We live in times where ever more people are Instagram-travelers that want to leave the comfort of their homes to visit the world while taking the entire comfort of their homes in a suitcase, to take pictures of famous places and tell other people, they were there. It feels like traveling is just a buzzword for fitting in the 21st-century social circles and exotic places are nothing more than bucket list items to cross off. I am here today to propose and explain what is one of the most recent travel-style movements around, Minimalistic traveling. Its philosophy and what it truly means and stands for is much more than just an adventurous way to get around.
Let me start off by asking...
Why do you travel?
The experience, the cuisine, the sights, the culture are words that more often than not are just thrown in the air, using them as fancy paraphrasing of their most shallow meanings.
Think for a moment about all those travel pictures on Instagram of someone posing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, at least a few of them have traveled to Paris to stay in a fancy hotel, with a big suitcase full of clothes that they no doubt spent quite a few hours trying on and off to find the best Instagram-worthy fancy Paris style, after visiting the tower they'll be back in the hotel, dine in the hotel's fancy restaurant and repeat with Instagram-worthy tourist point 2 on the next day. By the time they come home, probably they haven't even heard much French besides the airport/train station announcements. Oh but the suitcase will be even heavier, filled with more things that they certainly don't need, and they made sure that all their contacts on social media know that they have been to Paris.
If you love this and feel like this is the best way to relax on your vacation, fair enough, everyone has their own version of their free time, you can stop reading here, we're not here to judge. If you see a problem with this or at least feel like there is something missing, something that can be just... more, keep on reading.
Living a life defined by what you own?
The tale of Narcissus and Echo comes from ancient Greek mythology, the former was a man that was known for his beauty and never accepted the romantic advances of anyone, including Echo who fell in love with him, but had been cursed by the goddess Hera and could only repeat the last words that were said to her, thus she could never confess her feelings towards Narcissus nor say anything, but watch as he fell in love... With his own reflection in a pond.
We live in a society where everything is defined by possessions, everything that you are, all of your worth, is defined in dollars, and it must be shouted loud! The latest smartphone, the most expansive clothes, the best looking and most expansive car, the need to change and buy each of these again next year as the new model is out.
Of course, as a disclaimer, none of this is supposed to be confused with hobbies and passions (including anything from cars to clothes), but rather a pure definition of someone by their ownership of material possessions and to show it to everyone else, be it for an intrinsic narcissism or just because they were conditioned by society to be like that, as an illusion to what is necessary to be successful: We consume in order to find our value in the world.
Your home is a reflection of your life, so it should be perfectly styled and filled with expansive items and decorations to make that reflection shine. Your clothes are your representation of the outside world and thus, you have to show the absolute very best and the greatest variety. Everything in the modern world we live today tries their very best to keep us tied into this eternal cycle of consumerism, buying things not because we truly enjoy them but by convincing us that we need them and that just fuels the aforementioned social satisfaction of having a house or a body being filled with ever more expansive items, but what is the meaning of all of it? To end up falling in love with one's own reflection such as Narcissus or to repeat the last trends of those who are high in the social circles, chasing the sense of modern social belonging forever like a lost Echo?
It is a philosophy of life that attempts to fix this issue of consumerism that is ever more present in our lives, and much to the opposite of what many people think, it's not necessarily about living in an empty, white, 10 square meters apartment with nothing but a spoon and sleeping on the floor, but rather decreasing the number of possessions you own to those that really make you happy, and valuing much more experiences, growth, health, love, passions, friends, and family.
But yes, I get it, it's easy to get tangled between what you own that you truly like and truly makes you happy (your hobbies and passions) and that what just makes you... Comfortable, nor is it easy to adopt such a lifestyle for all facets of life. So I came here to, finally, propose the adoption of minimalism at least as a form of escapism from this ever-increasing consuming-obsesses society, through:
The idea of minimalistic traveling relates to freedom and decisiveness: Taking away the burden of carrying so many possessions with you, with your entire world constituted by just your backpack and those around you, going out of your comfort zone and feeling truly alive. Packing will be a process of stripping down your entire material worth to the bare survival and adding just the essentials to travel and whatever will contribute to make your travel an ever-deeper experience, you can check out how to pack for a minimalistic trip in this article
The mindset of a minimalistic travel adventure is to realize that the world is filled with incredible people, cultures, sights, cuisine, and experiences in general, and this time it will not be just random shiny words thrown out with no deep meaning.
Taking the weight off your shoulders
Literally and figuratively, traveling with minimalism is part of the broader minimalistic mindset and is not about just getting rid of stuff for the sake of traveling lighter and making use of a budget airline free carry-on policy, it's about being able to know that the stuff you are carrying with you is nothing more then what you needed to perform the trip itself, to survive and go through with it, and the reason itself that you are traveling is elsewhere.
The moment you leave all your comfort behind, even if you have not yet (or decided not to) embrace minimalism as a lifestyle for all facets of life, you will do absolutely anything but that what you truly want. You will visit the Eifel tower without looking for the perfect selfie place, you are there to embrace the moment, the history, the architecture, cuisine, or whatever it is that fills your senses. You will meet locals that will teach you some words in French, take you around, party with you. You will have the time and peace of mind to just venture into the farthest village of the countryside and drink a coffee by the riverside and capture moments, for yourself.
But it's not about you
Minimalistic traveling provides an opportunity in disconnecting from the poisoned social circle of subconsciously empty-minded Instagram-travelers that never make any deep connection with the places they visit, an empty suitcase (or better, no suitcase at all) means that your image that you were so heavily carrying around in two wheels through taxis and baggage belts in airports doesn't exist anymore, it doesn't matter, you don't matter.
You will meet people, you will hear them, you will see a world of experiences and learn, that everyone has a story eager to tell, be it about themselves or about a certain place, region, city, they are proud of, and you are the lucky guest who has been so warmly welcomed and honored to be presented with history, maybe get the opportunity of getting to tell them your story, make new friends, get a certain knowledge and experience that is not possible to get any other way, this is the stuff that doesn't fit in any luggage.
Embracing optimistic nihilism
The theory that there is no meaning in life and thus we can just embrace the chaos and make the most out of our time is a powerful life philosophy, but of course is not for everyone, but then, just like with the concept of minimalistic travel itself, is not something that necessarily should be applied as a base for your entire life, but rather you can try it out when you are wondering about. Although not necessary per se, it goes hand in hand with the philosophy of letting go of all your possessions while traveling and just embracing the experiences.
You don't have control over everything, you won't have, you don't need to plan for everything outside of emergency situations, there is no pre-determined meaning in anything, and why should it? Just let it go!
Embracing nihilism in travel means that, within the frameworks of safety that every person sets for himself/herself, there is no such thing as getting lost, as losing a bus or something not going to plan, that just means there is now a new plan! Got lost in a city in the south of Italy and lost the last bus to the next destination? Well, looks like you will spend the night here now, look: It's a beautiful town with beautiful people! If it looks like a weirdly specific example, it's because it is, right now I am brewing a story of how I and Basanta Lamichhane got lost in the south of Italy and made a wonderful adventure out of it. Sure, sometimes it will be frustrating no matter how nihilistic your approach to it is, but by embracing the chaos, everything can be a new possibility.
It is undeniable that to make the most out of the freedom of minimalistic travels is by taking everything in your back, not having to worry about your luggage that you left somewhere or having to drag it around with you, backpacking makes it possible to do one-day through trips by stopping somewhere in the way between A and B without accommodation, storage, or strict plans. Hiking in a one-way itinerary through the mountains and sudden changes of plans are likewise much easier.
Your greatest possessions are memories
Break your cycle, your life is not engraved in your belongings, what you bought the last Black Friday is not what defines you, your perfect pictures on Instagram should not be the reason for your existence, there is a world out there waiting to be explored, things that you cannot even imagine and for every postcard place that you find through a travel vlogger on youtube there are 10 hidden places you could not have possibly imagined. Last but not least, this world is made of people, when I was in an old and rusty pre-soviet train rolling through western Romania going to the middle of nowhere for no good reason, I knew that every face I saw in that carriage has behind it a fantastic story to tell, they just need someone to either listen to what they have to say or just experience what they and their ancestors had worked hard to build in their country. While you are out there, you are carrying something that is invaluable, that nobody can touch, purchase or exchange, or take it away from you, and it is the memories, the moments that create them are everywhere and for them to find you, you just need to stop looking at your things, looking at yourself, just pay attention around you, look, feel, taste and listen.