Expert List • December 2022
Whether you’re flying home for Christmas or escaping to sunnier climes, there’s no denying that the festive period often equates to an over-inflated suitcase. World-renowned minimalist and author of Goodbye, Things, Fumio Sasaki shares his essential tips for travelling light this Christmas
Most people start their travels organised, and end them in disarray. I sort through all my receipts and tourist pamphlets on my last day and rarely buy souvenirs, so I can pack the exact same way coming back as I did going. Remember that moment when you can’t find your boarding pass because you’ve amassed too much ‘stuff’? Minimalist travel means not having to deal with this stress.
Appreciating the difference between what you want versus what you need is crucial for packing light. First, learn from past trips. That one item you always bring, but never use? Leave it behind. Second, think about your destination. If there’s something you can obtain locally, buy it on the other side. Third, make a plan to do laundry when you’re there, that way you can pack fewer clothes.
Breaking the ‘in case of emergency’ packing style is tough, especially when over-packing for every eventuality is so easy. That said, unless you’re going to a jungle, most things can be obtained locally. When hiking, I’ll take an emergency kit, a lighter and bear bell, only because it’s life threatening not to. I’d rather travel light than guard myself against theoretical inconveniences.
The memories I take home are digitally saved photographs and new friendships – that’s it. As Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Think of taking home invisible treasures, rather than material objects.
I believe I could travel for quite a while, as long as I have the following:
• Weather-appropriate clothing, with just a few pairs of underwear that I'll wash as I go
• Ear plugs and a Japanese tenugui (fast-drying sports towel) since I frequently stay in hostels
• My smartphone and charger
• My Kindle
Christmas is a tricky time to stay minimalist. I, too, sometimes feel the gift-giving itch, but still think such giving has a 95 per cent chance of the satisfaction being one-sided. I like the Western tradition of gift registering, and frequently say we Japanese should also adopt wish lists – that way, you give only what the receiver really wants to keep.
Interview by Hannah Ralph