Travel and adventure seem to be essential to the minimalist philosophy. They reflect the shift in focus on experiences rather than possessions that is at the heart of the movement. I am no stranger to this. Seeing new places and doing stuff for the first time are among my favourite things. However, focusing on what matters also calls into question the way we do travel and adventure. If you seek to focus on the essential, you will end up thinking about they way your choices -travel and otherwise- fit into the wider picture: environmentally, socially and ethically. It makes choices and planning harder, and it might look like a way to spoil the fun and take out spontaneity of trips, not to mention making travel more expensive. At the same time, isn’t it bloody great to have more and better adventures, that reflect who you are and maybe even contribute to making the world a tiny bit of a better place? Below are some ways you can start to make a shift.
Think it through
Being at the beginning of a journey towards #simpleliving, I definitely have more challenges than answers in this area. The first phase of the change is becoming more aware of the context and consequences of your choices, and it does feel uncomfortable.
For instance, the environmental impact of all those city breaks and work trips that we take planes for? Makes me feel very bad. However, I have struggled so far to do something about it. However, we have started to plan more train and car-powered holidays with J, which could make a difference in the future.
Overthinking does offer other benefits beyond feeling guilty though. It allows you to realise what is it that you really like, and plan a trip that corresponds to those criteria, be it people, activities or ways of travel. I am starting to realise how much I enjoy outdoors and sports activities, which is a surprising twist to my usual holiday spent mostly in museums. Shopping bans and thoughtful spending initiatives have also put a damper on my tendency to buy souvenirs and something for myself “because that will remind me of the holiday”. Now I know and integrate these in the plans, and trips are much more fun!
You can also think about giving back to the places you visit through supporting local charities, shopping and eating local (the local Starbucks doesn’t count as local!) and visiting community initiatives.
2. Go small/slow
Sometimes the smallest trips are the sweetest! We often neglect exploring our immediate surroundings, and just paying more attention to what’s out there in our own country/city, one can have so many weird and wonderful adventures! I am really inspired by the concept of “microadventures”, which I discovered through the blog of Alastair Humphreys. It is about doing short and exciting things, be it a day hike following a river or spending a night outdoors. These small actions don’t take a lot of planning or time and can help to shift your perspective on the world. Atlas Obscura is another cool resource for weird sights to visit in your vicinity.
Similarly, taking your sweet time while traveling often makes for much more satisfying experiences. You can squeeze all the sights in Rome or Paris into 3 days on a weekend trip, but you will leave exhausted and feeling that you haven’t really experienced the city. Take your time to drink that Aperol Spritz/read a book for an hour in a cafe or just sleep in, and you will have way, way more fun. FOMO is ruining those weekend trips for us.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
Coming from a person with 6 trips to weddings coming up in the next few months, this is not the most credible piece of advice, but hear me out. If you start thinking about why and how you do things, you will inevitably end up with decisions to make. Some examples from my recent trips include:
- Should I bring checked luggage? (Nope, you’ll be fine with carry-on, no one minds if you wear the same two sweaters all week. Or for two weeks.)
- Everyone is going cage diving with sharks! AWESOME, let’s do it! (Nope, upon reading up on the practice, this is actually highly controversial and quite possibly harmful to the sharks. Ahimsa, dude.)
- We just got an invite to the sixth wedding abroad this year. Should we really take another trip? We are broke already as it is. (Yeah, we never said no to a wedding invite. Friends are the best!)
4. Get out of your comfort zone
This sounds like the exact opposite of finding what you know you like. But you know, paradoxes are what make us tick! Speaking to strangers is one of the most terrifying challenges to me. Yet, whenever I muster the courage, it usually results in a nice exchange and learning something about the place I am visiting. Other ways of pushing yourself a little can include trying new activities (sports or dunno, participating in a flashmob) , visiting places you would have never considered a worthy destination, or just saying yes when friends and people you have just met propose to do something fun (with some obvious limits on saying yes to offers from strangers! Stay safe everyone!).
What are some of your tips for thoughtful travel?