The story chronicles the 21-day, ultra-minimal trip to Europe taken by Austin-based freelance writer Clara Bensen (ClaraBensen.com) and her date Jeff, whom she had recently met on OkCupid. Despite being in a relationship for less time than most of us go without getting a haircut, the two embarked — at Jeff’s suggestion — on a trip to Europe where each packed nothing more than what could fit in their pockets (and one small shoulder bag), which begs certain obvious questions regarding sanity, hygiene, the role of modernity in contemporary travel, our reliance on technology, and practical questions about washing one’s clothes with no spare clothes on hand.
Lucky for you, we tracked down Clara, who agreed to candidly answer our more pressing questions about her trip, the role of ultra-minimal travel in the world today, and most importantly, whether she and Jeff made it through to the present, relationship intact:
I was expecting ultra-minimalist travel to be much more difficult than it actually was. There was very little I missed about past travels with heavy backpacks and unwieldy suitcases. You really don’t need much. If traveling light differs in any significant way, it’s in the freedom of movement that it offers. I had never experienced that kind of lightness before.
Even though our story blew up because of the OkCupid angle, my original intent in traveling with so little was to explore my relationship with “stuff.” Some commenters have pointed out that millions of people in the world live with very few belongings and it was no big achievement for us to have gone luggage-less for a few weeks. That is a completely valid point and we wouldn’t deny it. Still, as an American living in a culture that places a high value on consumption and accumulating stuff, it felt personally meaningful to explore my dependency on physical belongings within the context of travel.
When I came back to Texas, I ended up giving away a lot of my belongings and about 3/4 of my wardrobe. My space feels so much more open and relaxed. I don’t miss any of it. So, yes, I think there are some crossovers between minimalist travel and minimalist living, at least based on my experience.