5 More Extraordinary Ways To Travel Like A Minimalist


It has been an awesome couple of weeks during the How To Live Anywhere launch. Thank you for being a part of it! Let’s switch gears from all the business focused articles for at least a day, huh?

Last year, I wrote an article on ZenHabits called The Beginner’s Guide To Minimalist Travel. If you haven’t already read it, go ahead and check it out after we’re done here.

We’re going to take minimalist travel to the next level.

As an ultra light traveler (ok, technically not) my goal is not only to pack as little as possible, but everything I pack should have multiple uses.

As an example, I use the Dr Bronner’s soap I mentioned in The Beginner’s Guide as body wash, face wash, toothpaste, and laundry detergent. I stopped washing my hair with hair products almost a year ago so I don’t use it as shampoo, but it can also be used in place of your shampoo.

1) Use USB Rechargeable Electronics

If you’re traveling it’s a given that you’re going to bring electronics with you. Especially if you’re like me and you’re working as you travel. I’ve got a laptop, an iPod, a digital camera, a Flip Video camera, and a small flashlight (torch).

But I’ve cut my chargers down to the bare minimum.

While my laptop is charging (or I’m working) I charge most of my electronics.

My iPod charges with a small iPod cable and not the big iPod charger and the batteries to my Flip and flashlight charge using a small USB AA/AAA battery charger.

You can buy a USB battery charger almost anywhere that sells rechargeable batteries. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon has them.

Unfortunately, my digital camera has it’s own proprietary charger, but thankfully it’s very small.

2) Stick To One Credit Card and One ATM Card

The rationale for traveling with more (what I’ve heard from people I’ve met) seems to be “well, if something happens to one, I still have a back up.”

On the surface that seems like a great argument, but it’s completely unnecessary.

Let’s pretend you fall into the unfortunate situation of getting mugged. If you get mugged all of your credit cards will probably be taken. If you lose your wallet the same holds true. Having a backup in either of these worst-case-scenarios will be utterly useless. (Unless you happen to keep your cards in different places.)

Instead, stick to one credit card. Either one that gets you the most points or cashback or one that doesn’t charge international fees (my preference).

If you’re in the U.S. get a Capital One credit card. They don’t charge international fees so you never have to worry about being hit with the industry standard 3% fee for the “privelege” of using your card in another country.

Along with your no fee credit card, find a bank that offers no fee ATM withdrawals. Many online banks with corresponding stock trading accounts offer ATM cards that refund your ATM fees worldwide.

Additionally, sometimes banks in your home country will have an association with banks in other countries. For example, with my Bank of America ATM card I get fee free ATM withdrawals from any Westpac bank in Australia or New Zealand or Deutsche Bank here in Wroclaw, Poland. :)

Confession: I also travel with an Amex Platinum card so I have access to their benefits. Completely worthless card to actually use for transactions outside of the USA though.

3) Replace Your Shaving Cream or Foam With Shaving Oil

Shaving oil is a shaving cream/foam replacement that packs up much smaller than even travel sized shaving products. It’s also good for both men and women.

Shaving oil is not the same as pre-shave oil. Pre-shave oil is a conditioning oil used before your shaving cream/foam. Shaving oil, on the other hand, is used in place of shaving cream/foam.

I personally use Pacific Shaving Oil and love it more than any other shaving product I’ve ever used. One tiny bottle is good for 50-100 shaves depending on how many drops of oil you need to use. I use 8-9 drops per shave.

Just as important as being a minimalist product, shaving oil provides a very smooth, close, shave. I have horribly sensitive skin and Pacific Shaving Oil is the only product I’ve ever used that keeps me from getting razor burn. (I think it’s the only company I’m a fan of (err, I mean Like of, haha) on Facebook.)

4) Pack Your Own Towl

That’s not a misspelling. I’m referring to the MSR Packtowl. It’s a highly absorbent towel that packs up like a deck of cards. It may not be luxurious, but it’s small, light, dries incredibly quickly, and gets the job done.

It’s a must in the bag of any minimalist, ultra-light, traveler.

If you’re staying in hotels this isn’t relevant for you, of course. But the PackTowl is indispensible if you’re camping, hosteling, or CouchSurfing.

5) Vapur-ize Your Water

I forgot to write about this in my updated packing list because I didn’t use it in India or Thailand. Been using it daily here in Poland. Speaking of Thailand, on the streets all around Chiang Mai there are purified bottle refill stations for big 5 liter water bottles. It costs only 1-2 Baht (2-6 US pennies) for a refill. I do have video of the process and will post it some day. :) Tangent over …

The Vapur anti-bottle, available through Vapur.us or Amazon ($7 more expensive on Amazon), is one of those products I can’t believe I didn’t come up with myself. Not only is it BPA-free, but it rolls up tiny.

Let me repeat that last part: the Vapur water bottle rolls up. It rolls up! Which means you can take a reusable water bottle with you anywhere.

You might be thinking “Doesn’t buying a new water bottle go against what minimalism is all about?

Not necessarily.

Minimalism isn’t only about not buying stuff. It’s about living with the essentials and not overconsuming.

If you regularly buy bottles of water you now have no excuse not to take a reusable bottle with you everywhere. The Vapur fits anywhere.

And if you already have a bulky reusable water bottle give it to a family member or friend.

Traveling with a 16oz (almost half liter) water bottle that folds or rolls up simply makes more sense than any other option.

I hereby declare you ready to travel the world with the bare minimum. The absolute essentials. When you have the best time of your life thank yourself for having the courage to be a minimalist.


I’ve had lots of new friends visiting here in the past few days. Is that you? Hi! I’m Karol (Carl not Carol). Thank you for stopping by. I write about fun things like traveling the world, minimalism, challenging authority and ourselves, and working from anywhere via a laptop. I don’t know how many thing I own (I’ve never counted) but I live out of a 32L backpack and own 3 t-shirts. :) Welcome! I hope you stick around.


  1. I have to travel a few times a year, and I have always insisted on traveling minimalist. Mostly because I don’t trust people. There is nothing more calming than knowing I can leave my hotel every morning and pack all of my stuff into one bag and throw a lock on it. Also, the less stuff I bring the less stuff I will potentially leave behind.

    • Your last sentence may be one of the best reasons to travel light. No stress about leaving something behind because there is nothing to leave behind. :)

  2. Hi Karol,

    Cool stuff. When you write about travel related stuff, it always gives me ideas for the blog I’m now responsible for at my job since its’ a travel blog. Stuff like this is pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I Karol I’m new here and love your site. This is a great article and something I need to work on. I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam, which included 11 flights and 9 different airports. We did NOT pack minimalist and it was a pain in the a$$. Thanks for the tips!

    • Hi Hugh!

      Thank you, I’m glad you love my site. ;)

      11 flights / 9 airports with checked baggage?! Oh my wowza! Let me know how your next minimalist excursion goes. :)


  4. Hey Karol,

    I love shocking my workmates when we go out-of-state for a three-day trip, and I fit everything I need in my laptop bag, while they are bringing a carry-on bag, their laptop bag, and a checked roll-along bag. Good stuff!

    I absolutely love “How To Live Anywhere.” Very well done! I’m going to be one of your first 100! Thanks so much for everything you offer.

    • Hi Casey! Thank you so much. I put a lot of work into HTLA and it’s so good to get your awesome feedback. :)

      Also awesome that you can fit all you need for a 3 day trip in a laptop bag. Rock on!


  5. Hey Karol.

    Nice that you still have time to keep this going after your busy work with HTLA. thanks for that ^_~.

    Nice post as usual,i agree if you want to travel allot you have to travel smart. Packing efficiently is one of the key things in that.

    Hope to hear from you again soon:).


  6. I recently took a trip with some family members to another state(here in the US) and it was only a three day trip, I took one back pack and a largish lunch bag(for my hair stuff/cosmetics that wouldn’t fit in my other bag and a pair of shoes) and That was still more than I wanted to take, I was hoping to fit it all in my back pack. When we got to the hotel and got my stuff out everyone looked at me and said “is that all you brought? one of my cousins had one very large suitcase/bag things full of purses/shoes and another one for her clothes and then her purse and another smaller one for cosmetics and all that junk. I thought I was bringing to much. The other ones packed a little lighter but not by much. They brought like two weeks worth of clothes for 3 days. I am really glad my ex military boyfriend taught me how to pack light!

    • hehe, I hear similar stories a lot. :) But it’s all good, at least WE know the best way to travel, right. ;)

      And you’re going to love the Vapur. I do wonder how long one will last because it can’t possibly take as much of a beating as the metal bottles. We will see. It does seem very durable though.

      Thanks for commenting Tabatha!


  7. Hey Karol,
    I always look forward to reading your minimalist/travel posts (more my thing than the business ones I have to say).
    Love this post, I am taking my first carry on only trip to to US this summer (for 3 weeks) so I will be using some of your tips :o)
    (and thanks for the Vapur tip, I will keep an eye out for them)

    Thanks and keep up the good work!


    • Thanks Mike. :) Glad you’re into this stuff. Sorry you’re not into the business stuff, but that’s where I have a lot of experience. :)

      Have fun on your carry on only trip! It will be wonderful.

  8. Hi Karol,

    Was reading that you have to take your digital camera charger with you, and it reminded me of this neat USB battery charger I bought for my trip to Australia, you can charge virtually any battery on it, even cell phone battery, as well as any USB device!

    Thought it was a great way to save on bringing mulitiple chargers!!


    • Hey thanks Kimberly!

      That looks like a sweet device! I can replace the AA/AAA charger and my camera’s charger and roll them into one. Wooohooo! I will look into getting one here in Poland somewhere.


        • Whoa! Those are awesome! Thanks Damir. The only problem is each battery takes up 1 USB port. A 4-port USB hub would be the answer, but that defeats the purpose of replacing a charger. :)

  9. Not exactly a tip on packing light, but a top on not forgetting anything when traveling.

    Make sure all of your belongings are located in one corner, it makes it much easier to packup when it’s time to leave. If you use a powercord to charge a device, wrap the cord around your luggage, prevents you from forgetting the cord, the device, or both.

    • Hey Duane,

      Thanks for that. But the beauty of traveling the way I do is it’s nearly impossible to forget anything. I never worry about it because there is so little stuff to worry about. :)


  10. Hello Karol,

    Awesome blogs yo’ve got here, just learned about you from Reece’s list.

    While I was young and daring I backpacked all around Europe and SE Asia (spent a lot of time in Thailand) and loved that lifestyle, following a Rick Steve’s guide with a Lonely Planet as a backup.

    I highly recommend it to everyone with the stomach to keep it up, although as you get a bit older it can wear you down.

    So these days I’m looking for a way to be mobile like I once was but with more luxury. I’m almost where I need to be now income-wise and I’ve started planning on how to not have a residence at all, yet still live in relative luxury without spending millions. While travelling the USA I am thinking weekly-stay places will be a big part of it, but I have no idea how to do that internationally yet.

    So you’ve come along at just the right time for me, I’ll be keeping a close watch on your blog for sure.


    • Hey Luke,

      That sounds awesome! But weekly stays seem logistically difficult unless you mean luxury hotel stays. How about a kick ass RV? For a tour of the States I don’t know that anything could be more luxurious.


      • We actually looked at an RV but it was a little too flimsy. I don’t love driving big cars, either. (Thinking about a Prius)

        My first idea for this lifestyle was a more luxurious hotel stay in every destination of over 1 week while we explore the entire area, and then it occurred to me that weekly-stays were pretty much made just for that, at a cheap-o $200/week price with maid service, utils, & a net connection included.

        At that rate I’d spend about half as much as I do now in my small apartment each month but get to see the entire country with free maid service & all utilities thrown in for free.

        Which logistical issues are you referring to? I haven’t actually done this yet so I’d be very interested in knowing.

        Thanks again,

        • The word luxury threw me off. No worries. Your plan sounds awesome. I’d like to hear more about it when the time comes. :)

  11. As a fellow ultralight traveler — 30L backpack ;) — the Vapur bottle looks incredible! What an awesome idea. Storing my empty 32oz waterbottle in my bag takes up so much room it’s rediculious!

    I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned it somewhere else, but I’d love to hear what kind of backpack you’re using and also hear what else your bag contains. It’s funny how us ultralight travelers carry so few things that more often than not they’re exactly the same items! (I also have the MSR travel towel.)

  12. Hey Karol,

    Is it ok that I don’t need shaving oil at all? Not much hair grows on my face.

    I got those Pack Towels at your suggestion, they work great. I bought some for my mom, step dad, brother, and a lover. Works awesomely.

    I’ve been using Dr. Bonners too, awesome stuff.

    I think I may try out your no shampoo thing. How does your hair feel or smell now after so many months of not washing with shampoo?

    Got the american express plat on your recommendation for the awesome office travel stuff. Applied for a capital one as well to be my travel card! Also have one of those ATM refund fees accounts, two I know of are Fidelity and Schwab.

    I’m going to annihilate your How To Live Anywhere soon! After I attend a management summit by Eben Pagan!

    Thanks for the awesome list Karol.

    • Hey Bobby,

      Of course it’s OK. :)

      You should check out the comments in the shampoo article. Pretty much any question you could possibly have is answered. Hair feels great / doesn’t smell.

      Thanks for rocking with all my advice! :)


  13. Just found your website and am enjoying the tips tremendously…

    I would also love to get a link to whichever backpack you’re using. You haven’t had any troubles taking it as carry-on with any airlines? LOVED my “junior” backpack for my travels (one of which was 6 weeks backpacking across the Middle East) but it’s about to give up the ghost and I can’t find the model anywhere anymore :(

    Keep up the great travel tips!


    • Hey Deb!

      Thanks for checking in.

      No troubles carrying on the Deuter Futura 32L at all. I haven’t even had any troubles carrying on my guitar on any airlines yet. :)


      • Really, Karol? Wow! I’ll check out your packing list on the site.
        Maybe I’m misunderstanding something, though… in the States it seems like all airlines are cutting back on luggage allowances and you’re only allowed one carry-on bag and they’re pretty strict about the size, too. You carry on your backpack AND your guitar with no checked luggage and no problems?

        Thanks again!

        • Hey Deb,

          My bad. I check my bag now but take the guitar as carry on. The guitar is massive compared to my backpack. No problems even on budget Air Asia or regional LOT. And, of course, no problems when flying business class FinnAir. They have closet space. :)


  14. Dear Karol:

    Yup it was mean who mispelled your name. Well am still here and slowly getting hook – i’ve said this line few times in the last couple of months. “when the teacher is ready, the student will come” …

    Confession after 4 months of almost non-stop on and off traveling in 4 continents I still have not learned. Imagine me very petite middle age (mistaken for 15-20 ears younger my age :)) heading to Manaus and to Amazon tomorrow with 1 large suitecase, 1 hand carry size one and a backback. Yes it’s pain the b (behind). Although I find myself asking for good samaritan to help me lift them us – next time around I would sure to follow your wisdom instead. (ooops part of me is still saying – what about my books, reading materials, party clothes, party shoes, etc., this is still small considering this is all I have away from luxury of home?) still resisting.

    Oh yeah, I’m good at contributing my chargers to everywhere I go. I think my blackberry cost more than the chargers now – I left 5 already in different places. I got smart (I thought) I left my blackberry this time at home. No charger, no phone. Give me horray for that will you?

    For some reason my first casualty this trip was my “Just do it” shoes and a party shoes too. The camera charger was sitting next to the bag and they spared that. Thank goodness. That was in Buenos Aires 2 week ago.

    Am now in Salvador heading out in the morning..

    Wish me luck in the next couple of days. If I can even board a boat to the amazon with my extra baggages.

    Well you know me a bit more now, eh.

    Thanks for the tips and tricks. on to the next one…

  15. Hey Karol,

    love your site. Very inspiring. Really like your posts, relevant and honest.

    Couple of other tips here, I us a bat of Dr. Bronners for everything except toothpaste. You can lather it up as shampoo and it’s amazing as shaving cream. Soap is the original shaving cream. You just lather it up with a litttle bit of water and it works incredibly well. Carrying just a bar of Dr Bs could save some weight and space. Jojoba oil is another all-in-one. I use a little bit after shower as conditioner (also works really well and more compact than traditional conditioner). It’s amazing skin moisturizer also. Small zip lock of baking soda is great as toothpaste and deordorant (sounds crazy I know) try it though, best deordorant you’ll find. I actually use these all the time. Works as well of not better and saves money.

    Thanks, Evan

    • Hey Evan,

      Thanks. Did you miss the part I talk about Dr Bronner’s? ;) I love that stuff. Although I use it in liquid form. And using it as shaving cream is no good if you have sensitive skin. Pacific Shaving Oil all the way. :)

      Baking soda as deodorant might be good, but could be difficult to get that past security. Unless you take an actual unopened container of baking soda. ;) Zip lock bag? Not sure sure. hehe


  16. Karol, I can totally relate with the shaving oil.

    If you’re having to use 8 or 9 drops, try putting 2 or 3 drops and massage into your face, then wet your hands with water and pat your face down. During shaving make sure you keep your face wet with water and you’ll find it’s enough.

    You’ll get even more mileage this way :)

    • Hey Josh,

      Thanks! It’s probably because I don’t shave every day and my beard grows in thick. 2-3 drops just never works out. :)


  17. love this list – and i actually think it works well for those like me who don’t travel much at all! easier to be sure my devices work if i know i can plug them into my computer while working, i can bring a water bottle with me everywhere, and using shaving oil instead of foam or soap means less waste overall. i do love a fluffy towel though!

    • Awesome Robyn! Yes, it definitely works if you’re not traveling. I’m living in Poland for almost 5 months and my list hasn’t changed. Although I did replace my crappy travel pants. :) (P.S. I love a fluffy towel as well, but the MSRs are surprisingly soft.)

  18. I know it sounds a little weird, but I read somewhere online that you can use sex lube as shaving oil. Same concept, add a couple of drops to your face. Shave. Now your face smells like Pina Colada.

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