Jun 16, 2024 3 min read

Why Less Is More: Discovering Minimalism Through Backpacking

How my first backpacking experience helped me shift from consumerism to minimalism, and embrace the freedom of living with less.

Picturesque views of the Linh An Pagoda and Elephant Waterfalls in Dalat, Vietnam
Picturesque views of the Linh An Pagoda and Elephant Waterfalls in Dalat, Vietnam

A year and seven months ago, I began my “travel girl era,” leaving behind my 9 to 5 and apartment to explore Asia. If anyone had told me back in 2022 that I’d be living out of a backpack, I would have laughed in disbelief.

The 2022 D'Yonna had a new Amazon package (or five) delivered daily. I used consumerism as an attempt to fill a void in my life, but it never did. It wasn’t until I began my backpacking journey that I discovered a new level fulfillment. 

Like most new backpackers, I started my journey with way too much stuff. In fact, whether I was truly backpacking is questionable. I hopped on the plane with a fancy suitcase, travel backpack, and about 40 kilograms of belongings. Heading to a new continent, I had expectations on how I’d spend my days, and I was also nervous if I’d find the types of products that met my needs.

Between struggling to carry my own luggage and adjusting to the intense heat, I quickly realized I'd packed impractically. This was my first lesson as a backpacker, but many more followed…

6 Lessons Backpacking Taught Me About Minimalism

  • I need much less to feel genuinely happy.

The more I traveled, the more I realized how little I truly needed. I had spent most of my life believing that more things meant greater happiness. But in my current chapter, I'm significantly happier with much less. Backpacking has helped me learn that most materials (beyond my basic needs) bring me temporary, superficial joy. This lesson has helped me want less and appreciate more.

  • It's not things that bring joy, but experiences I share with the people I love.

When my happiness was based on "stuff," it had a limit. Once the novelty of a purchase wore off, buying more became a reflex to chase the feeling of excitement. However, experiences contribute to my happiness on a deeper level. They've helped me build bonds, learn about myself, and expand my view of what's possible. I appreciate that the value of experiences doesn't diminish over time. I've found that reminiscing about my experiences is just as enjoyable as the moment itself.

  • True freedom comes from detachment.

Backpacking is all about rolling with the punches, being adaptable, and letting go. I've had items ruined, gotten rid of things to meet luggage weight limits, and parted ways with useless items. Getting upset by these experiences early on highlighted how attached I was to my "stuff." Now, I'm constantly reminded that new things can be purchased at any place and time. Ironically, I rarely replace what I struggle to "give up." I suppose it's because I'm more grateful for a lighter backpack, and the ease of picking up and leaving when I want to! 

  • Intentional buying is empowering.

When I do make purchases, I prioritize necessity, quality, and practicality over quantity. This means I take time to reflect on whether the purchase aligns with my lifestyle and values. By giving myself a week to think about a purchase, I ensure that it supports my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 

  • Living simply means less noise in my life.

Having fewer possessions has made my decision-making faster and less draining. Having less items, each with a clear purpose, simplifies my daily routine. This frees up my time, energy, and mental clutter. Each day, I have the space to focus on what truly matters. I invest in my passions, relationships, and personal growth, instead of being preoccupied with "stuff."

  • Owning fewer things frees up resources for more meaningful experiences.

Budgeting and expense tracking have raised awareness of my spending habits, travel adventures, and the cost of living in each city. My "fun & splurge" spending reminds me of what a more minimalist approach has made possible. Owning less frees up my financial resources for memorable experiences, making my travels more enriching.

I used to think freedom meant having the resources to get anything I wanted at any time. However, travel has changed my perspective. Now, I see a deeper aspect of freedom: not needing those things at all. In a consumeristic world, where we're constantly advertised to, it’s easy to become attached to (and identify with) what we own.

I'm learning that true freedom involves contentment. By controlling our relationship with "stuff" and not being at its mercy, we can be more content with what we have. While I’m unsure how these lessons will impact me in the future, I know they are helping me redefine happiness today.

Thank you for reading and make sure to subscribe. We're constantly exploring new destinations and share our stories, tips, and the beauty we discover along the way.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The Traveler.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.