Do I Have to Travel to Be Minimalist?


A lot of people seem to find their way to minimalism through travel. It makes total sense. When you travel, you live with only what you can carry with you. If you have too much, it literally burdens you. You quickly learn to take only what you need; favor the small, lightweight, and multifunctional; and err on the side of leaving it at home. At a certain point, if you really love to travel, you realize that you'd rather save your time and money than buy stuff to keep in your house. You're away from home a lot anyway. Maybe eventually you decide that travel the #1 thing you live for, and you begin to wonder why you have a permanent home at all.

There are also folks who find their way to travel through minimalism. They're dissatisfied with the status quo, and begin the process of dismantling the structures in their lives that don't increase their happiness. Maybe they start by decluttering their home. Maybe they declutter so much that they realize they can move to a smaller house. Maybe they start clearing commitments from their schedule. Now that they no longer need as much money to buy stuff and maintain a large mortgage, they realize they can afford to clear the biggest commitment of all: work. They might be able to change to a more flexible career, or take some time off. With all that space in their lives for just the essentials, for just what they truly enjoy, they realize that what they really enjoy is... travel.

So, travel enthusiasts can dominate online spaces for minimalism and minimalism-adjacent interests (simplicity, frugality, etc.) It can start to feel like travel is the only reason to pursue these interests, or that you're weird if you don't want to travel.

I'm here to say: It isn't, and you're not!

True minimalist confession: I'm not that into travel.

I don't hate it. I like a lot of things about it, actually:

I like to be in beautiful, natural places. I like walking, hiking, birding, and photographing. I like seeing new places that I'm not used to, taking in the particular way things look and smell and feel there. I like looking at the trees, and flowers, and rocks, and wildlife. I like the possibility of seeing a new or unusual bird.

I like exploring urban areas, too. I like eating in restaurants and drinking coffee from small cafes. I like strolling among shops, the more quirky and character-filled the better, window-shopping (maybe a little actual shopping too). I like finding random little gardens and public parks, and exploring public transit (I'm a public transit junkie since I don't drive).

I like temporarily living with very little stuff. I like the mental game of figuring out how little stuff I can live on, and for how long. I like not having to worry about too many things, and being able to quickly move from one place to another without a lot of tedious packing and unpacking. I like going to a new, anonymous place, like a hotel room, and quickly "nesting" with just a few special things. I also like not having too many choices. When you're on a trip, and only have so many things to wear, you don't worry about wearing the same things over and over, or not wearing other things enough.

I like temporarily putting the ordinary grind of life on hold. I like spending day after day having adventures, and not being expected to work. I like long stretches of unstructured time. I like being temporarily device-free.

So I understand, at least a little, some of the appeal of travel. It's just that, given my other lofty financial goals, it's not a priority for me right now.

And that's okay! Minimalism and simplicity are about clearing out what you don't find personally meaningful, and filling your time/space/mind with things you do find personally meaningful. Just because minimalists on the Internet find travel rewarding doesn't mean I have to. Similarly, just because minimalists on the Internet think it's foolish to own a desktop computer, or a whisk, or over 100 items of clothing, doesn't mean I have to give up those things, if they're valuable to me.

It also occurs to me that I don't necessarily need to travel--at least not very far--in order to enjoy the things that I like about travel...

Ideas For Getting Travel Benefits Without Travel This Summer

Most of these are more things I want to do than things I'm really doing (yet), so I'll check back in with you at the end of the summer.

One-Day Mini Adventures
Research 10 interesting places you can get to within a short drive or bus ride from your home. Plan 10 weekend day jaunts to those places. You can cancel only if the weather is inclement. You can't simply "not feel like it." Pretend you've traveled to an Air B&B in order to do this thing and you will never have another opportunity!

Packing For Everyday Life
Clear out a drawer. "Pack" for the next week with as few items as possible. Put the items in the drawer. Live for the next week out of the drawer. (Basic version: clothes only. Advanced version: clear out the bathroom, packing everything into a closet or box, and keep only your small travel toiletry bag in the bathroom for the duration.)

Work-Free, Device-Free Weekends
For one full weekend , turn off your phone, or set rules for its use (i.e. maps and camera only). Disable all push notifications. Hide your computer, or put a sticker over the power button to remind you not to turn it on.

Full Staycation
Combine all strategies for the full staycation. Prepare carefully, as if you will be out of town. Tie up any loose ends. Cancel all commitments. (Having fun with friends is obviously acceptable--make special plans with them, as you would look up a friend who lives in a faraway town.)

The trick will be staying committed to the rules, and not letting regular life creep back in. Travel enforces those things; a staycation doesn't, so it requires discipline. Consider making physical changes to your home, such as doing a deep clean, making it as hotel-like as possible, and packing certain items out of sight.

Comments

  1. Also- swapping homes with friends or family. My parents and I occasionally swap. It's more like a vacation because there isn't always that nagging feeling that I *must* clean the ______ instead of being outside.

    I don't really like travel either (if I did I'd have a lot more friends still!) so I'd probably only do local swaps. Like, within three hours via public transportation.

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