The Digital Nomad's Guide to Minimalism and Travel

Digital nomad travel minimalism

If you are a digital nomad or an aspiring digital nomad, it is ideal to take on the role of a minimalist.

The first step towards effective minimalism is to get organized, then of course the practice becomes staying organized.

I advise the use of packing cubes (I suggest the ultralight ones). Through trial and error you will find the packing system that works best for you.

Additionally, you will begin to notice what you need to pack vs what you want to pack. This brings us to the second step of minimalism, identifying the essentials and ditching the excess.

On the YogaBody podcast, Less Stuff, More Happy: Living Minimal, Ryan Nicodemus shares his definition of minimalism:

“For me...minimalism is the thing that has helped me get past the things in my life to make room for life’s most important things...which you know turns out aren’t things at all. It’s something that has helped me to live more deliberately and make better choices.”

When traveling you want to be prepared for a variety of situations. Having said that, it is not important to have the latest fashions or clothing for every party. It is important to be comfortable. So for a minimalist, needs trump wants every time.

Wardrobe Essentials

  • Rain Jacket/Shell - I am in love with my Arc’teryx jacket. It is super lightweight, squishable, breathable, waterproof, and allows for layering - perfect for the traveling minimalist.

  • Down Jacket/Micro Puffy -  I recommend checking out Mammut or Patagonia products at a REI near you.  

  • Base Layer - I rock my Lululemon base layer shirt with thumb holes.

  • Yoga Pants - Again I am a big fan of Lululemon. For men, some good brands are Columbia, Carhartt, and Kuhl’s lightweight hiking pants!.

  • Tank tops -  I am a huge advocate of quick-dry fabrics and suggest Underarmour and Lululemon.

  • Underwear - You can never have too much underwear.  I have to admit that I’m guilty of forgetting to pack mine sometimes!

  • Swimsuit - There’s always a beach or a hot tub to play in, don’t miss out!

  • Good Socks - When it comes to comfort, warmth and overall quality, my favorite brands are Smartwool, Darn Tough, and Bombas.

  • Comfy Shoes - Everybody has different feet so find what’s right for you! I have had good luck with Columbia,  Keen and Vibram.

Technology Essentials

  • Computer and/or Tablet -I don’t think it’s possible to forget this one, but it could happen!

  • Chargers  - All of them (phone, camera, computer/iPad, etc.) These are hard (if not impossible) to find when you’re on the road and usually expensive - don’t forget them!

  • External Charger(s) - I typically bring 2 external chargers with me at all times! They are small and come in handy, especially if you find yourself in a bind! The two best brands I have found are Enerplex and ZipKord.

  • External Storage -  Well...maybe. How much storage do you need? How important it is for you to have a back up? While most people use the cloud to storage their files these days, you need internet to access the cloud. That is not always possible on the road.

  • Power Adapters - If you are traveling to another country, you will likely need to get an adapter plug, and you might need to get a voltage converter and/or a transformer. REI has a great guide that will help you figure out what you need for your trip.

  • Karma - If you need reliable internet access, don’t rely on airport wifi, coffee shops, hotels, etc.   Things can go wrong, so as a digital nomad it might be best to bring the internet with you.

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Basic Essentials

  • ID - Depending on where you are traveling, you will need a passport or driver’s license (maybe both). ALSO, a copy of your passport and driver’s license! Store these items in two different parts of your pack, just in case! Depending on where you are traveling to, you may also need Visas - and corresponding photocopies.

  • Insurance Information - Health insurance, trip insurance, personal property insurance, your call. Never hurts to be protected - just in case!

  • Money Belt/Pouch -  This is a safe way to hold your money when you are walking around without your pack.

  • Cash - Credit and Debit is still not accepted everywhere.  You can exchange money before you leave or withdraw from ATMs - these are the two best way to get the best exchange rate. If you are using an ATM, make sure to consider bank fee (including potential international fees).  If you are going to multiple places with different currencies think this through and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that most exchange counters won’t exchange small change.

  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste - Duh, but double check. Additionally, travel tooth brushes that you can consolidate and travel-sized toothpaste tubes can’t hurt. It’s also nice to have a water resistant and stand alone pouch for your oral hygiene supplies, sometimes that brush is still wet when it’s time to pack up and it’s nice to know that you tooth brush isn’t co-mingling with your razor.

  • Soap - If you want an all-natural option (yes you can use it in rivers and ponds safely), I highly suggest Dr. Bronner's. Plus, this product can be used as shampoo, detergent, and much more. Check out the small print on the bottle!

  • Extra Contacts/Glasses - If you wear contacts, always pack extras. Additionally, even if you never wear your glasses, bring them!! Shit happens! Be it hot sauce in your eye, random allergies, or the dreaded scratched cornea - it’s no fun!  

  • Hand Sanitizer - When you travel you encounter all kind of new germs. Similarly you may not always be able to wash you hands. Just don’t go overboard and become a germ-a-phob. Some germs are good for your immune system!

  • Nail Clippers - Speaking of germs. Have you cut and cleaned your fingernails lately? Bring those clippers with you and you will reduce exposure to fingernail crud!

  • Knife - No, not as a weapon (unless it’s life or death). As a tool. If you aren’t a knife owner you would be surprised how handy they are to have on hand. Just make sure you don’t pack the knife in your carry-on and check the laws of the places you plan to visit. In some countries you are forbidden from carrying a knife.

  • Deodorant - Travel, while fun, can be stressful. With stress comes perspiration. Protect yourself! If you feel clean and smell good, you will have way more fun!

Henry David Thoreau explains: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone."

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This is part one of a two-part series. To read or listen to the second article, click here.


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