Updated: Dec 24, 2022
For the sake of those who may not be convinced that minimalist travel is practical, cost effective, inspiring, easy, good for the environment and good for the soul.. here's a comprehensive list of all the benefits minimalist travel may have to offer.. and then some!
From a practical perspective, the benefits of traveling light are numerous..
No luggage fees or lost bags - everything you own is always with you..
Freedom to change your plans on a whim.. ex. randomly renting a motorcycle and riding to the nearest volcano, or spontaneously jumping on a boat heading to an unexplored island..
Utilize full travel days - No need to stop at the hostel/hotel to drop off your bag.. ex. hitting the beach or going for a hike before catching your next bus/train, or jumping off your flight and heading straight to the nearest hot spot..
The ability to go with the flow if your plans change against your will.. ex. your flight gets cancelled and you're delayed a day - a smaller bag means you can leave your stuff in the tiny lockers provided by airports, train stations, hostels, etc.. or even better..
If you DO get stuck with your bag, it's far less of a burden to lug it around; you can comfortably explore a city, go on a hike, go to the beach, or do pretty much anything you might do on a normal day..
Easy packing and moving - no need to hunt down a million things when you're hungover and trying to catch a flight..
Less fear/worry of lost or stolen items - if you take the "true" minimalist approach, you can replace everything you need with just one or two quick stops..
In short, it's freedom... for when you don't have plans, don't want to make plans, or have to change plans unexpectedly.
Beyond the practical benefits, it's worth noting some potentially overlooked benefits..
Less waste - when you embrace minimalism and/or minimalist travel, and start recognizing how little you actually need, your needs, and therefore, your impact on the environment is reduced..
Lower cost - even if you care nothing for the environment, the less stuff you have will inherently translate into less money spent on things..
Less space - it probably goes without saying, but when you pack like a minimalist, you simply don't need as much space; whether you're on a plane, a train, or curled up on your hostel bed, less stuff means more space... or more likely, just more space for other people..
It can be used as a stepping stone or trial run into the world of minimalism... if you're looking to downsize, move into a smaller home, or just looking to get rid of the junk that's been piling up.. minimalist travel can help you prepare your for minimalist living, if that's on your to-do list..
"Your life gets instantly simplified... gone are the days of deciding what to wear, when to do laundry or what to bring on your next big adventure (hint: you can bring everything).."
And finally, from a philosophical perspective, minimalist travel can bring..
Peace of mind - the less stuff you have, the less you have to worry about losing things and the less you'll feel emotionally tied to the things you do have.. Just imagine that brand new $300 "travel" bag getting stolen a week into your trip... now imagine losing that $40 hiking pack you randomly picked up from a local store down the street, which one makes you feel better?
A simplified life - when you only have a few sets of clothes and a few must-have items, your life gets instantly simplified; gone are the days of deciding what to wear, when to do laundry or what to bring on your next big adventure; it's nearly impossible to express how easy life is when everything you own fits in a tiny backpack; you may have to experience it for yourself.
A taste of humility - go to almost any country with that giant backpack or suitcase, and you'll instantly feel out of place.. we are spoiled.. or rather.. we're sold the idea that we need lots of stuff to be comfortable, happy, productive, etc... but it's simply not true.. Try minimalist travel for a few weeks and you'll realize that you still have more stuff than 90% of the world; it is a humbling experience..
I could probably go on.. but I think this paints a decent picture; there are many, many reasons to embrace, or at least consider, minimalist travel..
The truth is, the list of things you absolutely need is tiny (see A True Minimalist), and the less stuff you have, the more free you are likely to feel - this is true in life, and in travel.
In the same way that camping can reconnect you with nature, minimalist travel can reconnect you to the simple fact that you can go almost anywhere in the world with just a passport and the clothes on your back.
Not only that, it can also just be fun! There's something innately satisfying about finding new ways to make your pack smaller, or finding new tools that can do twice the work while taking up half the space - just how small can you really go?
My goal isn't to sell you on minimalism, there are a ton of great websites touting the benefits of letting go..
Note: I travel with a 21L backpack - small, comfortable and light enough to hike with, but any bag in the 18-25L range should work.
I've found "comfortable enough to hike with" to be the best determining factor for selecting a backpack - and no, I don't get paid to advertise products, these are just things I love and use!
You can see what I've experimented with here.
My hope is that by reading some of the 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).