When you don’t have a proper home base anymore, but constantly move from one place to another, you have to carry all your belongings with you. That can be such a pain after a while. Becoming a minimalist seems to be the perfect way to deal with that issue for many long-term travelers and digital nomads. But what does that mean, the minimalist lifestyle? Do you have to sell everything and start living in a tent with hardly any possessions or money? Find out what this lifestyle is about and how your nomadic heart can profit from it.
Definition of a Minimalist Lifestyle
I think the following definition sums it up best:
Minimalism is the intentional reduction of all the things that we don’t need in our lives and that weight us down. On the other hand, it is the promotion of the things that we appreciate and value most.
Minimalism is about purchasing and consuming what we need, instead of what marketing campaigns and society tell us. It is about focusing on the subjective important things in life while eliminating the negative impacts others have on us.
It’s Not Only About Material Possessions
We all have certain things, that we have never used and probably never will use.
The t-shirt at the back of your closet that you only keep because it might fit one day or you might need it at some point? The fidget spinner you needed to have, but only used it a couple of times? That super fancy kitchenware you used exactly once because it’s too heavy and hard to clean?
Yes, these are very obvious things that can easily be eliminated. But becoming a minimalist isn’t only about material possessions. It’s way more than that. It’s also about actions and habits.
1. Bad Habits
The minimalist lifestyle is also about reducing bad habits. When you try to focus on what’s important in your life, these habits distract you. They are contributing to an unhealthy way of living. They pull you down. That can be habits like smoking, drinking, eating fast food, binge-watching Netflix, or whatever you have.
In terms of material weight, they might not have a big impact. But what happens, when you suddenly need to stop smoking? Or can’t watch the season finals of your favorite shows anymore? Are you free to leave that behind without any difficulties?
2. Bad Food Choices
Never underestimate the impact of food on your physical and mental well-being! I don’t say that minimalists only eat super healthy vegan food and never have any bad days. But focusing on real food can definitely be part of a minimalist lifestyle.
Options like vegetables, fruits, rice, or potatoes can be bought almost everywhere in the world and for little money. Cutting out on processed and multiple packed foods is not only environmentally friendly but also healthier for your body and mind.
3. Information Surplus
Something that many people do on a daily basis: Read the newspaper, listen to the news on the radio or on TV, and constantly check their Facebook newsfeed. The question is, do you really need to know everything? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of constant education, learning, and growing.
But what do you do with the fact that your old classmate’s wife bought a new mowing machine for her dad? Or that it’s going to be some lovely sunny days somewhere in Alabama next weekend when you are in Italy?
Tim Ferris, the guy who became famous with his “The 4-Hour Workweek” book, is not much of a fan of information overflow either. He never reads or listens to the news, but only asks friends every once in a while what’s new in the world to get a short update.
4. Routine Reduction
Becoming a minimalist is often attended by reducing routines. This is particularly true when you are a long-term traveler or digital nomad. When you move from one place to another and constantly live in different situations, it’s hard to keep all of your daily routines. But that can be a good thing.
Try to keep fewer routines, but more efficient ones. Focus on routines that significantly increase your well-being or productivity.
Many digital nomads have a certain morning routine to start their day right. That can be drinking lemon juice every morning, going for a morning run, or doing a yoga and meditation session. These are also typical minimalist activities because they can easily be done anywhere and anytime without much equipment.
5. Experience Embracement
Most people have a certain budget to live on. Let’s say you have a couple of hundred dollars available. Do you buy that fancy Gucci bag you saw in that magazine the other day or do you take the money and go on an epic weekend road trip with your best friend?
We all know the saying:
Collect moments, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
And it’s true. Although, it’s very tempting sometimes the joy of material possessions is often only of short duration. Experiences, on the other hand, can last your entire life.
Why Do We Practice Materialism?
In order to understand why becoming a minimalist can be a good choice, we should look at why people go for materialism in the first place. It’s hard to give a general answer to this question because everyone has their own reasons.
However, I think a big portion of it is to satisfy our egos.
We buy that big flashy watch only because it symbolizes success. Marketing campaigns tell us, that we are something special when we wear it and society will look up to us and admire us for it. But do you really want or need it or are you just listening to that fake radar?
Another reason is the illusion that more material possessions make us happier. That’s simply not true.
Money can’t buy you happiness.
Travel to countries where people are forced to live a minimalist lifestyle because they are poor. I’ve seen many places where people don’t have much, but they are still incredibly happy and welcoming. They share the little they have with their guests and are content with their life.
If you depend your happiness on something materialistic, you’ll never be satisfied, but always strive for something else.
A third reason is the fact that we want to be prepared for all events.
What if I ever need that oversized shirt with those blue dots and funny sleeves again? These kinds of events often never happen. If they do, go buy one. If they don’t have it anymore, well, bad luck. You’ll find another way to deal with it. But it’s not worth dragging it around with you.
Make sure you purchase, keep, and consume things for the right reasons.
“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” ― George Carlin
Minimalism & Being a Digital Nomad
Many long-term travelers and digital nomads live a minimalist lifestyle. That makes sense considering the fact that they often don’t have a home base but carry their belongings with them. So focusing on the most important items and packing wisely is essential.
There are people out there, who take this idea very seriously. To travel as lightly as possible, they only pack as little luggage as possible. Take Raam Dev as an example. He managed to travel around Southeast Asia for months and months with only 25 items in his backpack. Pretty impressive!
But as already mentioned, becoming a minimalist is not only about material belongings. When you are on the road a lot, you can’t and don’t want to keep up too many routines. Every day can be different.
You’re naturally more focused on experiences because that’s a reason while you travel, right? You try to reduce your bad habits because there is no time and sometimes no opportunity for them.
Moreover, you focus more on essential and healthy food because often you won’t have too many options and you realize how important nutrition is to keep you physically and mentally fit.
And you won’t be able to soak up unnecessary information anymore since you might not constantly have internet access or time to.
Advantages of Becoming a Minimalist
There are some great benefits you can look forward to when becoming a minimalist.
Financial Benefits. Don’t waste money on things you don’t really need. Save it for something that is truly important to you.
Physical Comfort. Especially when you move around a lot it is so much easier when you don’t have to drag two suitcases, a travel bag and a handbag with you, but can get along with less.
Time & Money Saver. Loading your luggage in a taxi, pack and unpack, waiting at the baggage claim – that all takes time. If you manage to travel with carry-on luggage only, you will also save money for check-in items.
Flexibility. Grab your backpack and off you go. Pulling a massive suitcase behind you on a dirt road somewhere in Costa Rica is not so much fun.
Security. Having more items, means you have to take care of them. The more valuables you have, the higher the risk, someone wants to rob you. If you don’t have too many expensive belongings you can worry less.
Happiness. Although minimalism is by no means a guarantee to become happy, it can help. When you focus on positive things like relationships, health, and experiences, you won’t have much room for negative thoughts.
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Disadvantages of Becoming a Minimalist
Becoming a minimalist doesn’t only have benefits. There are some downsides, too:
Restrictions. You are by no means restricted to a certain amount of items. But you might feel an intrinsic urge to contain your needs and thus, won’t buy something, although you really want it.
Choice Reduction. When you only take a few pieces of clothing with you, you will wear them over and over again and don’t have too many options for an exchange.
Economic Standard. People often assume you are very poor or very weird because you don’t own a lot of material things and live such an unconventional life.
How To Become a Minimalist
Many people like the idea of becoming a minimalist but struggle with the implementation. In most cases, it is nothing that happens overnight. It is a change in your mindset that takes much discipline and willpower.
1. Before you start your new minimalist lifestyle, write down your goals. Why do you want to live like that? Do you want to save money? Become mentally free of certain things? Be able to travel the world more comfortably?
2. The hardest part is often to give up on material possessions. Clean out your closets. If you can’t throw away the things you don’t need at once, take your time. Start with the items that you can get rid of easily.
3. Put the items, that you feel more attached to, aside and leave them there for a while. See how you feel about them later. If you still don’t want to get rid of them after a few days or weeks, keep them. If you are going to give up your home base, store them at a friend’s place, or rent a storage room.
4. When you feel the urge to impulsive shopping, make a deal with yourself. Wait a few days and if you still feel like you need to have that particular item, buy it. Make sure you don’t buy it because of an exciting ad, but because you need it and it really makes you happy.
5. Also think of other parts of your life that you want to change. Do you want to let go of relationships? Focus on real and healthy food? Get rid of bad habits? Make a list and also note all of your reasons. When you feel like you fall back into old habits, look at the list, and remind yourself, why you wanted to change it.
6. Do a revision a while after you started your new lifestyle. What has changed and how do you feel now? Thinking consciously about the benefits and how you have profit from it, helps you keep going. Maybe you will find out, that you live too minimalistic and are not happy with it. In that case: adjust accordingly!
Everyone Has Different Needs
There is no strict rule that defines how many items you are allowed to have when becoming a minimalist. This lifestyle can be implemented in many different ways. Everyone has different needs and wants to have different things in life. What is pure luxury for one person, is essential for another.
These needs also change over a lifetime. For instance, I was totally happy with hostel dorm rooms when I was traveling ten years ago and thought private rooms are an unnecessary expense. Today, I need private rooms to have a quiet working environment and get more rest to be able to work.
Not everyone can live and be happy with a minimalist lifestyle. But in my opinion, the concept is not so much about what you possess or in what parts of your life you want to live minimalistic. It is more about the intentional decision to focus on the important things in life and reduce what weights you down in any way.
The minimalist lifestyle is a great way to clean up your life. Get rid of unnecessary clothing, electronics, habits, relationships, thoughts, or everything that pulls you down. Focus on what’s important in your life; the things that make you truly happy.
If you are a long-term traveler or digital nomad, you most certainly don’t have to live like that. But becoming a minimalist is a great way to travel lighter in any imaginable aspect.
Find out what works best for you and decide on your own if this is the kind of lifestyle you feel comfortable with.
Do you have any experience of living a minimalist lifestyle? Let me know in the comments below!
Check out one of my last articles: How To Become A Digital Nomad: Complete Guide For Beginners