The Minimalist Guide to Travel Sanity

I’ve been a frequent traveler for a few years now, but since last October things have been ramping up a bit as I try to make my presenting and teaching into a significant income stream.

One thing I’m very wary of is self-care while on the road. A couple of years back I had quite a burnout after a six-week junket that manifest as physical illness as well as muscle and back strain. Add on to this a general malaise and it was the world telling me without any doubt that I was doing it wrong.

What ended up happening was not just one thing, but several lifestyle changes including moving to Madison, WI and a more serious investigation into the meaning of “home” and health. It’s also meant looking at ways to make the travel that I do take part in be more sustainable.

One single over-arching principle keeps on re-appearing both in my research and in my own practice of self-care during travel: minimalism. Now, I’m not the one in the family who writes books on the subject, but here’s my top five minimalist travel tips:

  1. Pack Smart: I fell in love with this packing technique right after I saw the video, and it’s made a huge difference in my ability to limit myself to one suitcase.

    Combine it with some of these and you’ve got more room than you know what to do with. Just remember:  this cuts down on volume, but not on weight.
  2. Stay Connected with a Select Few: It’s fine to tweet and instagram and such – but instead of chatting with everyone, have a few people – or even just one – who you stay in contact with as your support team. It can be chosen family, it can be penpals – but don’t spread your digital self too thin.
  3. Bring Nuts: For me, the best “emergency” food is almonds and cranberries. For others, it might be something like a Spirulina Energy Bar. I guarantee you one thing: your best emergency food is not a Snickers. I the ingredients and processing of the foods I have handy really simple (dried apricots? Heaven) you save the hassle of lines, of futzing with money, and your body will thank you.
  4. Customize Your Environment: This is a trick I learned from an old friend who used to travel more than me: when you get in the hotel room, change one thing. Move a chair, put the table by the window, maybe even cover the TV with a sheet. But do something  that makes it not just the same old hotel room as the rest of the place.
  5. Travel Slow: Yes, I got this straight from the Professional Hobo herself, Nora Dunn. I was putting it into practice subconsciously before reading her book, but now that it’s a deliberate practice it’s even more useful. The thing is, it doesn’t just apply to things like trains and buses; when you’re “traveling slow” suddenly the queue for security is not as bad, nor is the wait for a hostess at a restaurant. All those little annoyances that can be the difference between a good trip and a bad one? You’d be amazed at how they disappear if you just slow the @#$! down.

Bonus tip: Hydration. I invested about a year ago in a Vapur Element Bottle and it’s both improved my personal hydration and also been a great money-saver. I don’t buy bottled water, I fill up at the fountains or taps (which are cleaner than most of the world’s water, you knew that, right?) and just clip the thing onto my bag (or on the pocket on the back of the airplane seat, which is handy). Then when it’s empty, I don’t have to look for a trash can or carry it around with me – I fold it up and it goes in my bag till the next refill.

I call this one a “bonus” because the dirty little secret is that it actually applies to life in general, not just travel. Whether you are driving across the country, flying across the ocean, or walking downstairs to study (you know who you are) you should have a water bottle with you.

That’s what I’ve got. What are your best simple and minimalist travel tips?


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