What three months of travelling taught me about minimalist living

Written by Bianca Caruana

Have you ever thought about what you would take with you if you only had one backpack to put all of your belongings in? For me travelling triggered that question and it seems that, surprisingly, one backpack just might be enough for everything we really need.

It was the night before I was leaving for my extended travels through Southeast Asia. I was rummaging hastily through my belongings, deciding what I would need to take with me and how I could fit my whole life for the next 12 months into one 50-litre backpack. Choosing which items would serve a purpose, and which would take up unnecessary space in my bag, it took about two hours to pack the 16 kilograms of stuff that would get me through the next year of travel.

Walking through the airport, my bag was already weighing me down. I was already struggling and I hadn't even left the country. I just kept thinking that my muscles would adjust to carry the weight and I would be superwoman by the end of the trip. What was even in here? A few shirts, a few pairs of shorts, a year's supply of medicine, toiletries and a few pairs of shoes? It felt like there were a tonne of bricks in there as well! I convinced myself I needed it all and confidently walked through the airport gates to commence my long awaited, long-anticipated journey through Asia.

After six weeks I was in Cambodia, which is where I made the decision to give away anything that I hadn't used during that time of my travels. Out went a jumper, two t-shirts, a shawl and a pair of trousers, instantly making my bag, and my life, feel lighter. Although I'd thought I'd need more, I'd been using less, needing less and ultimately wanting less.

Travelling was not a fashion parade. I'd wear the same trousers for a few days and mix and match t-shirts. No one on the road cared what brand I was wearing, or if I was wearing the same trousers as the previous day. No one cared if my socks didn't match my shoes, or if my scarf didn't match my shirt. Clothes were just clothes and nothing more. There was no need for clothes shopping as I already had everything I needed, although every second shop was selling what seemed like thousands of clothes. I couldn't help but wonder who buys all this stuff. Where does it all come from? Do we really need it?

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The same went for toiletries and accessories. As toiletries ran out I'd sometimes have to use shampoo as soap, or soap as shampoo. I didn't have access to the latest hair products that "make your hair shine" or moisturisers that "create the perfect complexion". Those marketing slogans were all unimportant to me, it's as if I could have created my own counter-slogans like "Shampoo that serves as a body wash, cleaning your skin and giving it a glow. Also saving you a lot of money". My bag was getting lighter each time learned that what I wanted and what I needed were two different things, until it got to the point where I realised that my whole life could fit into one backpack.

I figured that if someone went into my home and took away all my leftover belongings I would barely notice. I'd spent three months travelling, with 13 kilograms of belongings in my 50-litre backpack and I was as happy as I'd ever been. Needing nothing but what was here, right now, and living a completely minimalist lifestyle.

The moral of the story: we don't really need that much stuff. We may be forced into thinking that we do, but after this journey I honestly believe that we don't. I've spent the money that I would have otherwise spent on buying new clothes on experiencing life and seeing the world. I couldn't ask for anything more fulfilling than that.

Bianca is a travel blogger from Sydney, Australia. She has a strong passion for humanity and frequently blogs about altruism and travel. She has travelled to many parts of the world and is currently spending the year travelling through south east and southern Asia sharing stories of goodwill and finding ways that we can travel ethically and responsibly around the globe. Check out her Facebook and Twitter for more.

Images: Shutterstock

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