As technology continues to mold society, we toss around such terms as “extra” a little too freely. It means being a bit too much. It fits quite well, because, on top of someone’s personality being extra, our lives are as well. We’re always looking for more, more, more. Wouldn’t it be nice to jump out of the rat race and live more simply? Is it possible as a digital nomad?
Digital nomad minimalism is possible, and it entails the following:
• Traveling much more lightly, bringing only the essentials
• Cutting back on spending as much money
• Staying at simpler lodging options like an Airbnb over a five-star hotel
• Eating less lavishly
If you believe you can maintain the above facets of digital nomadism, then minimalism might be right for you. The only way to find out is to try.
In this article, we’ll expand on the definition of digital nomad minimalism. We’ll also touch on the points we covered above in more detail and discuss the pros and cons of this lifestyle. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know for sure if you can sustain a life of digital nomad minimalism.
What Is Minimalism?
First, we thought we’d explain the basic concepts of minimalism. As the name tells you, minimalism involves living your most straightforward life possible. In every facet, you strip things back to their very core, shedding what you don’t need in the process.
It seems like a trend, like everyone jumping on the Marie Kondo bandwagon. In reality, people swear by this lifestyle. By becoming a minimalist, money Under 30 says it’s possible to enjoy these benefits:
• Improving your current relationships
• Acting in ways that are better for the environment
• Reducing stress
• Increasing happiness
• Focusing less on stuff and more on memories and experiences
• Lessening clutter
• Saving money
Money Under 30 mentions two big names in minimalism, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. Together, they’ve toured to spread minimalism across the nation. Nicodemus and Fields Millburn also have a podcast and made a documentary on the subject.
They coined what they refer to as the 90/90 rule. According to their website, the rule is as follows: if you haven’t used the item in question in 90 days, set it aside. Will you use it in the 90 days ahead? If the answer is no, then get rid of it. They go on to say, “if your material possessions don’t serve a purpose or bring you joy, then they are likely in the way of a more meaningful life.”
You can do this in all areas of your life. If you don’t wear those old clothes in your closet, then why hang onto them? You can donate or recycle them and better the environment. When you go grocery shopping, do you eat every last thing you buy? If not, then stop purchasing those items you only throw away.
Clutter can come in the form of financial clutter too, such as Starbucks runs and a Netflix account you log into but never watch anything on.
What Does Digital Nomad Minimalism Entail?
Okay, so now you know a bit more about minimalism. How can you take the principles of this way of life and apply them to digital nomadism? Just follow the tips we provided at the beginning of this article. We’ll explain these in more detail now.
Bring Less Luggage
If you’ve been in the digital nomad game for a few years, then you should know the essentials you’ll need like the back of your hand. Keeping that in mind, how many pieces of luggage do you bring with you on average when you travel? Is it two or four? Maybe even five?
As someone contemplating digital nomad minimalism, we have to ask, why? What do you keep in all those bags? If you know the weather where you’re going will be warm, then pack a few shirts and shorts, and you’re okay. Maybe bring a few pairs of shoes, but only if you’ll use them. For instance, if you have a beach trip planned, then you’ll want flip-flops. If you’re only somewhat sure you’ll visit the beach, then why bring the shoes? They’re clutter.
Maybe you’re going somewhere cold. One winter coat will suffice just fine. You might pack snow boots, casual shoes, and formal shoes, but that’s it. A few sweaters and a couple of pairs of jeans should get you through a trip that lasts a week or less.
There’s also no need to take shampoo or soap or even body wash when most lodgings provide these items for you.
When you take your packing list and chop it down to only the necessities, you soon find you need very little. You’ll bring your clothes, some shoes, maybe a coat or jacket, your laptop, and your other electronics. That’s pretty much it.
Traveling lightly saves you so much time, stress, and money. You don’t have to have a million bags checked in the airport or wait for them to come up on the luggage carousel when you arrive at your destination. There’s no pain or agitation from rushing through the airport carrying several bags at once. If you can squeeze all your stuff into a single carry-on, then you can save money on baggage fees. You also know your stuff is right by your side, not potentially getting jostled on the plane.
Stop Spending Money Unnecessarily
While we’ll talk about food later in this section, for now, let’s discuss all the other ways you’re spending money unnecessarily. Why rent a car when you can bike, walk, or get an Uber? Do your family or friends need a souvenir for each new place you decide to visit? Probably not.
There are many ways you also spend more money than you realize, such as with lodging.
To prove your status as a digital nomad, you probably book yourself the classiest hotels you can find. We’re talking five-star places. You work hard enough, after all, so you deserve to sit in the lap of luxury when the day has ended.
The money you spend on lodging, if you tallied it up, would undoubtedly astound you. Depending on how often you travel and the length of your stay, you could spend thousands of dollars on hotels alone. That’s before you factor in amenities like alcohol, room service, fitness facilities, and TV entertainment.
Save your money by trying simpler options like Airbnb. You could shave down what you spend significantly. Plus, Airbnb hosts strive to provide as many amenities for their guests as possible, such as hygiene items, entertainment, and even food. That all equals up to living a simpler, less expensive lifestyle, even as a digital nomad.
Watch Your Spending on Food
You have to eat, but it’s astoundingly easy to overspend on what you do consume. Airports and train stations tend to jack up the costs of food just because they can. These are popular places, and people will stop to eat out of necessity. Also, depending on where you’re traveling, grocery costs could fluctuate as well.
When you buy your morning coffee, your afternoon snack, food from vending machines, and another snack at night, the costs add up. That’s especially true if you make these purchases a daily habit. You might spend hundreds of dollars a month and thus thousands a year.
Those are just snacks. With your busy lifestyle, you probably only eat room service meals or those at restaurants, right? You have next to no time to make your own food, nor do you have the appliances in which to do so. It’s much more convenient to dine out.
Eating at restaurants may be more convenient for your schedule, but not for your wallet. If you go to an upscale establishment and drop over $100 even a few times a week, that’s easily over a thousand dollars you spend on food in a month. Not even on groceries, you can use more than once, just one meal.
What Are the Advantages of Minimalism?
Reading the above, you can certainly see the case for minimalism in digital nomadism. What kinds of benefits or advantages would you enjoy if you decided to live your life with these simple rules?
Here’s an overview.
You Own Less, So You Feel Freer
Luggage gets lost, possessions get broken, and stuff gets misplaced all the time. Your chances of this happening increase the more you travel, so you’ve probably lost a bag with all your valuables at least once. It’s super frustrating. How can you live without all that stuff?
When you decrease what you own and bring with you that stress dissipates. As we said before, by taking a single carry-on, there’s no need to check your bags. You can often keep your carry-on with you on the plane, eliminating the chances of you or the airline losing it.
As you wander through the city of choice that you’ve arrived, you won’t have to drag along as much with you. That’s a nice feeling. So too is only having one bag to bring to your Airbnb or—okay, yes—even a hotel. The less stuff you have, the less there is to keep track of. That means you don’t leave your phone charger in your room when you check out or your iPad tucked in a drawer, forgotten about.
You Spend Less Money
Do we even need to explain this one? Everyone dreams of having more money in their pockets, or at least their bank accounts. Sometimes, to make extra money, you should save what you have. It may seem impossible as a digital nomad, well, until you introduce minimalism into your life. Then you see you’re wasting money in many ways. That bonus money you gain back by spending less can then go towards your next trips and travels.
What Are the Drawbacks of This Lifestyle?
If minimalism worked for everyone, the world would be a vastly different place. The fact of the matter is, for some people, a minimalist life seems like a natural fit. For others, it doesn’t. That’s why you must keep these drawbacks in mind.
You have no neck pillow on your flight because you don’t use it any other time. You left your favorite blanket at home because hey, your lodging has blankets, so why bring your own? You skip taking that once-in-a-lifetime ski trip because you don’t have the right gear.
Okay, so the last one wasn’t a matter of comfort, but the other two examples were. As you navigate a life of digital nomad minimalism, you may find you’re missing the creature comforts that make the rigors of your lifestyle more palatable. You might opt to bring these comfort items with you, but then you’re not living as minimally as you could, right?
Plus, it’s a slippery slope. Once you reason why you need one or two items, you can come up with justifications for more and more stuff. Before you know it, you’re back to dragging along three or four bags on your travels to accommodate all your clutter.
Living with Less Isn’t Easy in Today’s Consumerism Society
From someone’s lunch to their fancy wedding, a new car, or a lavish vacation, people show off on social media all the time. When the new iPhone drops or the next wave of video game consoles show up, how will you feel not having them? If your friend buys that car you’ve had your eye on but refrained from buying because of your new lifestyle, will you be jealous? Mad? Upset? Or can you tune all this tech noise out and focus on your goals?
If so, then kudos to you! That’s certainly not easy, especially with how connected we are today. We’re also a society of consumers. It’s easier to shop now than ever, especially when you can use things like Apple Pay, Venmo, and PayPal to come up with the funds. Refraining from consuming will feel strange, but if you can get over the hump, you might ultimately be happier for it.
Is Digital Nomad Minimalism Right for You?
Now it’s time to sit down and do some reflecting. You may have an interest in minimalism after reading through this article, but you have your concerns. How will you function without your morning coffee run or your fancy hotels? Can you survive with all you can fit in just one piece of luggage?
We can’t answer those questions for you. It’s natural to have some reservations about becoming a digital nomad minimalist. As we said before, in a world where we consume so often, leaving the status quo is a courageous thing to do. You’ll feel like the odd man (or woman) out as your friends go right on buying new phones and computers and game consoles. It may seem like you’re behind the times.
Do know that you don’t have to go without essentials as a digital nomad minimalist. You can still get a new smartphone, but only if you need it. If your current phone works, then why bother? It’s just a waste of money.
To challenge yourself, we propose you try a life of minimalism for a month. Before you do, track your spending so you can curtail or stop unnecessary purchases. Go through your home and even your office and get rid of what you don’t use per the 90/90 rule. Pack as lightly as possible, plan cheaper lodging, create a more affordable meal plan, and then set off.
How do you feel after a month? Were the past 30 days torture, or did you notice you enjoy being unburdened by material belongings? If it’s the former, then you might want to reconsider whether you wish to pursue digital nomad minimalism right now. You can always try again later, but right now, you’re a person who knows what you like and what you need. There’s nothing wrong with that. You might also realize that living like this impedes your work processes, meaning you can’t maintain the lifestyle. That’s okay, too.
If you find you enjoyed the experience of having less stuff, then keep it up! You’ll soon notice that you feel freer and have more money to go around. That’s always a good thing as a digital nomad.
Minimalism is the concept of cutting back on what you need until you have only the essentials. By combining elements of this lifestyle with digital nomadism, you travel more lightly, stop all that restaurant dining, stay at less lavish hotels, and save more money along the way.
While a life of digital nomad minimalism won’t suit everyone, we implore you to at least try scaling back what you buy and what you bring when you travel. You may find some of it’s more unnecessary than you realized!