After a glorious semester in Italy spent basking in ancient architecture, engorging myself on countless afternoon gelatos, and most importantly, living with just a suitcase of clothes and random belongings, I came home and did something a bit unexpected.
Instead of being excited about the reunion between myself and my closet full of clothes, I felt the exact opposite.
I opened up my big swinging closet doors and instantly felt the weight of dozens of shirts, sweaters, pants and shoes upon my shoulders- shirts, sweaters, pants and shoes that were… not needed, not wanted, not used, and not conducive to the idea that I might head off on European adventures again in the future.
Because the countdown to my next trip was definitely on.
My Reverse Culture Shock After Studying Abroad
I refused to turn my phone on for a week or so, avoiding both normal life and my friends from back home.
I listened to all my Italian music 24/7 trying to recreate the vibe of the previous months.
I emailed with all my new study abroad friends, reminiscing the good times.
And I cleared out my room, feverishly dumping anything and everything I felt like wasn’t useful or worthwhile. A downsizing story worth talking about here, even if it wasn’t around packing for a trip.
Bags, boxes and bins of things all got the cut.
The Purge: Minimizing My Belongings at Home
Now it’s not like I was a fashion queen (like this girl) or girly girl of any sort, but I also wasn’t someone who was concerned with my over-accumulation of clothes and things in general. But at this point in time, I purged like I had never purged before.
And it felt freeing.
I’m sure part of this had to do with my want to feel control over my life and situation when all I really wanted was to be thousands of miles away from home still. The denial that my long-awaited semester abroad had ended was strong.
Another part was definitely the fact that, and I remember saying it out loud:
“I lived for the past few months with nothing but this one suitcase of clothes. And I was fine. I don’t need all of this stuff.”
I began to see things very differently.
Not only was I redefining my concept of need in my normal life, but I was also minimizing in order to make myself more mobile. I was setting myself up to be able to hit the road to travel once again without having too much stuff weighing me down.
Because I definitely was planning to get my butt back to Europe as soon as possible!
- Read about how you can use our best minimalist packing tips to help organize your home!
Travel Made Me Minimalist and Being Minimalist Helped Me Travel
That’s how this all began, really: my future travels around the world, my obsession with living life with only what I need, the seed of both minimalism and wanderlust that would eventually grow into Her Packing List.
It all began when I returned home from my semester in Italy nearly 16 years ago.
It’s so interesting to look back at this period of my life and see where I’ve traveled since, both figuratively and metaphorically. Even the way I set up my home over the years has been dictated by my wanderlust and the reminder of what I actually need to survive on if I were out exploring the world.
Travel helped make me a minimalist, and being minimalist has helped me to travel- and to do so while packing ultralight.
This is the story of how travel completely changed my relationship with clothes and belongings, for the better.