Part 1: Travel Free – Less is more

Can I ask you something?

"What do you really need?"
"What are your priorities in life?"
"Can you imagine traveling with a backpack and a small carry on all year?"

A few weeks ago, my answer would be definitely NO!

What are your answers?

The secret behind travel free

So, for me, this was kind of a crazy idea to travel with so less stuff. How should it be even possible to get everything you need into such a small suitcase? I had no idea how people do that.

For me have these people been really impressive. Maybe I was thinking about from time to time to leave some stuff behind but not that much that everything I am traveling with would fit into one carry-on baggage. As well I never thought that I will travel for longer than a month. In this blog post, you can read my story about my journey to reduce my luggage from a huge suitcase to carry-on baggage.

In the past, I never had any real and honest motivation to reduce my luggage. Maybe I had some thoughts in my mind like:

“Oh, it would be nice to travel with just a hand carry-on baggage because I would save money and I wouldn’t need to pay extra for checked luggage, and I wouldn’t have to wait for my luggage at the airport.”

The process of restructuring my luggage and leaving things behind I don’t need just came naturally into my life. Probably because I’ve done a lot of inner work to get more clarity inside of me it started to work in all dimensions of me.

How I became a “long-term” traveler?

From leaving a few months home to an unknown journey

Last year in August I started traveling with Hacker Paradise, a community for remote workers. The reason for me to join them was that I realized back home that I don’t want to get into a regular 9 to 5 job after my BA studies. I decided to create my own business which is not dependent on any location.

Of course, I was afraid and ask myself a lot of questions fulfilled with fear:

Will I be able to create my own thing?

Is traveling alone something for me?

Do I really want to be away from home?

Will I be able to connect with equal minded people?

But this time I didn’t listen to these questions because I had the goal in mind to just give it a try to see if I like it or if it’s maybe just a wish. I really wanted to try this life of traveling and working at the same time so my aim was it to connect and learn from people who are already there where I want to go.

So, in my opinion, it is great to join a group like Hackers Paradise to get a feeling of this lifestyle and you can be sure to connect with equal minded people. My plan was to travel with Hackers Paradise from August till November: Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay.

In this time, I had the goal in my mind to figure out my purpose in life so as my business model. After the time with the group, I would then fly to Germany and then flying from Germany with my Mom to Hawaii to support her seminar over there. Everything planed out!

Everything different = no plans anymore

“Trust in what will be!”

How should I say I fell in love with Mexico, people, Mayan culture, the easy energy, weather, ocean, sun. I realized how easy it to connect with people and how easy traveling alone is. I was no longer afraid of being alone. So, my heart told me to stay longer in Mexico and not to go to Buenos Aires.

What brought me to that I canceled my Hacker Paradise trip to Argentina and stayed in Playa Del Carmen. I love to make plans and set goals but again through that happening, I experienced that it doesn’t make sense for me to make long term plans. Living in the moment and following my intuition makes now way more sense to me. 

Clarity and Trust

That mindset hasn’t been always like this. But I figured out it is so much easier when I am clear what I want and then trust life and the process that it will come exactly when it is right for me.

“Clarity what I want, and need is more important to me than making plans.”

That means that I’m sometimes slowing down myself through distracting myself with planning because I don’t trust in what will come. I would count my luggage situation as well as a distraction which made me unclear and unfocused for some time.

The result was I stayed in Mexico until my travels to Hawaii started in November because I felt there so free and open. In this period, I received Asad Zulfahri as a really good friend in my life. We met through Hacker Paradise and he stayed as well longer in Playa Del Carmen until he traveled to Canada and Berlin. He works as an SEO consultant, a Global Speaker and he is traveling around the world. For him, focus and efficiency are the main factors for success. And he is the main initiator of my luggage reducing story.

My journey to Hawaii

Before I continue I want to talk about my travels to Hawaii first. I flew to Hawaii and met my mom in Maui because she gave in Hawaii her Seminar “Hawaii ein Ort in Deinem Herzen”.

This opportunity to travel to Hawaii is fulfilling me with gratefulness. It was always one of the magical places where I really wanted to go to.

The reason I could go to Hawaii is that I supported my mom with the organization for her Seminar in Hawaii and as well, I guide her as assistance during the seminar.

Organizing Seminars abroad

Last year I supported my mom the first time during her Seminar in Glastonbury (“Avalon Erwecke Deine Kraft in Dir”) what was really fun and enlightened for me at the same time.

We figured out that we are a pretty good team because my mom can focus on the seminar content and deal with the participants. And I can do the organization in the background of the seminar, like making sure that transportation is safe, checking opening hours, doing dinner reservations, requesting earlier breakfast and so on… I like to do that in a way that no one really realized that someone organized these things because in my opinion participants of the seminar shouldn’t realize what’s all to do in the background. The focus for the participants should lay on the reasons they joined the seminar and on their inner journey.

For most of them is the seminar their holiday from work so my intention is it that everyone can relax, focus, meditate and having fun. My Mom’s work is an energetic work so it can get pretty emotionally intense. So, I had experience with seminar travels of my mom but this time it was Hawaii where I’ve never been, this made me really excited.

Traveling the world? Really?

It’s a fact that, before Hawaii, I didn’t really felt like a world traveler like I had the picture in my head. Because I lived for almost 4 months in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. I basically fell in love with the first destination I reached. But even I lived most of the time in the same city I moved a lot around from Airbnb to Airbnb and in between, I had my special experience “Living behind the Highway”.

So, since I came to Mexico, I was busy with changing my accommodation every 2 or 3 weeks, that included a lot of packing and unpacking as well. Through that, I got to know a lot of parts of the city and I didn’t get too comfortable in one place.

Constant change is something that I am sometimes afraid of, so I have the tendency to stick to things I really like. But I guess sometimes it’s good to question your habits.

Why changing something that feels good?

Because through “uncomfortable changes” mostly a lot of positive unexpected things are happening. Sure, most of the time you don’t know what will happen but at this point, you have no expectations and life can surprise you with so many nice things!

During my time in Hawaii, the idea to go to San Francisco grew slowly in me. Because I had to fly anyways about San Francisco or Los Angeles, and I heard that Asad will be working in San Francisco. He knew that I always wanted to see San Francisco so he asked me if I want to join him for a while in San Francisco and I thought: why not?

So, the seminar in Hawaii was over and I was so blessed by the time in Hawaii, Maui and Big Island two different Hawaiian Islands both unique and with dream beaches, oceans, nature, and animals. My personal highlight was swimming with the dolphins in Big Island, it was one of the least formative experiences I ever had.

Back to reality

The struggle was real When I flew from Hawaii to San Francisco I was bothered by my huge mess in my suitcase. My suitcase got a bit out of control during my time in Hawaii because I mostly lived out of the suitcase. Especially in Big Island, we had not a lot of space in our accommodation to unpack clothes.

So, the suitcase was already messed up but now I’ve got confronted with new weather conditions in San Francisco. I was not prepared with a lot of long clothes for the “cold” San Francisco weather. The decision to fly to San Francisco after Hawaii was spontaneous First, I thought I will fly directly back to Mexico. For this reason, I just had one long jeans with me.

Then the first night I wanted to meet my friend Asad for dinner downtown, but I couldn’t find my only jeans. When I was looking for it and I wasn’t able to find it I started to panic because it was my only jeans! It’s almost liked the feeling when you look into your bag for your phone and you are not able to find it. First, I rummage through my suitcase. But when I could not find it, I started to take out the clothes out of the suitcase.

And at this point, I thought: 

“Oh, wow that is a huge mess in your suitcase! How will you fix that?”

Clothes were randomly packed crisscross without any system. I found shirts which I haven’t worn once until now and multi-adapters for example but not my jeans. Am I getting crazy? I was definitely really tired at this point, but I got the message pretty clear. I have to change something in my luggage situation.

So finally, I could find my jeans and it was a good feeling, but it took me 20 minutes and I left a larger mess in my suitcase before. Because I was already late for dinner and it’s really no fun for me to fold together clothes, I just left everything lying randomly in my suitcase.

At that moment, it was really clear to me: 

“I will change something. I need a better organization and structure, this is driving me insane. “

At this point, I didn’t know how to restructure my luggage, but I would figure it out. So, when I told then Asad about my suitcase situation and why I came late and that I actually want to change something. Additionally, I told him that I need a new suitcase because mine is going to break soon because the wheels were starting to fall off.

He just told me:

“Have you thought to switch to carry-on baggage?”

I was shocked and told him:

“Have you thought to switch to carry-on baggage?”
“No way I am switching to a carry-on! I have too many things, I don’t think they will fit…”

I was looking for a lot of excuses and sure I found excuses. So here is the point if you want to find reasons why something is not working you will always find them!

So, for me, it was clear:

“I will not switch to a carry-on suitcase that would never work out!”

Why I changed my mind?

So, the time was moving in San Francisco and it was about to make a decision if I buy a new suitcase or if I keep my almost broke suitcase to Los Angeles. Oh, in the meantime Asad and I planned to discover California more in January. So, we will go to Los Angeles and San Diego as well.

When I was thinking about if I should get a new suitcase, I’ve got really interested in how Asad is traveling for so long with just one carry on and a “small backpack”. He told me that he had a more extreme time when he just traveled with one backpack. As well he told me about other digital nomads who do the same: just travel with a backpack. I was fascinated: how does that work? He started to tell me about the benefits of traveling with less luggage:

less stress at the airport, because you don’t have to get in the long baggage line saving money for luggage limited choice on clothes means limited thoughts about what to wear: makes you more focused on the thing which really matters saves time: you have less to pack and less to choose what to wear & faster traveling, no waiting for baggage

So, it seems like:

“Minimalism is the key”

Wow, that sounds so easy and a really good strategy to stay centered. I’ve got inspired and I had to think about. Do I want to stand in the long line while Asad just breezing through security? Do I want to wait for my baggage when I arrive at my destination? It could be easier right? Additionally, I would have fewer things carrying with me which could distract me. So maybe it could help when I limit myself on the things I really need and through that being able to keep the focus. But which are the things I really need?

Now I really considered on switching to a carry-on.

It was crazy I can’t really tell but from one to the other moment I really wanted to take the challenge.

Why I finally choose to reduce my luggage:

Focus: for the most important things

Clarity: what do I really need and what not?

Freedom: the feeling of being lighter and freer because leaving not needed things behind

Faster: packing because of fewer things and better organization, at the airport

Easier: less distraction with searching for things and cleaning up

Structure: part of the process to develop my own travel structure

Going through the process was really releasing and I gained a lot of clarity about my needs and priorities. Especially to clean out to the end of the year was a perfect combination because it felt kind of leaving old things, I don’t need in 2018 and laying the focus on what I want to implement in 2019.

The transformation started in Hawaii

During the seminar in Hawaii I was a lot thinking about:

Which things have the highest value for me?

What do I want to leave in Hawaii or the old year and through what do I want to replace it?

I was a lot reflecting my patterns and question them a lot:

“Are my patterns really serving me?”

And if not:

How can I change that?

What do I have to change?

It was a whole transformation process on an emotional dimension. Now with restructuring my luggage I basically did the same in another way and I got more certain about my visualizations for 2019.

Sometimes I have the feeling to live in a bubble and the street life in San Francisco woke me up a bit. In San Francisco, the gap between rich and poor was very visual for me. Especially now at Christmas time I felt so blessed with everything I have. And I realized how unimportant material stuff actually is. That I decided to shift my focus more away from clothes and stuff to people who I appreciate in my life and to the things which really matter like love and peace in my life.

So, I decided just to keep the things I really need and to pay attention more to what I really like to wear and what I rarely wear and to leave the stuff behind I rarely wear.

I figured out during the process that the things with the highest values are:
  • My MacBook (including my hard drive) and my IPhone
  • My notebook where I write my gratefulness diary and journal
  • My glasses
  • My dolphin

… and everything else is pretty easy to replace.

So, I bought a new suitcase. A carry-on sized luggage!

I could not believe that I’m really doing this. Never expected that but it just happened.

So, I went through all my clothes and stuff I have with me and I found a lot of things I rarely or never used. Asad supported me during this process and he gave me the tip to make two compartments for clothes I give away for sure and for clothes I maybe give away because he realized that I have some struggles to leave some clothes behind.

I discovered that I have clothes I really like but they are not really practical and hard to combine so that I barely wore them so far.

First, I left everything lying in its compartments for a few days and observed if I actually have the feeling I want or need to use some of the stuff. But this doesn’t happen. Even the clothes with the maybe I never touched.

Ah, once I wore a shirt which I maybe wore once so far just to see if I like to wear it. And it happened that I changed this shirt after a few hours because I could not stand the color and the cut. So, this went definitely into a no.

I went through my digital stuff and sorted out some huge adapters and some paper notebooks, folders, and pens (not really practical to carry around through traveling).

The feeling afterward:

So, after Christmas, I donated my clothes with hope, other people will use them. And I felt really released somehow lighter. This is the feeling when you just let go something? In the past, I often tended to keep stuff, but this has changed.

Then a few days before we flew further to Los Angeles, I did a test packing to see if all my stuff is fitting into the suitcase and it really seemed to work out! This is amazing! I never thought I could do that, but I proved me wrong.

An honest conclusion

Is it not sometimes nice to be wrong?

Yes, I’ve got rid of a lot of stuff but I’m still carrying around a lot of things. But I started to see it as a natural process, and I know more things will go and new more efficient things will come. I still carry some not really useful things with me around like my dolphin and I kept my snorkeling gear.

That means I’m still in the process of how to make my packing process more efficient. And in my opinion, this whole process of reducing your stuff is an important thing to gain more structure and clarity in life in general because you will come to the source automatically.

So I wanted this story with you to inspire you to maybe overthink if you really need the things you have. In the end, it’s all about priorities and what’s your unique source.

So maybe ask yourself:

What are your priorities?

What is defining you?

Now I’m in Los Angeles and here I’ve got some new inspirations and tools from my friend Asad, so I will write another blog post of the best tools and techniques to make packing process more efficient and how to prepare for every situation best.

Mahalo Asad for going with me through the process!
Mahalo Ursula for your suitcase!
Mahalo Mama for your support!
Mahalo for reading my post!
Vanessa ♡

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you Vanessa for your great blog about „less is more“.
    Your experience is phantastic and I am happy that you share this with us.
    I can imaging your feelings especially your little panic about the lost jeans.
    It´s a great challenge to learn about „what is really important in your life“.
    That´s also my personal challenge in the moment. What to take with me on my 90-day-trip.
    I will keep your words in my mind and heart.

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