Do you have dreams of overseas travel or more frequent holidays? Have you ever found yourself perplexed at how some people seem to be on constant trips and holidays whilst you’re stuck in the daily grind?
The answer often isn’t that they’re ‘lucky’ or are making vastly more money. Read on to discover how cultivating a minimalist mindset can help to boost those travel savings and help you achieve your dreams of adventures in exotic lands!
How To Develop a Minimalist Mindset
The first step to developing a minimalist mindset is to understand what it means and to separate it from the strong association with interior design that is prevalent in today’s culture.
Minimalism developed originally as an art form which gained in popularity during the 1950’s. The art and sculpture of minimalism sought to strip away anything deemed non-essential so as to point to the essence of the subject.
When applied to the aforementioned form of interior design, you are removing distracting items to focus on what is necessary or valuable. In order to remove that which is non-essential or distracting, you are simultaneously forced to decide where your focus lies and make judgements on the relative value of different elements. In this way the art or design is both a product and a producer of the minimalist mindset.
The Two Key Aspects of a Minimalist Mindset
The first aspect of a minimalist mindset then is the ability to focus on that which is most valued and make judgements on the relative value of any distracting or superfluous elements.
The second aspect of the mindset would be the ability to take conscious and decisive action to remove those elements that are not deemed valuable or essential.
Now that we’ve identified what a minimalist mindset might look like, let’s apply these two elements in view of saving money for travelling. If you determine that your goal is to boost your travel savings and take an amazing trip, the trip of a lifetime, you are assigning value to that goal.
This isn’t the end however; there are many people who desire to travel, and are therefore assigning value to it, but they somehow never quite make it off home soil.
Making Value Judgements
“The first aspect of a minimalist mindset then is the ability to focus on that which is most valued and make judgements on the relative value of any distracting or superfluous elements.”
Every choice we make is a value judgement, whether we consciously perceive it or not. Everything we do provides some form of value to us, otherwise why would we do it? Short term value is easier to identify than long term value and thus often wins out.
Specific value judgments that provide clear rewards also tend to win out over vague value judgments. An easy analogy is the choice between a salad and a greasy burger; they both provide the value of satisfying our hunger but the burger provides the short term and specific value of making us feel good, whilst the salad provides the long-term and vague value of making us ‘healthier’.
You can see why the burger tends to win out, unless of course someone has set the short-term and specific goal of dieting to tip the scales of value. If you want to boost your travel savings then you need to think about your personal hierarchy of value. You also need to set specific and short term goals so that you have something solid and real with which to measure value against.
Focus on Clear and Specific Goals
The choice between eating out with friends 3 times a week, against maybe wanting to travel next year is a no-brainer, you’re going to go out. How about eating out 3 times a week vs going on a one month trip to Nepal to hike the Himalayas in October; having experiences and memories and photos that will last a lifetime. Now does the choice sound a little less obvious?
The minimalist mindset focuses on the essence of your goal or what you value and strips away the distraction. Make a plan of exactly what you want to do, I’m not saying you need to plan every detail of your trip, but get as specific as you can. Set a starting point and a starting month, decide how long you’re going to go for and exactly how much money you’re going to save.
If you’ve never been travelling then it can be hard to recognise the value of the experiences you might have, so read others accounts and the value they gained, maybe take a short trip so you can get a small taste. Once you have identified and are focused on the value of your travel dreams, now you can begin to determine your hierarchy of value and strip away the distraction.
Your Personal Value Hierarchy
Keep in mind that even the greatest and most specific travel plan in the world probably won’t be at the top of your value hierarchy. You still need a place to live, food to eat and some kind of social life (maybe?).
This is fine, minimalism doesn’t require you to strip down to your underwear and live in the forest! Having a place where you are comfortable and happy living is important, having nutritious and tasty food is important.
How the first aspect of the minimalist mindset works to boost your travel savings is to constantly assess the relative value of each aspect of your life in comparison to your goal. You need a roof over your head but is having a big house more important than having amazing travel experiences?
You need to eat but is eating out at your local pub all the time more valuable than trying different cuisine all over the world? You want a new phone but how many weeks of life changing travel are you willing to sacrifice for a slightly shiner toy? (hint: the newest models will cost you about a month’s worth of backpacking!!).
Taking Conscious Action
“The second aspect of the minimalist mindset would be the ability to take conscious and decisive action to remove those elements that are not deemed valuable or essential.”
This is where the second aspect of the mindset comes in. You’ve identified your goal, made a specific plan and decided on the relative value of the different things in your life. While this isn’t always easy, the harder part of the operation is physically taking action.
Just deciding something is less valuable than something else is all well and good but modifying behaviour patterns and subconscious values you’ve held for years is no easy task.
Major value changes don’t happen overnight and it’s important to understand that what I’m describing is a process and not necessarily a quick fix. We have a constant torrent of thoughts, feelings and urges that spring up from our subconscious; the first step is to become more aware of these arising and to practice separating yourself from them.
Say the urge to go out shopping arises, often leading to you convince yourself that you just need this one thing and fantasising about how good you’ll feel when you get it, creating this overwhelming push to go.
Instead, you interrupt this process by thinking about your thoughts, your subconscious really hates when you do that! Identify why this urge has arisen, do you have a habit of going shopping on this day? Are you bored? Are you upset?
Take conscious control of the feeling, consider the real value of the item you want and place it in your hierarchy, is it more important than your travel savings?
This is the practice of mindfulness and I’m not going to harp on about it any further because there are plenty of amazing resources that can help you learn more and apply it in your life.
I don’t advise trying to majorly change your life overnight, no matter how awesome your travel plans sound! Too much change in too short a time tends to create an elastic band effect, with the bounce back leading to the opposite outcome. Once you have started to become more mindful you can begin to make conscious and decisive changes little by little.
Maybe you’ve become conscious that you’re going out too much and once you start drinking you end up spending a couple hundred on a night? You do need to socialise but maybe you could survive with one less night out per week?
If that’s still too much then maybe you can invite people over on that night instead of going out. Once you have adjusted to the new normal maybe you can make another small change. The small changes add up.
Discipline and Habit
Don’t rush to do it all at once but be decisive in each individual action, don’t make a change and just let yourself off the following week or modify the plan after you’ve made it. Self-control is like a muscle and your mind is malleable, the same reward system that is giving you a positive kick from surrendering to your urges will begin to give you the same kick from following your plans.
When an urge or thought arises you will begin to be able to choose to act or not-act, rather than just re-acting based on ingrained behaviour patterns. As every small change is made, not only will you boost your travel savings and reap the rewards of overseas travel, but you will experience all of the varied benefits of the minimalist mindset.
For an article on boosting your travel savings I realise this has gone pretty deep! However if it was easy to save money and travel all the time then everyone would do it. Thanks for sticking with me this far and good luck with the savings.
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