Best Minimalist Packing Tips for Nomadic Travel

Updated: Apr 9

Since travelling I've been able to relieve a lot of innate stress associated with acquiring and maintaining material goods. I was really surprised at how easy it was to get back into the habit of accumulation after getting an apartment in Florida. When we hit the road again 6 months later, there was a lot of baggage to deal with.


When you travel full time, you don't have to worry about most utility bills, car maintenance or insurance, and a lot of extraneous goods that require mental space simply to own. There's no real way to make a comprehensive guide of "what to pack" or "essentials" for living stationary because this varies person to person.


One principle I've found helpful is that multi-taskers are generally worth more space in your life than uni-taskers. For this reason, things like small pieces of rope or sharp bamboo sticks were actually very useful to keep in the backpack.


I had a whole minimalism journey lasting months and months before deciding to be nomadic the first time in 2018, and then in the week between deciding to ditch my home base and taking the flight, that same progress made in months was made about 10x over. And then, even after becoming nomadic with all of my belongings in a suitcase, I still had more and more to go. Every time I pack up my backpack to change locations, I think, “Damn, I still have way too much stuff” and vow to get rid of some percent of it by the next time I travel to lessen the load on my shoulders.


A really valuable lesson is that materials can't really be owned. Of course there are some things that are really sentimental but even after they are lost, your self-identity should be able to remain intact. The same way people can base their self-worth and identity around the beliefs they hold and can be quite argumentative when those views are threatened, people can also attach themselves to physical materials. Of course, what you build as far as character and mental fortitude is your real self, and that can't really be taken away or threatened beyond the extent that you allow it.


Here are some things that over my time travelling I've found do be of importance for keeping things simple.

Clothes

Climate matters. If I'm staying somewhere hot for a long time, there's no reason to bring tons of sweaters just in case. At a certain point I ditched all my formal wear as well, deciding that if the occasion arose I could simply get an outfit that best fit the purpose. It was easy to fight with myself and say "but if something comes up, I need to be prepared!" In the end I'm in control of my life and what events I'm "obligated" to go to, so that excuse didn't hold up. A sarong or light woven cloth is really useful as a multitasker. As described, I found a cloth that can be used as a towl, a shawl, a robe, or a skirt really useful.


Health/Fitness

Originally we had quite a bit in this category but only a few things have stood the test of time. We ordered travel yoga mats that are super thin. And, if only one of us is doing yoga and there's only a hard floor available we can always layer the two yoga mats atop each other. You can fold it in half lengthwise and roll it up to about the size of a paper-towel roll.


Here's the one I used!





Daniel brings push up bars as they disassemble into nothing. I find I use them a lot as low-weight dumbells or just for assistance in certain moves. Resistance bands are great because they also take up very little space and there's a lot that can be done with them. You never know if there's going to be a decent gym around. I don't bother bringing specific running shoes anymore but a jump rope would be a good add if you aren't a fan of burpees or jumping jacks, as far as cardio goes.

Food & Kitchen

Spices and superfoods that are worth carting around, along with some tools. Cinnamon, for example, can be used in so many ways: on sweet potatoes, on fruit, and in teas. An immersion blender doesn't take up much space but greatly expands the recipes you can make in the absence of any kitchen equipment. I've really considered also getting an Aeropress for coffee. Most places actually have coffeemakers but they're plastic and generally taste bad. A french coffeepot takes up little room but requires a stove. For a long time we used cheesecloth and wire to make drip coffee, and both of those are great multi taskers.


Spirulina, Chlorella, and Moringa are really good picks if you can't have access to greens for an indefinite amount of time. They are basically like concentrated greens, with a diverse array of minerals. The first two are algae derived and have DHA fats which are great if you haven't had fish for a while. Nutritional yeast with b12 fortification is wonderful to have on deck if you're unsure of the quality of animal proteins around or the length of time you might go without animal proteins. Potassium salts would be a good thing to have on hand, as they're hard to find abroad. If you feel the need to fast from food longer than 24 hours, you can do so safely with pink salt and potassium salts. We always brink pink salt when we can because it often takes time to find the health stores that have it. The salt in common grocery stores abroad often has either fluoride or dextrose added to it, and I'd really just prefer the salt. Charcoal is extremely helpful. If we eat something that makes our stomach feel off, accidentally drink too much, or eat something we know doesn't agree with us, activated charcoal undoes the situation. We also use it for toothpaste.


Cheese cloth can be used for sprouting seeds, such as alfalfa seeds. These are great for taking in luggage too because you can have "fresh" food stored for a long time. All you need is an old glass container (from oil, olives, nut butter, or anything that comes in a jar).


One of the largest items we brought on our trip to Spain was a Berkey gravity water filter, and it has already been completely indispensable. The fact that we don't have to lug water up a hill or dispense it out of plastic is amazing. We always have fresh, filtered water, and we remineralize it with shungite on occasion. Also, the Berkey breaks down and you can stuff it with clothes or other items.


Believe it or not, extra washcloths and small towels are extremely useful. Large uni-tasker towels not so much. But even as most places have some rags, it's just immensely useful to have extra for cleaning and such, especially if there's not a washer on site and you may have a messier than usual week where you find yourself running out of rags.


Art and Hobbies

Craft wire is also extremely useful. As mentioned you can make a drip coffee apparatus, but also I managed to make a lampshade, fix jewelry, and generally secure things that need securing.I found jewelry making supplies to be really easy to cart around and also to use as multi-taskers. It's great to make things and give them away on travels, because it lightens the load and leaves a piece of yourself with a friend. I was able to bring and also to acquire fiber working goods too, like yarn and thread for crocheting. I was able to make an extra potholder and pencil case within a few days when it was needed. Crochet hooks and especially finer thread doesn't take up a whole lot of room.


Collage materials, if already pruned a bit, also don't take up a lot of room. You can put an unfiltered selection of pages in a folder and have hours upon hours of collage making supply. It's also fun to mix these with found materials.


I was able to fit a ukulele, but I really only use it for teaching. Of course, I have the option to jam around on it, which is nice. Daniel plays guitar a bit and invested in a carbon fiber guitar made for travelers. The neck actually unscrews and he stuffs the body with socks and underwear. Electronics (including Teaching) In the online teaching world, it really is beneficial to have an extra back-up machine. I personally have a large Windows ThinkPad and a small Linux Thinkpad. Daniel has two Macs of different sizes and an extra tablet. We of course needed to bring headsets with an extra between us and corded mouses. We generally need everything to be corded, so we also bring 50 or 100 foot long Ethernet cords to run from where ever the router is. We bring an extra phone and various adapters. I have a few hard drives, and a battery operated recorder. We bring rechargeable batteries, both the kind that can charge devices and AA, AAA. That's about it.


For teaching and other streaming/recording based modes in income, we also got a softbox and a couple tripods. One tripod is for mounting a webcam, and the other for the softbox, which is foldable and takes up the room of a folder. Before we got the softbox I would always bring a cord kit - just a cord with a bulb socket, and a bulb carefully wrapped in socks to dangle in some way or another if lighting was bad. Usually when we stay in Airbnbs long-term we're able to move around the lamps to our liking, if any. For teaching the biggest space-expense if the props. I've slowly migrated a lot of my props to 2D versions (just pictures that I hold up). But I have about two ziploc bags worth of mini-figurines and various props that are used often. We also both brought our backdrops which are easy to lay flat or roll up in luggage. I used rings with clips so I can clip mine on to something or make a line of string from my string supply. If there is an ironing board in the Airbnb, that usually makes the best desk for my personal teaching. Daniel prefers to stack endtables on top of dressers to make a standing station. Often we also had to teach with no door between us and are able to use my hemp cord to tie up thick blankets to make sound-absorbing curtains.


Hygiene Hygiene routines have simplified immensely as a result of minimalizing my possessions. I'll have a whole post on the cosmetic side of things, as someone who used to get an Ipsy box every month and have so much cosmetic excess that I'd often give unused items to my nieces as Christmas gifts.


Before I explain our dental care, let me share my honest experience that my teeth are super strong and I never have toothaches, and they're generally pretty white as well. Now that that's out of the way, I haven't used store-bought toothpaste since 2017. We make ours with coconut oil, baking soda, peppermint oil, and charcoal. If we can't get a hold of the last two ingredients, we just use coconut oil or coconut oil and baking soda, which are generally widely available. We ordered a batch of about 30 bamboo toothbrushes and we've just been rotating through those for years.


Another thing that might seem strange at first that I no longer buy is deodorant. Daniel has some natural aloe-based deodorant he uses sometimes, but once I weened off of it and balanced my armpit microbiome I find that I just really don't need anything there.


Those are all the main categories of things that we pack with us! Our luggage tends to be about 40 lbs all in all!

 

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