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Minimalist Packing List

This is my curated minimalist packing list. I love packing lists since like a shopping list it keeps one in check. But the best part of a packing list is that it seems to get better after each trip.

The goal is to strive for traveling light with one small bag.

The Bag(s)

  1. Any backpack between 16L – 20L- I use the Fjallraven 16L backpack
  2. Baggu- for shopping, I keep one with me everyday
  3. Collapsible backpack- 20L Sea-to-Summit
  4. Drawstring bag- I use this to keep my hands free while I am touring a new city

Essentials

  1. Passport in ziplock bag
  2. Financial- Credit Card, Debit Card, Cash
  3. Tickets- plane, etc
  4. ID- Driver’s License
  5. Medications- Rx

Toiletries

  1. Toothbrush
  2. Toothpaste
  3. Dental floss
  4. Tweezer
  5. Nail clipper
  6. Comb
  7. Go Tube filled with shampoo or Lush shampoo bars- I use these for shampoo, soap, shaving, laundry- that means for almost everything!
  8. Moisturizer
  9. Shaver
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Mosquito repellant
  12. Towel
  13. Medical Kit
    1. Bandaids
    2. Face masks

EDC (Everyday Carry)

  1. Phone with charger
  2. Headphone
  3. Extra battery pack for my phone
  4. Travel adaptor
  5. Buff headwear- this is versatile as a scarf, headband, face mask, towel, etc
  6. Carabiner
  7. Hat
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Pen
  10. Umbrella
  11. Eye mask
  12. Ear plugs
  13. Hand sanitizer

Food Supplies

  1. Water bottle- Klean Kanteen insulated 473mL
  2. Chopsticks- collapsible
  3. Titanium spork
  4. Metal container for packing food

The Clothes

Tops

  1. Yoga tank with built in bra
  2. T-shirt x 2
  3. Long sleeve shirt

Bottoms

  1. Shorts
  2. Pants
  3. Leggings

Sleepwear

  1. Bed clothes

Underwear

  1. Underwear x 3 pairs
  2. Socks x 2 pairs
  3. Extra Bra- must have a sports bra x 1
  4. Swimsuit

Outerwear

  1. Small rain jacket- Patagonia Houdini
  2. Midlayer jacket- Patagonia R3 Hoody

Footwear

  1. Sneakers- NB Minimus
  2. Flip flops

Cold Weather

  1. Fleece tops
  2. Fleece pants
  3. Patagonia Nanopuff Hoodie
  4. Gloves

Fancy

  1. LBD (little black dress)
  2. Black flats
  3. Lipstick

Travel Food

  1. Instant coffee/ tea bags
  2. Dried fruit
  3. Nuts
  4. Oatmeal packets

I love traveling light. There is such a joy with being able to leave all the encumbrances of daily life. It is wonderful to see how little anyone really needs.

Do laundry while traveling. You can definitely pack less if you can wash your clothes and allow them to dry in your hotel. Many people swear by wool clothing. Nowadays I simply bring what I have in my closet. I only bring my iPhone since I am not running an online business. That decreases pack weight a lot.

I am not a seasoned traveller. However I did spend two weeks each in Thailand and Russia with the same packing list during the past year. I was not lacking anything.

In fact, I had to delete certain items since I simply did not use them. I enjoy seeing new places but more than anything it gives me a chance to trial my packing list. I realize it should be the other way around but I am slightly obsessed with minimalist packing. I see this as representative of my overall approach to life. The question of how little do I really need is something I challenge myself with. Over the years I can say with conviction that it really is not as much as one would believe.

Being able to travel lightly is a simple gateway to experimenting with the concept of minimalist living. Many folks could probably be interested in doing this during their weeks on vacation. Few would want to lug heavy baggage during their travels.

We live in a society with too much. There is too much stuff, too much information, too many choices, too many activities. People are bombarded with too many distractions. Being able to carve out a small arena of your life that you can start to simplify ever so slightly would be a welcome reprieve. Minimalism may help one gain some clarity to what is important to you and your family. There is much information gleaned from what you choose to delete from your life.

Sometimes just with the lessening of possessions and obligations allows one to focus more on one’s health and dreams. Many state the process of decluttering more enlightening than therapy! It is a small victory to express free will in a society which prizes the construct that more is better. I firmly believe in the minimal effective dose for many areas in my life. There is often a point of diminishing returns when it comes to work, possessions, exercise, finances, etc. It is more meaningful to be able to come to terms with that level for yourself. Much healthier than having it imposed upon us by someone else.

May you give minimalist travel packing a try. Setting limits for yourself is a healthy approach to living. It just might inspire you to declutter other areas of your life as well.

I would provide links to various purchases but the aim of this site is for you NOT to buy more of things you do not need. There is freedom in NOT buying the best in everything and researching all items before buying. I read reviews simply to narrow my options down to a few choices and then I use my gut sense to make the final decision. I also do not bother to buy things at the cheapest price since I tend to buy so few items that it really is not worth the energy. If something is worth buying I wait for any sale and then I pull the trigger. I am the penultimate satisficer. I am NOT a maximizer when it comes to material goods since they are simply not as valuable to me.

This comes back to “know thyself” since some people must have the “best” in all things. That is fine as long as you are willing to put in the effort in terms of time, energy and money to fulfilling that end. Otherwise, welcome to regular frustration and a prison of your own design.

I believe the entire weight of my travel backpack was less than 10 lbs. It was a cinch to carry around with my all day. During plane rides I was able to board later as I did not need to worry about overhead storage for my backpack since it fit easily in the airplane seat in front of me. Now that was freeing since there was no line up for me before the flight.

I will include photos of my travel pack after my next trip. Until then curate your own minimalist travel list.

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Benefits of Routine

The benefits of routines are plentiful. It may appear boring to have routines but in the end I argue that it might just make your life more fulfilling. For starters you will not be wasting brain power worrying if you have left something undone. It is that mental bandwidth that is more draining than taking care of a large project. Similar to stress. It is the ongoing subthreshold onslaughts that take its toll on ones energy level. There is evidence that the ability to cope with larger single stressors are more manageable while these “death by a thousand cuts” are mentally taxing. That is the benefit of routines and systems. To help diminish the death by a thousands cuts dilemma.

Routines aid with the ability to fit everything that matters to you into your life. Your big ticket items. That leaves some room for the other items if you plan your life this way. The ability to develop rhythms is vital. Many of us are very visually and mechanically triggered and having routines would benefit us. For example. I leave items for errands close to my entryway. With that simple act, I tend to forget things a lot less as I rush out the door.

Routines allow us to not succumb to the numerous distractions throughout our days. Mothers in particular would benefit from having routines. They should carve out a period of time for themselves preferably in the mornings where they can do something just for themselves. They would be happier throughout the day since they would have spent time replenishing their energies first. Most women will spend the rest of their day micromanaging everyone else’s schedule and needs. That is why many women simply stop wanting anything. It is too much hassle dealing with what everyone else wants. A lot of women do not want to add to that burgeoning list.

Many of these concepts seem very simple. But the world is full of people who constantly quip “I already know that!”. However when you look at their lives, it is as much in shambles as if they did not know or understand the lessons.

Routines are best served first thing in the morning as well as before bedtime. Both triggers occur everyday so they are much simpler to plan around. My main routines occur in the morning. My evening routine is simply viewed as a way to get an early start to the next day.

Use the morning routine to build habits that benefit you. Prayer, meditation, yoga, drinking tea or coffee while quietly reading your favorite book are all suggestions. Do not spend the time worrying about other people or their issues. You might already spend the rest of your day doing that. This is your time of the day.

Routines help with decreasing mental fatigue as you will not have to remember what to do next. This allows your mental energy to be directed to more important things in your life. That is the main benefit of all this. I view this as mental rest. And keep it simple. That can not be stressed enough. You do not require any further complexity. This is also a good place to trigger your keystone habits such as going for a run or making the bed.

Developing routines help one organize their lives. Having said that, it also pays more to delete extra stuff from your life. That is the most efficient. First rule of thumb is to eliminate, then automate and then delegate. In that order would be practical. Many people have an ever expanding to do list. However, there is a limit to what can actually be done in a day. Admittedly, most things can be eliminated and the rest can be automated. If you look around, you may find that many of your to do list consists of taking care of stuff. House, cars, pets, taking care of finances, insurance, cleaning, organizing. The list goes on and on. That is why decluttering is a great place to start and let this extend to your activities and obligations. Even moving keepsakes from one location to the next makes one realize how fruitless all this is.

Start making everyone around you accountable for their stuff. This helps them realize that keeping a lot of things will only be a hassle they may not even want to maintain. That would be a useful revelation for many teenagers and husbands to recognize.

Allowing a routine will free up your mind. You may be better able to craft other ideas since you would not have to waste time and energy trying to recall simple routine lists. This writing for me has become a routine. This is a perfect example that if you allow it to be done at a “more convenient time”, it takes longer and also it tends to be pushed aside. My convenient time for writing is during my morning routine. If I leave it to be done when I feel like it, it appears to never happen.

That is the reality of the times we live in nowadays. If you do not make a claim for your time the universe will conspire to fill it up for you. Many feel at the end of each day that they have accomplished minimal. They feel tired and they are not even sure why that is. The ability to concentrate on one task at a time has become more difficult as the temptation to distract ourselves have become more convenient. Think Netflix, You Tube and social media to list a few.

So try writing a simple routine for your mornings or evenings. Start with a simple list and expand after you are more comfortable and able to complete the shorter list. My initial list started with listing three things I was grateful for, a simple prayer and short affirmations. Then I would read while enjoying my morning coffee. Thereafter I started meditating for only five minutes. These simple acts make you feel better. And isn’t that the whole point of life?

Invest With A System

With investing it pays to simplify. It also pays to have a system. I forgot that in 2017 while I was waiting for the stock market to correct. I have read enough about investing to realize that there is value in buy, hold and pray especially for younger investors. However, the law of numbers reminds me that a 50% draw down in the stock market translates into needing to achieve 100% return. Good luck with that one.

This year I will start to use systems for deploying my investing capital.

There are only a few major categories for your investments.

  1. Equities
  2. Bonds/ GIC
  3. Real Estate
  4. Cash
  5. Commodities

I am starting to understand that there are certain principles that I need to ascribe to but the rest is what the market does in terms of equities, interest rates, local real estate markets, taxation issues, etc.

Therefore starting this year, I am planning to simply set out a plan. review it monthly and be more objective about it all. I want to spend my time researching quantitative strategies to deep dive and see if any of these strategies will optimize my portfolio.

Furthermore, I recognize the human need to be above average and thus I will also allocate a portion of my investable assets into play/ risk money wherein I can invest in anything. But I will not buy anything on margin and this investment needs to “swing for the fences” or else do not bother.

The whole point of this blog is to see if there is a simpler way through all this investing maze. Is there a basic template that could work for almost anyone? Then if someone becomes passionate in a certain area wherein they could easily create a greater return, then they could deviate from the template. With the recent news of crytocurrencies, and the massive amount of speculation and FOMO, it is not difficult to see why investing is complicated. The biggest risks to our wealth is likely our own nature of greed and envy. It is very difficult to watch as everyone else seems to be getting wealthy while you are sitting on the sidelines.

So that is where you need a system to get you into the market when you do not feel like it. Currently, I have nothing better than a buy, hold and pray strategy. However, I plan on researching more into this sphere and hopefully improve my investing results with time.

So I will go out on a limb and pick a system. I will revise it as I see fit especially if I uncover any large errors in thinking on my behalf. I will be very transparent since I am tired of reading about all these strategies that might not be telling me the whole story. Also this whole realm of money can not be viewed in isolation. I feel that you need to look at the whole strategy. The main problem is when you listen to advisors who are extremely passionate about their specific areas but are unable to tie the whole picture together.

When it comes to finances, there really are two main areas. Financial planning and investing. I plan on covering both areas as that is the reality of my life as well as a lot of other people.

I feel that I need to develop a strategy rather than listening to advice without a template to refer to. I do not want a junk drawer of investments. I want a plan that encapsulates many of the goals that I want to accomplish. It is a balancing act but I feel that it is now or never. At times, I often feel that I have missed the boat many times with investing. But as with much in life, you win some and you lose some. Either way it does not serve me well to dwell on them.

Our journey throughout life with money will be ongoing. You can never really not deal with it. I have come to that realization years ago. Many folks think that with enough money, all their financial worries are over. As stories of individuals experiencing ruin after winning lotteries will attest to, that’s probably not true.

Thus, it is about finding the balance of doing what is right for me at this stage in my life.

Currently I plan on these ratios but as you can see, I am not even close to being fully invested.

Asset Class Percentage- Optimal Percentage- Current (Jan 2018)
Equities 33 6.4
Bonds/ GIC 22 16.5
Real Estate 30 9
Cash 10 67.1
Commodities 4.5 0.9
Play 0.5 0

When it comes to equities, I plan on using ETFs with low MER. That has been proven to contribute substantially to the percentage of gains in a portfolio. Who knew? I also prefer to do this as a DIY investor since I plan on keeping it very simple. I realize that there is no controlling what the market will do. All one can do is to stay invested with some reasonable portion of their assets. The largest risk with the buy, hold and pray approach is the large draw downs which can accompany the equities market. Be honest with how much you can stomach during these downturns as you do not want to lock in the losses by selling your stocks when the market is taking a beating. That is, at what percentage draw down will you cry uncle!

So I need a system. And I need to keep learning of ways to automate so that I will do the right thing when it comes to my investments. This will be an interesting journey for me.

Become Financially Independent aka FI

This is one of the core tenets that this site will focus on. This is achievable when one consistently follows certain guidelines. I will continue to write about certain principles that work for many people. A whole different life opens up when one can achieve FI. I truly feel that the quicker one can achieve this the better. It will open up optionality for many folks when they reach this stage. For those who enjoy their career, they can continue and will likely enjoy it more since they are choosing to stay rather than being forced to. And for those who do not enjoy their current career, they can attain FI and pursue completely different paths to whatever interests them. And no, I do not believe FI means one has to stop working entirely as I stated earlier, it just gives one options. Anyone who can be focused and reach FI will find that they are able to achieve other goals in their lives as well. But dare I say, there is more to life than working at a regular full time job.

I had wanted to attain FI since high school. While others were concerned about which university to apply to, I simply wanted to achieve FI! I never really thought about a dream career as many of my classmates did.

I simply wanted to attend university, train for a career that I could see myself working at for ten years and then be FI! This was before the whole internet concept of FI appeared but it was certainly something that I wanted. This likely had to do with the fact that the most enjoyable times of my childhood were during summer vacations. My parents worked long hours so I was left to myself during the summers. I recall that the perfect summer day consisted of exercising and having the time to read anything I wanted at the local library. I did not read many non academic books during the school year, thus summers were divine.

I had already recognized at a young age that once you had a comfortable home, enough food and a happy family- you could entertain yourself relatively inexpensively. Think exercising outdoors and using the local library. Many of my friends were sent off to summer camp and took vacations to Florida with their families. At the start of every school year, we had to listen to the numerous renditions of the Florida trips and all I thought was how great my family did not do that. I was secretively grateful my parents just allowed me to sit at home with loads of unstructured time. I knew at a very early stage that I valued my free time more than anything material that money could buy. It helped that I had a very active imagination and was disciplined. I loved structuring my own time. Thankfully my parents were too busy to do that for me. I truly see that as a blessing when I meet the many parents who micromanage their children nowadays.

So wanting to reach FI was already in my plans. I never really worried about what I would be doing as a career. I somehow knew that I would not be doing it for very long. I have held that belief throughout my career. I have tried to keep life simple by knowing that FI would be my end game. As much as I enjoyed my career, I wanted more summers in my life.

I recognize that FI may have some downsides. Many people have the need to be recognized or pay attention to status. That is likely why actors who make millions with one movie simply can not stop since the allure of fame is strong. Furthermore people need connection. Many people enjoy being part of a group and to be told what to do. In those cases, attaining FI would probably detract from their lives. Those would be the some of the drawbacks for FI. As well for those with health profession careers, many feel guilty about quitting their professions completely. However, life is not that binary. You can work part time and still be productive with your profession. In fact, you just might love your work more after FI.

That is the larger point. Life is not so binary. It is not a yes or no checklist. The best way to enjoy life is to have certain guidelines but each person and their situation is different. The best is to read about other people’s lives but plan accordingly for your own circumstances. That is free will. You start to make your own rules.

Having said that it does help to have some sort of general guideline. When it comes to money, there are so many pundits who focus on a specific area. But what matters is if we can tie it all into one coherent plan. Our own life plan.

So attain FI. Your life will be simpler because of it. It is a worthwhile goal since it is much easier to see what you want with your life when you are not as distracted by working full time. Everyone could use some breathing room. I do not believe that everyone needs to be busy. Being busy is not the same as living a life that you love. Do not allow others to tell you that your dreams are less worthy simply because they do not want it for themselves.

And do not listen to those who keep saying that you will be bored if you retire. Either way, you owe it to yourself to find out. Many people insist on working for as long as they can. But unless you own the business, your boss might have other plans for you!

I currently have two versions of financial independence.

  1. Savings amount that is 25 times your living expenses. This allows for a 4% safe withdrawal rate from your investments with an equities and fixed income portfolio.
  2. Passive income greater than your current living expenses.

There are issues with both versions. The more common one is the savings which are 25 times your living expenses.

I firmly believe that attaining FI is more a risk management tool than anything else. It gives one optionality. But I have discovered that attaining FI is merely a starting point not the end game as I used to naively believe.

FI Maybe Not FIRE Just Yet

FI= Financial Independence

FIRE= Financial Independence/ Retire Early

I am a huge proponent of FI or Financial Independence. But not a fan of FIRE or Financial Independence Retire Early. I would not say that I am totally against it, but to highlight that there might be another way. The fact remains that many who are able to achieve FIRE are very focused and motivated people. They are likely to achieve much of whatever they plan anyways. I agree with the adage that one should retire TO something rather than retire AWAY from work alone. However I do not believe that anyone needs to work for fulfillment. But it would appear that such determined individuals could harness their energy to work on projects meaningful to themselves. Admittedly, I observe that many of the FIRE community continue with their passion projects well after they attain FIRE status. Then they discover that their side hustles start to make serious money that they did not even need to reach FI. Sweet!

It is a good idea to sculpt a lifestyle that is meaningful for ourselves. There is a recurring theme that some of those who successfully reach FIRE state. They wished they were not as extreme when they were aiming for their FI target number. They wish they were not so frugal! I fundamentally believe that for most areas in life, being extreme may not be healthy. The ultimate reward of reaching FI is to have a life that you enjoy. I would reiterate that just getting away from a job is not enough to satisfy that. Thus I am not surprised to see many of them continue with different types of work and end up becoming wealthier than before. Which makes one realize that the ultimate number was not that significant and that somewhere along the way it was even more important to start designing the end game after FI.

I had wanted to reach FI so that I could be home with my young children. Now that my youngest is heading off to university, I feel that it is time to return back to my career. I am very happy with that. However since I already have FI, I will design work that revolves around my interests and dream lifestyle.

This is where the passion project comes in. Simply browse the internet if you are at a loss for ideas. But really spend some time deeply thinking about what your dream life would entail and visualize it. Do not worry if you are unable to fully visualize it- I am still working on mine.

That is the best part of attaining FI. You could use your energy to build a life that you could only dream about. Personally, I could write about finances all day long as I find it interesting and filled with endless fodder for discussion. But the foundation for all this lifestyle design begins with knowing and controlling your finances.

Money is simply a tool. Albeit an important one. Everyone’s take on it is a little different. Retirement is a word with different connotations for each individual. I do not observe many of these young FIRE individuals retire. And it does not matter. They most certainly have reached FI and that makes all the difference. Being FI does not seem to make any of them less productive. Quite the contrary, many are working on what interests them and their positive energy appears contagious.

It might be semantics but I have yet to hear of anyone who does not want FI. Since that would strike me as nonsensical. I agree that money will not be able to buy someone genuinely loving relationships, fitness or health. But it certainly gives one optionality in many or if not most other areas of ones’ life. As long as people can stay focused on that fact alone, I doubt that anyone would eschew FI. And no, you do not have to love money to agree with that principle.

And the amount needed to reach FI can range from 6000/ year to 250,000/ year. The specific amount is based on each person. But identifying the number for oneself opens up a world of possibilities. Most will notice that this number will color the rest of their decisions. I have seen vast ranges of living expenses on websites and it is extremely individual. I also see many people get caught up with the numbers. I believe the point is to review your own numbers and adjust it accordingly for yourself. Do not waste your time and energy judging other people’s numbers.

But there are some obvious elements. If your living expense total is a lower number, you will simply reach FI much faster. Period. It is the math. Furthermore, it highlights the type of person you must become to be able to enjoy a lifestyle that is more affordable. Some people reach this lower amount by developing will power and stoicism to force themselves to be immune to society’s consumerism. I, on the other hand, simply do not want the majority of the stuff. I view most of it as clutter and hassle. I think it is that part of my personality that allows all this to work for me. You may discover that your base expenses are very high. It is more controllable and efficient to focus on cutting the expense rather than trying to earn more income. But there are limits to frugality as there is only so much lifestyle anyone can decrease.

FI is a worthy goal. It allows one to decide if they still enjoy what they are doing for work or would they prefer to decrease it or eliminate it. If you really do not enjoy your current work, decreasing your expenses could actually be gleeful. There are those who vehemently state that they would be bored and that their lives would have no meaning if they retired. To those individuals, please keep working. Unfortunately, many discover that they do not get the choice. The work they profess to love has made other plans for them. That is when the careerists become disillusioned. Financial independence simply gives one optionality and isn’t that the whole point?