Pack Like a Minimalist

Jennifer Chan
Jul 17, 2018 · 4 min read

How to make travel relaxing again.

The long packing list. The busy lines at the airport. The waiting for your luggage to unload. The weight of your bags as you pick them up, put them down, pick them up, and put them down again.

The point of travel is to chase wanderlust, experience different cultures, and recharge yourself, away from the monotony of your daily life. So, why add stress and frustrations pack into the equation? We underestimate the power of keeping things simple when it comes to travel.

Here are three things that can help.

Use a Carry-On Backpack. If you want to add further agitation to your vacation, check your luggage. If you want to actually have a relatively enjoyable experience, only pack a carry-on. Not only does it become a drag to wait for them to unload your luggage when you arrive, but wheeling a heavy container around will slow you down. The additional space will tempt you into packing more things than you truly need. Similar with large apartments or houses, we use the space as justification to fill them with clutter. Also, if you’re moving around to a few locations on your adventure, you don’t want the trouble of carrying your suitcase up and down stairs, on and off escalators, and wheeling it around like an idiot. Trust me.

Packing Cubes. I don’t mean to sound dramatic but packing cubes will revolutionize how you pack. If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re containers made of fabric, commonly made in a rectangle shape. There’s often a mesh top panel on each cube, so you can easily identify your items. Packing cubes help organize your items, optimize your space, and reduce wrinkles and creases in your clothes. Depending where you purchase them and how many cubes you purchase, packing cubes can be a tad pricey. However, I find the value they bring is well worth the one-time expense.

Ask yourself what’s essential. I used to pack lots of “just in case” items: four tank-tops, three dresses, two coats, three pairs of shoes. What if I needed a fancy outfit? What if the weather is unexpectedly hot? What if the weather is unexpectedly cold? It’s important to be prepared, right?

Wrong.

A benefit of simplifying your wardrobe is the necessity for versatile, high-quality basics. For example, I have three pairs of the same Uniqlo short-sleeve blouse in different colours: white, navy, and dark olive green. The shirt is perfect for casual events and I can always throw on a blazer if I’m going somewhere fancier.

I’m not saying that you need to buy multiple pairs of the same item of clothing— especially if you use clothes to augment your self-expression— but when it comes to traveling, it’s helpful to pack clothes that are versatile and can be worn with other clothes that you pack. Items of clothing that you can only wear once or in really specific situations should stay at home.

How I Pack

Next month, I’m heading to Vancouver and Vancouver Island for one week. It’s hard to anticipate the weather: Vancouver has been in the high-20s (mid 80s in Fahrenheit) this summer, but Vancouver Island is always wetter and cooler (around high 50s in Fahrenheit). I’ll also be hiking, kayaking, and zip lining, which means I have to plan for hot weather, mild weather, and appropriate clothes for a bunch of outdoor activities.

Plastic Bag: hiking shoes; Biggest packing cube: hoodie, rain jacket, pants, shorts, leggings; Medium packing cube: shirts; Smaller packing cube: socks & underwear; Smallest packing cube: toiletries, bathing suit

I did a trial pack, which took me ten minutes, and here’s everything I intend to bring, which all fits in one carry-on backpack:

  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 short-sleeve blouses
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 tank-top
  • 1 dry fit t-shirt
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of workout leggings (for hiking, ziplining, etc.)
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • sports bra
  • rain jacket
  • hiking shoes
  • basic toiletries

I’ll be wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of Nikes on the plane.

Traveling should be fun and exciting, not onerous or burdensome.

Traveling with less is a truly liberating experience. Just knowing that everything you ever need can be carried on your back provides a sense of autonomy and contentment. No longer tied to a 30 lbs suitcase, you can travel anywhere and adapt to whatever.

Happy exploring.

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

Jennifer Chan

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at jennifertchan.substack.com.

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

Jennifer Chan

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at jennifertchan.substack.com.

Simple, Not Easy

Purposeful Work | Personal Finance | Pragmatic Minimalism

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