In my early twenties I travelled with my pal and the fewest ressources through Europe for 8 months. In the beginning we used public transport and hitchhiked. During our trip we received two old bicycles as a gift in the North of Spain that we converted into touring bikes and with which we cycled through the North of Spain, France, the South of England, Belgium and Holland then. Since we had only very few ressources, we slept outside and also lived very minimalistic otherwise. During our odyssey we learned that the best equipment is in our head – and that we could reach very far and experience a lot on a small budget. Even though today I don’t want to forgo a certain degree of luxury when I travel (e.g. a nice apartment with a comfortable bed), one thing has not changed: my minimalistic travel equipment.
Why this is like that and how you can experience the maximum luxury of travel through minimalistic travels, I will explain to you in this article.
What means luxury of travel?
During my journey to Cuba in May 2017 I met a Chilean couple, which set a new benchmark in terms of minimalistic travels. We drove together in a jeep from Viñales to Trinidad. I consider myself as a minimalist. Those two however put into shade everything I had ever experienced concerning travelling light.
The woman travelled with one handbag and the man only with an ordinary plastic bag from the supermarket. Passport and check cards he carried in his trouser pocket. In the plastic bag he stored a change of underwear and a t-shirt. They told me that they were taking only a short vacation of one week and thus reduced their luggage to the bare minimum needed.
In Viñales they booked a luxurious apartment and otherwise lived the good life. True luxury is not obtained through dragging along equipment but through avoiding superfluous ballast. Because the less ballast you carry along, the more you can concentrate on your travel impressions, the country and its people.
The following travel equipment is absolutely necessary:
- passport, flight tickets, visa, other important documents
- money card(s)
- change of underwear and of socks
- toiletries (tooth brush)
These things you can forgo:
- the second and third extra pair of trousers
- the second and third extra pair of shoes
- 3 or 4 extra t-shirts
- 5 extra pair of socks
Especially when it comes to socks, most people bring along too many. As a backpacker you can wash your socks and underwear in each accomodation or have it washed for a few pennies. The same applies for t-shirts and extra trousers.
Admittedly, the example with the two Chileans is a bit extreme. Even for my taste this little amount of luggage, at least for travels abroad, is set too low. Nonetheless the two have inspired me and shifted the limits of travelling light more downwards. To prepare my next bigger trip I will gladly remember the two super minimalists.
2 reasons and tips for minimalistic travels
1st reason: Too much luggage is overwhelming.
As a backpacker you should factor in a restricted luggage volume. You carry your house on your back and you should already sort out mercilessly at home while packing, in order to fit all necessary utensiles in your rucksack for your forthcoming trip. Still, this does not mean you actually have to make use of all of the available 40, 60 or 70 litres of rucksack volume.
I already have seen backpacker who wheezed and sweated like packhorses under their overloaded rucksacks. Plus, I am quite sure that half of their carried equipment was unnecessary. The third extra pair of pants and the second pair of sneakers can be left happily at home. If you are not exactly going into the jungle, you will always have the opportunity to get a change of clothes anywhere in the world.
Tip for the appropriate rucksack: robust and waterproof duffel bag
In the course of numerous journeys as well as trekking tours or in the daily life, my own personal favourite rucksack emerged. I would not wish to deprive you of this one, because it took me a long time until I discovered this ideal type of backpack for me and my requirements as a backpacker, outdoor freak and motorcyclist.
For many years now I use a waterproof duffel bag*, which you can optimally compress depending on your luggage volume. I well remember the moment when I saw my future trekking backpack hanging in an outdoor shop here in Málaga. When I held it in my hands for the first time, I immediately knew that this was the best thing I had seen until now.
I own this bag for more than 7 years now; it has accompagnied me to Cuba, Thailand, on many tours in Europe (Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain) and more than that I use it regularly as a backpack for motorcycle trips and trekking tours. This thing is absolutely waterproof and almost indestructible.
The following aspects make the waterproof duffel bag the optimal backpacking rucksack:
- Completely waterproof and robust.
- You can easily adjust the volume of the duffel bag through compressing. It is comfortably small when filled with less content, but if you need to carry more, there is more space left at the top.
- The duffel bag has no pockets or zippers on its sides. That means pickpockets do not even feel tempted while you are travelling through alien lands.
- The straps are individually adjustable and keep the pack close to your body. That’s why it is perfectly suited for hiking tours and as a backpack for motorcycle trips. Because if the straps are adjusted correctly, it fits like a second skin.
However, there is one disadvantage of compressible duffel bags:
Since the duffel bag has only one opening, you have to take special care that you pack your belongings in a way that you can find them again blindfolded.
2nd reason: Chaos in the rucksack because of too much equipment.
Everyone who owns a duffel bag like me knows that you can easily be tempted to uncontrolledly stuff equipment into it. After all, it can be compressed excellently – and you could never guess how much does really fit into such a duffel bag. However, everything you put in has to be taken out again once you reach the accomodation for the night. At latest when you need toiletries or a change of clothes. That’s usually when you notice how many unnecessary things you brought along.
What applies for a duffel bag naturally also applies for every other type of rucksack. The act of packing is the best guarantor for an organised backpack. It’s best to store the heavy things on top, the moderately heavy and light things on the bottom of the bag. In this way the centre of gravity is kept ideally close to the body. A positive side effect is that you always know on which level you can find which things.
From a mathematical standpoint, the probability of chaos is higher the more equipment you bring along. For that reason you should create a country-related packing list prior to your trip to choose the optimal luggage.
Tip for a more organised backpack: the right choice of luggage in advance
In order to eliminate a big mess in your backpack from the start, I suggest to draw up a list for the equipment with regard to the respective destination. You can start the list weeks before your journey will begin. On top you should note down the most important points such as passport, money cards, flight tickets, special and country-specific pharmaceuticals like insect repellent or antimalarial, toiletries and personal items like glasses, contact lenses or the like. Thereafter you list everything else that you need for your vacation.
The best address in Germany to inform yourself about special travel requirements and necessary items for specific countries is the homepage of the Foreign Office, which gives hints on travelling and security in any country.
If you already start the list some time before the start of your journey, you have the opportunity to go through the listed utensils from time to time and to cross out items or replace them with others. The aim of the list is that in the end you get the optimum and most minimalistic equipment with regard to the specific destination.
Enjoy the maximum luxury of travels through minimalistic packing!
About the guest author
|Mike Lippoldt emigrated in an unconvential way from Germany to Spain in his late twenties after numerous previous travels, which often took him several months. In his book “Ohne Geld in ein neues Leben” (<eng.> “without money in a new life”), he narrates how he managed to create a new existence from scratch. Today he lives in his chosen home Andalusia on the Mediterranean and writes everything about the outdoors, survival and camping on his outdoor blog ousuca.com [in German].|