The Art Of Minimalism (2)
Minimalism On The Road
One of the best aspects of having a minimalist mindset is how it can sometimes challenge you in ways you never imagined - and there's nothing quite like being away from home to force you to think about what you really need in your life.
Inside my head, I knew it was possible to go away for a few days and take only what would fit in my pockets - minimalism in the extreme if you will - but actually committing to it was a whole different ballgame.
The first thing to realise is, unless you're going to Borneo (or similar), most countries have these little buildings - sometimes big buildings - called shops. There's a whole wealth of goodies that can be found in there. Toothpaste, shampoo, toothbrushes - you name it, they probably stock it. It really is amazing.
Seriously, why pack a bag full of security nightmares when you could simply buy it when you get where you're going and ditch it before you come home? So far, this train of thought has not let me down - and believe me, I understand how hair can be a difficult beast more than most, but I've never fallen down a manhole by doing this. I'm not talking medicines and very specific personal items but people really are catered for in other countries as well as we are here. It might be stating the obvious, but you would be surprised at how the idea of this fills some people with disgust at being parted from what they're comfortable with.
It's a big thing out of the way when you don't have to think about that little bag of stuff though.
Clothes can be a pig of a thing to figure out but after a few trial runs, I finally mastered it. When I first went out into the world with nothing, I was in Milan for four days during November (just to give you an idea of what I was up against). One pair of jeans is enough. It really is. Unless you're one of those people who can't keep their food in their mouth or can't resist climbing over rusty fences into muddy cemetaries, it's enough.
One pair of shoes/boots is also enough. Maybe it depends what kind of a trip you're on. If it's business and changes of clothes are important to achieve said business, a bag may be totally necessary, but for wandering around pretending to be lost, no.
T-shirt, shirt, leather jacket. That's the top half. On arrival, t-shirt comes off, shirt back on. If it needs washing for aforementioned food crimes, wash it. Better still - ditch it. Those shops I mentioned, they also sell things like that too. The idea is not to be uncomfortable or dirty - the idea is freedom and if you get a new t-shirt into the bargain, great. So far as I can tell, one black t-shirt bought at home is pretty much the same as a black t-shirt bought away.
I thought the bottom half would be a little more problematic but it's not really. Socks and pants can also be found in our new favourite place. Buy new stuff - ditch the old - then you get to go home with windswept and interesting smalls.
I had built this up to be a big deal before I actually went for it, but going out to find toothpaste and socks is also a good chance to scout the area around wherever you're staying. You get good at it. It doesn't take longer than half an hour but it was only the half hour you would have spent standing around at the luggage carousel - and it's not the end of the world if you decide to do it later either.
It's called freedom.
It's worth pointing out here that the jacket is a key part of this kit. Leather is fantastic. It's warm when it needs to be and won't kill you to death when it's hot. The jacket I have has a whole bunch of pockets but you'd look a fool if you stuffed them with clothes, so keep it essential and flat. I also found a great pair of jeans from Crosshatch with pockets coming out of their ears. Not a ridiculous amount - I do have dignity - but enough to be helpful. You simply need to figure out a way to make what you do take with you work like a Shire Horse.
So my bare essentials list looked like this:
1. Passport - you can't get out of this one
2. iPhone, earbuds, charger cable and plug - sometimes, technology rocks
3. A book - that I left in the room when it was finished, but the habit of reading an ebook on your phone is likely a good skill to foster
4. Cash - another one you can't get out of unless you live by The Card
Pretty slimmed down if I say so myself.
For longer trips, it's still possible to travel light as a feather. Back when I had a week in the mountains of Colorado on the horizon, I figured I might have to take more. This is when I was inexperienced but I still got away with a couple of shirts and a change of underwear - but even in the wilderness of America, you can find both things at the airport on the other side and even locally.
Who knew people who live in the wilderness also need pants and shirts!
But take a bag I did. My trusted Overlander from Scaramanga - the only bag I own (and ever will):
I can't even recall what was in it now. I probably used the clothes I had packed and frivolously took a couple of books and a notebook too - all of which have since been ditched for reading and working digitally on the phone - unless I have a book I really want to finish. What's the point in having the equivalent of a small computer in your pocket if you're not going to push it to the max when you want to travel light?
Digitally speaking, there are worse things to do than take photos of your passport and stash them securely on the cloud... and I can't remember the last time I printed off a boarding pass or checked in at the airport. A smartphone can really be your best friend out in the world. If you lose it, you're screwed but then, if you lost your passport and cash, you'd be screwed too. With minimalism, it's not like you have to look after much while you're away, so look after this.
If you need something to keep money and cards in, I use this Bellroy Card Sleeve. Two cards, driving licence and a fistful of folded notes and it's still flatter than four Dairylea cheese slices stacked on top of each other. A genius piece of material engineering if ever I saw one:
(Maybe I should add this to my list of possessions from the previous post. Hmm.)
I don't think I left anything important out. Honestly, if you're going to take everything you have at home with you, what's the point in going anywhere? Get with the programme and see where it takes you.
Next: Minimalism In The Head
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury