Traveling is my life.
I travel for adventure and for business. I travel for exposure to new views and for hopes of finding those ever more elusive “greener pastures” around the next corner.
As I have traveled over the years, a curious thing has happened to my traveling habits. My suitcases have gotten smaller and my “necessities” have gotten fewer.
When I first started hitting the airways I tried to pack every imaginable item I might ever need away from home. I left nothing to chance, nothing that could break my daily routines or conventions. I carried coffee makers, clothing for every situation, a cornucopia of preventative medications and even foods that would satisfy all insecurities and home-sickness cravings. I filled every luggage limit.
Slowly I started leaving things behind until now I travel with only a backpack (moderately sized and “carry on” for all airlines), a small laptop, a camera and basic items like a toothbrush and a couple changes of clothes. I also bring my passport, drivers license and a couple of ATM cards.
The only item I can’t carryon (that I wish I could) with this method is a Swiss Army knife. I haven’t found a satisfactory solution to only using carry on luggage and traveling with this multipurpose, extremely useful gadget.
The philosophy behind minimalism is to experience as fully as possible the chosen destinations. Of course, the minimalism philosphy won’t work if you are traveling with children or if your travel is strictly for relaxation. And it won’t work if you are traveling solely for business (more extensive attire is usually mandatory in this case). I can’t imagine traveling long distances with very small children. They gain nothing by it and you lose a lot.
I love arriving in a new town and eating the local food and flowing with the existing social scene(s). If I travel to a country with a language I don’t know, I either take a small paperback dictionary/phrase book or, in the case of Mexico where I do know the simple phrases but often want a more detailed language experience, an electronic dictionary.
In any country as a tourist it is usually very easy cover the basics of life.
Food is automatic for me: I eat what is available. People such as vegetarians with food prejudices have a difficult time living outside of their protected environments. I am a carnivore and like to experience new types of food so this basic need is covered with gusto.
Health is another basic concern. Do I worry about getting food and water born illnesses in new places? No, but I carry a dose of cipro and an anti-diarrhea drug as a backup. Only once in many years have I had to use the cipro and that was in Thailand.
Water, also, is easy to cover: I usually drink the local beer. It’s always safe. Hot tea and coffee are also good choices.
For self-medication I also carry aspirin and naproxin (because I’m old and achy). Carrying prescription medications is sometimes necessary but make sure that you have the documentation to back them up as some drugs legal some places are not legal in others. If you’re really heading into the outback, some toilet paper and pre-moistened hand wipes might be indicated. You won’t need toilet paper for travel to most cities.
Because I wear eyeglasses, I take an extra pair along with a small eyeglass repair kit.
Clothing is something that I always get wrong so I travel with very little. I carry 3 sets of underwear, an extra pair of pants, a couple of shirts and a swim suit. If possible, I layer my travel clothing but this does not work well in tropical countries. If I stay in a place for more than a few days, I buy what I need locally and this can always be done very economically, especially in tourist areas. Tourists will always look like tourists so I don’t bother trying to fit in, fashion-wise. For shoes I have sandals and light hiking boots.
Some people take books on trips but I prefer to get my diversion from real life, not from the recorded.
For contact with the outside world, I have a small netbook computer with wireless (tho I also carry a short network cable for those places not wireless). I have Skype set up on the computer for phone calls. It weighs nothing, can’t get lost and can phone anywhere very inexpensively and easily. Most travel destinations have internet cafes. Many hotels have internet access. The old days of incommunicado travel are gone.
Miscellaneous items that I often carry are a small flashlight and a collapsible umbrella. The flashlight I use often but the umbrella rarely; I may start leaving it out of the backpack.