Humans are hoarders. We tend to collect and store things in an attempt to make our existence more comfortable. When we travel, however, this tendency becomes inconvenient, as we pretty much drag our lives inside a suitcase from one place to another.
I used to be an over-packer. Every short holiday abroad was the perfect opportunity to stuff everything I could into my luggage in an effort to replicate the comforts of my own home.
This all changed when I started a two-year backpacking adventure around Europe.
During that trip, I got the chance to volunteer in different countries using Worldpackers. This allowed me to find accommodation in exchange for work in several cities and engage meaningfully with locals and travelers alike.
Of all the lessons I learned in those 24 months abroad, the one that’s continually stuck with me is how to adopt a minimalist mindset while traveling.
My experience abroad was not a vacation or a quick weekend trip; rather, it was a deep dive into a completely new lifestyle. I had to adapt to a new routine, which included becoming a lighter traveler. It took me a while, but I figured out some key tips to embrace the minimalist travel mindset and enjoy my experiences exploring the world even more.
How to Adopt a Minimalist Mindset for your Travels:
1. Treasure moments, not things.
Before my first Worldpackers travel experience, I couldn’t travel anywhere without getting at least one souvenir. I would pack a bag full of gifts for my friends and family, and I would make sure to buy the most famous delicacies to take home with me.
I did this in an effort to collect memories, which was useful back then. However, when I finally embraced slow travel and gave myself time to really get to know the local culture, I realized that the best way to remember a trip was by actually living it.
This epiphany had a huge impact—not only on the size of my luggage, but also on the way I chose to experience my travels. Gifts are nice, but real-time moments are the best souvenirs.
2. Share with other travelers.
One of my favorite things about volunteering abroad is the fact that it encourages you to connect with other like-minded travelers. Throughout my Worldpackers work exchange programs, I had the opportunity to meet other volunteers and locals, all of whom helped me on my journey to adopt a minimalist mindset.
As I bonded with my hosts and fellow work-exchangers, we figured it was easier and more practical for all of us to share our things. We would shop for groceries together, cook meals for the whole staff, share the cost of gas whenever we went out on a road trip, and even borrow each other’s clothes if we needed to!
This helped us cut down on expenses and use everything we bought for a specific purpose.
3. Buy locally and avoid waste.
Buying local products made me much more conscious of my consumption habits and waste levels. Whether I purchased locally-grown fruits and vegetables, or a hand-made scarf for the winter season, knowing that someone put so much effort into creating it helped me to appreciate my purchases more and make good use of them for as long as possible.
It doesn’t matter if it’s books, clothes or even points of view, the idea is to repurpose and exchange as many things as you can.
Many cafes around the world have book exchange programs that allow you to take a new volume with you as long as you leave one behind. Additionally, second-hand shops will often pay you a small fee for your unwanted stuff, or let you pick something else from the store in exchange.
The best way to discover these types of places is by talking to locals, which is easy to do when you work abroad. For instance, most Worldpackers hosts know their way around the area, and they can point you in the right direction. Of course, participating in a work exchange itself is also a great option to economize, offer your expertise, learn new skills, and get to know new places.
A work exchange typically entails the exchange of work for accommodation, but there are also so many other benefits. You get to really immerse yourself in the local culture, which leads to a more authentic and enriching experience of your destination.
More than anything else, work exchange helped me adopt a minimalist mindset for my travels by lightening my emotional baggage. Work exchange gives you the opportunity to have a temporary family and a sense of belonging, which is an incredibly valuable asset for travelers.
In short, exchanging in this way as you travel is a fantastic way to adopt a minimalist mindset and deepen your travel experience.
5. Learn how to let go of things.
When you have the opportunity to live unique experiences, bond with extraordinary people and get to know new and unexpected places, things tend to become less valuable. As a result, when you realize that the things you’re carrying aren’t serving any purpose, you learn to let them go.
This doesn’t just apply to physical baggage, but to emotional baggage as well. My travels abroad have allowed me to lighten my load in more ways than one.
If you want to adopt a minimalist mindset for your travels, I encourage you to just get out there and explore how you can use work exchange to travel the world. You’ll learn so much along the way, and you won’t be disappointed.