All Posts in Travel

December 12, 2018

Living with Less

How life on the road has been the best idea I’ve ever had.

Two years ago an idea popped into my head: to get rid of most of my possessions and leave my home of 27 years to travel full-time in an RV. This idea was so far out of my norm that I kept it to myself for months, fearing that my friends and family might think I’d lost my mind. I wasn’t sure where it originated but I decided to research as much as possible and find out if it could be done.

The more I learned and read about others leading this lifestyle, the more I believed I could pull it off. The fact that I’d never so much as spent a weekend in an RV didn’t faze me. I focused on the freedom I would gain, traveling to beautiful places. The opportunity to explore, hike, and fully enjoy nature. I resolved to continue planning until I encountered some insurmountable obstacle.

Spoiler alert... I never did.

I began looking around my house, making a list of items I would purge. My intention was to give away my furniture, appliances, and clothing to people in need. Things with a lot of sentimental value would go into storage, but the cost for that space was not to exceed what my monthly utilities had run.

Every box packed and trash can filled over the next few months brought me closer to my goal. When I got close to my exit date I contacted a woman at the local community college who coordinates services for students with children. Soon, trucks began coming down the driveway and grateful young people would cart off my stuff.

I had not anticipated how satisfying this process would be. And now, 18 months into my RV life, there’s not a single material possession I regret giving away. I have all the essentials right here, along with the freedom to move on or stay put wherever I choose. I spent three months last summer as a Forest Service volunteer at Mount St. Helens National Monument, camping in the back of a ranger-station-turned-visitor-center. I was surrounded by a  gorgeous forest with the Milky Way overhead and no sounds at night but owls. This, and other experiences have brought a depth and freshness to my life that I would have thought unlikely at my age.

When asked how long I intend to live this way, my answer is simply, “as long as it works for me.”

I hope that will be quite some time.

November 1, 2018

The Art and Obligation of Minimalist Travel

How packing only what you need can change the way you see the world.

As I sit here meticulously packing the bare minimum for my week-long business/leisure trip to Vietnam, I remember the times that I would have my suitcase packed in the comical fashion that we are used to seeing in cartoons. You know, the ones where you need someone to sit on it while you frantically attempt to zip it up.

Back then, I slowly began to realize that those “what if” scenarios that I was packing for would never occur, so I began to bring only what I felt were the essentials and eliminate the things that were simply not needed.

For the past five years, I have had the privilege of a job that brings me to every corner of the world and allows me to interact with people from many different backgrounds. I have seen some of the best that humanity, cultures, and the natural world has to offer. Unfortunately, I have also seen some of the worst as well.

The beauty far outweighs the ugly—by a landslide—and hopefully, that’s how it is for everyone. But I asked myself, why are some travel experiences so valuable while others are forgotten shortly after I arrive back home?

The answer? It’s me.

What I have found is that the beautiful aspects of a country are amplified when you are prepared to accept and experience them as they truly are and with an open mind. Naturally, we have our own pre-conceived notions about the world which are defined by our backgrounds and culture. When we travel we are willingly (hopefully) opening ourselves up to experience a new culture, cuisine, lifestyle, etc.

I have had my perspective completely turned upside down by what I have experienced. At first, it can be scary but once you get over the initial shock, it is liberating. These are the moments that I live for and truly believe that the world would be a better place if more people were unremittingly exposing themselves to cultures other than their own.

To do this, bring what you need and leave the rest.

What does this mean? It’s simple:

  • Bring your knack for adventure and leave your anxieties about “what if” behind
  • Bring your thirst for knowledge and leave your presumptuous mentality at home
  • Leave your “I don’t eat that” statement in your kitchen (unless you’re allergic of course)

The easiest and the most important way to travel like a minimalist is to listen more than you speak. You’d be surprised by the things you can learn when listening to people that are completely different than you in terms of values, language, and interests.

So, with these tips in mind, pack light, get out there, book a trip, and touch the world.

September 19, 2018

Less Stressful Adventures

The art of traveling with less stress.

Travel planning brings out different emotions in different people. For some, the act of planning a trip is exciting, yet for others, it is a bit overwhelming, stressful, and draining.

For me, it has always brought great joy and a buzz of anticipation.

Planning does not always need to be filled with stress, trying to book expensive excursions and organizing every second of every minute. I have found that the greatest and most memorable trips are the simplest ones, complete with plenty of time to explore and experiencing new places.

To achieve a trip that is as stress-free as visiting a new country or city can possibly be, it is important to start by figuring out your must-haves and must-sees, and then plan accordingly. For example, I always like to take my time exploring big cities. It is imperative for me to have time to sit in a local café and write, eat local delicacies, and sip on tea (or an espresso). However for others, a travel must-have may include days specifically set aside for shopping or for checking out different museums and galleries.

We must always remember that travel is an amazing and privileged experience, and that not everything has to go perfectly all of the time. Instagram models and Photoshopped travel pictures often lead us to believe that our adventures must consist of perfectly curated pics and expensive destinations. This is simply not true.

Though photography provides us with a visual means of reminiscing on past memories as well as a creative outlet, it is also good to be mindful of not getting too caught up in our snapping away. Being present and submerging yourself in the culture is something you do not want to miss out on. After all, life is more of a theme park than a photoshoot.

Many travelers tell you that the worst part about traveling is the flights and layovers, but for me, these essential and unavoidable processes are part of the adventure. From 9-hour layovers to 11-hour flights, they have all been a blast. Sitting in an airport with a book or a laptop and relaxing with a coffee, wondering where the bustling people around me are headed has always been a memorable and valuable part of every trip I have gone on. If your layover is long enough, you may even be able to explore sights in the city as well. Embrace the journey and view it as part of the trip.

The essence of traveling is that it opens you up to so many different things outside of normal life. There is so much to be learned. Everywhere on earth, there is such beauty, diverse foods and customs, and amazing people—all with stories to tell. So, if we can prioritize, relax, and focus on the journey, we will all be more connected and present.

August 23, 2018

fourweeksgood: Copenhagen

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Copenhagen, DK.

Following the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo, Berlin, Antwerp, Melbourne and Budapest, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature hits Copenhagen, the final one of this travel series for our Journal. Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates this Danish city, one of Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals. It’s welcoming and compact, with a centre largely given over to pedestrians and cyclists. There’s an emphasis on café culture and museums by day, and a live music, bar and club scene by night.

If you're planning a trip to Denmark and looking for the most minimalist accommodation, opt for STAY. Located in Islands Brygge, this is an impressive and different concept that provides a great escape from the madding crowds. STAY Copenhagen is a residential building and the large stylish monochrome loft apartments on offer are one of the best bets in the city accommodation-wise if you don't want to be surrounded by tourist traps, and you're looking for some of that minimalist Scandinavian design. While visiting the city, make sure to also plan a stop at Den Blå Planet, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium with more than 20,000 animals and seven million liters of water. If you would like to admire some creative landmarks, head to Copenhagen’s Superkilen: a green space, a public square and a recreational area all in one. As part of a larger urban redevelopment plan, the park was designed to celebrate diversity. To do so, they decorated it with different objects inspired from over 50 nationalities which make up the neighborhood. Europe is already a brilliant conglomeration of different cultures and this park seems to embody this very notion. Definitely worth a stroll.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

July 25, 2018

Minimalist Travel: Less Luggage, More Substance

A seasoned traveler’s recipe for low-stress, high-impact international adventures.

I once heard that the average American spends more time planning a vacation than the actual duration of the getaway. And perhaps, I too was part of this statistic in my youth. But today, after 33 years and 33 countries visited, I have developed a rough-but-yummy recipe for travel success:

Pack Half

The journey begins at home. If you’re like most people, you stress about needing items ‘A through Z’ while abroad. But, also like many people, you probably won’t be using most of your clothes, toiletries, and other tchotchkes that you stuffed into your now-bulging luggage.

I challenged myself to packing at most half of my normal haul. It wasn’t easy the first time around, but once it was done, it felt like a milestone achieved. And once I enjoyed how carefree it was to travel with fewer pieces of luggage, I doubt I’ll ever go back to my old ways.

Book Buffers

I don’t overstuff my schedule, either. While abroad, things happen. Planes experience mechanical troubles. Trains are late (okay, maybe not in Germany or Japan). Travel companions fall ill, tired, or moody. Weather does not cooperate. Plans change. If my itinerary were ever jam-packed, I was constantly anxious and running on adrenaline the entire time with little chance of unwinding or de-stressing. And wasn’t that the whole point of the getaway?

Spend an Afternoon Like a Local

In between my planned adventures, I always carve some time to do… nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I’ll spend an afternoon meandering the lesser-known neighborhoods, usually away from other tourist hordes. I’ll often sit at a café and people-watch or go see a movie (subtitles or not). In the evening, I’ll attend a comedy show or music/jazz club, or whatever the local flavor of entertainment might be. In essence, I do everything to NOT feel like a tourist. And it makes the entire trip that much more pleasant and memorable.

Resist Over-posting on Social Media

This is a tough one. Especially for me, a former semi-pro photographer (my Instagram is @itakemanyphotos, which I hope one day becomes a misnomer). Whenever I go on an international adventure, I usually wait a few days before posting about my adventures. This helps me process, and more fully cherish, my own experience instead of worrying about social validation, likes, or retweets from my friends back home. It reminds me to spend less time taking photos, and more time using my eyes to enjoy the beautiful scenes in front of me (although, in my defense, I take a lot of photos back home, so when I travel, it feels natural to continue doing the same). To get my social fix, I talk to as many locals as I can. Not in a speed-dating sort of way, but to a degree that makes me forget I miss home, even if for just a few days.

When I do post photos online, rather than posting 18 photos of that amazing sunset, I pick my best one or two—especially if they’re wildly different. I think about curating the experience for the person on the other end. Who wants to see fourteen videos and ten pictures of the same one-eyed lizard, cute as he may be? No one. Less is more.

Realize the Obvious

None of the above is rocket science. It’s common knowledge, but like all common sense, it’s rarely practiced. So next time you’re planning your next adventure, consider carrying less, doing less, worrying less… and experiencing a whole lot more.

July 19, 2018

fourweeksgood: Budapest

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Budapest, HU.

After introducing you to the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo, Berlin, Antwerp and Melbourne, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature moves to Hungary. Once upon a time, two separate Hungarian cities—Buda and Pest—straddled the Danube River. Today, with more than a 1,000 years of history and a complex ethnic background, the two have grown together to form Hungary's cosmopolitan yet charming capital—Budapest. Filled with plenty of picturesque backdrops, Budapest is the city that could very well offer you some of the most beautiful spots to take remarkable photos.

A minimalist’s dream, the Heroes Square is a humongous landmark with plenty of space for you to expand your creativity in taking some gorgeous and creative shots. The Chain Bridge is most beautiful while illuminated at night. The various spots along the bridge are simply excellent for some artistic nighttime insta-shots. Another unmissable place is the Fisherman's Bastion: this minimalist-looking terrace is filled with a beautiful white background to work with. To top it off, you’ll get panoramic views of the city from the various lookouts and viewing platforms. If you want to experience a more contemporary feature to the city, you'll have to have go underground and experience Line 4 of the subway, which is a stunning piece of architecture. Budapest is a big cultural city with gorgeous backdrops that exude a lot of flair and character. Be it cafés, second-hand fashion stores, pubs, monuments and statues or the random streets. Time to pack a camera and explore this city!

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

June 27, 2018

How I Became a Peripatetic Minimalist

Why I merged travel and minimalism to find balance in my life.

Travel and minimalism are perfect companions. The less you own, the fewer things can weigh you down, which in turn allows you to roam freely.

How I came onto the path of minimalism was out of my control. Turning nineteen years of age, my family decided to make a move to Peru. As soon as I left secondary school, my father sold our house. The number of things we found that once may have bared significance to us, was staggering. I think it may go without saying that moving home is stressful.  What makes the situation even worse is the obligation to move and package a million little things, many of which you can’t remember how they even came into your life.

The task of having to sell, throw out, and donate possessions made me think. How much money did we throw away with all these little trinkets? How many hours have we worked to buy something that held value for maybe a week? More importantly, imagine all the cool places we could have travelled to instead.

Now that I take travelling the world more seriously, I do not want to be tied down by possessions, contracts, and excess money. I want to travel, inspire, and help others—not flex and impress everyone.

Possessions used to mark our status as humans. But does owning more materialist things—the latest smartphone—make us happy? Not me. I find much more value exploring nature, spending time with other cultures, and inspiring people to see what they are missing out. Spending doesn’t have to involve a transaction.

Two years on, my love of travel is growing deeper by the day. I aim to live with only the essentials, and the small number of things that I do have, bring a smile to my face. Living this way, I avoid the pitfalls of mass accumulation, allowing me to hop on a plane with my backpack and go wherever I desire.  The world is my home. That is why I aim to own little but see much.

June 13, 2018

fourweeksgood: Melbourne

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Melbourne, AU.

Following the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo, Berlin, and Antwerp, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature hits the second-most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Melbourne is an artistic powerhouse with a vibrant and multicultural soul. Nicknamed “Paris of the southern hemisphere” Melbourne is not only known to be Australia’s cultural hot-spot, but is also famous for its major sporting events and its culinary delights from all across the world. If you're into minimalism in architecture we invite you to visit the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which comprises a minimalist iron superstructure. This art gallery is one of the newer established galleries in the city. When you visit ACCA, you’ll enter a creative and innovative environment that features excellent architecture, themed sculptures, and a unique rust-red building. In fact, this building has become one of the most significant establishments in Melbourne’s Art Precinct. Visitors often come here to explore the modern architecture of this distinctive steel building. Only 15 minutes away from ACCA there is also another minimalist spot, the Kettle Black Cafe, on Albert Road—one of Melbourne's best hits for gourmet breakfast, lunch, and brunch fare.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

May 9, 2018

fourweeksgood: Antwerp

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Antwerp, BE.

After introducing you to the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo and Berlin, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature capital is Antwerp. Known worldwide as the diamond city, Antwerp is not only an important business center in Europe, but also a great stop for travelers exploring Belgium, as it contains many attractions that will engage and inspire those who take the time to discover them. Our highlight goes on the outskirts of Antwerp, featuring Kanaal, a 180,500-square-foot enclave with three art galleries, an auditorium, an organic food market, and a French bakery on the banks of the Albert Canal, some 8 miles east of the historic heart of the city. Belgian tastemaker and art dealer Axel Vervoordt inaugurated the space in November 2017 together with a Gallery which currently hosts three exhibitions, including works by the Korean conceptualist Chung Chang-Sup (14.04.2018 - 02.06.2018). For those of you who are planning a trip Belgium, make sure not to miss a visit to this enchanted space a few steps away from Antwerp.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

April 18, 2018

How Travel Helped Me Change My Life

Taking a step back from routine to travel the world and learn to live with less.

When I left my job last summer I entered a strange state of loss and lack of direction. After four years at my school I had made good friends, taught fantastic students and my teaching was becoming pretty solid, and what’s more the job was getting easier. All the pieces of a good life were in place; I recently married my best friend and business partner of 10 years. I had a great group of friends and the financial stability of a London mortgage. I could’ve continued with my nice life but felt it wasn’t right. I worried about endless work, 30-year debt and wasting away the creative passions of my teens—it seemed inevitable this would be my life. Or so I thought. After a life-changing trip to Patagonia in 2015, I decided on a new plan to make big changes. I’m still in the process of making that plan a reality but it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Leaving school last summer wasn’t just leaving a job but leaving the life that I expected to grow old living. I stepped off the treadmill and into the unknown, free from work, routine and a normal stable life. My wife and I saved as much cash as we could save in a year, combined with gift money from our wedding and boarded a flight to Norway in July 2017. It’s been a rollercoaster of unforgettable experiences, cool people, foods, sunsets, and ideas. As the end nears I have found clear motivations on how to continue this free, happy, and inspiring way of life. But how will I achieve this?

Traveling the world on $40 a day for two people means you’ll need to live like a local person. That means queuing up to use the same transport, eating in the same restaurants and shopping around for a good price. It’s fun, once you get better at haggling and putting on a front. I learnt that to be happy I didn’t need all the luxury we were used to at home. If I could scale down my spending abroad then why not do so the rest of the time? The first part of my plan to balance my lifestyle is to cut spending to what I need rather than want. This reduces my day-to-day costs and ultimately I’ll have to live with less. In comparison to the majority of local people I met traveling, I could see that life at home in London was not balanced, quite excessive actually and sometimes wasteful too. So living minimally is one of my goals.

Next, I want to be more creative in my daily life and return to London and start using my creative skills. I have developed this attitude by meeting many makers around the world who work hard at their passion. I left our website Studio Mali open to grow and so I feel driven to make creative projects the centre of my new life by making objects that I hope people will enjoy. This goal could have only come from having time to think about it, talk about it and gather the confidence to actually do it. Traveling has given me that time and led me to people making beautiful products in all corners of the globe. It’s not about becoming mega rich by selling products, but about proving to myself that I can survive independently doing something I love.

I setup our Studio Mali blog with my wife because we wanted a project to keep us busy on the road—an output to remember our trip by. In just seven months of traveling we feel like new people, excited about what’s next and driven to inspire others to think about changes they can make to their lives. It might be that you want to work less, or explore new places, develop a skill, start a new hobby, or return to a sport you once played. These little changes or activities can help you to be happy, live in the present, and grow as people. Is a full-time, debt-laden life worth the money that you’re paid? If the answer is no then what can you do to cut down your spending and live with less?

With two months until our return day, I’ve been considering what returning to a structured life will be like. Ultimately, I don’t want a five-day working week so my plan is to work three days supply teaching. I’ll be planning to spend less, enjoy free fun like nature more, cook the foods I used to get takeaways of, and be active and healthy. We hope to sell our apartment and find something smaller, which is perhaps the biggest irony of our mortgage debt. The apartment we purchased four years ago seems to have grown in equity in that time. I may be able to buy something small without a mortgage. I may be able to live a low-cost, debt-free life where I can concentrate on doing things I love, building a balanced lifestyle in the process.