Travel Minimalism

I’m not a minimalist, but I pretend to be one when I travel.

In preparation for our ten day European trip, I thought about our prior two trips to Ireland. We had taken large rolling duffels and then I wore a satchel as a day bag. My shoulders were sore and the bag was inconvenient. The second trip in particular was rough because we were caught in the middle of an epic snowstorm. When buses were stuck, we ended up hauling our duffels through snow drifts for what felt like miles to get to our destination. Well, we knew we wouldn’t hit snow this time, but I was not going to be an over packed American. I made rules that I was unsure that we could follow, and they are as follows:

10 Day strict packing list:

  • Carry-on suitcase each; only 1/3 full
  • Rucksack each; nearly empty
  • Money pouch (neck/waist-type)
  • Five pairs each; socks, underwear, tee shirts
  • One pair sneakers; worn there, not packed (I cheated with a pair of sandals too)
  • Two pairs of jeans each, wear one there
  • Two pair each either shorts or capris
  • One quart size bag of liquid toiletries each, each with a 3oz bottle of detergent
  • Small bag of shared necessities; nail clippers, tweezers, band aids, razor, bobby pins, etc.
  • Glasses/belts and other random requirements
  • Ipad, two cameras, eReader (Nook), chargers and spare memory cards
  • One 4-socket power converter.  Charged all electronics in one swoop each night.
  • A long cord aka clothesline

Score one for us. It was the easiest travel trip ever. Since we nearly missed our plane to Brussels, one of the key begging points in allowing us to board was that we had no luggage to check. We were able to fit both our bags in the same train luggage locker at each city we went to, saving time and money when we were unable to check into our room too. Halfway through the trip, we washed our clothes in our sink, hung them up on the cord we cleverly tied across one side of our bedroom and off we went the next morning, fresh, clean and with far less luggage then the over packed tourists who could barely lift the bags up and onto the train.

Laundry in Berlin

The worst would be seeing the retired couples with the elderly men hauling multiple enormous pieces of luggage behind his wife on crowded public transportation.  I gave my husband the go-ahead then and there to berate me if I ever got that bad.  I may not wash our clothes in the sink forever, but maybe one day if we’re fancy we’ll just pay to get them laundered instead.  Who am I kidding?  We’ll never be fancy.

Back to the packing list; for those who may question the possible excessive electronic choices, let me explain.

Ipad, a wonderful gift from our parents saved my shoulders in a big way rather than toting the heavy laptop as we did in years past. But, since there is not Wi-Fi everywhere and we found many Europeans do not offer it for free, the Nook was a great backup to access tour books, maps and translators that were pre-downloaded, thus eliminating the need for the internet and heavy travel books during the travel. In cities like Brussels, where we were limited on time, we used the Nook to do our own walking tour per Rick Steves, saving both time and money. When you have the opportunity though, I do suggest taking a real tour, Rick is wise, but he doesn’t know every nuance.

And there you have it. We came home with smiles, souvenirs that fit in our existing bags (including a real cuckoo clock) and never had to check a bag or pop a painkiller. This my friends, comes in handy when you’re sharing a six person sleeping compartment on a train.

Many stories to follow.

Your Guide to Grocery Shopping

My husband and I met at the grocery market after we were both done work and did some shopping together.  This isn’t normal practice, but it worked out since we had to run an errand in the same shopping center.  With an extra hand, I was able to look around and absorb what a ridiculous chore that food shopping is.  Is there ever a convenient time to go food shopping?  It is likely my least favorite chore and there isn’t much you can do to avoid the hassles.

Here is a rundown of what it takes to be an efficient grocery shopper.

  1. Some make a list or cut coupons.
    1. This could be a chore on its own.  Dreaded meal planning or in depth scan of the fridge, so you aren’t held accountable later when you’re out of something.
    2. Don’t forget to bring your own bags.  Even if you don’t want to be “green”, the plastic ones are getting thinner and cheaper.  (One too many jars of spaghetti sauce in your bag then causes disastrous mess in your driveway.)
  2. Seek out food like a hunter.  Even with signs, it feels like a scavenger hunt most times.
  3. Figure out what you can afford.
    1. Scan options and ask yourself why there are twenty-five kinds of jelly or tea to choose from.
    2. Try to decide what is actually the least detrimental to your health and affordable.
  4. Fill your basket.
    1. Enter all of Grandmom’s rules about handling your food; don’t crush your bread or pin your bananas against any boxes.  Keep your cold stuff together and eggs on top.  Bag meat products that may leak as well as your vegetables to keep loose items together.
  5. Don’t forget to check expiration dates.
  6. Pull a ticket and wait in line for the deli counter.
    1. The deli people are usually the most unhappy workers at a supermarket.  Play a fun game and try to guess what the people in front of you order.  Play with your phone if you’re still waiting after five minutes.  Don’t expect anyone but you to be happy that you’ve found alternate amusement.
    2. When you hit the lottery and your time to order meat and cheese has been announced, spout your selections quickly like it’s the last thing you get to say on earth, there is no time to stumble or make last minute decisions now. Continue reading