knew that spending time in nature should catalyze a resolution or something of that sort.  I see the relevance of my goals as a minimalist to think eco-consciously combine with the lifestyle choices I have made.

I love camping and spending time in nature, so it was only a matter of time before I would realize how closely linked are the environment and my pursuit of minimalism. Some of my first encounters with minimalism come from my group camping experiences in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.

My trip packing lists have always held the value that ultralight and minimal items are the best way to go when venturing out into the wilderness.  The thought is that we pack only the necessities; there is no room for a bunch of luxury items to float around at the top of the pack.  It values Leave No Trace principles (see: Leave No Trace official website) and inspires creative means to take care of your needs and the needs of others.  Paddling and camping in the BWCA means portaging (carrying all of your belongings over a segment of land).  Portage trails range from 5 to over 550 rods.  A rod is the standard of measurement: approximately the length of a canoe.  In perspective, 550 rods is a bit over 2 miles.  Not only does ultra-lite and minimalist camping prevent waste of space, it also cuts down the weight of the Duluth packs we carry on portages, which definitely is a game-changer when the going gets tough!

Minimalism in camping has led me to the conclusion that I do not need a lot of stuff to be happy.  I value the items I bring into the woods, learn to steward them, and appreciate each item as an important tool.

I have applied the same lesson that I learned “in the bush” to my life back home.  After I initially assessed my belongings, I determined that I could cut my wardrobe in half due to the pile-up of a lot of “extras.”  I used my bullet journal to make more space for the things I love – running, exploring, studying, reading – and cut back on the waste of time.  My excitement to pursue what I enjoy also led me to complete daily tasks quickly and efficiently.  I limited my showers to conserve water, I spent less time inside my house to save power, and found creative ways to warm up if the weather turned chilly.

I am looking forward to minimizing my spending on groceries by starting a garden with my family.  Not only will the produce be healthier, the vegetation will promote clean air, flowers will encourage pollination and health of bees, and gardening relieves stress. Get a plant…save a life!

As minimalists, let us not forget how important our resources are to our lives.  Let us not take nature for granted – it is our home.  Let us use Earth Day and Arbor Day to make a resolution to support our environment, to promote conservation of our natural resources, and to treat nature as a classroom so we continue to grow.  Pass it on!