Four nights away

Yesterday I arrived home after a four-night break abroad. Here are my insights from the trip and how you can vacation more minimally too. I went to a European capital but if you’re going to the middle-of-nowhere outback, please pack sensibly.

  1. Furoshiki: thumbs up. I used my scarf as a light blanket on the cold flight. As a cape to cover my shoulders in the sun. I soaked it in water and wore it as a scarf for coolness. I tied it as a shoulder/shopping bag for water bottles in the museums where backpacks aren’t allowed. One piece of fabric (that goes with all my outfits) – major stylish usefulness quota. It’s easier for men in Europe, where it is totally acceptable, than in North America. Learn a few basic knots and find a square of fabric that suits you. Use it as a belt if you don’t like to wear a scarf, or tie it around your hat while not in use.
  2. A small, convertible day bag: thumbs up*. I use my Jupiter Freedom bag as an arm-band wallet around town. On this trip my arms were bare and the pickpockets were many so I converted it to a gorgeous belt pack instantly. On a night out I removed the ties and had a stylish clutch bag. No switching bags. No heavy backpacks. I carried a map, ID, money, hotel card, space pen refill and lipbalm. One bag – major stylish usefulness. Decide on the absolute minimum you need to carry. There are no what-ifs here (no bandages, hand lotion, hair brush, books, notepads, mp3 players, etc). Find a small hands-free bag with maximum conversion options. Do bring hand sanitiser if the hygiene options are limited.
  3. Thumbs up for packing light. One small** tote and a monk satchel. I had no worries about luggage carts, waiting for (or losing) suitcases, maneuvering stairs or escalators, or lugging armloads around busy and seedy streets. Read for how to.
  4. Being present is great. I think I took in my first opera as much as I possibly could have: orchestra, sets, lighting, singing, atmosphere. It was amazing. I missed my children back home but concentrated on the sites I was seeing and my sweetheart. As a result, four nights away seemed like ten. It was short but completely refreshing and relaxing, and the time seemed to go on and on. I would need books to cover everything, but the gist is: focus your mind on what’s going on right now. Use your senses to take in everything. It takes practice to be present for longer periods of time, but it’s worth it because you’ll feel much more alive.
  5. We usually need less than we think. I still brought too much! A little research would’ve revealed my day outfit was perfectly suitable for the night out (one less outfit + shoes). I brought two little bottles of sunscreen but that stuff is available on every corner pharmacy (one less bottle). The most suitable top I had would’ve lasted with a wash each night, and I wore it more than I planned (three less tops). I poured a little hair gel into a tiny ziploc but it was still too much (less cosmetics). I brought a small bag of almonds but didn’t eat any. A handful would have sufficed (less snacks). If you’re vacationing in an urban setting, odds are you can find anything you’ll need. Avoid the just-in-case syndrome and go lighter!

What are your travel adventures and how do you plan to make it better next time?

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*My husband carried a backpack for his camera so we put a water bottle and two plastic spoons in the side pocket. That’s all we took on our daily outings. If he hadn’t taken the camera I would carry my own water bottle and spoon.

**Size: 44 x 31 x 23.5 cm / 17.3 x 12.2 x 7.5/9.3 inches, Capacity : 23 L / 1,403 inch³

Furoshiki: the simple way to carry

I discovered furoshiki a couple years ago. As a minimalist, I use it all the time. Forget about packing cubes while travelling, I bundle with silk scarves. A gym bag to lug all my gear for dance class? Nope, a couple quick knots in my 1-metre-square fabric and it’s covered.

What is furoshiki?

Furoshiki is a Japanese style of fabric wrapping, originally used to bundle clothes in the public baths. Now people use it for bundling, wrapping gifts, carrying books and bottles, and decoration. Check out wikipedia for more history.

Two things: re-use and environment.

Minimalists abhor uni-task items. That is, we don’t like to own things which are used for only one purpose. The packing cubes I mentioned above are a prime example. They have become popular in the last few years because they simplify suitcase organisation. But they are useless beyond travel. A cloth can be used to wrap like items, and cinched to compress them if needed. The same cloth can be re-used in many ways: as a book bag, scarf, napkin, backpack, blanket for the kids, wine bottle wrap, shopping bag, handbag, neck or head wrap for warmth, cape for sun protection, makeshift sitting mat and more.

Re-use saves the environment because you don’t need to purchase (so nobody needs to manufacture) bags specific to the task. But even better, you can use furoshiki instead of plastic bags (or even the reusable cloth bags) when shopping. In fact, the environment minister of Japan began promoting furoshiki to the general population for this one reason: to cut back on plastic shopping bags.

The stylish minimalist in me has one more point. Your furoshiki cloth is in your colour scheme and looks great no matter what you’re carrying! Plus you can reuse the cloth as a neck or head wrap for warmth (or a makeshift sitting mat) if needed and still look fantastic. Saves you cash while looking great.

How do you do it

First you need the cloth. There are beautiful and functional styles available in every price range. You can buy online or make your own by going to the local fabric shop and buying a metre or so. Even if you can’t sew, you can cut the material to size and leave the edges raw, depending on the type of fabric. I use this unsewn option as well as square silk scarves.

Once you have the furoshiki, follow the simple pictoral instructions for tying. Pictures and videos are incredibly helpful, moreso than I would be by trying to explain it to you in writing. So below are a couple links to get you started. You can always search for furoshiki on the internet for plenty of examples. If you’re so inclined, learn a few boating knots so they are easier to undo. I ruined one scarf with a double knot that I left in for months.

Live the lottery lifestyle

I’ve been daydreaming about winning the big lotto. What would I do with 30 million, 50 million, more? I even bought a ticket just in case. It didn’t win but it got me thinking about what I would do if I had won.

What is win the lottery lifestyle?

Living a win-the-lottery-lifestyle means living a similar life to what you would if you won the lottery. Obviously there will be some differences when it comes to money. You wouldn’t give up your job or buy a new 50 foot boat.

The key question becomes: what comes after the luxury cruise and diamond jewellery? After you finish your year long vacation and travel the world? After you do all the things money can buy, what would you do all day long?

The answer is something you cannot buy.

The answer ties into your life vision. What you would do after the money is something you can start now. If you want to become fluent in Portugese, you don’t need to move to Portugal. Borrow a CD from the library. Befriend your Portugese coworker. Take one evening a month to visit your local Portugese/English language group.

The projects I do now in my spare time I would not stop if I won the lottery. If I won millions my life would certainly change. But I am already enjoying my life without buying the lotto ticket.

Think long and hard about what you would do after the money stuff.

Then start doing it. Or a variation of it.

Wouldn’t it be something to win the jackpot and tell the reporters, “Oh, I’ve already been living such a great life, this is just a bonus.”

Good luck and share your thoughts below!