Fitting My Life into a Backpack

Fitting My Life into a Backpack

Of all the new habits I’ve been recently been trying to establish, by far my most favorite one has become my minimalism habit: every day, I throw away one thing that I don’t need; or, if is too big or too valuable to just throw away, I put it on eBay.

I cannot start to describe how painful it felt at the beginning to throw away my stuff, even though most of it had been sitting around uselessly in my apartment for months. That George Foreman grill that I hadn’t used in 2 years – well, maybe I would feel like using it again in the future, who knows? That old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi that had several tears – but I really like the embroidery on it! And so on and so forth.

But really quick, I also started to feel the immense joy of just getting rid of stuff. No clutter anymore, no redundant things that distracted me. The less I owned, the freer I felt! It was like having a weight taken of my chest, no kidding – it simply felt liberating.

At this point of my minimalism experiment, I can walk through my apartment, open every drawer and tell you exactly when I last used that certain item and why I will most likely have to use it again pretty soon. So I’m pretty much down to the baseline that two of my favorite bloggers, Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists describe: if you take a look at Joshua’s minimalist apartment, this is pretty close to what my apartment right now looks like (mine is not nearly as stylish though…).

But being the obsessive, let’s-take-this-to-the-extreme type of personality that I am, I’ve come up with a new idea: I want to fit everything I own in a somewhat small backpack. That desire is also strongly tied to my dream of becoming Location Independent (starting in April 2015). The less stuff I own, the easier it will be for me to just change locations at the blink of an eye: no material stuff tying you to one place, less packing, less weight to carry on the go. It only makes sense.

I suspect my arch enemy for this type of ultra-minimalism is going to be clothing. Many things can simply be left behind when you adapt a mobile lifestyle (who needs silverware on the go?). But how do you manage to pack your wardrobe into one tiny backpack? You can’t. So that means that you have to reduce further, basically leaving you with the stuff you wear on your body plus some spare clothing like underwear / socks in your backpack.

Mind you, there are other people who have done this before: Tynan comes to mind, as well as someone like Regev Elya. But, and this is the big BUT: if I look at pictures of the two of them in their travel wardrobe, I get the impression that they really put the “functional” over the “fashionable”… But for a metrosexual, European Pick Up Artist and decadent city-dweller like me, looking like I’m about to go hiking in the Himalayas or ready to explore the Amazonian rainforest is not really the goal – yours truly still likes to display his girly figure, you know?

So, the objective here can be summed up like this:

  1. Try to fit everything that I will take with me into my mobile lifestyle in one small backpack.
  2. Reduce my wardrobe accordingly, while STILL looking as fashionable as possible.

That’s it. Sounds easy enough, but I’m really curious to see if I’ll be able to go through with this. Just fitting my BJJ gi into a backpack should leave almost no room for anything else… So it WILL be difficult.

Turning ultra-minimalism into an experiment

In order to get started with this, even before my apartment lease is up (March 31st 2015), I have devised the following experiment. The idea here is to test out ultra-minimalism while still being at home, so I can get rid of most of the kinks before I even leave in April. Talk about Germans and obsessive planning…

Stage 1: get moving boxes and get rid of my furniture

There is a quite a bit of stuff that is useful to have when you stay in one location for an extended period of time, even if you are a minimalist. Examples that come to mind: Furniture. Silverware. Cleaning gear. Laptop Speakers. A printer, etc. But this is all stuff you would not take with you as a mobile ultra-minimalist. So in order to simulate a Location Independent lifestyle, I will get moving boxes for all the stuff that I still own but will not take on the road with me. This will also allow me to get rid of my furniture already. So I basically will store my whole apartment away, except for the future contents of my backpack… Should be a hit with the visiting ladies!

Stage 2: live out of my backpack at home

Pretty self-explanatory: decide on the absolute essentials I will need on the go and only use these for the upcoming two months.

Stage 3: optimize backpack items for size and weight

I already mentioned coming up with a travel wardrobe that is also still somewhat stylish. Another biggie is going to be getting scans of all the literature I need to work on my PhD, so I don’t have to carry tons of books around. There are other items I already own, but that I might have to optimize further, like getting an ultra-light BJJ gi or an ultra-light laptop. I’m sure I’ll come up with even more ideas as I go.

Oh, this should be a lot of fun! I already see myself taking showers in full clothing (way to do your laundry!), eating from paper plates and hanging out at co-working spaces – what to do if you have no desk anymore? I will post updates on lessons learned and maybe even some pictures.

Likewise, I would be extremely interested to learn from your hard-gained knowledge when it comes to ultra-minimalism and super-light travelling: what do you take with you, what do you leave behind? What was the one thing you thought you couldn’t live without that turned out to be completely redundant? How do you optimize for size and weight? Travel gear recommendations? If you have a moment, leave a comment, I’d really appreciate it!

13 thoughts on “Fitting My Life into a Backpack

  1. Perhaps I should edit my old travel gear guide, but know that there is nirvana: Google for this company, ‘Wool & Prince’, they sell wool pants and have a fancy merino wool shirt that i’m sure you’ll find fashionable.
    Enjoy the travels Nicholas, and beautiful website

    1. Thank you for the tip Regev! I checked it out, their stuff looks really nice. I found another good one, that I already ordered a few things from: All Saints Just search for “merino” on their website and you will find a few really fashionable items. By the way, I love your blog and recommend it to friends all the time – and now you are also the first “celebrity blogger” to leave a comment on my own blog, how about that? 😉 Have a great day!

  2. Dude. ” it simply felt liberating.” I know that feeling SO well! I recently graduated, and sold 90% of my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to Peru with no clue how I was going to make money, or do anything.

    Getting rid of things was sooooooo awesome. Plus I was able to sell a lot of it and made about $500 total through getting rid of junk. A few weeks ago I started dating a girl, and I told her about my experience. She didn’t believe me, but she trusted me (interesting distinction I just made there, I like it) so she tried getting rid of stuff so she could come and travel the world with me. She texted me the next day saying “I can’t believe how good it feels to get rid of things… you were right. I’m weirding myself out.” Such a cool girl.

    Anyways man, I love what you’re up to and I definitely want to continue to follow your blog and see your journey, you’re on an AWESOMMEEE path!

    Be happy,

    1. Hi Jon, thank you for your comment, I can definitly relate! I mean, the whole process obviously has taken me a bit longer, but then again, I’m one overly cautious German, haha. But I finally bought my ticket a few days ago, I’ll be leaving on April 6th, can’t wait!!! I love the fact that you were able to inspire your girlfriend to get rid of her stuff too – I can see that being even more difficult for some girls, as their wardrobe might be significantly bigger, haha. Great blog you have going, looks super slick!

  3. Hi!
    We are in the same process… but as a family of four! Great challenges too with kid’s toys and more (but smaller clothes 😉 ). That’s a great life lesson for kids too. But for them, it’s not liberating only hard… we take one small step at a time.
    Good luck with your great project! Will continue to follow your experiment as we’ll do the same (writings in French though!).

    1. Oh, I can definitly see that being a HUGE challenge Mélissa! If I imagine someone had proposed to me as a kid to give up most of my toys, I wouldn’t have been very happy, to say the least… 😉 I checked out your blog as well, unfortunately, I don’t speak French (it’s a shame, I know…). But I would be very interested to hear from you again about your progress! =) Good luck to you too!

      1. They continue to surprise me everyday!
        That’s a great value to teach kids : you’re not what you own. For us, travelling is the perfect project to teach them.
        (And it’s a shame I’m not fluent enough to write my blog in English :/ )

  4. I am fairly minimal already but have been really obsessing about going ultra minimal! I did consignment shop a handful of items but I don’t want to hang on to the next 3 seasons of stuff in hopes they will take it. Is it really worth the time and effort to sell my “name brand clothes” on Ebay? I’m thinking I should take the hit and just donate to the local Goodwill. :-)

    1. Hi Chel, I think you are on the right track: donate most of that stuff to your local Goodwill. Selling everything you own / all your name brand clothes on Ebay is going to be a MAJOR pain… You’ll probably stop going ultra-minimalist in the process, simply because it’s such a hassle. Just donate it. I make an exception for extremly high value items, that I know will get me a good chunk of cash on Ebay, but I really only do this for a handful of things. This way, you are prioritizing in a smart way while keeping your ultra-minimalism project relatively pain-free.

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog. I really love the content so far. Everything is authentic and simple. I am an aspiring minimalist who is in the middle of decluttering and figuring out what I want to do with my life. Thanks for blogging. Continue the great work! I look forward to reading more of it.

    1. Thanks for the comment Mai! I’m always excited to hear from readers – makes me want to write the next article right away! Let me know how the decluttering goes, I know it can come with some tough choices… But once you made those, it’s the best feeling in the world! I’ve been travelling for the last 4 months, with all my belongings on my back, and I can’t imagine it any other way anymore! =)

      1. Hi! This is Mai just checking back in. So far I have donated or sold about 45% of my belongings that I now have currently. Though this is not the bulk of my belongings because as of right now, I am living away from where I originally was living at and staying with some close friends. As of right now I have to room mate with other people and I have learned so much from living in such a tiny space of the home I am at. At first, I was frustrated with the living situation because of the amount of clutter I had with me when I traveled to live here. After I got rid of 45% of it, I felt relieved. As of right now, I am still on the roll of getting rid of more things such as these extra bags I own and just really owning one or two bags of clothes. It was a big wake up call when I began to realize how much money I wasted on non-essentials things and even on clothing that would not last. So as a result, I sold or gave away recent clothing I had bought about two or so months ago. Researching what minimalism is and actually putting into action, this lifestyle and mindset has taught me to be more intentional in living. I now make sure everything is of the highest quality and that I am absolutely am in love with whatever I have or will buy. At first, I thought minimalism was going to be hard, but I am not really settling in easy with this new lifestyle. It feels great not having to worry about so much to do, such as a lot of laundry or taking forever on what should I wear. I have also learned to think of ways to make things or keeps things that are versatile and serve more than one function such as in the area of technology. Lastly, since I have likened to things of higher quality, I have now decided to only buy organic hygiene and food which has had a tremendous positive effect on my life. I have a blog that I plan on updating with my journey regularly. Thanks again for your post and this blog it really inspires me ! :)

        1. Hey Mai, sounds like you are making great progress with your minimalism journey! And I agree, it’s not just a lifestyle that leads to more clarity and peace of mind, but it also saves you a ton of money… Not to mention time. I also try to buy things that serve several functions at once. E.g. the one pair of shorts I own is a so called pair of “hybrid” shorts – you can wear them on the streets, for working out and even for taking a swim. And they don’t look too bad either! Same idea with my laptop, which is both a regular laptob but can also be converted into an ultra light tablet. I would rather buy a high quality, multipurpose item like the ones I mentioned, even though it might intially cost a little bit more, but then save money and especially space down the road. Good luck, also with your blog, and feel free to check in again any time!

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