Preparing for my three-week trip to Europe meant months of planning, researching, and coordinating to ensure everything went according to plan and no monuments were left behind. As a minimalist from Maui who is used to making decisions based on simplicity, this amount of planning stressed me the hell out.
So after spending a few days in Europe frantically attempting to do all of the things and completely burning out energetically, I gave myself permission to do less, plan less, be spontaneous, and only say "yes" to things that I truly wanted to do. Here are my top five tips for traveling as a minimalist:
1. Don't try to do it all.
It can be so tempting to try to hit every single monument, museum, park, and attraction, but it's often unrealistic to think you’ll be able to do everything in one trip. Attempting to cram in hundreds of attractions is only going to leave you stressed out and exhausted. Instead, choose a few "must-see" sights and attractions in each city and be fully present in the activities you do get to experience. This will leave room for some unplanned wandering time to explore new areas and stumble upon unique, off-the-beaten-path shops and restaurants.
2. Don't plan your every move.
You should of course coordinate your sleeping arrangements and transportation ahead of time, but there's no need to map out every single step of your trip beforehand. In big cities, public transportation is cheap and easy to figure out at the last minute, and walking is a great (and free!) way to explore new areas. Plus, the city that you’re visiting likely has different modes of transportation that are unique to that country, and a fun way to explore, such as a tuktuk or gondola.
3. Don't feel like you have to eat out at every meal.
Eating out your whole vacation is the quickest ways to minimize your bank account—especially on a long trip. Choose a few must-indulge restaurants over the course of your stay, and shop at local markets the rest of the time. What's more perfect than a relaxed picnic in the park accompanied by a little vino anyway?
4. Do disconnect.
As a digital nomad with my own online business, I found it extremely hard to disconnecting from the internet on my travels. In the end, I only logged on a few times throughout the entire 21-day trip, each time with a conscious goal in mind (i.e., posting a blog post or adding a YouTube video rather than mindlessly scrolling social media). Even after a few days, I noticed my iPhone addiction decreasing and even went hours without picking it up. Nixing your phone and internet when traveling is a great way to create connection with those around you, be present in the moment, and save on your phone bill.
5. Do embrace local culture.
No matter how silly I felt when I tried to speak a few words in another language, I almost always got a positive response from locals. It reminded me how important it is to embrace local culture and remain open to different customs and habits.
6. Do relax food restrictions.
In the United States, it can be extremely easy to become wrapped up in the latest dieting trends. In Europe (and other places abroad, I'd imagine) dieting is much less common. It is completely acceptable to eat bread, cheese, meat, and wine with nearly every meal—and in fact quite difficult to find food that doesn’t contain one or more of these food groups.
Instead of stressing out about whether these foods would hurt my stomach or make me break out, I let myself eat whatever I wanted and just monitored the way it made me feel. Traveling abroad is one of the best motivators to break free from self-imposed restrictions and instead focus on simplicity and enjoyment.
A minimalist mindset doesn't have to stop once you land back home. Here's how to craft a minimalist beauty routine and become a minimalist in the kitchen. And just for fun, a quick quiz to see if you've taken minimalism too far.