Updated: Feb 6
Minimalist travel can mean different things to different people.. everyone's list of "necessities" is different, and no two people will ever pack the same; so the best I can do is give you my take, in the hopes that it can help you define what minimalist travel might look like for you.
On one hand, minimalist travel can be considered an offshoot of minimalism in general... where it's more about letting go of our attachment to things and remembering that we don't need nearly as much as we think in order to survive (or travel).
Note: If you haven't read A True Minimalist yet, it's a good starting point to get an idea of what's possible.
From this perspective, minimalist travel can serve as a reminder of how little we actually need, how easy life is with less stuff, and how freeing it can feel when we're not weighed down by our things.
If you take this approach to travel, it's helpful to remember a few key things..
Everything you could possibly need is available for purchase, anywhere in the world, often for very cheap; so you don't have to worry at all about what you're packing; clothes, toiletries, power cords, and power banks, gloves, jackets, hats, you name it; if you're going where people live, you're going to find everything you need to live; so yes, you could grab your passport right now, hop on a plane and fly to Thailand, if you wanted.. and you'd be fine.
No one cares what you look like when you're in another country, you're going to stand out no matter what you wear; this simple concept can make it infinitely easier to disconnect from your things; no longer are we worried about packing fancy "night on the town" outfits, wearing hiking boots into a bar, or matching hats and belts to shoes; it simple doesn't matter; and once you stop caring what you look like, you can easily simplify your wardrobe to just a few, every day, all day outfits.
Lastly, if you've fully embraced the concept of detaching from your "stuff," it frees you up to purchase and donate, lend and borrow, rent and lease whatever you may need, when you need it; versus buying custom-made travel gear for every situation. So instead of worrying about that $100 ultra-light, portable, packable puffer jacket, you'd perhaps, instead, buy a cheap, $20 jacket from a local store wherever you're staying, and leave it or donate it to future travelers; or instead of buying that fancy, $200 state-of-the-art digital nomad backpack, you'd take a cheap, forgotten computer bag you find in your closet, and it's once less thing to worry about; or better yet, don't even bring your laptop.
Even if you have zero interest in minimalism in general, this minimalist approach to travel can be extremely eye-opening and enlightening.. and I'd highly encourage you explore the idea, or dare say, try it, and see if or how your perspective changes.
On the other hand, and for many people, minimalist travel may be more about efficiency and flexibility; efficiency in that you want to pack as light as possible, in the smallest footprint possible, and flexibility because you know that by packing light, you maximize your time and give yourself the ultimate freedom in terms of travel plans.
From this perspective, it's more about finding the latest and greatest tools, tricks and methods to keep your pack small without sacrificing modern comforts.
"For me, personally, minimalist travel is packing only the bare essentials, 2-3 days worth of clothes, a small hiking backpack and just a few "must-have" items..."
For me personally, minimalist travel is a combination of embracing some of the core concepts of minimalism above; with the realities of our desire for comfort, flexibility and style; it's attempting to take the best of what minimalism has to offer and the best of what technology has to offer, and finding a perfect balance between the two; it's packing only the bare essentials; 2-3 days worth of clothes, a small hiking backpack and a few "must-have" items... and keeping a constant eye out for tools or gadgets that add value without sacrificing mobility or peace of mind.
I keep my pack small by packing just a few sets of clothes and doing laundry every day.. it's humbling, therapeutic, and, oddly enough, helps me keep a healthier schedule. This change, along with being okay with looking like a full-time trail guide at all times; drastically simplifies what goes into the pack; and with it, comes all the benefits of packing light.
For you, minimalist travel may be completely different... maybe it's one full weeks' worth of clothes and all the latest gadgets; or maybe it's less stuff, less clothes and even more freedom.
At the end of the day, each person's list of "must haves" and "nice-to-haves" will be different, and your definition of minimalist travel will be tailored to you and distinctly unique.
I built this site with the hopes of helping people recognize how easy it is to travel and how little you actually need; while at the same time, sharing what I've learned and experienced, in the hopes that it will help you build a travel style that fits you best.
If you haven't yet, check out The Bare Essentials for my take on the absolute minimum needed to travel, and The Minimalist Method to see how and what I pack.
Read Next: WHY Minimalist Travel? or Is Minimalist Travel Right For You?