Experiences over Things: Souvenirs & Vacationing

As vacation season begins, the problem of acquiring little trinkets from your travels inevitably comes up.  What should I buy? Oh, that little snow globe, figurine, (insert your idea here) is so cute – I have to get it!  We have all been down that road.

Chances are, emotions win out and you find yourself clutching a small bag with the snow globe while exiting the shop.  A month or two later, that cute little snow globe has dust on it, takes up space, and you are left wondering why you spent your hard-earned money on it.

What you eventually do with that snow globe is up to you, but I can provide a few suggestions when it comes to incorporating minimalism in your vacation goals without a few extra trinkets stowing away home in your luggage!  Here are a few thoughts I use when it comes to souvenirs and acquiring items while traveling.

1.  Write a list.  Just like you should not grocery shop while you are hungry, it is best not to shop for souvenirs without a game plan.  Rather than having a whole store to browse through, sticking to a list of potential purchases will help you navigate the aisles and save time and money.

2.  Consider consumable items.  If you must make a purchase, finding items that are usable/consumable brings value to the purchase and prevents the item from sitting on a shelf collecting dust.  Mugs for coffee, stationery for letters, wearable accessories (like scarves), and foods (like hard candies) are all great items.

3.  Sharing your experience.  I always opt for taking pictures and finding things that I can share with friends and family.  Whether that is buying an item that you can gift to someone or taking time to tell a story of your adventure, sharing experiences often bring depth and considerable reflection.  I find it fun to send letters or postcards from the places I travel because they provide a glimpse into the culture, an activity, or interest I had while traveling.  If you are not a letter writer, consider meeting for coffee or tea with any interested listeners.  Bonus points if you share a tea/coffee/treat from the place you traveled to!

As a minimalist, I value my experiences and seek them out rather than accumulating things.  While a carefully selected item may play a representative role in reminding you of a place or adventure, it is important to assess these things as to prevent falling into the “snow globe” trap.  Finding items that enhance an experience are great!

When preparing for an adventure, ask yourself what you want to gain from it.  Are you looking to grow in a particular category?  What risks are you willing to take?  How do you want to preserve the memory of the event, while maintaining a minimalist lifestyle?  My examples work for me, and, chances are, you have even more ideas how to limit the purchasing and invest in experiences.  Pass it on!





Review: Osprey Porter 46L Travel Pack

In an earlier post, I shared my tips on traveling as a minimalist.  Over the course of the weekend, I took my new Osprey Porter travel pack ( Osprey Porter 46L Travel Pack) on its inaugural trip to Iowa for Tulip Festival, which was great fun!

Anyhow, I thought I would provide a review on this new pack to supplement my Minimalist Travel Tips:

I found the Osprey Porter 46L pack on the REI website and was excited to see that my local shop had it in stock.  Upon examining it, I noticed a few features that drew my interest:

  1.  Zip-away backpack straps and waist belt
  2. Limited space – only 46 liters
  3. Cost- $130.00 REI and Osprey website  (see link above for Osprey’s website)
  4. Fits within the standard carry-on regulations for most airlines
  5. Plenty of pockets for organization without becoming too much
  6. Multiple ways to carry:  along with backpack straps, there are loops to add a shoulder strap (buy separately), a handle on the length and one on each end

This pack exceeded my expectations as a minimalist traveler.  I prefer to keep my hands free (see: Minimalist Travel Tips) and to limit how much I bring as to prevent bogging myself down.  Despite having a little concern when packing it for the first time, I found out very quickly that I had more than enough space- even enough to bring a few splurge items!

This pack is quite durable and streamline:  I did not feel like the pack took up much space in the car or on my back.  A bonus of the purchase is that my Osprey Daylite day pack fits on the outside of the Porter under the two large straps that fasten to the width of the pack.

I highly recommend the Osprey Porter 46L travel pack for minimalists and travelers alike for short and medium-length adventures.  Only $130.00 at REI and the Osprey website, it is a well-made investment luggage piece that provides flexibility for any adventure!  That being said, if you are looking for a new travel pack or purchasing one for the first time, check out the Osprey Porter 46!  Pass it on!

Finding a Balance

One minor struggle I have come across while implementing various minimalist techniques is distinguishing between doing too little and doing too much.  To be honest, I often weigh out on the side of too much.  Like a lot of things, one of my weaknesses is to jump in too fast and forget to bring balance to this project.  Case in point, when I started using the strategies I found to clean out my stuff, I found myself eyeing nearly everything I had out to determine if I really needed it there.

I did one of two things: 1) grabbed as much as I could and placed everything in a long-term storage box, or 2) got to an item and could not make a decision on it and left it there.

Both choices resulted in the same thing: a hint of frustration and impatience.

I am sure we all reach this point one way or another – I chalk it up to ambition and lurking perfectionism.  However, I realized that instead of drawing up a plan to keep balance in mind from the start, I just plowed ahead, too focused on the results over the process.

I look back thinking, “Wow. You really got too ahead of yourself!  It’s okay to slow down!”  

It is important to set goals, but just like any other project you set your mind to, we need to remember that an orderly, balanced process is going to give us the results we want – not a sped-up, sloppy version.  We ought to think as highly of the process as we do the result.

If minimalism is about growth, then let us bless the process with our patience!  Pass it on!

Justify Your Choices

I read an article that described a list of a bunch of things twenty-somethings should learn (or know) how to do.  Among “cook a healthy meal” and “write a resume,” one that stood out to me was:  Defend your media choices.  I might as well have jumped for joy at reading this!  As a twenty-something proponent of the classics, good manners, and general politeness, this statement as a “should-do”  was music to my ears!  It’s about time we justify our choices!

That being said, I realized that it is important for us minimalists to justify our choices too- not only of our decision to become minimalists, but to take it a step further in fine-tuning the details that make up our lives.

As with media choices, we minimalists should consider depth when answering the question, “Why?”  Justification is not simply, “Well I like it,”  “It’s cool,” or “It’s the popular thing to do.” It is not enough to have a cliche response to a question.  Justification means sharing a well-informed answer.  The Merriam-Webster definition of justification is:  “an acceptable reason for doing something; something that justifies an action.”  While popularity or general “coolness” may seem like an acceptable reason, those concepts are fluid.  What is popular one day may not be the next (What’s that word? FAD!).  If we base our justification solely on this reasoning, we have fallen for fallacy and hopped on a bandwagon that is bound for a bumpy ride.  I believe that we do not give ourselves enough credit to properly formulate our reasoning.  When I examine justification, I see a response that embodies not only likes and dislikes, but illuminates the way we live our life.

When it gets down to it, our choices become the framework for future actions.  Our actions affect not only ourselves but the people and environment around us.  If we do not think much of our choices, our preferences, or even our actions, perhaps we are not fully practicing awareness.  I see awareness as a first step in being conscientious and sacrificial.  While it is a tough one to master, I genuinely believe we all have the opportunity to develop better awareness to our surroundings in order to contribute to them.

As a minimalist, I see my own awareness grow through reflection in my bullet journal, sharing my ideas with people in conversation, and visually noting the impact of my work.  While I am learning to take it easy on myself, I take careful consideration into my successes and failures in hopes to come away from each experience – each choice made – with something positive.  I evaluate each choice based on why I made it: my influences both internally (perspective, though process) and externally (social, peers), an emotional appeal, and awareness.  I try to use all of these elements in justifying my choices because they balance each other out.

  • Influences:
    • Internal:  a perspective that I already developed or still developing
    • External:  new perspective shared with me that I value
  • Emotional Appeal: a heart-felt reason that enhances sympathy, compassion, or other emotional responses
  • Awareness:  knowledge of my surroundings: physical environment, people, facts

In addition to each of these elements, I balance them with the results – the impact my choice made in hopes that I will either justify my choice due to a positive experience or chalk it up for improvement.

Justification is often a difficult concept to construct, especially when so many factors influence the way we think.  Despite this, it makes for an important exercise because what we say and do define us.  Our actions and words stem from the way we think and make observations.  Let us make sure we learn the art of justification, not settle on fads to explain our choices, and invest in quality thought/action.  Pass it on!