Traveling the world with just one small suitcase

The Minimalist Style of Packing

What would you say if I tell you that you can travel the world for months with just one simple suitcase? You would probably believe that I am crazy. You are probably recalling times during your trips when you felt like you were playing Tetris with your belongings to make everything fit on that gigantic, yet insufficient, suitcase. I know that feeling because I’ve been on the same situation. However, I am here to tell you that it is completely possible to travel for weeks or even months with just one small suit case. It just takes some self-control and appropriate planning. First, let me tell you a little bit about how I ended up with this conclussion.It’s been a long time since I last touched a computer, it’s been a long time since I last needed to use more than five different outfits, and it’s been a long time since I last needed to have more than fifty dollars on cash with me for a day. No, I didn’t shipwreck on a deserted island. I took a short (one month) vacation and traveled to Spain (Madrid), England (Bournemouth and London), and France (Paris). But here is the kicker: I did all of this with just one small suitcase that had less than 25 pounds inside.

This vacation was all a little experiment: I wanted to see if I could survive (while still having a great time) without all of the perceived needs that come with a sedentary life. Notice the word “perceived” on that last phrase. Most people like to gather stuff that they neither use nor will ever need. If you think this is not true, let me ask you: when was the last time you used that shirt you bought during that rock concert one year ago? Or, when was the last time you used that tie that you thought was hilarious? Chances are that it has been a long time since you used those things.

There is no better way to ruin a travel around the world than having to carry a huge amount of useless belongings with you.

It is time to learn the art of packing light.

In this post, I am going to introduce you to a concept that I like to call “Minimalist Packing”, and I will give you a short packing list that will serve you as a future reference when you decide to try the minimalist approach to packing for yourself. Let’s get started.


Minimalist Packing

I define Minimalist Packing as the act of only bringing the absolute necessary items with you on a trip. Let me repeat the word necessary. It is very easy to feel the urge to bring every outfit on your closet, all of your tech gadgets, a dozen different books (travel guides, non-fiction, and fiction books), your personal drug store, and all of your personal hygiene items with you with the intention of being prepared for every possible scenario. Being prepared is not always a bad thing (making sure you have all of your documents ready is a good example of this), but you will soon discover that there are just a handful of items that count as absolutely necessary.

The minimalist approach of packing is all about bringing only the absolutely necessary with you.

There are two principles that make the minimalist style of packing work:

Buy It When You Arrive:
Do not waste suitcase-space by bringing body lotions, shampoo, soaps, or sun screen bottles. Instead, separate some cash (around $75 to $100 dollars) and use them to buy items of this nature once you have arrived to your destination. This will not only give you extra space but it will also make going through security at airports much faster.

Personal hygiene products can be purchased on any drugstore, travel guides can be purchased at the airport, umbrellas can be found pretty much on any store if you are on a rainy place, and hoddies or scarfs can be found cheaply in cold places. Also, hotels normally can provide you of tooth brushes, toothpaste, razors, soap, and other items that would otherwise be pointless in your suitcase.

It will cost you money (airport fees), time (going through airport security), and energy (having to carry pointless stuff with you to every place) to carry unessesary things with you. Bring some extra money with you and free yourself from unnecessary worries and win extra space in the process. You can thank me later.

Example: I visited England and France. The weather on these two countries is mostly rainy, windy, and cold. However, I only packed a sweater, a blazer, and a leather jacket. Once I was there I bought an umbrella and two hoddies for about $50 dollars*.

Do Not Buy/Bring What You Can Borrow:
It is no use to bring something that you know someone else is likely to have. Save some extra space by using the magic words:

“I am sorry, but can you borrow me your _____. It seems that I forgot mine”.

If you ask properly, there is no reason to for people not to be polite and give you what you need. Just make sure you return what you borrow.

Example: I did not mention it, but I took this trip with my best friend. His brother had already been in the UK, which meant that he already had a voltage conversor/adaptor that we could use to plug in and recharge our electronic devices without having them explode.

My Packing List:
This is the list of everything that I packed for my vacation to Europe. Unlike some lists that you are likely to find somewhere else, this list does not include expensive cameras or brand new gadgets designed for professionals or expert travelers. I wanted to keep things really simple and practical so that absolutely anyone could use my list as a useful guideline for their own packing. Here is the list:

• 5 long sleeve shirts
• 5 Jeans
• 8 Pair of socks
• A Leather jacket
• A Blazer
• A Sweater
• A Pair of tennis shoes. Make sure you bring comfortable shoes since you are likely to walk a lot during your trip. This really saved my feet on Bournemouth.
• Sunglasses
• One pocket flash light. This may seem unnecessary, but it turned out to be quite useful the night that the night went out in my hotel and my cellphone’s battery died. Nothing fancy, any pocket flashlight will do.
• A foldable gym bag. I intended to use this as an emergency bag for extra space if necessary, but I ended up not needing it. Instead, I used it to carry my dirty clothes when I needed to do my laundry.
• Earplugs. Courtesy airline’s earplug are just too uncomfortable for me.
• Headphones. They are bigger than earplugs, but they offer a better sound quality and are much more comfortable.
• 3 combination security locks. One for my suitcase, one for my gym bag, plus an extra one just in case.
• Swimsuit
• 3 short-sleeve shirts. Madrid is too hot for long-sleeve shirts, but I only stayed there for about a week.

That’s it. It may seem like too little for traveling for a whole month to 3 different countries, but this proved to meet my requirements perfectly. Use this list as a guideline and feel free to make changes to fit your own requirements. Just remember to follow the two principles that I mentioned in this post.

Peace, Ricardo Fabila

Actually, the umbrella I got was quite expensive. It cost me £20 pounds (about 33 dollars). I bought it because its quality was outstanding. It never broke regardless of the heavy wind that broke half a dozen of umbrellas in Stonehenge. If you are visiting countries with similar conditions, I suggest buying the best umbrella you can afford since cheap umbrellas are likely to break in less than two days. Trust me.

Title Photo Credit: flickr
Photo Credit: flickr