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Realities and Limitations

A comprehensive list of limitations with minimalist travel.

As much as I'm a proponent of minimalist travel and all it's benefits, there are some negatives that need to be acknowledged.

I'm assuming, if you're reading this, that you have at least a basic idea of my definition of minimalist travel; but if you stumbled upon this article and haven't read anything else yet, check out A True Minimalist (the inspiration for this site) and The Bare Essentials (an opinion piece on how little you actually need to travel).

With that out of the way, here are the obvious and perhaps some non-obvious limitations of minimalist travel..

  1. You must be willing to pack just a few sets of clothes, and do laundry every day, or worst-case, every couple days; it's not as bad as it sounds, but it's not for everyone. I liken it to hand-washing dishes in the sink; but if you can get over this mental hurdle, the benefits can be great; check out Laundry on the Road and/or Washing Clothes in the Shower for more thoughts around this simple, daily ritual.

  2. By nature of the above, you must be okay with wearing the same few clothes every day.. if you can't get over that concept, minimalist travel likely isn't for you; but if you want to hear an argument for why it doesn't matter, check out No One Cares (Expect Maybe You). I pack just three black shirts, one pair of hiking shorts or convertible pants, one swimsuit and maybe a pair of actual pants; depending on my destination; you can see my full packing list here.

  3. Ideally, you should be okay with packing just one or two pairs of shoes; I pack just one pair of black hiking/trail-running shoes and a pair of barefoot sandals; check out Oh My God, Shoes! for more detail.

  4. Given all the above, you likely won't be able to get into the fanciest clubs, bars or restaurants; perhaps this is a non-starter for some of you, but if you're reading about minimalist travel, you probably don't care. In all of my travels, I've never once felt like I couldn't go somewhere based on my simplistic shirts and shorts (it's a pretty American concept); but once you're on the road, most people either don't care how you look, or, more likely, the people you meet will be on a budget and not trying to go to fancy places anyway... check out Bars and Nightclubs for a more thorough discussion around nightlife on the road.

  5. You might have to wear damp or dirty clothes - on occasion - if your clothes didn't have enough time to dry, or if you haven't had the time to wash your clothes in a couple days; it's rare, once you get in the habit of daily washing, but it definitely will happen at some point. At the end of the day, minimalist travel requires some planning ahead, or a willingness to look a little grungy on a hangover travel day; check out Laundry on the Road Part II (Drying) and Dry Times for thoughts and opinions around this extremely annoying aspect of minimalist travel.

  6. You may have to adjust your travel plans to match summer seasons and/or warm climates; this isn't exactly ideal (or even feasible) for short trips, but if you're traveling long-term, it's definitely worth considering; check out Fair Weather Travel for my take on chasing the sun. Note: if you can't travel with the seasons, that doesn't mean minimalist travel isn't an option; check out Cold Weather Travel for more thoughts and opinions around minimalist winter travel.

  7. You may have to buy some stuff on the road, rent the gear you need, and/or leave some things behind as you move around the world; but one of the main benefits of minimalist travel is realizing how little we need and detaching from the weight of our things; it may feel foreign at first (pun intended), but once you stop caring about your stuff, the freedom you'll feel is palpable.

  8. Your work setup may not be ideal.. especially if you're going as minimalist as possible, but still have to work / pack your laptop - with a laptop comes power cables, USB dongles, a wireless mouse and possibly even a second screen and/or larger keyboard; and that stuff sucks to pack. The best advice I can give is to 1) get used to working on just your laptop, with no toys or extras, to keep the bulk to a minimum, or 2) consider these laptop alternatives. You can also check out World's Smallest Laptop Accessories (coming soon!) and Space Saving Electronics for some ideas to help minimize your pack.

  9. Lastly, for you "Buy Now" trigger-happy maniacs (myself included).. there's always the mental hump of admitting that you don't actually need to buy anything for your next trip; and I fully admit, half the fun of planning a trip is going to the nearest REI and buying new, "absolutely necessary" gear; just like the grocery store stop is half the fun before a road-trip or mountain house weekend; but the truth is, especially if you're traveling long-term; you'll have a lot more peace of mind if you don't drop $500 on new stuff that could get lost, stolen, broken or forgotten on the first leg of your multi-month trip. Don't let the advertising gods and AI-marketing machines suck you in, or, at the very least, try to remember that you probably already have everything you need for long-term travel, it's just easy to forget.

In summary, minimalist travel gives you a ton of flexibility, but it requires a little bit of planning and flexibility on your part as well; and while it's not for everyone, it's definitely worth considering or even giving it a trial run on your next trip. I've never met a long-term traveler who said, "I didn't bring enough stuff," it's almost always the opposite, as I'm sure most of readers of this site can attest to.

Whether or not minimalist travel will work for you is completely up to you, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect and how it might look.

Keep Reading: Is Minimalist Travel Right For Me? //


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