how traveling taught me about minimalism

How traveling taught me about minimalism

Before I left for my long journey across Asia (see article on why I left), I sold a bunch of my stuff and got rid of a lot more. I put in boxes my items that filled me with the most joy (or so I thought), with the KonMari method. This process wasn’t an easy one. But then it was the even harder part, finding what was coming with me. Leaving for two years is quite some time so what did I really need? And how has traveling taught me about minimalism?

Like many travelers, I ended up bringing too much and I had to send some possessions in a box to my family. On the contrary, I also had to pick up some extra stuff, because I didn’t have enough warm clothes and I was definitely not prepared for the snow!!!

I have been on the road for 8 months now. So, what have I actually learned by living with just two bags?

Afraid of minimalism…

I carried way too much

I used to be the person who would bring a suitcase full for a weekend get-a-way. Yes, my husband taught I was crazy too. I was so worried that I would need something and somehow it would be really important, so I brought as much as I could to feel safe. Yes, it has happened that out my 12kg backpack one thing was actually useful, but I killed my back with so much useless junk. So how was I going to survive with only two bags to last me two years?!!…To say the least, I had been the opposite of a good minimalist for a very long time.

Letting go of attachment

When I had to choose what to sell and get rid of, it was really hard for me. I was really attached to my possessions. But as my dear Buddhist monk friends have told me, attachment causes suffering. If one day you lose something, it’s burnt or stolen, you will be very unhappy. Letting go of that attachment will set you free. I am definitely not at their level yet…

Actually, a few months before I left, I was crying in my bedroom when I was looking at my stuff and I was thinking about what I needed to get rid of. It was so difficult emotionally.

But at the same time… The clutter was just overwhelming, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Even though I ended up letting go of a LOT of my stuff, it took traveling, for a while, for me to realize that most of my stuff that were boxed up, I didn’t really think about them. Besides missing my books and a few specific objects, most of those possessions, I haven’t thought about at all. That puts things into perspective for me.

Living in a temple

diy minimalist bamboo broom
brooms we made ourselves with bamboo branches and leaves

A group of people and I lived on top of a mountain in a temple for a couple of months. If we needed something then we had to make it or walk down the mountain all the way to the closest village, which took quite a while.

So, we learned how to make brooms out of bamboo sticks, we made medicinal drinks with herbs from the mountain, we cut wood to make a fire to keep warm. If we needed a shower, we grabbed a bucket with water to pour on ourselves. Our lifestyle was really simple and minimalistic but it was really refreshing and energizing at the same time.

This helped me to learn how to be more independent. Beyond realizing that I didn’t need so much stuff that just cluttered my life and mind, I learned how to do things myself that I never had the opportunity to do before.

I talked more about this simple lifestyle also in this article.

How to let go of stuff?

Saving money to accomplish my dream

Before I made the choice that I was definitely leaving on this trip, I would waste money on so much junk and actually after a while, I felt like I was suffocating in my home.  

Well, what really helped me pass the barrier of selling my belongings and making less purchases was the notion that I needed money to accomplish my dream! I wanted for so long to go traveling all over Asia.

Have you always dreamed of going on a beautiful beach and swim in the clear water of the ocean or maybe you want to go hiking in the mountains or try an archery class? No matter the case, if you spend less on all the daily useless things (old addict to magazines speaking here…), you will have money for the big amazing life experiences and you will reach your goals!

What brings you joy?

Even though Marie Kondo isn’t a minimalist, she encourages to declutter your life by letting go of anything that doesn’t bring you joy and keep what you love. I feel that her method is easier to start with or even continue with. I followed her method before I left. But having everything in front of me made it hard to let go.

Now that I have been with just the basics for several months, I can really tell what sparks the most joy out of all my possessions and what when I come back, I can let go of now. I miss my books so much!!! I am absolutely a bookworm and I do listen to audiobooks (which are great too) but having the feel of the pages in my hands is just not the same.

So sometimes taking some distance can also put things into perspective. Maybe, you are preparing a trip for a couple weeks with your family. When you come back, think about what you truly missed and notice what you didn’t even think about once. 

The useless but makes me smile stuff

Since I have to carry everything on my back now and sometimes, I have to climb a mountain for 3 hours with my two already very heavy bags, I choose very carefully what stays with me. But I have to admit, I have a few small and light objects that I have that are absolutely not useful in any way but to make me smile.

Sometimes traveling and life back home doesn’t go our way. You feel down. So, I like to keep a few things that when I look at them, they remind me to be strong or just make me smile. I have some small pictures and a few keychains with manga heroes on them (yes I am a total nerd).

The KonMari method

Not being over consumerist is good for our wellbeing and the planet, but I believe in keeping things that can be like totems to us or bring us happiness. As with the KonMari method, take each object and try to feel what energy comes to you. Do you feel uncomfortable in any way? Or you don’t feel really anything and it’s not useful to you? Maybe it’s time to discard it? On the other hand, if it fills you with joy, find a special place for it. No use keeping all your stuff in boxes to forget they even exist 😉 hum hum…

Click here to see Marie Kondo’s website.

How to live a simpler and minimalist lifestyle

Find products that have a multi-purpose

After these past 8 months of traveling, I found that some products I had with me could have a multi-purpose, just like having a swiss army knife! This was so helpful to figure out since I had been searching for any way to lessen the weight on my back. I am sure if you start looking around your house, you will notice a lot of objects can be used for different purposes. Can you imagine how spacious your cabinets will look?

So, here are a few examples that will permit you to save a lot of space:

Coconut oil

Besides using it for cooking, here are some awesome ways to use it at home or while traveling: skin and hair moisturizer, natural deodorant (just add a pinch of baking soda), make-up remover (I use it especially for the eye make-up), good for your teeth (have you tried oil pulling? Check out here on how to use it and why it’s good for you) and fights yeast infections like candida (see why coconut is amazing for this issue) and much more!

coconut oil

Aloe vera gel

Can also be used as a deodorant, just put a little bit in your hand, mix it with a pinch of baking soda and voilà! In addition, it’s amazing for the skin. It not only hydrates it but it’s especially soothing when you have a sunburn, click here to learn more .

One thing I love when I travel, it’s that some places like Bali have aloe vera plants everywhere! At the guesthouse where we were staying at or the restaurant we loved to go to, they had aloe vera plants and we could take some when we needed. Sunburns are pretty easy to get when you go the beach or hiking, so it was amazing to have access to fresh aloe vera gel anytime we needed it. If you aren’t in Bali, you can always try to get an aloe vera plant for your home.

aloe vera

Baking soda

Back home, I would mix it with vinegar to clean the sink or the toilet. Now, as mentioned before, I love to use it as a natural deodorant and since you use small quantities, it lasts a really long time!

When you walk a lot in humid environments or train a lot, well unfortunately your feet can start to smell up those shoes. Just sprinkle a little baking soda in them and you’re good to go. I might be speaking from experience after training for 6 to 7 hours a day with the same pair of shoes at the temple.

You can also use it when you have a canker soar, this might hurt but it works well. Otherwise it’s helpful for removing stains on clothes.


With my husband, since we have to carry everything we own on our backs, we are very careful about what we buy. So, when it comes to special occasions, we haven’t been giving each other the same type of gifts than before we left on our journey. For my birthday, he gave me an absolutely amazing gift!!!

We were in Japan at the time and I have been dreaming since I was a teenager watching anime (Japanese animated show), to sleep in a ryokan (traditional Japanese house) and bathe in an onsen (thermal baths). This was not another object to stuff in my bag but a magical memory that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

We arrived in the mountains. When we stepped foot in the ryokan, I was in awe by the beautiful Japanese decorations and the waterfall with all the koi fish. We got to wear traditional kimonos. We ate these traditional Japanese meals for dinner and breakfast, where we were welcomed like royalty (they really know how to receive guests). The onsens? They’re just so relaxing, detoxifying and rejuvenating, you feel like a new person when you come out.

Giving someone an experience to cherish can be so worthwhile!

onsen entrance in a ryokan
onsen entrance in the ryokan

Small gifts can be just as much or not more joyful

You don’t always have to be so extravagant! For Christmas, we went very simple for that. Actually, we both went to buy food to have a nice little dinner in front of a Christmas movie and ended up surprising the other with the same treat, we had 4 of the same pastry! My husband also found a chocolate that I really love and that I had received for each previous Christmas, so it felt really special. Sometimes simple things bring so much more joy than the big ones.

It’s a work in progress

japanese scroll
Beautiful Japanese scroll!

When I went to Japan, I had already planned on getting a bento box (Japanese lunch box) with a furoshiki (a wrapping cloth to transport my box) and I found a beautiful old scroll at a market that I wanted for my future home. I did send these to my family in a box with some possessions I had brought with me that I figured out, after all, weren’t useful for my trip.

Technically, I could send a box of souvenirs from each country I go to, but I prefer to be more conscious of what I am buying now. It is so easy to slip back into old patterns. Trying to be more minimalistic can be challenging. I still have to continuously remind myself, “Do I really need this?”, “Can I make a switch?”, “Do I have enough room in my bag?”, etc. But when you do start asking yourself these questions, it can be very rewarding.

So, come to think of it, this journey can not only help you save a lot of money, so you can travel or live some incredible experience, but you also have so much more space in your home. You will feel lighter, well at least that’s how I feel…And the objects that you own will truly fill you with joy!

Honestly, my back is still complaining about my huge bags, so it’s a work in progress!

How about you? Have you tried to get rid of some of your belongings? How did it make you feel?

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