The price of minimalism


A guy next to me was dozing off and snoring heavily as I waited to board my flight to Buenos Aries. The alarm on his phone was going off, and the loud speaker was shouting “last call” and probably his name, but he just kept sleeping. I couldn’t be sure if it was his flight, but I woke him anyways. He jumped up, thanked me and ran to the gate so it probably was.

I’ve been on the road for 6 months and have met dozens if not hundreds of travellers. But haven’t seen one with a backpack the size even coming close to mine. (Which doesn’t mean there aren’t any, only I haven’t met them.)

When people realize that I’m not on a weekend trip with this bag, the reaction is invariably the same:

„No way. How do you fit everything in that small bag?”

The point, of course, is that I don’t.

I love the sense of freedom a small bag gives me. It’s light and easy. Never having to check it in is priceless.

Feels priceless anyway. But like everything you do, minimalist travel also comes at a price.

I’ve been using a towel the size of a handkerchief for half a year for instance. Although my backpack is relatively small, it can take longer to pack as everything needs to be neatly organized to fit. I don’t always know where stuff is and sometimes have to unpack the whole bag to find it. I have to do laundry more often and I can’t buy souvenirs. You get the idea.

Minimalism is so much more than not carrying a lot of crap of course. Stripping away the unessential and focusing on the essential can govern all areas of your life and make you happier.

The slight inconvenience I have to live with is a price I pay gladly for the sense of freedom and mobility when it comes to minimalist travel.

Other things make me think though.

I’ve been building a digital library for over a decade. It just makes sense. I can take my books with me everywhere I go. I can access and search them anytime, anywhere. And I don’t have physical stuff cluttering my space.

What I can’t do in my digital library is sit down with a friend, sift through and talk about some books with a cup of tea for instance. I also don’t often walk into my digital library and see a book I want to read again. My digital library keeps growing, but I often feel I hardly remember anything I read a few years ago as I don’t revisit my books. My digital library feels like it doesn’t exist.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to physical books, but I’ll be the first minimalist to admit that I miss them.  And I’m not sure if the price I pay for not having them is worth it.

Minimalism, like every ideology, will only serve me until it becomes a religion and as long as I’m aware of the price I’m paying for it.

Do you have a physical or digital library? Are you aware of anything that could be considered as the price you pay for minimalism? Let me know in the comments!