Almada, Portugal. Fold-up bike and a small pack for a day of travel.

Almada, Portugal. Fold-up bike and a small pack for a day of travel.

Life on the road makes you minimize the wardrobe to the essentials.  You realize you never needed all that extra stuff in the first place.  One pair of shorts.  One skirt.  One pair of jeans.  One towel.  I’m not saying I have one pair of underwear- that’s taking it too far- but at least those items (socks, etc.) are small and easy to jam in the corners of a suitcase, unlike a ball gown.

I bought a $3 towel from Walmart before I left and I take this thing with me everywhere.  It’s my yoga matt, my beach blanket, my napkin on occasion.  It makes me think about the number of towels I had back in New York.  It was close to 30 (and I lived alone).  I have no idea how or why I wound up with so many, but the point is, you really only need one.  (It would be nice to have a 2nd for the hair after a shower, but that’s real luxury when traveling.)

Living the simplified life with minimal possessions frees your mind for other things.  I don’t have to think about what outfit I’m going to wear each day because I only have a few options.  And if I narrow down the activity for the day, there’s usually only one.  Instead of having to decide what outfit you can put together from an infinity of options, you can think about your next adventure: what historical event you want to learn about… and then visit the exact spot it happened, or how to take that perfect photograph and draw the perfect sketch.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have nice things and the money to buy them.  But wouldn’t you trade the extra money you thought you needed for all that unnecessary stuff, for more time to enjoy life?

Speaking of unnecessary stuff, I haven’t seen anyone in Lisbon drink a jumbo coffee, or anything super-sized.  I order a coffee and it’s a shot of espresso, strong enough that it could take up to 30 minutes to finish if you sip.  I think about the carafe of coffee I would take to work with me every day in NYC (this was after I moved on from a 3-a-day Starbucks coffee habit that lasted for years and cost me a bundle).  That’s a lot of liquid.  Now I drink such little quantity: a mini cup of instant or a thimble full of espresso at the cafe- just a few sips and I’m fine for the day.

Simplicity and minimalism, what a concept.