A few weeks ago, I loaded my necessities into a Mammut 30 liter backpack.
I was excited to do this, not only because it was in preparation for my trip to Bali and the Gili Islands, or that I'm one of those rare breeds that enjoys packing. It's that I like the activity of paring down, reducing life down to near essentials, and doing away with distractions (as I wrote about in my previous Backpack as Home musing).
While traveling, I had a few additional thoughts related to minimalism:
(1) A fire at my hostel erupted the fourth morning of my trip, just minutes after I began writing this entry. Because of the quick and disorganized evacuation, I left with my backpack full of clothes ... but without my passport, wallet, and journal. I realized how little I cared even about the few possessions I had but, oh, did I worry about that missing passport, credit cards and my writings. They were later found, but this underscored my minimalist mantra.
(2) I missed nothing during my three weeks abroad. Not even my bed or other creature comforts. How can you miss stuff when you have the gift of experiences halfway across the world? When you let yourself truly be present in a moment, there is no wanting of something else.
(3) Travelers tend to pick up hotel toiletries and buy souvenirs for their friends and themselves. Some even need an extra bag to transport these items home. I can understand the impulse given the unique artwork and other goods I saw and appreciated. But I decided not to make any such purchases, except for some light weight clothing that was much needed in that tropical climate and an extra book to read. The mindset to live with less can't take a vacation.
(4) Waste management is a significant global environmental issue. This was magnified on the small Gili Islands, surrounded by coral reefs. They have too much trash with limited options for disposal, in part because of their remote location and their recent and rapid growth in tourism. It's the problem of single use items being purchased and discarded (plastic water bottles, plastic bags, wrappers from processed foods, etc.) and an inefficient waste management system. In the U.S., we have similar waste issues but they tend to be "out of sight, out of mind." To see these beautiful places being threatened by this very modern problem emphasizes the need for us to rethink how to handle waste and to take more responsibility for the waste we create. (For a primer on zero waste, click here).
(5) All the money I save by not purchasing stuff and not having wasteful spending habits allows for more dollars to spend on travel. This is how less equals more.