Life is hectic. Every day you’re pulled in a hundred different directions. You push through your daily challenges and perform the impossible act of balancing your career, family, and social life. Day in. Day out.
And yet when you plan a daring adventure to the far corners of the earth, you repeat those same old habits that you so desperately need to escape.
Pump the brakes. We need to chat.
Life is complicated, but travelling doesn’t have to be. If you’ve ever been smacked down by traveller burnout (or even felt a slight tinge), it’s time to simplify.
Not sure where to begin? Here are 12 ways to simplify your travel (and your life):
Table of Contents
1. Plan less.
Overplanning plagues all of us. Schedules rule nearly our whole lives, and when it comes to travel, we instinctively reach for our day planners.
If you’re serious about de-cluttering your life, start here: plan less on your travels.
Avoiding overplanning can be tough. After all, you aren’t on a permanent vacation, and you want to see it all. Don’t you?
But unless you’re blessed with Kryptonian DNA and can travel at the speed of light, you simply can’t do it. At least not in that tiny timeframe you’ve set.
Start by identifying a couple places that are most important to you. Ensure you have adequate time to explore each at leisure, and then, scrap everything else.
Changing a minimalist travel plan mid-trip is far easier—and less costly—than switching up a hair-brained scheme to visit 15 countries in 18 days. You’re not a contestant on the “The Amazing Race”. There’s literally nothing at stake in deciding to enjoy yourself at a less frantic pace.
2. Pack less.
To think like a minimalist, you need to pack like a minimalist. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the single carry-on school of thought, eliminating extraneous junk from your backpack is liberating.
Reducing your baggage reduces your stress. Aim for packing no more than seven days of clothing (less if you can manage) and minimize the number of gadgets you bring along.
3. Choose your travel companions wisely.
Who you travel with is huge part of the experience. Choose poorly and you’ll be begging to hop on the next plane to anywhere.
Best friends don’t always make the best travel partners. Find instead someone who is willing to embrace your laissez-faire minimalist travel aspirations. If you can’t, ditch the idea of travelling in tandem and go solo.
4. Learn to say no.
Hawkers, shopkeepers, touts, and taxi drivers are all trying to squeeze one word out of you: “yes.” But unless you’re already dead set on an idea, and have thought it through, you need to default your vocabulary to “no.”
Saying “no” can be uncomfortable. We’re people pleasers. To our ears “no” sounds rude. And we don’t want to step on any toes, do we?
Learning how to say “no” confidently with no explanations is a habit that will improve both your travel and your life. Suddenly, you’re no longer obligated to buy things you don’t really want or do things you aren’t keen on doing; you’ve just freed up money, time, and energy all by uttering a simple two-letter word.
5. Learn more.
Education has the weird distinction of complicating your life before making it simpler. Stick with it and your effort will be rewarded with a healthy smattering of simplicity.
Whether it’s learning foreign languages, history, cultures, or customs, developing excellent learning habits can create opportunities on your travels that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
It also means that you won’t spend your vacation time buried in phrasebooks or guidebooks, perpetually seeking information on the fly. You’ll already be in the know; you’ll never need to second-guess yourself. Most of all, you’ll simplify your travel and experience more.
6. Live in the moment.
All too often, we spend more time planning our next move than making it. We keep our faces hidden behind cameras and our eyes glued to guidebooks. We allow life to pass us by, hoping instead to capture that perfect scrapbook moment to forever remind us of our journey.
Here’s where it all goes wrong: travel isn’t about passively capturing fleeting moments; it’s about living in each one of them.
Even if you love photography or relish in your role as group fact finder, block off time every single day to dispense with cameras, books, maps and any other distractions. Walk around, enjoy a beverage, relax on a bench, engage in conversations—do whatever it takes to live in the moment.
7. Limit technology usage.
If you’re anything like the majority of the population (myself unequivocally included), you spend a large chunk of your day staring down laptops, cell phones, and iPods. And when it comes time to travel, you probably bring most of them along for the ride. Right?
Want to know one of the easiest ways to simplify? Limit your technology usage.
If you’re only travelling for a few weeks, consider leaving your devices at home. You can live without them. (Life without handheld devices isn’t exactly ancient history.)
And who knows? Maybe without gadgets growing out from your hand, you’ll finally find time to get through all of those must-read books that’ve sat on your reading list for so long!
If you can’t stomach being disconnected, at least try to block off certain times, or days, where you do not use any technology. Experiment with social media and email “fasts” on weekends or specific days. Rarely is anything so important that it can’t wait.
8. Slow down.
Everything moves at breakneck pace. Even zombies are getting faster.
That doesn’t mean you need to speed through life too.
Slowing down while travelling is more than just staying longer in places. It’s about doing everything slower: eating, drinking, walking, and admiring—truly savouring all the small things that make travel so interesting.
To appreciate life’s finer points, you can’t rush through them. Slowing down, even a little, can work wonders for your appreciation of the world.
9. Sleep more.
Life doesn’t always afford you the luxury of rest. You need it.
Travel is the perfect way to get away from the complexities of life and grab the few extra winks you’ve been denied all year. Yet amid all the excitement, you choose late nights and early mornings just to fit it all in.
Choosing to sleep more involves a conscious decision to accept that you can’t (and don’t need to) do or see it all. Once you absolve yourself of the guilt of minimizing your travel plans and snag the rest you need, you’ll be more alert and more perceptive. You’ll also feel less obligated to stick to a schedule, meaning less stress and simpler travels.
10. Avoid drugs, limit alcohol consumption.
For many young wanderers, travel is like a perpetual frat party. I’ve heard enough “I don’t remember anything about Amsterdam.” and “Barcelona was a total blur, dude.” stories to know that excessive drinking and drug use negates the whole purpose of travelling.
Enjoying a couple Belgian beers at a brasserie in Brussels is different than pounding absinthe in Prague until you pass out in Old Town Square. Both seem fun at the time, but only one ends in your favour.
Enjoying your travels is always better with a clear head. You remember more, you appreciate everything more, and you don’t have to walk around the next day with a splitting headache and nausea.
When faced with the choice of endless tequila shots or a pleasant day of wandering, choose wisely.
11. Spend more time in nature.
Cities are complicated. And if you spend all of your time in them, your travels will be too.
Escaping urban bustle is a necessary evil for de-cluttering your brain. Even if you absolutely love cities, find time to head into the countryside for some relaxation and quiet contemplation. Hiking, walking, cycling, camping, or berry-picking are all excellent activities to clear the mind and bring focus back to what’s important.
Never discount the healing properties of Mother Nature; she will surprise you again and again.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a spiritual guru to benefit from meditation. Learn how to meditate and you’ll discover how to deal with the chaos around you and achieve inner peace.
To start, create a meditation schedule that works for you and stay consistent. Set aside as little as five minutes a day, find a quiet place, and practice good meditation techniques. Soon enough, you’ll find the world around you doesn’t seem so crazy.