Look, if I can survive the summer desert heat with just a carry-on worth of items, then minimalist travel shouldn’t be too hard for anyone.
This is part two of my minimalist travel series. Read part one first!
If you’re looking into light travel, have lost your checked-in luggage one time too many, or don't want to carry a lot being a solo traveler, then you should incorporate minimalism in your next trip. Traveling with a mere carry-on opens a whole new world.
Let me explain.
You don’t spend money on materialistic items
You only have a carry-on, which was already quite full upon arrival to your destination. It's next to impossible to fit more stuff in it. That ‘I Love Dubai’ mug or Burj Khalifa souvenir? Not buying it. This in turn feeds your minimalist life. You could buy a suitcase to fit extra items, but are you going to spend more money on a suitcase so that you can spend more money to put items in it? With all this extra money, you’re able to spend more on experiences you can cherish for a lifetime.
Deciding what to wear each day is a breeze
You’re in a new country to visit new places and explore. You don’t want to spend time wondering if shirt A matches your green skirt better than shirt B. Because when you bring just a carry-on, you make sure all tops will match with all bottoms. I’m not saying look like hobo—you don’t need to forgo style. Be a minimalist and keep your chic style simultaneously.
Here’s a tip: pick a top you love and wear often. Now create three different outfits with it, with what else is in your closet. If you’re unable to do that, then go on to the next top until you can do that with three of your tops. Viola! You now have nine outfits!
When it’s time to pack and leave… wait you don’t need to pack
You only brought a carry-on, didn’t buy much in the new country, so what’s there to pack? At the end of each day, I would neatly fold my clothes back into my carry-on. When it was time to leave, I spent no time packing. Plus, I effortlessly kept track of what I brought so it was easy to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
Now for the nitty-gritty stuff.
Summer in Dubai is hot and I happened to go during the two hottest months, July and August. Temperatures soared to 40°C.
But I couldn’t let this stop me from exploring. Some days I set out at dawn to explore beaches and other outdoor places before the sun peaked. Sometimes I stayed out during the day. When I visited Souk Madinat Jumeirah and Atlantis the Palm: Dubai Hotel, my clothes were soaked with sweat, right down to my underwear. Observing other tourists, I wasn’t the only one going through this sweat-induced predicament. Walking into air conditioned washrooms was bliss. Waiting for the air conditioning to work in a hot car was agony.
3 ways the sweltering heat affected my minimalist travel
I did laundry more often
Re-wearing clothes you heavily sweated in a few days before isn’t an appealing idea. So I tossed my clothes in the washing machine more often. When I didn’t have enough clothes to do a whole laundry load, I washed my tops by hand. If you don’t have access to a washing machine on your trip, you will have to wash your clothes by hand or wear your clothes several times until you can wash them.
I showered more often
On some days there was nothing more I wanted to do then rip my sticky, sweaty clothes off, hop into a cold shower and change into fresh, laundried clothes. Oftentimes, my sweaty clothes were dried by the time I returned to my aunt’s house, but I hopped into the shower nonetheless. Most days, I took showers twice—either in the morning and night or in the afternoon and at night.
I bought more clothes
Hear me out on this—from the get go, I was skeptically about packing two sets of pj’s for a month. It was a stretch. I knew this deep down inside, although I wouldn’t come to terms with it. While packing, I added a third set of pj’s to my carry-on and took them out. I did this several times until I was forced to take them out because my carry-on was over the 7 kg airline allowance limit. So in Abu Dhabi, I went to Forever 21, bought a pair of sweats, a t-shirt and I was content.
I also bought Aldo sandals, which came in handy after I went quad biking and lost my home-brought sandals in the sand.
What my minimalist travel experience taught me
You can save a ton of time
Time is gold, especially during travel. Less often, I sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. More often, I’m on my feet looking for the next adventure. Fewer clothing options gave me time to explore the UAE in depth. I focused more on creating a daily itinerary so I could get the most out of my time there. Passing up on makeup and heels left me with no regrets. I used to wear makeup every day. But without any makeup to put on, I finally felt how men feel when they roll out of bed every morning—liberated, with all the time in the world. I grew comfortable being bare-faced, feeling the sun against my skin and the ability to rub my eyes with no worries about looking like a raccoon after. Sure I noticed girls my age, usually around Dubai Mall, with faces done up, click-clacking in heels. But it didn’t affect me. I started to feel comfortable with my bare face and that became the only thing that mattered. The only thing on my face was a sun-kissed tan.
We’re bombarded with ads—but you begin to look at them differently
How many companies would lose business if people began to feel secure with their bodies and overall life?
We are constantly told our lives would significantly improve if we bought that jacket, those shoes, that foundation. The words, the visuals, the display of a lifestyle people crave, whether fun, luxurious or family-oriented. It’s all an illusion.
At the end of most days, with my sweaty clothes, sand-filled shoes and tired eyes, I was happy. I ate different foods, interacted with locals, experienced a different lifestyle and it was exhilarating. I now look at ads with a different perspective. Who are they targeting and what are they selling? I ask myself if I can continue life without those shoes, without that beautiful shade of lipstick or without that trendy top. 99.9% of the time the answer is yes. It’s an experiences > things mentality that will get you high on life.
You’ll save money
Being happy with what you have and not blowing money on unnecessary items means you won’t cringe at your bank balance. You now have more to spend on loved ones and on experiences and memories that will be kept for a lifetime. It’s a win/win situation.
The UAE was an eye-opening experience that taught me more than I anticipated. Travel is better and simpler with less. I’ll be going to Taiwan in a few months on a volunteer trip to teach English. I’m excited to go carry-on only. Stay tuned for a post on that!
Let me know in the comments—how do you incorporate minimalism in your travels?