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12 Major Benefits of Minimalist Travel


"There’s something poetic and beautiful about minimalist travel, it’s like the satisfaction you feel when you finally finish a project after a long, hard day of focused work... it feels like.. like freedom. Knowing that everything you need fits in this tiny little backpack; everything you need to live, to work, to play - it’s all on your back, and you can get up and go anytime you want… it takes five minutes to pack, because everything is either on you, in your pockets, or already in your backpack. It’s like having a permanent bug-out bag, only instead of survival gear, it’s life gear. I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s just.. freedom, in every sense of the word."


- Me, after a 36-hour travel day and no sleep.


For the sake of those who may not be convinced that minimalist travel is practical, cost-effective, inspiring, easy, good for the environment, or good for the soul.. here's a list of 12 benefits minimalist travel can offer.

1. No Luggage Fees


Checking luggage is annoying, and the cost of checking luggage is getting outrageous. It may not matter for one or two flights, but when you start hopping cities over the course of one, three, six, months, etc. the fees add up, along with the risk of airlines losing your luggage (see Benefit #2). Tack on the costs of storage locker fees, transportation fees (see Benefits #5 and #10), and the risk of losing all that stuff (see Benefit #12), and you're looking at hundreds of dollars lost because you couldn't live without that extra pair of shoes you probably won't even wear.


2. No Lost Luggage


Losing your luggage can put a dampener on any trip. It doesn't always happen, but it does happen, and it can be extremely frustrating. Two of my closest friends once took a two-week trip to Switzerland, but their luggage didn't get the memo, and for three days they tooled around Geneva just waiting to get their lives back. (Not a bad place to wait, though).


Granted, it's not common, but the longer you travel and the more flights you take, the more likely it is to happen to you, and there's never a good time for it.


As a minimalist traveler, your carry-on luggage is always on you, and not only on you, but easily accessible as well, it's at your feet instead of under the bus, it's above your head as you train through the Swiss Alps, it's by your side as you ferry to the Greek Isles, and it's on your back, every time you step off that platform.


That's what I call peace of mind.


3. Faster and Easier Travel


With no checked-in baggage to worry about, you can breeze through airports and train stations without any delays; this speeds up travel time significantly while minimizing the stress of navigating through crowds with bulky luggage.


And you get the added benefit of more personal space; from flights and buses to Ubers and Tuk-Tuks - and who doesn't want more legroom?


a traveler navigating a busy street


4. Flexibility and Spontaneity


With minimalist travel, you have the freedom to be spontaneous and flexible. With everything you need in one compact bag, you can easily change your plans or hop on a last-minute flight without worrying about carrying heavy bags or missing your checked-in luggage.


The same is true for unplanned changes - canceled flights, late trains, broken down buses, failed boat engines (yes, these have all happened to me), but when the world is on your back, you can handle these moments with ease.


In short, it's freedom... for when you don't have plans, don't want to make plans, or have to change plans unexpectedly.


"In short, it's freedom... for when you don't have plans, don't want to make plans, or have to change plans unexpectedly."

5. Versatility


Having a small, lightweight backpack means you can easily maneuver through different modes of transportation, whether it's walking through cobblestone streets or hopping on a crowded subway. It also gives you the flexibility to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations or take spontaneous side trips without the burden of heavy luggage.


The flexibility to rent a scooter, motorbike, or bicycle while traveling - that alone is worth any sacrifices that need to be made to fit your life into a backpack.


"The flexibility to rent a scooter, motorbike, or bicycle while traveling - that alone is worth any sacrifices that need to be made to fit your life in a backpack."


6. Maximizing Travel Days


Minimalist travel allows you to utilize full travel days if you have to start early or finish late. By avoiding the need to check in or drop off bulky luggage, you can save precious time and spend it exploring your destination; additionally, your small footprint has a much higher probability of fitting into airport or train station lockers, so you can lock up your stuff and explore with complete freedom while you wait on your next transport.


a large backpack next to a small airport locker
What airports think you pack vs what you actually pack.

7. Simplified Packing Process


When you only have a small bag to pack, the process becomes much simpler and more manageable. You no longer have to spend hours agonizing over what to bring and how to fit it all into your luggage. Instead, you can focus on the essentials and easily pack and unpack your belongings without any hassle.


I keep a travel-ready bag, separate from all my "home" possessions (aside from my laptop) - it has everything I need to hop on a plane at the drop of a hat. I never think about how I'm going to pack, because I'm already packed, at all times, for any destination.


Check out Tom's Minimalist Packing List (2024) to see what I'm packing these days.


8. Minimize Decision Fatigue


Related to the above, less choice can help eliminate decision fatigue. A select number of clothes and tools lead to a simpler life, whether at home or traveling. You don't have to think about what you're going to wear, because you're wearing the same comfortable, functional clothing every day (and you still look great).


Plus, it's always easier to find what you need when you're only carrying the essentials.




9. Quality over Quantity


Since the number of items you carry is significantly reduced, you can invest in high-quality gear and clothing designed for travel. This can save you money in the long run as the few important items you decide to carry are built to last and can withstand the wear and tear of frequent use. Plus, they often have features that are useful whether traveling or at home, like water-resistant material, anti-theft pockets, or a packable design.


10. Cost-Effective


Baggage fees and locker fees are the obvious culprits when it comes to traveling with lots of stuff, but there are hidden costs as well, and they can add up.


For example, with extra luggage, you'll likely need Ubers to get from airports and train stations to hostels and hotels, versus Tuk-Tuks, golf carts, and moped Ubers (terrifying, but highly recommended); these fees add up.


A big backpack can mean the difference between renting a scooter and having to rent a car (see Benefit 5), this may not seem like a big deal to anyone who hasn't traveled a lot, but when you're island hopping in the Philippines, or exploring the Vietnamese coastline or looking to zig-zag cross Bali with all your stuff, scooters start to look very appealing.


"When you're island hopping in the Philippines or exploring the Vietnamese coastline, or looking to zig-zag cross Bali with all your stuff, scooters start to look very appealing.."

11. Environmentally-Friendly


Beyond the practical, you might look at minimalist travel as a way to reduce waste and minimize your impact on the environment - living with less, by its very nature, reduces waste; and when you return home after six months of living out of a backpack, your eyes will open to all the things you didn't need that entire time, these realizations can translate into lifelong changes that drastically reduce your carbon footprint.


"These realizations can translate into lifelong changes that drastically reduce your carbon footprint."

Bonus points: scootering, mopeding, Tuk-Tuking, biking, and walking are all better for the environment and better for you.


12. Peace of Mind and Mental Freedom


The less stuff you have, the less you have to worry about losing; and the less you've invested in stuff, the less worry you'll experience while traveling. These things, by nature, go hand-in-hand, and I can tell you from experience, that you'll worry far less about that $30 Walmart backpack than you will that $250 travel bag.


Traveling light ultimately leads to a more enjoyable and stress-free experience. It allows you to focus on the present and fully immerse yourself in your surroundings without being weighed down by unnecessary belongings. Letting go of unnecessary baggage, both physical and emotional, leaves you with more headspace to focus on experiences, exploration, and adventure!


I could go on for hours about the psychological benefits of traveling light, but your best bet is to experience it for yourself.


Conclusion


My goal isn't to sell you on minimalism, there are a ton of great websites touting the benefits of letting go...



This site, rather, is meant to show you what's possible, what you can expect, what the limitations are, and how you can get started if you're new to the world of packing light.


I hope that by reading some of these articles and implementing some of the strategies, you can maximize your freedom and flexibility while doing the things you love and worrying less about what you have (or don't have).



12 Benefits of Minimalist Travel

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